“Have faith in God.”
“And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 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. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
The fig tree the Lord Jesus cursed dried up from its roots. No doubt its roots died as soon as it was cursed; but the disciples did not see until the next morning, as they passed by and saw it’s tender branches and leaves withered. Let every eternity bound soul be warned. — He who smites the earth with the rod of his mouth and caused the fig tree to wither with his word shall slay the wicked with the breath of his lips (Job 4:9; Isaiah 11:4). This fig tree was useless when green and flourishing with life, because it bore no fruit; but, when it was withered, it was used of God to arouse his servant Peter and made opportunity for the Master give us the important instructions here set before us about faith in God. We should never forget that all things were made by him and for him (Colossians 1:16; Romans 11:36), that all things were made for his glory (Proverbs 16:4), and that he uses all things for the benefit of his elect (Romans 8:28). Here, the Lord Jesus used the useless fig tree to teach us about faith in God. Faith, true faith in God, is that which distinguishes true believers from mere religious hypocrites. May God the Holy Spirit teach us that which our Lord Jesus here taught his disciples, that we may “have faith in God.”
“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 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” (vv. 22-23).
When the Master said to Peter, “Have faith in God,” he was reminding him and us of the lesson of the barren fig tree. — Faith in God is essential. Peter appears to have been surprised that the fig tree, which was cursed yesterday, was withered today. But the Lord Jesus here declares that all men shall likewise perish without true faith in God. It is not just faith that is essential. Everyone has faith in something. That which is essential is true faith in the one true and living God, the glorious, triune, eternal, sovereign, holy Lord God who has revealed himself in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Scriptures.
Believers are people who live by faith in Christ, who is God our Savior. It is written, three times in Holy Scripture, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Faith is more than an isolated act. It is more than a creed, a confession, or a ceremony. Faith is the believer’s heart attitude of confidence in the Lord God. This faith in God is the gift of God to chosen, redeemed, called sinners. It is the very root and essence of true Christianity.
Initially, it is trusting Christ alone as our Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 1:30). But true faith is something more than trusting Christ to save me. — It is trusting Christ to rule me, protect me, provide for me, and do all things needful for me, according to his own infinite wisdom, goodness, and grace for all time and all eternity.
If we would know the true meaning and value of faith, we should often read and meditate upon Hebrews chapter eleven. It was by faith that the elders obtained a good report. — “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Our Lord used a proverbial saying in verse 24 to describe the great power of faith in God. This proverbial statement about removing mountains must be interpreted cautiously and soberly in this day of religious nuts, who have been taught by health, wealth, prosperity hucksters that if you want a million dollars, just trust the Lord for it; and show that you trust him by sending me all your money. Our Lord’s statement here is not a blanket promise that God will do anything we take a notion for him to do, as long as we have enough faith, or believe perfectly, without a doubt in our hearts.
What he is telling us is this. — True faith in our God enables believers to overcome great obstacles, accomplish great things, and triumph over great difficulties. Do you want to grow in the grace and knowledge of your Lord Jesus Christ? Do you want to be a strong, valiant believer? Do you desire to grow in spiritual maturity? If you do, pray for more faith and jealously guard that faith God has given you. Nurture it with the Bread of Life in the house of God, water it with prayer, and exercise it with consecration to Christ.
We must never imagine that true faith is perfect faith. The fact is no one on this earth has perfect faith. With regard to the salvation of our souls, the smallest measure of faith in Christ, because it is the fruit and gift of God the Holy Spirit, proves our saving union with Christ. A drop of water in the morning dew is as truly water as all the rivers of the world. It is the same in nature and in quality, though not in quantity. The same thing is true regarding faith. I say that specifically for the comfort and encouragement of God’s saints who are weak in faith and continually cry to him to increase their faith (Luke 17:5).
To those poor souls who are cast down because of the weakness of their faith, the Spirit of God declares, “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). Faith itself is the gift of God; and the measure of faith we are enabled to exercise is the gift of God, according as God deals “to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Wherever this grace of faith in Christ is given, it proves the possessor of it to be a heaven born soul, elect of God, for only those who were ordained to eternal life believe (Acts 13:48). Robert Hawker rightly observed…
“As to the act of being justified by faith, it is plain from the whole tenor of Scripture that while it is blessed to have strong and lively acting of faith on the person, work, and righteousness of God our Savior, yet the babe in Christ, as well as the strong man in the Lord, is as truly justified, because it is Christ which justifieth, and not the strength of our faith in Christ which contributes thereto. By him, (saith Paul) that is, by Christ, all that believe, whether slender faith or strong faith, all that believe, are justified from all things (Acts 13:39).”
Our Lord’s word to his disciples in verse 23 is sweet and precious. Faith in God, trusting the rich mercies of God in Christ and the faithfulness of his covenant promises to us in his Son, will remove all sin and all difficulties. He compares our sins and all the obstacles and difficulties in this world arising from sin to a mountain. He probably pointed to the Mount of Olives and said, “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.” By faith in Christ, we cast the mountains of our sins into the sea of God’s forgetfulness, where God has cast them. As soon as we trust him, they are gone. And, as soon as we take any mountain of trouble in the hand of faith and lay it upon the broad shoulders of God our Savior who cares for us, the troublesome weight of care is gone. With the faith he gives, as with God who gives it, nothing shall be impossible (Matthew 17:20; Luke 1:37). Blessed are they, who rest the whole weight of all things upon their faithful, covenant God and Father, who walk by faith and not by sight. “He that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16).
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (v. 24). — Here our Savior teaches us that faith, true faith, inspires earnest prayer. Prayer is not, as many ignorantly presume, a blank check waiting for you to fill in the amount you want. Prayer is a spiritual exercise, involving spiritual matters. I do not mean that prayer has nothing to do with carnal things. It has everything to do with the believer’s carnal things. But to the believer, his carnal things are spiritual matters turned over to the Master. So when our Lord here tells us that when we pray in faith, we have whatever it is that we desire, he is simply re-enforcing what he taught in the model prayer, by which he taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9-13).
I do not pretend to know much about prayer; but I do know that those things our Savior taught us to pray for in Matthew 6 are the things for which believers commonly pray. In all our petitions before God, these are, essentially, the things we truly want, the desires of our hearts. And, if these are the things we really want from God, when we pray, we shall have whatsoever we desire.
· We want the honor of God’s name — “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
· We desire the establishment of God’s kingdom, that is the salvation of his elect — “Thy kingdom come.”
· We want the will of God our Father. — “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
· We trust our God to supply the daily provision for our needs. —”Give us this day our daily bread.”
· We desire God’s forgiveness of our sins. — “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors .”
· We want our God to protect us from temptation, sin and Satan. — “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
· We seek grace from our God to personally give praise, honor, and glory to him. —”For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Are these the things that concern your soul? Are these the matters dearest to your heart? Are these things you ardently crave from God? “Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” They are as sure as if you already possessed them, for it is written, — “The desire of the righteous shall be satisfied” (Proverbs 10:24).
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (vv. 25-26).
That faith which is wrought of God in the hearts of sinners, that faith in Christ by which we obtain the forgiveness of sins is a forgiving faith. The connecting link between the necessity of faith and the spirit of forgiveness is prayer. First our Lord taught us that faith is essential to both life and prayer. Here, he teaches us that we do not have true faith and cannot truly pray, if we have not been given a forgiving spirit from God the Holy Spirit.
Worship and prayer are works of the heart. Commonly, when we think of prayer, we think of kneeling. Here our Lord speaks of standing to pray. This is not accidental. When we worship God, in public or in private, our physical position and posture is totally insignificant. The only thing required in this regard is that we do nothing to call attention to ourselves, that we make no pretentious show of piety or humility. The standing that matters is standing before God, presenting ourselves to our God in prayer.
The one thing that does matter in all aspects of worship and prayer, the one fruit of grace and faith, without which we cannot worship or pray, is that brotherly love which is manifest in a spirit of forgiveness.
Our Lord, of course, is not telling us that we win God’s forgiveness by forgiving one another. But he is telling us that if we have not learned to forgive one another, we have not yet experienced or known God’s forgiveness.
It is not enough that our prayers be earnest, fervent, and sincere. It is not enough that we pray in Christ’s name. Our prayers must have one more ingredient, or they are worthless. They must rise to the throne of God from a forgiving heart.
We do not seek mercy, if we refuse to extend mercy. We cannot seek forgiveness from God if we do not forgive one another. We must have the heart of a brother if we call God our Father and Christ our Brother. We only flatter ourselves with a delusion if we think we have the Spirit of adoption, but harbor ill feelings, cherish resentment, and deny forgiveness to one another.
What a heart-searching matter this is. Not all are gifted to sing, preach, or even speak a word for Christ. But all who truly know what forgiveness is forgive the offenses of others. Our Savior went to great lengths to teach us this repeatedly. May he give us grace to lay it to heart.
The nearest approach we can make to being like Christ in this world is to bear injuries, forbear offenses, and forgive one another. God’s free forgiveness of our sins is our highest privilege and greatest joy, and our only title to heaven and eternal life in the world to come. Let us, therefore, be merciful, kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving in the few days we have in this world, where forgiveness is needed. God’s saints will need no one’s forgiveness in heaven; but we all need much forgiveness here. — “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 4:32-5:2).
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