Have Faith in God

Jesus teaches us what it means to have faith in God.

Have Faith in God
Photo by Patrick Fore / Unsplash

And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God" (Mark 11:22).

The Christian life is a long race of perseverance in faith. Every progressive degree of glory is pursued with a progressive degree of faith on our part. Hence Paul speaks of our Christian experience as both "from faith to faith" (Rom.1:17) and also "from glory to glory" (2Cor.3:18). We cannot grow in seeing a greater glory of God in our lives unless we are moving equally to a greater faith in God.

Here in this passage, Jesus had just cursed the fig tree as a symbolic act of curse upon fruitless Israel for making His House of Prayer a den of thieves (Mk.11:12-19). The next day, Peter is amazed that the fig tree is withered from its roots. He even calls Jesus and shows it out of his amazement (Mk.11:20-21). However, Jesus is not moved by such wonder. He rather uses it to teach Peter to have faith in God (Mk.11:22). Why? For Jesus, what He did is something all His disciples could also do. To believe in God for supernatural wonders is something Jesus expects from His disciples. Sure enough, Jesus is not saying we should have no joy or amazement at His wonder-working power. But rather He does not want us to be too surprised by the fact that Jesus can work wonders. That latent unbelief in all of us which rules out the miraculous and the supernatural is what Jesus wants to correct in us. Hence He commands us to have faith in God, a lesson that was prominent in His discipleship (Matt. 7:7; 17:20; 18:19; Luke 11:9; 17:6). In the following verses, Jesus then elaborates on what having faith in God would mean in our lives.

  1. Boldly Ask

First of all, faith means we should ask God in prayer. Jesus speaks of someone who out of their robust faith opens their mouth and commands the mountain to move. In a similar fashion, someone who has faith in God is expected to open their mouth and boldly ask God in prayer (Mk.11:24). However impossible and mountainous the hurdle might be before us if we have faith in an almighty and sovereign God of wonders, we will ask Him to move this mountain. If we have the spirit of faith, then it will be evident in our praying mouths. As Paul said, "since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, 'I believed, and so I spoke', we also believe, and so we also speak" (2 Cor. 4:13). Jesus is not teaching here that our words have any inherent power to manifest a miraculous change, as some false teachers on "Christian" tv teach these days. The error of these teachers is in isolating Mark 11:23 from Mark 11:24. In Mark 11:23, Jesus gives us an illustration of someone having so much faith moving even a mountain. But Jesus makes it very clear in Mark 11:24 (with the conjunction "therefore") that the application of this mountain imagery has to do with how we speak our words boldly in prayer to God as we manifest our faith in God. Our faith is in God, not in our words, and our words are to God, not to the situation. But it is true, nonetheless, if we have faith in God, it would mark our mouths with confident-asking in prayer. Mute mouths in prayer and robust faith are no companions.

2. Expectantly Receive

Secondly, Jesus says, having faith in God means not having any doubt in our hearts (Mk.11:23). Once we are sure we are praying the will of God, to doubt whether what we are praying will happen suggests there is no faith in the first place. Faith by definition cannot have doubt. For, as James says, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (Jas. 1:6-8). Hence to have faith means not tolerating doubts. This does not mean if we are people of faith, we are not assailed by doubts. We are attacked by doubts, but we do not tolerate doubts. We do not operate upon and believe in the lies our doubts keep on telling us. Our obedience is always on what we believe, not based on what our doubts are telling us. Hence Jesus explains that to not tolerate doubts is to "believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mk.11:24). We believe we have already received what we are asking in prayer, irrespective of what our doubt constantly tells us. We do not need to see the answer to our prayers to believe in God and His wondrous power. We already believe God is wondrous in power and hence we believe we have received what we asked for even before the answer comes. Hence John says, "And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him" (1Jn.5:14-15).

3. Peacefully Forgive

Thirdly, Jesus says, to have faith we need to have a forgiving heart (Mk.11:25). Typically, we read such verses and assume that Jesus is asking us to forgive the sins of others. However, Jesus is not saying that here. Rather, He says, forgive "if you have anything against anyone". So it is not others' sins we are to forgive, but we have to let go of whatever we are holding against others, whether or not they have really sinned against us. All bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, grudge, etc., that we have against others, Jesus wants us to let go, "whenever we stand praying". Prayer will not work if we are holding all these against others. For it will hinder the Father's communion with us. Hence to have an effectual faith in God through vital prayer, we need to have a heart cleansed of all unforgiveness towards others.

How is your faith in God today?

Are you like Peter surprised by the wonder-working power of your God? or are you confidently and expectantly hoping in that wondrous power of your God? Out of your deep trust in Him, is there an overflow of confident-asking in your prayers? Are you ignoring your doubts and believing with all your heart that what you are asking is already yours in Christ? As you approach the Lord in prayer, do you have a cleansed heart that lets go of every grudge and animosity you are holding against others? May the Lord strengthen your heart to have this robust faith in the Lord which boldly asks, expectantly receives, and peacefully forgives all things, in prayer. Amen.