When Jesus flung wide open the door on the “secret” behind dealing effectively with challenges and how to get results, following immediately on the exhortation to “have faith in God” was His lesson on the effectiveness of such faith: “For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, ‘Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea’; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them'” (Mark 11:23-24). As always, Jesus used the things around Him, in this case the mount of Olives which was nearby and the Sea of Galilee which was several miles away, to incorporate into His teaching. It is to be understood that “what He designed to teach was the great lesson, that no obstacle should be able to stand before a confiding faith in God” (JFB Commentary).
The words “whosoever shall say unto this mountain” put on the believer the responsibility to be an active participant in the work of faith. It is instructive to note that Jesus did not say to pray and ask God to remove the obstacle, but rather they should “say unto” or “speak to” said obstacle. How often we impulsively do the former! Of course, Jesus was not discounting prayer as an important discipline in the life of believers. To paraphrase the hymn writer, it is a privilege to carry everything that pertains to us to God in prayer, and in other instances Jesus exhorts us to do just that. However, here He was teaching that when our faith in God is rooted in a) the moral conviction of His goodness, truthfulness and faithfulness, and b) a strong unwavering belief that He is able to “accomplish things that appear most difficult with infinite ease, as the fig-tree was made to wither away by a word”, we shall have whatsoever we say.
The assurance of the effectiveness of the prayer of faith is to tempered with a word of caution. Jesus did not give the disciples, and by extension us, a signed blank cheque for us to fill in all our wishes and desires. As Walter Martin reminds us, “All faith is subsumed [contained] under the overarching biblical doctrine of the sovereignty of God.” God is not a cosmic errand boy at the beck and call of His creation. How then should we understand this teaching? Bible Scholar John Gill puts it well: “Whatever is asked in faith, agreeable to the will of God, which is contained in His covenant, word, and promises, and makes for His glory, and the good of His people, shall be given, be it what it will; though to the carnal sense and reason it may seem impractical and impossible.”
As we close our study of these verses, it is worth remembering that we can put our faith in God because He is faithful (firm in keeping His promises), immutable (unable to be changed), and sovereign (has unlimited power and is free from external control). It is comforting to know that we do not have to feel defeated, frustrated, or helpless in the face of life’s challenges. We serve an awesome God to whom nothing is impossible. It is in Him and His character that Jesus exhorts us to place our unwavering faith, assuring us that we will see the results of whatever we say.
When faced with an obstacle, Jesus spoke to it. What do you do with yours?