Matthew 21:18-22 (NIV) 18 Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. 20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Is anyone here this morning standing at the foot of a mountain morning? As I read this passage, I was reminded of the childhood rhythm game I used to play in music class or at camp. “We’re going on a bear hunt (echo). We’re gonna catch a bear (echo). In our song, we’d be face to face with tall grass, dark caves, deep rivers and tall mountains. When we got to the mountain part of the game, we’d say, “Can’t go around it (echo). Can’t go through it (echo). Guess we’ll have to climb (echo).”
I want us to consider this morning that when we are faced with a mountain, one of two things will happen; we’ll either conquer it or be defeated by it. The mountain is what it is. It can do no more to us than be a mountain. It cannot be more than a mountain. It cannot move towards us. But we have abilities as Christians, we have opportunities to do something about the mountains we face. God wants you to know that it IS possible to conquer the mountains in our lives one way or another. Every mountain is different. Every mountain is used of God for a different purpose in our lives, so every mountain will be dealt with in a different way.
Some mountains are dealt with by moving them out of your way.
Our Matthew 21 passage suggests a two-fold process for doing so. First we see that in order to move a mountain out of our way, we have to
- Speak to the Mountain. That’s right. Instead of talking about our problems, we need to talk to them. Matthew 21:21 says, “”I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” We need to get confrontational. We need to take initiative. We need to take action. We need to exercise authority with our mouths.
The shepherd boy, David, faced a mountain in I Samuel 17. The giant, Goliath, along with the Philistine army was taunting the Israelite army, threatening them, keeping them daily dealing with fear. Every day was tenuous. Every day was full of anxiety as they put up with Goliath’s constant bullying. Anyone here ever deal with a mountain that presents itself like a taunting bully? Maybe it’s something that gnaws at you day after day. Daily the Israelites lived afraid that this might be the day that they would become slaves of the Philistines.
David was young. He wasn’t in the army yet. But he heard about what was going on. He knew the threat was real. He took the mountain seriously, and he knew it had to be dealt with. His plan involved a sling shot and some stones. But it involved a whole lot more than that! David took on Goliath with his words before he ever addressed him with his weapon.
1 Samuel 17:41-50 (NIV) 41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David.42 He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” 45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
Now what did David’s words deliver? David told the mountain he wasn’t going anywhere. David told the mountain he would not be defeated. David told the mountain it was going down. David told the mountain the Lord was in charge of this situation and the mountain would never have the last word. David told the mountain he would be victorious. Listen to me, what we say or don’t say to our mountain will directly impact our ability to conquer it or be conquered by it.
Every mountain we face will come with commentary. Every mountain you come up against will have a big mouth! No money to go to college? That mountain will say, “Your dream of studying for whatever your field of choice is, will always remain a dream.” Sickness in your physical body? That mountain will say, “It’s only going to get worse. Just deal with it.” Drug or alcohol addiction? The mouthy mountain will say, “You can never be free. You’ll never be strong enough. You’ll always live controlled rather than in control.” Even your past can be a mountain that taunts you. You may hear it say things like, “No one will ever love you now because of what you’ve done.” “No one will ever be able to trust you now because of what you’ve done.” “No one will want you now because of what you’ve done or because of what’s been done to you.” “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!”
Somebody here, maybe several somebodies, need to quit listening to the mountain this morning and you need to tell the mountain listen to you. You need to tell the mountain to be quiet while you exercise some authority in Christ. Mountains present an obstacle, for sure, but they are limited in their scope. They can only ever be the mountain that they are, but YOU, if you are in Christ, can speak to the mountain and see it move. That is, you can become more than any mountain. Things that are impossible with men, are possible with God (Luke 18:27).
Now we know that not all mountains will move. We’ve lived long enough to see that it’s true. God has a reason sometimes for letting the mountain remain, but one thing is for sure, mountains will never move on their own. If you want to guarantee your mountain will stay in your way, say nothing! We must conquer them one way or another, and the first step to conquering the mountain is to speak to it with authority in the name of the Lord.
“Doubt, get behind me in Jesus’ name.” “Fear, get behind me in Jesus’ name.” “Sickness, you won’t define me or rule me in Jesus’ name.” “Financial difficulty, I won’t let you rob me of my joy or contentment in Jesus’ name.” “Addiction, I won’t let you have my children in Jesus’ name.” “Grief, my loved one may be gone from this life, but you won’t steal my hope in Jesus’ name.” Talk to the mountain!
Notice that David didn’t just start spouting stuff to Goliath, but he shouted out things about God and how God was going to gain the victory, how God was going to be glorified, how would supply the victory. We must never think that our words, our name or our authority carries any weight, but always speak about God gaining glory and God doing the mountain moving work in our lives.
In addition to speaking to the mountain, we see in Matthew 21 that we need to:
- Speak to God about the mountain. Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Just as in David’s life where we saw him making sure God was glorified in his words to the mountain man, Goliath J, we also need to make sure that our highest aim isn’t the moving of our mountain, but the exaltation of God in our lives.
Just because we are doing a spiritual thing doesn’t mean we are doing it with the intention of bringing honor to God. You may be here in church this morning not to please or honor God but to appease someone else or to appease your own conscious. You may put money in the offering plate because you see it as an obligation or you want the person next to you to see contributing, rather than giving according to Scripture to the glory of God. So too, just because a person prays doesn’t mean they are seeking God’s glory. Scripture tells us we can pray “amiss.” We can pray “wrong” if you will. We can pray for good reasons with a wrong spirit. We can pray for right things with a wrong heart. Those kinds of prayers will never be answered.
This Matthew 21 passage is set in the context of Jesus teaching the disciples about “fruit bearing.” Jesus cursed the fig tree in this passage because it wasn’t doing its job. It wasn’t doing what it had been created to do.
The Bible is clear that we are called to “bear fruit.” John 15. People who bear fruit are “abiding in Christ.” That means they are living in obedience to Christ and in submission to Him. You might say that “fruit bearers” are in the correct or appropriate relationship with Christ.
Scripture also teaches us that those who continue to sin, those who continue to disobey God, those who continue to live their lives for themselves, jeopardize God’s ability to produce fruit in and through them and they disrupt God’s ability to hear and answer their prayers at all (Psalm 66:18). You see, right praying begins with a right relationship with God.
Imagine walking up to one of the President’s body guards and saying, “Get out of my way. My dad is the President.” Do you think they would budge? Of course not. They would know you were an imposter.
Satan is behind many of the mountains we face. Imagine a person who isn’t a fruit bearer but says they are a Christian trying to tell Satan to get out of their way. It won’t work.
The first couple of words in the Lord’s Prayer give us some added insight about mountain moving prayers. It begins, “Our Father. . .” What does that suggest? It suggests we are connected to one another. If I am disconnected from you because of an argument or problem, it will have an impact on my relationship with the Father. We shouldn’t think we can pray to move mountains if we can’t even pray to forgive or love one another. First things are still first.
Matthew 18:15-20 gives us the prescription for dealing with people who hurt or offend us. If we can’t just forget it or get over it, we are to go to that person and explain why we are hurt. 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Do you see that having our prayers answered is set inside the context of making sure we are right with people?
Not only do we need our prayers to flow from a right relationship with God and others, but also we need our prayers to flow out of a desire to see God’s will be accomplished (I John 5:14-15). If the moving of our mountain is in God’s will, and we are abiding in Him, you can be confident it is as good as gone.
Let me add one more comment for free about praying our mountains out of our way. We must do so in faith. “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22). Right praying will always involve faith. Let me give you a new definition of faith. “Faith is the constant conviction that God is bigger than my mountains.”
Many years ago during a drought in England, a pastor called his church to a special prayer meeting to ask God to send much-needed rain. It was a bright and cloudless day and Mary came with an umbrella. Why? “Since we’re praying for rain, I thought I should bring an umbrella.” Everyone chuckled and the minister laughed and patted her on the cheek. As they were praying, the winds rose, the clouds rolled in, and sure enough, the heavens opened, and down came a torrent of rain. Mary was dry while the congregation went home wet. Mary prayed in faith and showed it by anticipating what God would do.
So, in order to conquer the mountain by moving it out of our way, we first need to speak to it in God’s authority and speak to God about it making sure we are right with God, right with others and in the center of God’s will while exercising faith.
Then what? What if the mountain won’t move? “There’s always gonna be another mountain. I’m always gonna want to make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle.” O come on, you knew it was coming, right? J We can conquer the mountain by speaking to it, and speaking to God about it, but we also conquer the mountain by climbing it! Sing it with me, “Climb every mountain!” J (Tough crowd!)
Listen, sometimes God will move the mountain out of your way. I’ve seen it happen. But He isn’t always interested in doing everything for you. His main goal is to do something in and through you. That transformation happens as we learn what it means to persevere in faith. That spiritual maturity takes root as we learn to take ground, as we learn to walk in victory, as we walk out what it means to be overcomers.
I ran across an awesome passage in Joshua 14:12 where Caleb makes a huge claim. I’d like to read it to you from the NKJV. “12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”
Caleb was 85 years old when he requested to take on the challenge on the mountain. The mountain he set out to take was one he had surveyed before. It was the very area that he and eleven other spies surveyed forty years earlier. No one had disagreed that the land was exceedingly valuable, but only Joshua and Caleb had the courage and faith to believe they could possess it with God’s help. The ten other spies said the mountain was too big. Those that inhabited the mountain were numerous and large and the cities were fortified. And guess what? They were still living there. Having had to pass on taking the mountain forty years earlier due to “majority rule,” Caleb wasn’t giving in this time. Why? Because he was counting on God to be faithful to His promise. Let me explain.
God was very disappointed and angry with the Israelites for believing the negative report of the ten spies, so much so that He decided they would never enter the Promised Land. However, he had different plans for Joshua and Caleb, and He said something pretty specific and special about Caleb in Numbers 14:24. “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
Listen to me, it doesn’t matter how much time has passed, how old you are, or how long you’ve been waiting, if God has given you an inheritance, if He has given you a promise start climbing the mountain! The victory is yours! God had already proclaimed the mountain belonged to Caleb 40 years earlier. He was just claiming what was rightfully his.
How do you conquer the mountain by climbing it? You do it by relying on the promises of God! And God says in His Word that everything is possible to Him who believes (Mark 9:23). He will never leave you or forsake you on the mountain, but He will be with you every step of the way! (Hebrews 13:5)
The second way you conquer the mountain by climbing is it through wholehearted devotion. God made his promise to Caleb because Caleb was committed to God. He was committed to climbing the mountain. He was committed to victory. Look at Numbers 14:24 again. God said Caleb had a different spirit and followed God wholeheartedly. Mountain climbers do, don’t they? They have a tenacious spirit, a deep resolve to succeed. There is something different about people who set out to climb a mountain. You can’t persuade them not to do it. You can’t convince them it is too dangerous or difficult. Their minds are made up. They are going, no matter what.
When the mountain doesn’t move and you have to make the decision to climb, realize you are making a long term decision. In fact, it’s a lifetime decision. You don’t start out to climb a mountain or take a mountain and think you’ll make it to the top in a day. You’re talking about devotion. You’re talking about commitment. It’s not a short trip up a mountain, and it won’t be without challenges. You have to make up your mind ahead of time to take on whatever the mountain involves and it is never over in a hurry.
Too many people turn to Christ because they think He promises the easy way out. That’s not the case. That may be why many people start climbing with Jesus but quit when the way gets steep. They were devoted to the idea of victory, but never wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus. If you’re not wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus, you’ll never make it to the top of the mountain.
Some of you have gotten discouraged and quit. Jesus didn’t just move the mountain out of your way like you had wanted, hoped or prayed, and you didn’t decide to climb. Some of you have given up on ever conquering the mountain. Some of you here this morning need to make up your mind that the inheritance is worth the climb. The victory is worth the effort. Some of you need to declare this morning, “Give me this mountain. I will take the mountain with God’s help.”
Speaking, praying and climbing can literally change the landscape of your life. Anybody here want to conquer a mountain this morning? Stand as we pray.