… Jesus said. “I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will go. There will be nothing that you can’t do.” -Matthew 17:20
What’s the biggest mountain you’ve ever seen? The Rocky Mountains? The Appalachians? Mount Rainier out in Seattle? Those are all bigger than any mountain in Palestine, but still, can you imagine hearing Jesus say that faith is enough to move even the smallest of mountains?
Before we even ask how faith could move mountains, a word about what faith is and what it is not. Faith is often misunderstood to mean having it all “right” about God. Faith isn’t about having the right answers for every question. Faith doesn’t happen in our heads alone. Faith is trust. Faith happens in our hearts and in our guts, as well as in our heads. Faith in Jesus Christ is trust that he keeps his promises, to put it simply. We trust that God is true to God’s word. That is faith.
Faith, or trust, whichever word is clearer to you, has another quality. Faith persists. That is, even when faced with opposition and obstacles, faith keeps on going. Why? Because faith holds onto the promise that God is with us to bring us safely through the challenges we face. Faith clings stubbornly to God’s Word.
What does this kind of trusting faith have to do with moving mountains? Everything. And nothing. Huh? Let’s back up. Just before Jesus tells his disciples that faith the size of a mustard seed will move mountains, he chides them for lacking faith to help a father seeking healing for his child. Which is easier, moving a mountain or helping a desperate parent care for their child? On my own, I am not sure I could set out to do either. The disciples clearly didn’t think so, either. I imagine them shuffling their feet, muttering that there’s no way they could move mountains with any amount of faith. Just who does Jesus think he is? God?
Uh, yes, actually. Jesus isn’t asking the disciples to believe in themselves, as so many people often encourage, but to believe in him. With Jesus Christ, all things are possible. Even helping in un-help-able circumstances. Did you notice, though, that Jesus never asks the disciples to move any mountains? Now, if he had, persistent faith might simply set to it with a shovel, moving that mountain one scoop of rocks at a time. Faith would stubbornly set to that mountain with a pickaxe, trusting that if Jesus commanded its demolition, God would see it through.
Instead, Jesus commands us to face other challenges. “Feed the hungry,” he said. “Welcome the stranger.” “Love your neighbor.” “Do not worry about tomorrow, what you will eat.” “Pray for those who persecute you.” “Forgive as your Father in Heaven forgives.”
Those are some mountains. Big, rugged, solid. I don’t think I could do much to move them on my own. What a relief that I am not supposed to move them on my own! With faith, with trust, with persistence, with reliance on Jesus Christ: that’s the only way a mountain moves. You can think of other mountains: the acrimonious division between people with different politics, asking for help without feeling ashamed, racism, reconciling with that person who hurt you, and all the rest.
They won’t move with a snap of the fingers. Not with a single prayer flung out without another thought, either. It’s persistent trust in Jesus Christ that gets us to work, moving those mountains one shovelful at a time. If God tells us to do something, God will see us through it.
So don’t believe in yourself. Believe in God. Trust Jesus Christ, and that he will get you through whatever he has called you to do. Even moving mountains.
Dear God, the mountains in my life often seem too big to climb, let alone move. Strengthen my faith. Help me trust your promises and listen to your words. Whatever you call me to do, I trust that you will see me through it. Amen.