Does the good life sound easy? Well, it’s not! There are obstacles to the good life.
The Bible says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19a, KJV). This is part of the truth. The other side to this scripture is, “But the Lord delivers him out of them all” (v. 19b). Many get their minds on the bad part–“afflictions“–and forget to remember the good part–deliverance!
Jesus says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33, KJV). I hear people add, “You see, Jesus does not promise us health and prosperity like faith preachers proclaim! He promises tribulation!”
It is true, Jesus does say that we are going to have tribulation. But He doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “But, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (v. 33). Do you see what Jesus is saying? He says the good life does not come easy. There will be difficulties that you will encounter, but remember that you already have the victory.
Some folks accuse faith ministers of preaching, “Easy victory. No problems. No obstacles. No difficulties. Just believe and everything will come easy.”
I have listened to some of the finest faith ministers of the world and I have yet to hear one of them say that the faith life is easy. I have not heard one say, “If you have faith, you will never have anymore problems and trials.” No one preaches that. What we do preach is that you can overcome all the trials of life. Jesus taught that we can determine the destiny of obstacles:
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it…
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him” (Mark 11:12-14, 20-23).
Jesus determined the destiny of the fig tree. He predicted its future.
Someone might say, “Yea, but that was Jesus. Only He can predict the future.” Wrong. Not only did Jesus show that He could predict the future of a fig tree, but, more importantly, He told his disciples that they could do even more by predicting the future of mountains. Mountains are obstacles.
Jesus is teaching that we can predict the future of trials. We can determine the destiny of obstacles. He is saying that faith can predict the future.
You Move the Mountain
I heard a minister interpret Jesus’ lesson on mountain-moving faith in this way: “Jesus told you to ask God to move the mountains for you.” I almost fell over when I heard this statement.
Didn’t this minister ever read the Bible? I thought. Jesus did not say for you to ask God to move the mountains for you. He told you to speak to the mountains yourself. Jesus said “it will obey you!” (Luke 17:6).
The mountain is not going to obey God. It is going to obey you. Don’t wait for God to speak to the mountain for you; He has commanded you to speak to the mountain yourself.
This minister interpreted this passage that way because Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” So he assumed that faith in God means to ask God to take care of something, while you simply watch God do all the work.
This incorrect interpretation can be corrected by the original Greek text. Alfred Marshall in his widely used The Interlinear Greek-Enlish New Testament translates Mark 11:22 as, “Have [the] faith of God.” (brackets in the original)
There is a subtle yet important difference between having faith in God and having the faith of God. You’ll never move mountains by simply having faith in God. Many people have faith in God and are still not seeing the power of God in their lives. Circumstances are changed only when we use the faith of God.
If you’re born again, God has deposited within your spirit His very own faith. You have God’s kind of faith.
Faith of God
Critics of the faith message have written scathing books in which they unfairly criticize those of us who preach that believers have God’s faith. In summary, they write that believers could not have God’s faith since God does not have faith. As I have read these books I have thought, If God doesn’t have faith, then He must have doubt. If you don’t have the positive, you must have the negative.
Of course God has faith! It’s terrible to accuse God of not having faith.
The Bible unmistakably teaches that believers have available to them the faith of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:11, “Put on the full armor of God.” Whose armor are we to put on? God’s armor! This is not called the “Christian armor”; it’s called the “armor of God” for the Christian. The armor is God’s fighting clothes!
Paul then lists for us the pieces of this armor: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, salvation, the word of God, and faith. Faith is part of God’s armor–it is a piece of His suit.
In Romans 13:14 Paul says it another way: “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” This armor is the character of Christ, who is God. Faith is one of God’s characteristics, which the believer is told to have.
In another place Paul enumerates God’s characteristics that the believer should possess. He writes in Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…FAITH…” Notice that faith is one of the fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit is of course God. The “faith” Paul mentions is none other than the faith of God!
For example, the other fruits that the believer should bear is “love, joy, peace”
The love we should have is the “love OF God shed abroad in our hearts.”
The peace we should possess is the “peace OF God that passes all understanding.”
And the joy we should experience is the “joy OF the Lord which is our strength.”
Consequently, the faith we should have is the “faith OF God that moves mountains.”
I’ve given you two scriptures which proves that the believer has God’s faith.” A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Let me give you one more witness that will established the matter of the believer possessing the God-kind of faith.
“Through these he [God] has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the DIVINE NATURE and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to YOUR FAITH goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, [agape] love. For if you possess THESE QUALITIES” (2 Peter 1:4-8, emphasis added).
What are “THESE QUALITIES” that we should possess? The qualities of the “DIVINE NATURE” of course! Notice that Peter includes “YOUR FAITH” as a part of the divine nature. Peter begins the list of the divine nature with “faith” and ends the list with the highest divine quality of all: “[agape] love.”
No one would dispute that Agape Love is the divine nature of God; yet, ironically, many dispute Faith as the divine nature of God. However, both Love and Faith are part of the divine nature of God. These are divine qualities that we can possess. We see that the apostle Peter includes faith as being part of the divine nature that we possess.
So, in essence, Jesus is telling us to use the faith that God used to create the worlds. The faith of God made the mountains and the faith of God can move the mountains.
For example: I may have faith in Arnold Schwarzenegger to protect me as a body guard. If I did I would put my faith in him, and he would fight for me. I don’t have to fight. He will fight instead. However, if I had the muscles of Arnold, I would fight myself.
This illustrates the difference between having faith in God and having the faith of God. Jesus is showing us that God expect us to operate in His strength and not simply be waiting on Him to do something. We can do this because we have God’s muscles.
We look like God because we are born of God. To be born of again means to be regenerated. “Regeneration” means to be “re-gened.” To be given new-genes. Genes determine our physical makeup.
In many respects I look like my physical father; I have his squinty eyes. I also look like my mother; I have her small size. The reason is because I have their genes. The same thing is true spiritually. Our spiritual genetic makeup is of God. We are born of God. If you could see your spirit, it would look like God. Since God is a faith-God, we are faith-children. We have His faith!
This is the lesson of the withered fig tree. Jesus took the faith of God and used it to curse a fruitless tree. He then told us to operate the same way by having the “faith of God.”
How Faith Works
Jesus explained how this faith works: “Whosoever…shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; HE SHALL HAVE WHATSOEVER HE SAITH” (Mark 11:23, KJV, emphasis added). Simply believe that what you say will come to pass and you’ll have whatever you said. Jesus is saying, “If you can believe that your words will come to pass, then YOU CAN HAVE WHAT YOU SAY!”
That’s how God created all things. God believed that what he said would happen, and it did! God predicted the future by believing and speaking words. True faith has two components: Believing and Speaking.
In 2 Corinthians 4:13 we read: “It is written: `I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.” Believing and speaking go together. You can’t simply believe that something is going to happen and then not speak it. You must speak it!
Let’s go back to the story of the fig tree in order to illustrate this truth.
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. SEEING IN THE DISTANCE A FIG TREE IN LEAF he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then HE SAID TO THE TREE, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again. And HIS DISCIPLES HEARD HIM SAY IT” (Mark 11:12-14, emphasis added).
Jesus SPOKE to the tree. He did not simply THINK words; He SPOKE words. He spoke loud enough for the disciples to hear Him.
Notice that the Bible says that Jesus saw “in the distance” a fig tree. The fig tree was far away from the road that they were traveling. So Jesus got off the road and walked a long distance to see if there was fruit. The Bible only mentions Jesus walking to the tree. The disciples did not go with Jesus to the tree; they were still on the road.
This means that when Jesus spoke to the tree, He must have spoke very loud in order for His disciples to have heard Him. He did not whisper, nor did He speak in a normal tone of voice. He shouted! By shouting to the tree, He showed that He was fully committed in believing that the tree would die.
You see, many people speak to their problems in a soft way, so that no one really knows what they believe. They speak in a way that shows that they are not truly committed in seeing the problem go.
But not Jesus. He shouted! He wanted everyone to know that this tree will be cursed. If it doesn’t die, then they know that Christ’ faith failed. His faith was fully committed.
Your faith must be fully committed in seeing the obstacle removed. If you make any provision for failure, then success is not guaranteed.
I hear some people say, “I believe that God is going to heal me. I have rebuked the devil, so I know I’m going to be healed. But I also believe that if I die, I’m going to be with the Lord!” This sounds good, but these people are making provision for failure.
Jesus did not make room for failure. He shouted.
This reminds me of a fellow who was waiting for a bus. A stray dog came to him and began to lick his boots. The man nicely told the dog to leave, but the dog stayed. Repeatedly he told the dog to leave, but the dog ignored him and continued to lick his boots. Finally, the bus arrived. The man was agitated, so with a loud command he stomped his foot and said, “I told you to go!” The dog jumped away from the man and whimpered home.
Many people act like this man. They gently say to their mountain, “Would you, please, go.” But the mountain refuses to listen to those whimpering words.
If you want the mountain to go, then shout with authority, “You foul mountain. I told you to go! So God!” When you speak like that your faith starts to work!
What do you see?
There is one more important thing I want you to notice concerning Jesus speaking to the tree. “The next morning as they passed the dead fig tree, Peter said, “Rabbi, LOOK! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” Peter needed to point out to Jesus that the fig tree had died: “LOOK”
I read that verse one day when the Holy Spirit revealed to me the fact that Jesus was not even looking at the tree to see if its appearance was any different than the previous day. Then the Lord asked me, “Tom, if you had cursed a tree and the next day passed by that tree, would you have looked at it to see if there was a noticeable change?”
I had to humbly admit, “Yes, Lord.”
Most of us would have to answer the same way. I’m sure that when the disciples were walking back down the road, the first thing they were looking for was the tree which Jesus cursed. They wanted to see if there was any change in the tree.
But Jesus was different. He did not even looking to see if the tree’s appearance had altered. He spoke to the tree and then went on His way, knowing that it would have to obey His faith-filled words. Jesus would not even “LOOK” at the tree. He never goes by what He sees. Jesus went “by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Faith does not look at the problem! Don’t focus your eyes–your attention–on your difficulty. Don’t be checking up to see if your words are working. Be confident that your words of faith must work; they must produce; they must predict your future.
All too often we are extremely quick to look and see if the situation has changed. If it hasn’t, then we get discouraged and begin to doubt. Consequently we don’t see the obstacle removed.
I’ve seen hands laid on the sick for their healing, and then they immediately feel to detect any discernable difference. If they still feel the pain, then they’ll declare, “I guess I’m not healed.” You see, they’re going by what they feel instead of the word of God.
You might say, “What am I supposed to say if I still feel the pain in my body?”
Do what Abraham did when he believed God’s promise concerning his wife having a baby. He changed his name from Abram to Abraham–before his wife got pregnant!!! Abraham means “father of many nations.” Can you imagine calling yourself the father of many nations yet not having even one child to carry on your name?
Abraham was “calling those things that are not as though they were“(Romans 4:17). We also must follow in the footsteps of his faith. He is the father of faith. He’s our example!
Don’t declare that the problem–the difficulty, the obstacle–is still there. Declare the end from the beginning. Predict the future of that obstacle.
Several years ago I used to visit a nursing home. There was one ornery lady who would growl like a tiger. She was mean! It was clear that she was sick in her mind. Along with others, I would constantly pray for her deliverance by laying hands on her, but she would push our hands away from her head as we prayed for her. Obviously she wasn’t getting any better.
One warm afternoon–I’ll never forget it–I sat across from her, separated by a long table. This time I said to the demon bothering her, loudly enough so that she and the demon could hear, “I command you, foul spirit, to come out of her.”
She glared into my eyes, sulked…and said nothing! Before I walked away, I said, peering into her lifeless eyes, “Satan, this will be the last time that I will address you concerning this woman. I said that you had to leave, and you’ll obey me. As far as I’m concerned, you’re gone!” Then I left.
The following week as I was walking into the nursing home, the first person to catch my eye was this woman. Recognizing me, she lifted her hand high and said, “I’m free! I’m totally free!” Wow! We rejoiced in the Lord and had a wonderful time praising God. She stayed free, too.
You are set free
Like Abraham, Jesus called those things that are not as though they were. Let me show you.
“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God” (Luke 13:10-13).
Notice the sequence of events. First, Jesus called the woman forward; second, He spoke to her and said that she was set free. Not that she will be set free, but that she was already set free. Third, He laid His hands on her, and she straightened up and praised God.
When did Jesus say, “You are set free.”? Was it after she was physically better or before she was physically better? He told her that she was set free, before there was any physical appearance of healing.
Jesus was “calling those things that are not as though they were.” He was operating in the faith of God. God calls those things that are not as though they were. Isaiah 46:10 says that God declares the end from the beginning. God speaks the end–which is the future–from the beginning. God predicts the future. He tells us to imitate Him.
We should declare the end from the beginning. We should predict our future. We can because we have God’s nature of faith. Like God and Jesus, we need to be bold in our confession.
Shout it Out
God told Zerubbabel, “What are you O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground” (Zechariah 4:7). The mountain became level ground, because the next part of the verse says, “Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of `God bless it! God bless it!‘” The mountain was destroyed because Zerubbabel shouted to the mountain, “God bless it! God bless it!”
He shouted the blessings of God instead is simply speaking the blessings of God. He shouted the victory instead of screaming about problems. When he did, the blessings came on him and the problems left him.
During the leadership of Joshua, there was an obstacle to the promises of God. God had promised Israel the land of Canaan, but there was a big obstacle in their way: Jericho! God told Joshua to make the Israelites march around the city of Jericho for seven days and on the seventh day to march around it seven times. After they did, the people gave a “loud shout” and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
What did they shout? They shouted, “God has given us the city!” They shouted victory before they could see it. This is what God demands of you. He demands that you shout the victory before you can see any difference.
Don’t shout, “Mountain, be gone!” and then say, “I don’t see any change.”
Don’t shout, “The problem is gone!” and then say, “The problem is worse.”
When you contradict yourself, you are digging up the seed of faith. When you speak to the mountain, you plant the seed of faith. But if you contradict your words, you dig up the seed of faith. If you dig up the seed, then there is nothing to produce the future. Your words of faith are the seeds that will predict your future.