“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.”
The previous day Jesus cursed a fig tree on His way back to Bethany because it had no figs. The tree showed signs of carrying figs, but upon closer examination, it was in fact as barren as all the other trees. Jesus then used this prophetic example to teach His disciples about faith. Jesus told them
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 (KJV)
Monday was a warning and a challenge to cleanse our hearts as we approach Good Friday, so that the conscience is clear when drawing near the cross. A clear conscience is a mind without hypocrisy. If the cross is approached with a misplaced trust in a false idolotrous Jesus of a personal making, then the sacrifice of Jesus on that brutal cross becomes a stumbling block.
When Jesus taught on faith, He was not teaching “wishful thinking” or “blind hope”. There is a difference between God entreated in prayer with “I hope that such and such a thing will happen” versus “I ask of You, my Lord, powerful and mighty, to do such and such a thing”. One prayer is the prayer of wishful thinking, having no understanding of the character of God. The other is prayer of trust in the personal characteristics of God. Jesus instructed His disciples to ask and not to doubt. James taught that doubt is a result of being double-minded and that “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8 (KJV). A double-minded man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Faith is seeing Jesus nailed to the cross, and still believing that He is who He said He is. Faith is the unshakeable trust in the person and work of Jesus as he healed the blind, the sick, the deaf, the mute and raised the dead. Jesus pronounced His scathing woe passage against the hypocrisy and double-minded philosophies of the religious teachers on this Tuesday, so many years ago. Not a one of those religious teachers doubted that Jesus performed the miracles; they doubted that Jesus was who He said He was. Perhaps you too have found yourself doubting God? Perhaps you have said with so many others that “I know God is able to do it, I just do not know why I doubt”. A lesson may be learned from the pharisees, and even the disciples; that the opposite of faith may not be doubt in every case, but a case of hard-heartedness. Hard-heartedness is outright refusal to accept truth. Faith, then, is the intentional acceptance of the character of God and the work of God as trust is built through taking steps in our lives expecting that God has already paved a good path for us. Simply put, faith is obedience, because we know the one who commands. As Phillip Doddrige penned in 1755:
How gentle God’s commands,
How kind His precepts are!
Come, cast your burdens on the Lord,
And trust His constant care.
Beneath His watchful eye
His saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guide His children well.
Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your heav’nly Father’s throne,
And sweet refreshment find.
His goodness stands approved,
Unchanged from day to day;
I’ll drop my burden at His feet,
And bear a song away.