Faith that Moves Mountains
Bible Reading: Matthew 21:18-22
Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig-tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. ‘How did the fig-tree wither so quickly?’ they asked.
Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig-tree, but also you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’
Only in Matthew’s gospel do we read the comments of Jesus regarding prayer after the fig tree had withered. The failure of the fig tree to offer fruit, though the abundance of leaves had suggested fruit would have been there, has provided material for many sermons on the subject of hypocrisy. But Matthew focuses on the issue of faith and prayer.
Is this a lesson about the power of prayer or the importance of trust? When I was invited to write something about this passage, I was also given the option of reflecting on Psalm 121 which opens with the psalmist looking at the hills facing him. and then declares that his help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. I suggest that it is unlikely that Jesus expected his disciples to practise removing mountains to improve their view. Rather the hyperbole emphasizes the importance of faith, or trust, when faced with obstacles in our pathway.
Faith is not something that requires some kind of special effort on our behalf; rather it is about simple trust, resting in God’s nature and promises. There is no route to Jerusalem without confronting many challenging hills. The psalmist, having declared where his help comes from, goes on to reflect on God’s faithfulness, watching over us day and night; a God who never sleeps, not even dozing for a moment. He knows what every step our life’s journey will demand, and we are always in his care.
While I have never heard of anyone actually removing a mountain, I have heard of many occasions where Christians have found themselves in daunting circumstances and where confidence in God’s power and love has carried them through as if there was no problem at all. It is not so much about the degree of faith but the one in whom the faith has been placed. Our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
The idea of removing the mountain in front of us might seem attractive, but the view from the top brings its own reward. Getting there will almost certainly require fixing our eyes, not on the steepness of the incline, but on the Lord, in whose loving care we are all held.
Loving God, Open our eyes to see your greatness. Teach us to trust you through the tough and challenging times we face. Grant us the quiet confidence that we are always in your care. Give us faith that can move mountains or the strength for the upward climb Amen
While some are keeping busy and have the opportunity to interact with others, many older people find themselves on their own and long for more human interaction. Do you have neighbours, folk from your church, or old friends now on their own? Why not make it a habit to daily list a few people for whom a phone call from you might make a bigger difference than you could imagine. Then make some encouraging phone calls.
Revd Barry Osborne, Rural Mission Solutions
About the Rural Response partners…
With each email we’ll now be sharing some very brief information about one of the organisations that are part of the Rural Response partnership.
Focus Partner: Agricultural Chaplains Association
We are the only ecumenical Association that specialises in caring for Agricultural and Rural Chaplains, Farming Support Chaplains, Rural Support Officers, Diocesan Rural Life Advisers and Rural Officers working throughout the churches. We believe that through our unique calling to serve farmers and rurality in general, we should:
- Seek to serve people of all faiths and none
- Share good practice
- Provide mutual support
- Be an advocate for the agricultural industry
- Promote agricultural chaplaincy.