In this particular story, Jesus and his followers are strolling down the road toward Jerusalem. On the way, Jesus notices a fig tree in full leaf, and since he’s hungry, he goes over in search of a nice fig or two for breakfast. When he discovers that the tree has no fruit, he curses the tree, which seems a little odd, and then even more strange, the entire tree shrivels up in short order. The book of Mark also records this story,
adding a side note that figs were not even in season. So, picture some confusion on the disciples faces, as their teacher appears to become upset over a tree not having a fruit at a time of year when no one expected fruit anyway! (Incidentally, the Mark passage seems to intentionally link the fig tree to the 1st century temple system as a vivid illustration of something that appears to be alive but is really dead, but that’s another story for another newsletter.)
As you might imagine, the disciples are surprised when the tree withers so quickly. Jesus responds to them with some oft-quoted words, “I assure you, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do thing like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, “May God lift you up and throw you into the sea!’ and it will happen. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Jesus makes a very bold statement about the connection of our faith in prayer to a response of God’s power. He tells his followers that if they believe God will do it, it will happen.
This is where the story has always bothered me. Jesus seems to invite his followers to pray for things- even irrational things- and expect God to come through. While I was wrestling through my theology on this one, I felt like the Holy Spirit revealed something new for me. The words I heard were, “You believe God can do things. But do you believe He will?” This was a humbling moment, for if you look at the passage, Jesus invites us to believe not only that God can do these things, but more importantly that he will!
So I believe that God can heal people. I believe God can reach my lost neighbors. I believe God can bring transformation into lives and change their future. But do I believe that He will? Do you believe that He will? As we enter an exciting season as a church, and as we gather for times of prayer, what would it mean for us to believe not only that God can, but the He will? This is the faith Jesus calls us to. This is the kind of faith I want to develop.
May we encourage and inspire one another to believe in prayer that God WILL.
Praying for and with you-