Jesus said that by faith his disciples could move trees and even mountains (Luke 17:5; Mark 11:22-23).
His words remind us of other things we find in the Bible.
If we start with Genesis and read through to Revelation, we see some pretty amazing miracles. Moses lifts a stick, and the Red Sea parts. The people of Joshua make a lot of noise and the walls of Jericho fall down.
So is the problem that none of us have a big enough faith?
No that can’t be the problem. Jesus said that if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed (tiny to the extreme) we can do landscaping without a shovel (Luke 17:5).
Here’s the only way I can make sense of the faith-that-can-move-trees-and-mountain’s principle.
The issue is not the quantity of our faith, but the quality.
Jesus can only be talking about the kind of trust that relies on God to do what God wants to do– in his wisdom, time, and unlimited power.
Such faith is not only a virtue– it is a grace and thereby a gift.
The Bible shows us in so many ways that God is powerfully responsive in behalf of all of those whose gift of trust combines with his own timing and purposes. When he wants to move a mountain, or separate a large body of water, or raise someone from the dead– what counts is the grace he gives his people to trust him.
So how do we apply this today? Yesterday we talked about praying to pray and believing God could enable us to do so. In the conversation about tree-moving that Jesus had with his disciples, the subject was about having the faith to believe what he was saying about forgiving those who kept wronging them while repeatedly apologizing (Luke 17:1-5). (I don’t think Jesus was talking about the kind of forgiveness that indulges criminal or abusive behavior. That’s another subject.)
Even though we don’t get the blank-sheet-of-paper-promise we were hoping for, the answer has to be that with only a small amount of the right kind of trust we can do or say whatever God wants us to do or say.
Could that involve literally saying to a tree, “Be removed and thrown into the ocean?” Yes, definitely, if that’s what God wants to do.
My guess is that our Lord is probably more interested in helping us live today as people who speak with grace, act with wisdom, and love with generosity, in our desire to honor the one who has died for us.
But those are just my thoughts. I’d love to hear what you’ve been thinking about the faith that can move mountains.