What do you believe about God? I mean what do you believe God can and/or cannot do? It has been my experience that most people, including myself, have at least two personas. There is the church persona that engages in “God-Talk” with fellow churchgoers and then there is our natural persona that has doubts and questions about God’s ability to do or impact a situation. When church folks get together we talk about the awesomeness of God and how mighty and powerful God is, but what about when we are alone and we are experiencing financial difficulties or health challenges or some other issue, do we still speak of God in the same glowing terms? Do we still hold that God is awesome or do we doubt, question, and wonder whether God can or will provide us with the help we need?
In our text Jesus teaches and exemplifies what a God kind of faith looks like and how it is lived out in the life of believers.
First, let us examine what Jesus said in the text. Basically, Jesus said three things:
a) Have faith in God
b) If you say, believe and do not doubt, it will happen for you
c) If you ask for something and believe in advance, you will receive what you asked for
Now these three statements seem simple enough to grasp and understand. However, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus was nearing the end of His earthly ministry and His comments were in response to a statement made by Peter. The reason this is significant is because Peter and the other disciples had spent the last three years of their life with Jesus. They ate, slept, laughed, cried, and labored together with Jesus during this time. Yet, Peter the self-appointed spokesman for the group, demonstrated that he and the other disciples were still struggling to grasp and understand Jesus and the things He was teaching them. In other words, Peter and the other disciples suffered from the same condition that afflicts believers today we struggle to grasp and understand the teachings of Jesus and how to apply them to our lives. To put it another way, “I have seen the enemy, and he is us.” The problem is not with what and how Jesus taught but rather with our own struggle to grasp, understand, and apply Jesus’ teachings.
So then, what did Jesus mean by what He said? In order to help us better understand the meaning of what Jesus said, we need to employ a few of the principles of grammar.
In His opening response, Jesus stated, “Have faith in God.” We must ask ourselves two questions here what is the subject and what is the object of this statement. If we translate this statement from the original Greek it would read, “Have the faith of God.” The definite article before the word “faith” lets us know the subject is faith and specifically our faith. The word “of” is a preposition and the noun “God” is the object of that preposition. It tells us the person or thing that is being referred to in this sentence.
In this case Jesus was pointing out that believers should put their total and complete trust in God.
This raises a question, if the subject is faith then who is the object of our faith? There really can only be three possible answers. The object of our faith either is God, someone or some thing else or us. To underscore the point here, before we can have a God kind of faith we need to be clear and know who is the object of our faith. According to Jesus God needs to always be the object of our faith.
Jesus goes on to say, “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, go throw yourself into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” The phrase, “If anyone says to this mountain, go throw yourself into the sea,” is in the 2nd aorist tense. It is equivalent to the English past tense. It means that the action has already begun and because we know this to be the case we are only speaking what is taking place or what has already taken place.
The next part of the verse is where the rubber meets the road. It is one thing to say that God is in the process of doing something but in the absence of visible and tangible evidence how can we honestly declare that we have no doubts that God will do what we say. To be honest with you this is a challenge all believers face. The challenge of overcoming our bent toward skepticism regarding what God can and cannot do. The reality is that this is an internal struggle and our ability to see the power and promises of God realized and manifested in our life consistently hinge on whether or not we can remove the doubt.
One of the best and most effective ways to deal with any problem is to first understand the problem. The word “doubt” as it is used here means to waver, to know something but to still have questions and thus not be sure. There were times in the past when I would go for a job interview and after I left the interview I felt extremely confident that I would get the job. With each day that I did not receive a call back my level of confidence decreased and I became less sure with each passing day. I started to waver. The apostle James writes in his epistle in chapter one and verse 6, “When we waver we are like the waves of the sea driven by the wind and tossed about.” Wavering or doubt drives us off course and there is no telling where we will end up. What Jesus meant was do not question whether God can or cannot do something. Do no waver in what we believe and know God can do. Do not allow doubt to take us off course. Remember, if you believe it, know it to be true and articulate your belief it is already happening or has happened. We just have not realized it yet.
Jesus concludes His teaching on this subject by reiterating in summary fashion what He has just taught. If we want God to do something for us we have to believe God has already done what we have asked. Another way to look at this is when talking to God or bringing our requests to God we should speak and think in the past tense – thank you Lord for what you have already done. The issue here is realization of what God is doing and has done juxtaposed to actualizing what we think we can or would like to do and accomplish.
Jesus brings us full circle. In this text Jesus challenges us to answer the question who is the object of our faith? I think that if we get honest in many instances the object of our faith is our own self-determination to do, change, or alter the course of our lives. When we examine why our prayers are not being answered before we portray God as being insensitive and callous we must first ask ourselves, who is the object of our faith? If it is God, then God must be the supreme ruler over our lives in every area. If it is us, we must assume the role of supreme ruler and should not expect any outside help, because a supreme ruler does not need or require assistance or help. If it is someone or some thing else then we must look to that person or thing for our help to come and do not get upset if they say they are busy or will get back to you later.
I believe this text offers us three principles we can apply to our lives to help us develop A God Kind of Faith:
1. Before we approach God and we do or say anything make sure we have total trust and confidence in God’s ability to fulfill and accomplish our requests
2. Stand firm in the knowledge and belief of God’s ability to fulfill and accomplish all things regardless of how things look, what we think, others say, or the way we feel. We disempower doubt by standing firm in our belief of what God can do.
3. Always approach God confidently and with the expectation that God is doing it and/or God has done it already
A God kind of faith recognizes that I in and of myself can do nothing without God. A God kind of faith expects God to do what I believe and know God can do. A God kind of faith is deeply rooted in the belief that God has already done it.