Faith Without Works is Dead

James 2:26(NKJV) 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

This week we are studying Mark 11:24. In this verse, Jesus tells us that if words spoken by faith to the natural world are powerful enough to move mountains, than words spoken with the same faith in prayer to the Father are even more powerful. He goes on to say that when we pray we must believe that we have our request. If we do, we will have what we ask God to do. If we wait to believe our request is granted until we see it in the natural, we will never get it.

We know this principle because we use it all the time in the natural. We order things online and tell people what we bought. We do not say, I hope I get a new computer. If we ordered from a good company, we say we bought a new computer. We do not yet have the computer, but when we ordered it, we believed it was ours. We need to treat God with the same respect. He is far more reliable than any online vendor. When we pray we need to believe we receive the answer and thank God for it until we see it in the natural.

The next thing we do if we believe our online order is on the way is to act in accordance with what we believe. Today’s verse tells us that faith operates in the same manner. This verse says faith without works is dead. According to Thayer’s Bible Definitions, this word can mean an act. Faith without an act or action that corresponds to what we believe is dead.

James uses the comparison to the body without the spirit to explain what he means. A body without a spirit has all the parts necessary for life. It has a heart but the heart does not beat or pump blood. It has lungs but they do not take in oxygen. It has eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. It has all the parts needed for life but no life. It cannot do anything. It cannot accomplish anything. We may have the Word of God in our heart. We may have our confession in place. We may know what we want to believe, but faith without some kind of action is ineffective.

What kind of action is James talking about? Let us look at what he says earlier in the chapter.

James 2:14-17(NKJV) 14What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

In verse 17, James makes the same statement concerning faith and works he does in verse 26. However, he ties it to some other statements. He tells us that if we say to a brother or sister, “be warm and filled” but give them no food or warm clothing, what good does that do. At first glance, we might conclude that the kind of works or actions James is speaking of are charitable works. I believe that is part of what he means and we will discuss this later. If we look more closely at verse 17 and verses 18-25, I believe it will become clear that he is talking about more than that.

Verse 17 uses a phrase that is important. He says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I use many illustrations when I teach or preach. An illustration is a parallel statement of truth. I might use my relationship with my children to illustrate God’s relationship with us. I do this because it is easy for most of us to relate to natural parents and children. We have all been the one and most of us have been both. I might say something like, “Just as I loved my children in this way, God loves us in the same way.” This is exactly what James is doing in verse 17.

It is easy to understand that willingness to help a person who needs food or clothes does no good if we do not give the food or clothes. James says faith has the same relationship to corresponding actions. If we say we believe something but put no action behind what we believe, our faith is ineffective in doing what we need it to do.

In verses 18 to 25, Paul uses two examples. The first is that of Abraham and Isaac. In this story we learn that God told Abraham to take Isaac up to Mount Mariah, build and alter, kill Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice. Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham did this by faith because he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead if necessary. Abraham had a promise and his action was based on that promise.

The promise was that one of his descendent would bless all nations and that the number of his descendents would be as the sands on the seashore. Isaac was his only son. If the promise was going to be fulfilled, it had to be through Isaac. However, God was the one that gave the promise so Abraham acted in faith according to the promise knowing that God would do the impossible if necessary. James tells us that this “work” was accounted to him as righteousness.

There is no way that this action by Abraham can be seen as “good works.” It is an action taken because Abraham believed that God would fulfill his promise. If Abraham had not taken this corresponding action, everything that happened next would have been affected. God was Abraham’s blood covenant partner. Whatever Abraham gave God must give. Abraham gave his only son believing God would raise him from the dead. The devil was the God of this world because of Adam’s rebellion. Once God’s human covenant partner gave his son, the devil could not stop God from giving his “only begotten son.”

The next example is Rahab. She protected the spies Israel sent to gather intelligence on Jericho. She believed that the God of Israel was more powerful than the gods of Canaan. She acted according to her faith by choosing to hide the spies instead of giving them to the king of Jericho. Her faith action aided Israel in gaining victory over Jericho as well as protecting her life and that of her family when everyone else in Jericho died.

In these examples, it is clear that James is not just speaking about good works or charitable deeds when he says faith without works is dead. He is talking about actions that we take because we believe the promise of God is true.

Every faith endeavor requires a point of action. Acting on our faith always involves some risk. Abraham risked losing the promise altogether. Rahab risked losing her life to the king if he found out she had betrayed him. Neither had any natural reason to think their action would not result in bad things happening. All they had was the promise of God.

Before we go any farther in this teaching I want to bring a word of caution. I believe everything we do by faith will require an action. We must know that the action we take is a result of what we already believe and not an attempt to believe. If we act to get faith, we will fail. Many have misunderstood this and acted thinking the action itself was faith. If we do not have faith, we cannot act. How do we know the difference?

I believe it is important that every believer be in relationship with someone who is accountable for them and who is older and wiser in the things of God than he is. That is why I believe we need to be in a local church under local leaders who know us. We need to get counsel before we act. If those over us say what we are planning is not the Lord, we need to submit. Real corresponding actions will release the power of God. Actions to try to believe will release disaster.

The bible teaches that there is safety in Godly counsel. We must find that balance between acting in faith and acting in foolishness. If we do not, either our faith will be “dead” or our actions will produce problems. We can find that balance if we do it in relationship.

When You Pray…..Believe

Mark 11:24(NKJV) 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Last week we listened to the words of Jesus in Mark 11 as he told the disciples how powerful faith filled words could be. We saw that verse 24 begins with the word “therefore” which connects it to verse 23. The conclusion is that if words spoken to a natural mountain could actually move that mountain, what could words spoken with the same kind of faith in prayer to the Father do? The answer is anything that might be needed.

This week I want to look more closely at verse 24. The wording here is very interesting. Jesus tells them that they must believe that they have the answer to their prayer when they pray. This goes against the natural way of thinking for most of us. We tend to believe God actually answered the prayer when we see the result. Part of the problem is that we have been taught things like, “God moves in strange and mysterious ways his wonders to perform.” Although God often does things in ways we could not imagine, they are not strange and mysterious; they are according to the principles in his Word.

When I find a promise in the word of God and I bring that promise back to God in prayer, I need to believe when I pray that God is working on that request and it is mine now. This is not really so difficult to understand if we relate it to the modern way we do much of our business.

Christmas is just over the horizon and we will soon begin shopping for our 6 children and 13 grandchildren. When our children were small, this was a time when my wife and I could get away for lunch without the kids and not feel guilty. We were Christmas shopping! Of course the kids could not go! We would go to many different stores over a period of weeks looking for the things the children wanted at the best price. At the same time, we got to spend time together. It was a win, win situation.

Now things have changed. Our children are grown and we can go to lunch together any time we want. We still have two at home but they are in their 20’s so we often find ourselves eating all three meals alone together. For 25 years, we were never alone in the house.

We still have gifts to buy, but something else has changed as well. We no longer go from store to store in the cold and snow. We simply sit down at the computer and go from site to site in the comfort of our home. Not quite as romantic I know, but much warmer.

My wife does most of the shopping now. She will come to me and say “I got this for (and name a child or grandchild.)” She may describe the item or show me a picture. I will ask, “How much was it?” She will tell me the price, which is usually a good bargain. Now if I ask to see it she will say, “It’s not here yet, but it will be here before Christmas.” We have one son who lives out of state. Sometimes we have his and his children’s gifts wrapped and sent to them directly. We never do see those gifts. How do we know they will get them? How do we know the gifts we ordered will get to us by Christmas? We know because we trust the company with which we are doing business.

It is interesting what we say when we order something online. We say, “I bought a new computer.” We do not say, “I asked for a new computer but I don’t know if I will get it.” We tell people how excited we are that we got this new thing. We will describe it to people. We will think about what it can do. We imagine ourselves with the new thing. Why would we do that? We do not actually have the thing in our hands. We trust the company from which we bought it.

For most people today, online shopping is part of daily life. We know the system and we know that it works. I buy coffee online. I will order the coffee and in a few days, it comes to my doorstep. How do I know it will get there? How do I know it will be what I want? I know because the company is reputable and I have done this may times before. The coffee, or whatever I order, has gotten to my door many times and it is almost always what I ordered. I know and trust the vendor and the system.

When we pray, somehow we think the one we are praying to and the system he set up is less trustworthy than We pray and wonder if almighty God will do what he said. We pray and the devil tells us that we are somehow not worthy to receive what we ask for. When I order something online, I make sure my accounts are in order and my payment method is valid. If it is, I know I will receive what I ask for. If you are born again and you base your request on the Word of God, your account is in order and your request is pre-paid!

In Mark 11:24, Jesus is using wording that is right out of modern life. When we ask God for something according to the Word, we need to believe at that moment that the request is ours. Sometimes online orders take a little longer to get to us than we think they should. If we trust the company, we just keep looking for the delivery. It is the same with the Lord. Sometimes things need to be worked out in us before we see the result. Sometimes circumstances or people need to be dealt with before we see the answer. The important thing is that God is good for his word and he will get the answer to us exactly when we need it.

When we pray, we should not be afraid to tell people what God is in the process of doing for us.

“How are things doing financially?”

“Well, there have been some challenges, but God is moving to meet my need.”

“How do you know that?”

“Philippians 4:19 says he will and I asked him to. I believe I receive my needs met.”

“How do you know it’s going to happen?”

“I asked the Father for it according to his word. How can it not happen?”

“Well what do you do now?”

“I thank God for meeting my need, listen for instructions from him on what I have to do to ‘pick it up’ and trust the Lord to be good for his word!”

To the natural mind, this seems extreme if we are talking about God, but completely reasonable if we are talking about the internet. Does that seem a little off to you?

One more thing we will do once we place our order is prepare for the product to come. I have purchased a number of computers this way. While I wait, I will prepare to transfer my information from one machine to the other. I may copy my files to some kind of removable media so I can easily copy them to the new machine. If it is a desktop model, I may clean up the space where it will go. I will prepare to move the old one out and bring the new one in. What am I doing? I am acting according to my order. Since I know the new one is coming, I prepare to receive it.

This week we want to look at the nature of corresponding actions. That is, the actions we take because we believe God will do what he said. In the mean time, think about what you need from God and consider the words of Jesus. When you pray, believe that God will do what he said. He is far more reliable than any online vendor is.

Pray for All in Authority

1 Timothy 2:1-4(NKJV) 1Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I am going to depart from my theme somewhat today. We will return to our study of Mark 11 and acting on the promises of God next week. Today I want to encourage all who read this blog to pray for those in authority. This is a very important time in the history of the world, and the bible is clear on the role the church should play in whatever nation we live.

2 Chronicles 7:14(NKJV) 14if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

This is a very familiar scripture, but I wonder if we accept the ramifications it implies. There is no mention in this verse of the ungodly. There is no mention in this verse of politicians. There is not mention in this verse of the news media. Unless there is something I am missing here, this scripture puts the responsibility for the healing of our land upon those called by His name. We are Christians, little Christs by interpretation. We are those called by the name of the Lord.

Today’s scripture found in 1 Timothy is the New Testament equivalent to 2 Chronicles 7:14. Here Paul tells Timothy that the church needs to pray for kings and all who are in authority. In Paul’s day, the primary “king” was the Emperor of Rome. This man was not godly. He was certainly not Christian. He was the ruler of the time and Paul says to pray for him.

In 2 Chronicles the writer tells us that the repentance and prayers of those who are called by the name of the Lord can heal the land. What is our most important responsibility when it comes to our nation? I believe it is to pray. If we do not pray, we cannot complain about the conditions under which we live. If we pray, God can move in our nation. It does not matter where we live. The promise is the promise. God will heal our land.

This promise does not mean everything will be the way we want it. This promise does not mean life will always be comfortable for us. The promise is that God will heal our land. What that means to us personally is not the issue. The issue is set forth in 1 Timothy. Paul said we should pray for kings and all those in authority so that we can live quiet and peaceable lives, which will enable us to preach the gospel. Verse 4 tells us what God’s real goal is for the healing of our nation. It is God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

When this year began, the Lord led me to make some changes in our church schedule. One of those changes was for us to take our regular Friday night meeting and use it to focus on prayer for our nation in 2012. It is certainly necessary that we always pray for the nation and those in authority, but we are facing an historic election this year. As I have already stated, we are in a very important time in the history of our nation and in the history of the world. At home, we face some of the most difficult financial times since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. In the world, we see increasing unrest, economic chaos and political uncertainty.

As I was praying about the focus of our prayer meetings, God gave me something very specific to pray. He said, “Pray for the whole will of God to be done in the United States of America in 2012.” He did not say to pray for a particular candidate to win. He did not say to pray for the economy or an agenda. During the course of the year, we have prayed for some of those things, but the focus has been and will continue to be “the full will of God do be done in 2012.

In America, we are approaching the election of our president as well as many members of our legislature. The outcome will determine the course of our nation for decades. There are many things to consider as we vote. We must consider our economy because God cares about the needs of people. We must consider the leadership of the USA in the world. Whether we or others in the world like it or not, what happens in the USA impacts the whole world. We need to consider the future of our society and moral considerations when we go to the poles. All these things are important, but I wonder if we understand what is important to God.

The single most important thing we must consider as we vote is which candidate will better enable us to “live peaceable lives and facilitate the communication of the Gospel to all men. That is what is on God’s heart for the nation. That is what those who are called by his name should be praying for. Who will create an environment that will allow the gospel to be preached to the nation and to the world?

It is very easy to criticize those in government. In truth, many of those in public office deserve criticism. We need to hold them accountable for what they do and what they say. However, if you are a Christian, the bible gives us the mandate to pray above all else. If we pray, the bible guarantees that God will move. If we pray for those in authority, we release the power of God into our nation and it is possible for us to have an atmosphere that will promote the gospel.

Prayer cannot work if it is offered in selfishness. This does not mean that we should not pray for God’s blessing in our personal lives. The bible is full of promises for us as individuals that we can believe for no matter where we live. God promises to meet our needs, to heal our bodies and to give us joy and peace of mind regardless of what nation we live in. However, when we pray for the nation, we cannot simply pray for what we want. We must believe God for our nation to fulfill its place in the plan of God for the world.

I believe we are living in the latter part of the church age. I do not pretend to know when Jesus will return, but the bible is clear that that day will come. When it does, I want to know that I have contributed with my prayer life to preparing the way for Jesus’ return. For that to happen, I must be willing to pray for the will of the Lord to be done in my nation.

2 Chronicles 7:14 gives us a good “voter’s guided.” We should humble ourselves, seek the Lord’s face, turn from our wicked ways and pray. When we do, God will hear from heaven and he will heal our land. He will see to it that it is on course to fulfill its place in his plan for the world.

1 Timothy 2 tells us the most important issue we must consider on election day. Who will create the best atmosphere for the preaching of the Gospel? That should be the most important thing to consider as we vote.

No matter what nation you may live in, the most important thing you must do is pray for those in authority. This can be hard when those in authority seem to be evil, but it is what the bible says. We need to pray for their blessing. We need to pray for them to walk in Godly wisdom. We need to pray for their protection. We need to pray for God’s full will to be accomplished in the nation. When we pray that way, God is free to do whatever is necessary to “heal our land” and provide the proper atmosphere for the preaching of the gospel.

Words Of Faith in Prayer

Mark 11:23-24(NKJV) 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

We have been looking at Mark 11:22-24 and the power of words in our Christian walk. Jesus, in response to Peter’s surprise that a fig tree had obeyed his words, tells his disciples to have faith in God. He goes on to say that this faith, when released in words, could even cause the mountain they are in front of to be plucked up and cast into the sea. The condition they must meet for this to happen is that they not doubt in their heart.

This statement is very extreme. It is highly unlikely that anyone would ever need to cast a mountain into the sea, but Jesus wants them to understand how powerful faith filled words can be. Although I know of no time in the bible or otherwise that a mountain has been thrown into the sea, there is the story of Joshua stopping the sun and the moon so that he could complete a battle against Israel’s enemies. In effect, Joshua stopped time. That seems at least as extreme as moving a mountain. Joshua 10:12-14 tells us that this happened because Joshua spoke to the sun and moon.

We ended yesterday by pointing out that the first word in Mark 11:24 is “therefore.” This word connects verse 24 with verse 23. Verse 24 is about prayer. Verse 23 is about the power of our words when we release them in faith. How do these things relate?

As I was reading this recently I realized that Jesus was pointing out something very powerful. The natural creation will respond to words spoken by faith. The fig tree obeyed Jesus. Jesus said the mountain would obey the disciples. The sun and moon, or time itself, obeyed Joshua. These are natural things obeying spiritual words. That is a powerful truth. I can and should speak the word of God over my natural life.

I speak to my finances. I speak to my car. Like David, who said, “bless the Lord oh my soul” I sometimes have to speak to my emotions and tell them to get in line with the Word. I have even spoken to weather when necessary and I have seen all these things obey the word of God spoken by faith. Not only have I seen them obey scripture as it is quoted, but I have seen them obey my words, based on scriptural truth, when I have spoken them by faith.

Mark 11:23 is highlighting this truth to the disciples. Then Jesus says “therefore” and speaks of prayer. In other words he says, “If the words you speak to fig trees and mountains by faith can produce such results, imagine what this same principle applied to prayer can produce.”

What is prayer? Prayer is communication with God. There are a number of different types of prayer with different functions. One type of prayer is the prayer of fellowship with the Lord. In this type of praying, we may spend time with the Lord and unburden our heart to him. There is a time for this. David prayed this way often. He would tell the Lord how he felt when the enemies were pressing against him. He would share his heart with the Lord when he felt overwhelmed. It is valid to do this. Most of us need to do this kind of praying at times. However, this is not the kind of praying Jesus is speaking of in this verse.

If you read the psalms, you will usually find that David not only expresses his feelings but also will, at some point in the psalm, express how he knows that God is with him and will deliver him. The kind of praying Jesus is teaching about in Mark 11:24 is this latter type. It is the prayer of requesting by faith. Paul speaks of it in Philippians.

Philippians 4:6-7(NKJV) 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Notice the similarity of language here. Jesus says, “When you pray, believe you receive.” Paul says, “Let your requests be made know to God with thanksgiving.” If you give thanks for the request, you believe that the one that you have asked will do what you ask. If, at the moment you pray, you choose to believe that you have already received the request, you will give thanks. Both of these scriptures are saying the same thing.

If we speak words of faith to the natural creation, it will obey us. If we use the same principle in prayer, the release of power is even greater because we are not just speaking to the natural. We are speaking by faith to the creator of the universe. We cannot only change the natural but the spiritual as well. All of the power of God comes into play when we speak words of faith in prayer to God. When we do not doubt these words in our heart, there is even more assurance that we will have what we say.

Most people think of prayer in terms of the first aspect we spoke of in psalms. When we pray we share our problems with God. This is fine to a point, but there comes a time when all we are doing is complaining to God. When we tell him our problems over and over again and never release any faith that he can do something about those problems, we may feel better but we are not giving the Lord anything to work with. He will comfort us. Comfort means that we will feel better. That is a good thing, but we will end up right back needing more comfort the next day if we do not find solutions.

God is a faith God and it is faith that moves him. He needs our faith in order to have something to work with so he can solve the problem. When we choose to speak words of faith to God we get more than comfort. We get results. Andrew Murray said, “Most people pray as a spiritual exercise, but Jesus prayed to get results.” We often pray to feel better, but the prayer of faith is the prayer that actually changes things. Of course, the first thing that it will change is you. That is not always easy, but do you want to feel better for a day or two or do you want results?

In Isaiah 55:8-11 the Lord tells us that his word will not return to him void but it will accomplish what he sent it to do. How does his word return to him? I would like to submit to you that one way it returns to him is through the prayers of faith that come from the saints. When we find a promise in the Word of God, we need to return that promise to God by faith. “I thank you that your word says you will meet my needs. I trust you to be good for your word. I thank you that you are moving now to provide what I need. I do not doubt this promise in my heart but I am persuaded that you will do what you said you would do.”

When you return the Word of God to him by faith, the promise Jesus gives us is that we will have what we ask. In verse 23 he says we can have what we say. In verse 24 he tells us that if we apply this same principle to the words we speak in prayer, we will have what we ask for. With both of these principles working in your life, you will have victory over anything that seeks to defeat you in your walk with the Lord.

What You Believe in Your Heart

Mark 11:22-26(NKJV) 22So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

This week we are expanding on our study of Mark 11:23 to include verses 24-26. To do so we must put this whole passage in context, so we must look at verses 22 and 23 briefly. Yesterday we focused on the shortest verse of this whole section, verse 22. Jesus says we must have faith in God. This seems obvious. If we did not have faith in God, we would not be born again. However, I believe he is speaking of focusing that faith on what we need specifically at the moment.

There is a very important question we must ask when we face difficulties. That question is, “What do I really believe.” I find it is important to remind myself of the basic truths of my faith in the context of the challenge. No matter what area of life the challenge may be in, I remind myself that God is really there and involved with my life. I remind myself that God has met my needs many times before. He said he would never leave me nor forsake me. These are basic, but I need to see the current challenge through these eternal truths.

Once I have focused on the basics of my faith, I am free to look at the promises that apply to the challenge and do the same thing with them. I really believe that God is good for his word. Like Abraham, I am “fully convinced” that what God has promised he is well able to do. (Romans 4:21)

Let us take one more look at verse 23. What Jesus says here seems almost like something from a fantasy story. If we speak to the mountain and do not doubt in our heart, the mountain will obey our words. I remind you that he had spoken to a real physical fig tree and it had become what he told it to become. It had obeyed him. The mountain he is speaking of is a real mountain. He points to a mountain they could see and says, “If you say unto this mountain…..” Therefore, his statement is not figurative. It is not allegorical. He means every word of what he said to his disciples.

I know we have already spent quite a bit of space on this statement, but bear with me. Jesus is talking about spiritual, faith filled words, spoken to the natural world. In our study, we have determined that this is how the dominion God gave Adam in the Garden of Eden must have worked. Since Jesus is called the last Adam, he had the same dominion. We see it in how the fig tree responded to him. We see it when he spoke to the storm, the wind stopped blowing, and the rain stopped raining.

We see it in other ways. He spoke to people and they were healed. He spoke to demons and they came out. He manipulated water and it became wine. Although we may not always see words used specifically, the principle is there. In verse 23, Jesus tells us the basis of how this dominion works. “If you say to this mountain be removed and cast into the sea and do not doubt in your heart but believe that your words will come to pass, you can have whatever you say.” That is the principle and the process. These are not my words; they are the words of Jesus.

This statement is, of course, ridiculous. “Surely Jesus, you cannot really be saying that we could cause a mountain to take wings and fly to the sea!” Just because this statement is extreme does not make it untrue. I have never seen anything like this. I have spoken to rain and seen it reverse direction. I have spoken to bodies and seen them healed. I have spoken to finances and seen provision where there could be none. I have never spoken to a mountain and seen it move. I have never heard of that happening even to Jesus. Why?

The answer is in the rest of his statement. If we do not doubt in our heart that the words we say will come to pass, we will have what we say. For the life of me, I cannot see a mountain getting up and flying away. One factor that determines what we really believe is what we really need. I have no doubt that if Jesus, for some reason, needed a physical mountain to move it would move. He never needed a mountain to fly away and neither have I. Therefore, I doubt in my heart that those words will come to pass. Does this mean that such an extreme thing cannot happen? No, it does not.

There is an Old Testament story that shows us the extent of the dominion of man and the power of faith words to affect the natural.

Joshua 10:12-14(NKJV) 12Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, And the moon stopped, Till the people had revenge Upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.

Verse 12 says that Joshua spoke to the Lord, but he also spoke to the creation. His command was to the sun and moon. He told them to stand still until they were done killing the enemy. I have had some good days I did not want to see end, but Joshua actually needed this day to continue and he believed in his heart that his words would happen. Verse 14 says that God “heeded the voice of a man.” The creation obeyed the words Joshua spoke. That day lasted more than 24 hours. Joshua affected the natural world with his words and in an extreme way.

This story tells us that what Jesus spoke is really possible. God does nothing just to “show off” or make a point. The most common type of miracle in the Bible is the physical healing of a person. Why is this the case? God does this kind of miracle more than any other because it is a manifestation of his love. God cares about people. The fact that healings and miracles open the door for the preaching of the Gospel is a welcome effect of the process, but it is the love of God that releases miraculous faith. (Galatians 5:6)

Why am I spending so much time going over ground we have already covered? There are two reasons. First, because we need to hear truth until we understand it, receive it and ultimately walk in it. Then we need to hear it again. Second, because all of this leads us to verse 24.

Verse 24 begins with a very important word. The word is “therefore.” “Therefore” is a connecting word. When we see that word, it is telling us to look at what came before, because the next statement is contingent upon the last statement. So let us look at the transition once again.

Mark 11:23-24(NKJV) 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Jesus connects prayer to the principle he revealed to his disciples in verse 23. That is the truth we want to grasp this week. We will begin to connect the dots tomorrow.

Have Faith in God

22So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26£But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I want to backtrack for just a few moments today, in order to reestablish why we are looking at words right now. The Lord spoke to me a while ago from 2 Peter 1 concerning the exceedingly great and precious promises God has provided us in the Word. I am struck every time I read this section of scripture with the idea that it is by these promises we become partakers of God’s own nature. What in the ebb and flow of life cannot be changed and put right by God’s own divine nature? I would say nothing at all.

The next step in my thinking was that we must begin to look at the promises in the bible as promises. They are not just general statements to everyone of what God would do for us. A promise is personal. A promise comes from someone I can trust to me. If I do not trust and know the giver of a promise, I discount it as a promise. I take an “I’ll believe it when I see it” stance toward that promise. We cannot approach the promises of God that way. God is our Father. We know him through salvation in Jesus Christ. Every promise in the bible is to me personally. There may be conditions I must meet in order to receive them. The most important condition is that I have to receive the promise by faith for it to become mine.

The next thing the Lord showed me was that when we receive a promise from someone we trust we will speak that promise back to them and to anyone who will listen. The spoken word becomes a large part of the process of receiving promises. It is from this premise that I have been looking at the biblical perspective of the words we speak.

In today’s scripture, I want to take this thought one step further. We have looked at verses 22 and 23, but verses 24-26 are part of the same thought. Those who sit in my church understand that I am a teacher and have a pathological need to review, so in order to understand 24 through 26 I am going to have to touch on 22 through 23 briefly. (The reason I like to review so much is that there is a test on this material. It is called life!)

Verse 22 is the simplest verse in this passage, but possibly the most profound. Jesus has spoken to a fig tree telling it that it will never produce fruit again. Twenty-four hours later, Peter sees that the tree has withered and died. The conditioned described by Jesus has come to pass just as he said. The natural world obeyed the words of Jesus. The fig tree conformed to the words spoken by faith.

Peter is astonished and comments to Jesus that the fig tree has withered and died. Jesus simply says, “Have faith in God!” We read such things and say, “Yes, Amen. Hallelujah.” with deep spiritual significance resonating in our voices yet I am not sure we fully understand the implications of this thought. Jesus said, “HAVE FAITH IN GOD.” His words are big and bold. If we really have faith in God, anything is possible. He really is God!

I know that this is so obvious and such a part of our Christian make up that it would seem unnecessary to say, but it was Jesus who thought it necessary. We take faith in God for granted. We have faith in God or we would not be born again.

Ephesians 2:8(NKJV) 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

In this verse, the “gift” is faith. Grace is a gift by definition so it would not be necessary to call it a gift. However, Faith is not a gift by definition so it is, by default, the gift Paul is speaking of here. Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the word of God. The preached word that came to me to gave me a gift of faith to receive the grace of God. If I had no faith, I would not be saved.

In the context of Mark 11:22 this verse is not speaking about the general faith that brings us to salvation. He is speaking of the specific faith it takes to receive something from God. Here, it involves a command spoken to the natural world. It also applies to specifically receiving any promise that God gives us in the Bible. Jesus is really saying, “If you believe God is here right now and you believe that he is really involved with your life and circumstances, the kind of thing you have seen here will be commonplace.”

What do you really believe? In speaking to you about the kind of words you should listen to, I mentioned that there is a place in your heart where what you really believe resides. Many voices tell us what cannot happen or why God will not move for us in a particular circumstance. In the midst of this there is a “still, small voice” that will tell you what you really believe. That is what Jesus is saying to his disciples. “What do you really believe? You need to believe that God is here right now and more than able to do this thing.”

When you are faced with a difficulty in life, what do you really believe? Your first reaction may not be faith. Do not get condemned by that. We can grow to a place where our reactions are more in tune with our faith, but few of us are perfect in that respect. Do not rely on that first reaction. Step back and look inside. What do you really believe? When I say this, most people begin to overanalyze. I am not talking about doctrine. I am not necessarily talking about a specific promise. I believe you have to be even more basic than that. Do you believe that God loves you? Do you believe that God can do something about this? Do you believe that God is here right now?

These are very basic to our Christianity however, if we do not settle them first, we cannot receive the promise we may need to meet the need we face. Once we establish that specifically we can progress to what we really believe about a situation. Since so many face financial pressure today, let us look at Phil 4:19.

Philippians 4:19(NKJV) 19And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

When I am faced with financial pressure, I do not always react perfectly. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the lack I face compared to the need. I have to “take a step back” from the pressure. I have to ask myself that very important question. What do I believe? Do I have faith in God right now and in this circumstance? I remind myself that this is not all a fantasy. God really does exist. He really is here and he loves me. He will not leave me comfortless. He never has before and he will not now. This is basic, I know. Yet even after all these years I sometimes have to remind myself of these simple facts before I move on.

Once I have centered my heart on these basic truths, I ask the next question. What do I really believe about God helping me with this financial challenge? The answer is the above verse or one like it. This is a specific promise. God will meet my needs. I really believe God is here. I really believe he is good for his word and I really believe that this promise is to me. Hallelujah, God will see to it that his riches in Glory meet my needs! Armed with this truth I can look again at the specific circumstances “having faith in God.”

What do you face today? I encourage you to follow this simple formula. If faith in God can wither a fig tree it can change your circumstances. It can also sustain you while God deals with you and ultimately the situation. Listen one more to the words of Jesus. “Have faith in God!”

Give Me This Mountain

Joshua 14:10-12(NKJV) 10And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

This week we have been looking at how our perspective affects our words. Since death and life are in the power of the tongue, it is important that we speak words that are full of faith and the Word of God. (Prov 18:21) We have seen how Elisha saw through the eyes of his spirit while his servant saw through the eyes of the flesh. The servant spoke his hopelessness for the flesh had no answers to their problem. Elisha spoke according to the reality of the spirit. He saw the help that the Lord provided them in their situation and declared, “There are more with us than against us.”

Next, we looked at the 12 spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land. Ten of the spies saw through the eyes of their inability to overcome the obstacles before them. They declared, “The promise is true. The land is everything God said it would be, but we cannot take it because the people and their cities are too strong.”

Joshua and Caleb, the two remaining spies, saw through the eyes of the promise of God. They believed that if the promise were true, then God would provide the power to take them into the promise. They said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Both groups spoke what they saw. Their perspective dominated their words and each group received exactly what they said. The 10 who spoke out of the flesh died in the wilderness. The two who spoke out of the promise went into Canaan and possessed the land God had promised them.

I want to close out this week with a final look at Caleb. In Joshua 14, we find these two great men of faith speaking together again. Caleb reminds Joshua that Moses had promised that the Land he had walked on when he, Joshua and the ten others had spied out the land would someday be his. Caleb was 40 years old when they had spied out the land 45 years before. He is now 85 years old. He wants Joshua to know that the time had come for him to take his mountain.

There some interesting things we should know about that mountain. It was not the easiest of places to possess. It was high ground, so the enemy would be difficult to drive out. We see in today’s scripture that the cities in this region were great and fortified. Finally we read that the Anakim were there. This was a clan of people who were considered giants. All of these factors made the land Caleb was petitioning Joshua to give him some of the hardest territory in all of Canaan. Yet this eighty-five year old man demands Joshua to it give to him to conquer.

How many of us would be ready for a vigorous military campaign at eighty-five? That is the time of life when we are happy if we can do anything at all let alone take a mountain. Yet Caleb is not only willing to take the mountain but eager and confident. He tells Joshua that he is just as strong and capable of waging war as he was forty-five years before. This is remarkable! What is the secret of Caleb’s youthful vigor? I believe I know the answer.

Look at the last thing Caleb says to Joshua. “It may be that the Lord will bewith me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.” Now look at what Joshua and Caleb said when they returned from spying out the land forty-five years earlier.

Numbers 14:8(NKJV) 8If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’

Do you see the consistency of Caleb’s words? Forty-five years before they declared that if God delighted in them he would give them the land. When Caleb comes to Joshua forty-five years later he says, “If God is with me I will be able to drive out the enemy and take my mountain.” His words have stayed the same. This tells us his perspective was the same. He was looking at God’s ability and not his inability.

I believe that Caleb’s confession kept him young and capable. Sometimes we read the bible and have some strange ideas. Not every eighty-five year old man in Israel was like Caleb. In truth, there were no other eighty-five year old men in Israel. They had all died in the wilderness. Caleb was the only one who had survived. For most of us, to still be alive at eighty-five would be a great accomplishment. However, Caleb was not just alive. He was healthy and strong. He was ready to go to war. Why is this so? I believe it is because he spent forty-five years speaking life and not death.

I can see Caleb as he fights with the rest of Israel speaking with his people about the mountain. “Moses promised me this mountain and no matter how long it takes we are going to possess it!” As the years went on, he talked about his mountain and the promise of God. I am sure there were those who told him, “Caleb you are getting too old for war. There are places you can settle in the lower lands that have already been conquered.” Caleb would hear none of it. “I am getting stronger not weaker. God said I could have that mountain and I will take it myself.”

There were probably younger men who came to him and said, “We will do the warfare. We will take the mountain and then bring you to it.” Caleb must have responded, “Do I look like I need you to take it for me? I am just as capable as I was forty-five years ago and I have much more experience than you do. I will take my mountain and you can join me.”

What can we learn from Caleb? I do not know that we all will be healthy enough at eighty-five to go to war, but I know Caleb was. I believe part of what kept him strong were the words of life he spoke. When we speak words of life, Proverbs 18 tells us we are making friends with life. When we speak words filled with fear and death, we make friends with fear and death.

It will do you no good to choose to fill your words with disappointment, anger or fear. We all know people who have grown old and bitter. We hear the bitterness in their words. They did not become bitter in a day or week. They let words of bitterness flow from their mouths for years until that becomes their reality.

We also know those who have grown old in peace and joy. Often those who are sweet in their old age are ones who have endured hardship. We hear life in their words. People want to be around them. They may be old but they are full of faith and encouragement. I have been blessed to be around such senior people in my life. Some have gone home to the Lord. Their words of encouragement blessed me to the end.

If we choose to fill our mouths with words of faith, we will continue to be strong until we go home to be with the Lord. We will continue to encourage those around us. We will continue to be useful and fruitful until the end of our days. Our perspective will continue to be focused on the spirit and what God can do instead of the flesh and what we cannot do. Who knows, maybe some of us will even take a mountain for God!