The floor was open for questions or comments at the end of the Sunday morning service. Our pastor had been teaching from Mark 11. In that passage, the disciples of Jesus had been astonished that the fig tree Jesus had spoken to earlier had dried up. When Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away,” Jesus took the opportunity to teach them.
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For 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. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:22-24).I had to ask: “What does this mean? How do I know if I am ‘having faith in God’? Is this something we muster up from within ourselves? Is it something that is supposed to be resident within us 24-7? How can I have faith that Infinite God will be there for puny, finite me when I speak to a mountain?”
I had been longing for a more intimate and victorious walk with the Lord and desired a deeper understanding of faith. I had listened to preachers on television and radio and read the writings of other ministers of the gospel. I had studied the Scriptures and asked questions. I had prayed, asking the Father for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that I may know Him better (Ephesians 1:17).
Through the answer that my pastor gave that Sunday morning, God quickened my heart in what may be the most profound revelation that I have ever experienced. I can sincerely say that it changed my life. My understanding was opened instantly. The walls of ignorant doubt came tumbling down, doubt that had hindered my faith for victory in my own life, as well as for my ability to intercede in faith-filled prayers for others.
My pastor stated that faith in God is based on three things:
1) Who God is—His personal character,It was so simple and so profound! Mountain-moving faith rests solidly on the foundational tenets of Christianity: God’s immutability (eternal changelessness), the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection. Those things are true, they don’t waver, they are trustworthy, and I can stand in great faith on them no matter how I feel. (See Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17.)
2) What God says—the Holy Bible, and
3) What Jesus did on the cross.
REVELATION BRINGS CORRECTION
Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, God revealed to me that my faith had more often than not been based on where I thought I stood with God at any given moment. On a subconscious level, I expected the strength of my faith and the power of my prayers to be governed by my current state of perceived righteousness—my right standing with God. If I had spent enough time in His Word or prayed enough, i.e., if I had been “good,” God would move on my behalf. If I had failed somewhere, God probably would not even listen to me.
What a revelation God had given me of myself! I repented in sorrowful tears as we were served the elements of communion and reaffirmed that my righteousness is as filthy rags before God and that I stand wholly in the righteousness of Christ.
Many people who love God with all of their hearts are unaware that they are trying to earn God’s favor, and even their salvation, through their good works and by “being good.” Human flesh will always come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). That is the very reason we need a Savior.
Let me offer a cautionary caveat. Even though we stand in the righteousness of Christ, we are not standing in a cheap grace; Jesus gave His life to pay our sin penalty. In no way are we ever given license to practice willful sin. As with a child, our maturity and behavior determine how much power and authority we can be trusted with. I believe as the Church grows in obedience and holiness, we will see great signs and wonders following her.
THE SPIRIT OF FAITH
The revelation God gave me that day in church opened my understanding about many things. I learned about the three foundations upon which our faith in God can rest securely without wavering. I began to comprehend the fullness of the supernatural life in Christ that is promised to believers through faith. The Word of God came alive.
For months after that, I knew that something had happened that had changed me, but I didn't know how to explain it to others until some time later when I heard another minister teach on the “spirit of faith” from 2 Corinthians 4:13. The spirit of faith causes one to say, “I believe; therefore I speak.” Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s the same way we are born again.
Think about Romans 10:8-10 (NKJV): “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The spirit of faith is about believing with your heart and confessing with your mouth—the very same way we received salvation!
Faith works by believing with the heart and confessing with the mouth. Do you need to be saved (born again)? Do you need a healing? Do you believe in your heart what God says about it? Remember, He is trustworthy, and His Word is true. If you believe it, then speak it; confess your belief, and thank God for it.
Speaking your faith aloud is like drawing a line in the sand; when you step over it, you are committed. The natural mind is fearful of making that kind of commitment to faith. I know the mind dialog well: “What if it doesn’t happen; you will look like a fool sticking your neck out like that.” I wonder if that’s what the Bible calls being “stiff-necked.” You cannot hold the neck rigid and stick it out in faith at the same time. (I hope you are laughing.)
At those times when you fear drawing that line of faith and stepping over it, test yourself to see if you have fear of embarrassment, or doubt that God means what He says. The caveat here is that we must know the Word of God and whether what we are believing for is in the will of God. An example of this is healing. We know that healing is God’s will because His Word says that by the stripes of Jesus, you were healed. Be careful about trying to exercise faith for things such as stopping rain because you are having a cookout; there may be farmers praying for the rains to come to water their crops so that you will have corn on the cob at your next cookout. You can, however, stand in faith against adverse winds. Use wisdom. Additionally, sometimes the Holy Spirit gives us a check to hold off, wait, or sometimes to go in a different direction. The best Scripture directive is Galatians 5:16: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST
Jesus accomplished many things on the cross. We will examine only a couple here.
The Atonement Provision
Jesus took upon Himself the judgment for the sins of humanity. He shed His blood and gave His life to pay the penalty for them all—past, present, and future—when we repent and accept Him as our Savior. On that cross hangs a sign, “Paid In Full!” The law was satisfied.
At the moment of His death, the thick veil that hung in the temple and separated the people from the presence of God was rent from top to bottom. The rending from the top down showed that the hand of man was not involved. God Himself opened the way of access to His holiness and His presence through Christ. Prior to this, only once per year and under the strictest conditions was the high priest permitted to enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of atonement. Jesus paid the penalty once for all. Man could be redeemed to God.
What God accomplished through Jesus’ sacrificial death does not stop there. In Christ's suffering and death, He accomplished much more than atonement for the sins of man.
Jesus said in John 10 that He is the “door” to the sheepfold. Only through Jesus, the Door, will those who have believed come in to the sheepfold and go on in to find pasture.
“Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.’ ” John 10:7-11.
The atonement—the sacrificial death of the sinless Lamb of God on the cross—paid for our sin penalty once for all and, thus, our entry into the sheepfold, but Jesus never intended for us to take up residence in the gate. Have you ever seen a herd of sheep? They will all congregate right in front of the gate, not going on in themselves and preventing others from going in. No wonder God likens us to sheep.
The Good Shepherd leads us into green pastures. That’s abundant life! There lies beyond the door of salvation a kingdom that is filled with promise and provision when we understand and press on into it.
Matthew 11:12 (AMP) tells of this pressing in. And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize--a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion].
I am convinced that most of the violent struggle is simply getting past the doubt and unbelief of the teachers and the sheep who have congregated at the gate. Luke 11:52 (AMP) addresses this: “Woe to you experts in the [Mosaic] law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
Jesus has already paid for our entrance into His abundant Kingdom. I am reminded of my trips to Six Flags and Epcot Center. When we walked up to the ticket counter and got our ticket, everything inside that gate was open and available for our enjoyment. We were limited only by our own choices.
The Suffering Provision
Christ suffered in His body a suffering that was not necessary in providing atonement. He suffered in order to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows. He suffered for our peace and for our healing. He suffered for our abundance.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (AMP) says, “Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy]. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.”
First Peter 2:24 (AMP) says, “By His wounds you have been healed.” Notice that this Scripture is past tense. The work is complete. It is finished!
The Hebrew words for “griefs” and “sorrows” specifically mean physical affliction (or sicknesses and pains). “He was wounded for our transgressions” means He was pierced for our rebellion and trespasses. “He was bruised for our (guilt and) iniquities” means He was crushed for our “evil nature” and crooked behavior. “We are healed by His stripes” means the blows from the whips that cut into His flesh bought our healing and made us whole.
Man’s greatest need was atonement for sin in order to escape from judgment and to have reconciliation with God, and God provided that by Jesus’ death. Jesus did not need to suffer to provide the sin atonement.
By His suffering, God provided for abundant life, beginning today (John 10:10). That means healing, and more. Neither work of the cross is automatically appropriated. Each—a soul’s eternal salvation or a person’s physical healing, peace, and well-being—must be received by faith. Christ’s work on the cross makes each possible. Simple faith receives each as we choose. God has already done His part. The Way has been bought, paid in full, and presented to “whosoever will.” It is now up to each individual to receive it by faith, including appropriating healing.
APPROPRIATING GOD’S PROVISIONS
People get mad at God when their loved ones get sick or tragic accidents happen. They get even madder at Him when He seemingly doesn’t answer their pleading prayers that He intervene and heal. But the fault does not lie in God. Satan is the destroyer, and our lack of knowledge makes us impotent against him. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). The knowledge that is needed here is that God has already done everything that is needed. It is now ours to receive it by faith. The ball is in our court.
We need to know the Bible! The Holy Bible—the inspired Word of God—is our life manual. It is the only source of wisdom and knowledge about spiritual truths. 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Rightly dividing God’s Word comes through diligent study and refusing to suit its words to one’s own convenience or ideology. Rightly dividing the Word of truth mean to rightly discern its truth by capturing the spirit of the Word. The Word of God was written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and must be understood by the Holy Spirit. Personally, I study many different translations until I feel comfortable that I understand what the Spirit is communicating.
Jesus says in Luke 14:27 and 33: “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Discipleship means renunciation of all selfish interest for the sake of Jesus. Most people do not want that level of commitment, but then they wonder why they are powerless when tragedy strikes.
We know that God desired for all to come to repentance and faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross (John 3:16). But the choice of salvation is left to the free will of each individual. In the same way, we know it is God’s will to heal everyone who calls on His name because Jesus suffered for it. We appropriate God’s provision by faith. Faith gives substance to things we hope for; faith gives evidence to things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). God has given us the measure of faith, which is enough. As we grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s promises in His Word, our faith grows, line upon line, precept upon precept.
This is what I personally have learned that has changed my life, and it can change yours as well. I am fully persuaded that God is faithful and true and cannot lie and that His Word is inerrant truth. I am fully persuaded that God loves me (and you) and that He wants and has made provision for His children to have abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world to come. I am fully persuaded that God provided the atonement for my sins once for all and that I am forgiven of all past, present, and future sins when I come to Christ in godly sorrow and repentance. I am fully persuaded that God provided for my health and healing by suffering from the stripes He bore on His back on the cross. I am fully persuaded that I receive all of it by simple faith in God—faith in His righteous character, faith in His Word, and faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross. But we can’t stop there. We must put feet on our faith.
We all are saved, or born from above, by believing and confessing with our mouth. Romans 10:9-10 says, ...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
That Scripture sets the pattern for appropriating God’s promises and provisions. The principle is established at the very beginning of our life in Christ. Just as salvation is appropriated by heart belief and spoken confession, so His continuing work in our lives is advanced by the same means.
In Mark 11:20-21, the disciples were surprised to see the fig tree had withered that Jesus had previously cursed. Jesus responded with a simple command in verse 22, “Have faith in God.”
Then in verses 23-24, in calling them to “speak to mountains,” He led them to prepare for situations in which they would find it necessary to take direct authority in the spiritual realm to impact things in the natural realm. “For 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. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
A mountain is symbolic of an obstacle, hindrance, or insurmountable problem. Someone said that a mountain is anything that is bigger than you are. Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” To have faith in God is to believe.
The next thing He said is, “I say to you, whoever says to this mountain …” That’s spoken confession. And then He says, “Don't doubt in your heart!” The doubt Jesus was talking about may be a lack of faith in God to do what He says, which is insulting to God’s character, but it could also be doubt in one’s own worthiness to ask. Well, we all are unworthy. That is why we need a Savior Who IS worthy! Jesus died for our unworthiness so that we could live in His. When we command that mountain to be removed and to be cast into the sea, God sees only the worthiness of Jesus. A. W. Tozer once wrote: “Nobody ever got anything from God on the grounds that he deserved it. Having fallen, man deserves only punishment and death. So if God answers prayer it's because God is good. From His goodness, His lovingkindness, His good-natured benevolence, God does it! That's the source of everything.”
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV). We are not to fight in the natural, physical world because that is satan’s territory. Our warfare is fought in the spiritual realm, using spiritual weapons, such as believing God (faith) and speaking in agreement with His will and His Word. That is why it is so important to “study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must know God’s Word thoroughly. Not knowing the Word of God is like going to war not knowing how to use our weapon. Our enemy can take that same weapon and do great damage with his lies. A good portion of our lives should be given to studying God’s “instruction manual.”
Jesus reminded His disciples in Mark 11:23-24 of the principles of believing and confessing—believing in their heart and confessing with their mouth. He was preparing them for situations when it would be necessary to take authority in the spiritual realm in order to impact things in the natural realm. This is so important for us to learn.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. Authority is defined as, “the power or right to rule, control, judge, or prohibit the actions of others.” Just as an Ambassador is sent out with the authority of his country behind him (as well as the provisions needed, which is another sermon), we as Christ’s ambassadors on the earth are sent out in the name of Jesus (who has all authority) with all of the rights and privileges of a diplomatic minister or an authorized representative or messenger. We call it The Great Commission. We need to understand that it is not presumptuous to move in spiritual authority in the name of Jesus. It is not only our right, but it is our responsibility. God’s first command to man was to “fill the earth and subdue it.” We cannot subdue a thing without using authority.
Matthew 28:16-20 (AMP): "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed and made appointment with them ... Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, 'All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.' "
God wants us to take direct authority in the spiritual realm in order to impact, or change, things in the natural realm. Jesus gave us the right to believe what God says (His Word) and to speak that Word into our circumstances.
When sickness is attacking our bodies, as believers and disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the right to speak truth from our spirit (the spiritual realm) and to command our body (the natural realm) to come into line with the Word. We have the right to command (in the spiritual realm) our body (in the natural realm) to resist sickness and disease or any other mountain that would try to attack it. Sickness and disease are interlopers on the body of any born-again Christian. Unless a door has been opened to them, they have no spiritual right to be there. Under the authority of the name of Jesus, you have the right to speak to the mountain of sickness and to command it to be cast into the sea.
You may say, “But I have been guilty of abusing my body and, therefore, opening the door to sickness.” Remember that Jesus died for our sins—past, present and future. He died even for that sin. In Christ, we are forgiven. When we confess our sin and repent (turn from it), we have the right to have healing. Sometimes, the door to sickness and disease has been opened through a curse. Curses can come in two primary ways—a malevolent charge against a person, such as in witchcraft, and the speaking of negative words, either from oneself, a parent, clergy, or others who have influence over us. In the case of curses, deliverance may be needed before healing can be fully manifested.
Sometimes there may be a need to fast in order to subdue the flesh, to starve doubt, to humble self, to promote faith-filled prayer, and/or to repent for losing faith. Let each one judge himself.
Although there have been times when God has used people's sicknesses to bring glory to Himself when they were healed, I believe without a doubt that it is not God’s will for anyone to be sick, and it is especially not God’s will for His children to die prematurely. That’s the devil’s agenda and his attack. As believers, we have the right and the power, in the name of Jesus, to stop the attack.
I have given you the Word in a capsule. Also consider this: One can put a thousand to flight, but two can put ten thousand to flight. When we come together with another faith-filled believer in agreement with God’s Word and will, no devil on earth can stand.
Be careful of your words. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. We must we aware of every idle word we speak and ask ourselves whether we are agreeing with God, the flesh, or the devil. Are our words producing life or death? We must try to always guard our words so that satan does not get a foothold anywhere.
We also need to stay in a right attitude of humility as the creature and not the Creator. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV reminds us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” These rights are given to us by God’s grace and mercy. God is not our online shopping network. We need to be careful not to become prideful in our faith. That’s why it is so important for us to stay in a posture of worship; it reminds us who we are and Who we are not. Denying the flesh through fasting helps to bring us into humility.
It is vital also to remember that God gives to us from His abundance so that we might generously give to others, both from our resources and our hope. We can never give back to God what He has given to us, but out of love, we are to go and reach others.
God bless you is my prayer, and may the spirit of faith inhabit your heart continually!