Have the faith of God

In this short study, we are discussing about the faith that is required for performing a miracle or sign for the Glory of the Kingdom of God.

What is the purpose of miracles?

Let me start the message with a question: what is a miracle and why should we need a miracle?
A miracle is an unusual happening that is beyond the capacity of humans.
If a sick person is healed with the help of medicine that is God’s provision, not a miracle.
It is not bad to use medicine; it is God’s provision for us in this world.
Prayer may support the healing by medicine.
But, if a person is healed by prayer, without medicine or when medicine fails, it is a miracle.
So miracle is an unusual and unnatural happening beyond God’s daily provision.
Miracles are happenings where a supernatural intervention is detected.
Miracle happens where humans fail; miracles are done by God, not by human beings.

Do we need a miracle in our life?
It is not a difficult question to those who are going through a tough situation in their life.
They would answer by saying that, we need deliverance from this bad situation we are going through.
For all human beings who are under trouble, whatever the reason may be, they need deliverance and so they wish for a miracle.

But, theologically, miracles has a greater purpose.
They are signs of the presence of the Kingdom of God on this earth.
We know that Jesus started his ministry by declaring the arrival of the Kingdom of God. (Mark 1:14)
The first miracle performed by Jesus was at Cana, by turning the water into wine.
The purpose of this miracle is well said in the gospel of John.

John 2:11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. (NKJV)

Miracles of Jesus are often called “signs”.
They were signs of the presence of God’s Kingdom on this earth.

One day, the disciples of John the Baptist, who was then in prison, came to Jesus with a question from their master.
For John the Baptist, they asked Jesus, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?".
And Jesus answered:

Matthew 11: 4 & 5
4     Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:
5     "The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (NKJV)

John the Baptist asked whether Jesus is the awaited King and Jesus answered to look at the signs of the presence of the Kingdom.
All miracles are signs; this is the importance of miracles and signs.

Evil powers also can do miracles, but that does not mean that God does not perform miracles.
When God performs a miracle in this world, it is the sign of the Kingdom of God.
When an evil power performs an unusual happening, it is a sign of the presence of the evil kingdom.
So miracles from God should be present in our lives.
That is why Jesus said, “And these signs will follow those who believe” (Mark 16:17 – NKJV)

What kind of faith?

Now let us move to the second part of the message.
What kind of faith we should have, to perform a miracle for the Glory of the Kingdom?
In search of an answer, I would like to lead you through an incident that happened during the earthly ministry of Jesus.

The incident is recorded by Mark in chapter 11
From verse 1 to 11, Mark describes the triumphal entry of Jesus into the Jerusalem City.
They came to Jerusalem and Jesus cleaned the temple out of all kind of business done in the temple.
In the evening they went out of the city.
From verse 12 Mark goes on to describe an incident that happened on the next day.
When Mark just said that the incident happened on the next day, Matthew in 21:18 says that it happened in the morning.

Jesus and His disciples were going out of Bethany and Jesus was hungry.
He saw a fig tree afar and went to it for fruits, but Jesus found no fruits on it.
And so Jesus cursed the fig tree saying “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”
His disciples heard Jesus pronouncing the curse on the tree.

In the next morning Jesus and His disciples passed by the same fig tree.
To the astonishment of the disciples, the tree was found dried up from the roots.
And Peter drew the attention of Jesus to the tree, saying “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."
Normally it would take several weeks for a fig tree to wither from roots to leaves.
But here it happened overnight and that amazed the disciples.
And the response of Jesus is recorded on verse 22.

Mark 11:22, 23
22   So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.
23   "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.   (NKJV)

Why Jesus cursed the tree

Before we move to our core discussion, let us see why Jesus cursed the tree.
The fruit of the fig tree generally appears before the leaves.
Fig fruits are green in color and it blends in with the leaves until it is ripe.
Therefore, when Jesus and His disciples saw from a distance that the tree had leaves, they would have expected it to have fruit also on it.
Moreover, each tree would often produce two to three crops of figs each season.
There would be an early crop in the spring followed by one or two later crops.
Depending on the climate and conditions of different region of Israel, a tree might produce fruit ten out of twelve months.
That is why Jesus and His disciples expected fruit on the tree even if it was not in the main season for fruits.
The fact that the tree already had leaves on it would have seemed to be a good indication that there would also be fruit on it.
But the tree disappointed Jesus and He cursed it.

We could not yet understand the full meaning of the mystery behind this incident.
Why Jesus was so angry towards a tree and cursed it because He was hungry and the tree failed to provide Him food.
It seems out of His usual nature.

Many theologians believe that Jesus was conveying a message about the future of Israel.
Fig trees in the Bible is often used as a symbol for the nation.
The fruitless fig tree may be a symbol of the fruitless Israel nation of the time. This may be true.
But this is not what we discuss here in this message.

Christ’s action was not a purposeless act of intemperance.
It conveyed a strong object-lesson that the disciples needed to learn.
Since we are also His disciples, the same message is for us also.
The lesson may a warning to all His disciples, to this day, about the reward for a fruitless life.

For this message, we intend to move forward from this incident to the reaction of Peter and the response of Jesus to him.
As we said before, normally it would take several weeks for a fig tree to wither from roots to leaves.
But here it happened overnight and that amazed the disciples.

So, Peter reported the sad fate of the tree saying “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."
And Jesus replied: “Have faith in God”.
Then Jesus went on speaking about the secret behind miracles and signs.
Jesus assured them that if we believe and do not doubt in our heart, whatever we command will happen.
Jesus assured them that if they had faith in God and do not doubt, even topographical changes like moving the mountain would happen.

Was Jesus really talking about topographical changes?
The answer is different from theologians to theologians.
There’s no example in Scripture of mountains moving or disappearing because someone commanded it to happen, exercising faith.
The Bible has one record of a cosmic change that happened during the life time of Joshua at his word.
We read this incident in Joshua 10: 10 - 15

It was war time between Israelites and Amorites.
Joshua and Israelites were on the winning side; the sun was setting and night was creeping in.
Israelites need more time to revenge upon their enemies.
Then Joshua looked at God and said, “"Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon." (Joshua 10: 12)
And it is recorded in the Bible that the “sun stood still, And the moon stopped” (13)
The sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.
It is also recorded in the Bible that, “And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man”

Cosmic or topographical changes happened once and it is a strong ground to believe that it can happen again.
But the fact is that it never happened again in human history, or at least no such change is recorded.
So a “faith that moves the mountain” was considered to be the highest form of faith among humans.
And also “faith that moves mountain” was a popular saying during the time.
This traditional saying intended something unusual and impossible, happened by exercising the faith of a person.
The attitude of the people was negative; no humans have faith sufficient to “move mountains” and it is impossible for humans to achieve it.

But here Jesus says that faith can move even mountains and His disciples can do it.
Jesus means that there is nothing impossible for faith.
He is correcting the negative attitude of the people towards faith.

Law of faith

God has set up the universe in a hierarchy of laws.
The law of nature is physical or natural science; the law of faith is metaphysical or supernatural.
Since the law of faith is supernatural, it is actually a higher law than the laws of nature.
So when faith is used, the law of faith goes into practice, and the law of faith can actually do more than the law of physical science.

Have faith in God

What is the kind of faith Jesus talking about?
In Mark 11: 22 we read: “So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.”
And in verse 23, Jesus goes on to explain that, this faith, “does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done”
The phrase, “Have faith in God”, is explained in two ways; both of them are supported by different theologians.

One explanation is that faith always has an object; that means it is “faith in something or somebody”.
Thus it is “faith in God.”
It is human beings trusting in a God they cannot see, to do things that He has promised.
Humans, based on their faith, without doubt, believe that whatever they command will be done by God.
It is faith in God or trusting God and speaking words of faith against the problems in our life.
Here humans are required to have sufficient faith that does not doubt the faithfulness and power of God.

This is the traditional explanation that many of us have.
There is no danger in this explanation.
But it will be a blessing to know that a different explanation to this verse is also available.

Have the faith of God

Grammatically the phrase “Have faith in God” in Mark 11:22 could be translated, “Have faith of God,” or, “Have God’s faith.”
This is a different faith than the traditional explanation, “Have faith in God”, speaks of.

A.S. Worrell was a famous theologian lived in US in the last part of the 19 C.
He was a faithful servant of God who had strong opinions on right and wrong and he believed in divine healing.
His translation of the New Testament was published in 1904.
This translation claims greater fidelity to the original Greek.
A.S. Worrell’s translation is used by many serious Bible students because it is deemed to be a more accurate translation of the original text than the King James.
Worrell’s translation, in the past, was preferred by Baptists because of his rendering of the Greek word for baptism as “immersion.”

Mark 11:22 , “Have faith in God” in Greek is “Exete pistin theou”
A.S. Worrell translated it as “Have the faith of God”.
Faith originates with God; and those who have real faith have His faith.

The Greek word “exete” is translated as “to possess or contain, have or own”
The word means, “hold or grip something in one’s hand having control over the use of such objects”
Thus the phrase means to “possess the faith of God.”

The Greek word “pistin” is translated “faith” throughout the New Testament; and “theou” is God.
Thus the translation, “Have faith of God” becomes more accurate.

A.T. Robertson was another Southern Baptist preacher lived in the last part of the 19c and the first part of the 20c.
He was known as the “granddaddy” of all Greek grammarians when he was alive.
He also agreed that Jesus’s words is about the “God-kind of faith.”

Many translations have accepted “Have God’s faith” as more true to the original Greek phrase.
Examples are: The Bible in Basic English, Numeric English New Testament, Montgomery New Testament etc.
The Jewish New Testament has translated the phrase as : “Have the kind of trust that comes from God”
The Aramaic Bible in Plain English translates: “Yeshua answered and he said to them, “May the faith of God be in you.”
In Wycliffe Bible, it is: “Have ye the faith of God”.

That sheds a little more light on this scripture.
If we are going to have the God kind of faith, we need to know what that means so we can develop it.
The key to understanding and developing the God kind of faith is to study how God and Jesus demonstrated faith.

So, let’s take a look at Mark 11:22-23 in context, and see what we can learn.
The incident is more than cursing a tree.
The Jewish Rabbi, Jesus was teaching a lesson on faith and miracles.
He was very particular that His disciples should learn to live by faith.
The rabbi was teaching how God works, how the God kind of faith works and how we should use the God kind of faith.

The lesson on faith began the previous day.
They were leaving Bethany and Jesus was hungry.
He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs.
But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit.
Then Jesus said to the tree, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again." And His disciples heard it.”
(Mark 11: 14 NKJV).
Jesus spoke to the tree releasing the God kind of faith through His words.

We first learn about the power of God’s Word back at Creation.
Repeatedly, God spoke His will into existence creating the whole universe.
God spoke and the world became; God created and evoked changes through His words.
He had no doubt that His words would do what He wanted them to do.
And Jesus was no different.

When Jesus spoke to the fig tree, He was doing what He has seen His Father do and saying what He has heard His Father say (John 5:19).
He was speaking God’s Word and trusting it to be fulfilled just as He wanted it to happen.

We’re called to do what we see Jesus doing, and to say what we hear Jesus saying (Ephesians 5:1).
We have to release our faith through our words that reflect and repeat the Word of God.
This is a key element in developing the God kind of faith.

How God’s Faith Works

Notice Jesus spoke to the tree, saying, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!”
He wasn’t speaking about the tree; He was speaking to the tree.
He spoke what the desired.
He didn’t wait until the circumstances or outward situation changed or agreed with His words before He said anything.
He boldly spoke what the end result would be before there was any sign.
He knew the situation would line up with His words.

That means, Jesus spoke and miracles and signs happened; Jesus spoke to release His faith to effect signs of the Kingdom.
This is the model for us.

Do not imitate any other human being; people have different ways and different intentions.
And we should always keep in our mind that satan and evil powers also can perform miracles and signs, revealing their power, authority and presence.
Do not be dismayed or confused by the works of evil powers; they are present in this world now and so they work.

The safest way to exercise our faith is to imitate Jesus.
A disciple is a person who imitates his master in every detail.
And Jesus spoke to exercise His faith to perform signs of the Kingdom of God.
Let us also speak out our faith with the sole intention to reveal the presence of the Kingdom of God.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21- NKJV)

Like Jesus, we can also proclaim the end result, which is based on the Word of God.
If we need healing, we can boldly say, “I am healed,” because Isaiah 53:4-5 promises that Jesus paid the price for our healing.
If we need provision, we can proclaim, according to Philippians 4:19, that He meets our every need completely.
If we need peace, we can thank God for the peace that guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
If we need joy, we can trust that God’s joy will be the strength that pulls us through every situation (Nehemiah 8:10).

 How We Should Use the God Kind of Faith

Jesus always worked under God’s command; He did nothing by Himself.

John 8:28 Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (NKJV)

Jesus was always about His Father's business. (Luke 2:49 – NKJV)
This is the secret of the success of His whole ministry.
Jesus was speaking what he heard His Father say.
So, when Jesus and His disciples passed by the tree the next day, they discovered that Jesus’ words had come to pass; the fig tree that He cursed has withered away from roots to the leaves. (Mark 11:20)

Once Jesus spoke to the fig tree, He considered the situation settled.
He didn’t worry over it or did not continue to beg for God to make it so.
He spoke to the tree and walked off.

Jesus trusted that His words would be fulfilled, and so can we.
Once we speak God’s Word over a situation, we can trust that He will make it happen.

Mark 16:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.  (NKJV)

It is God who performs signs; our part is to exercise our faith by speaking it.
Jesus used this encounter with the fig tree to teach His disciples and ultimately believers throughout the human history.
Jesus was conveying a lesson on ‘how to walk by the God kind of faith’.

Does God has faith?

Before we conclude this message, let us discuss one more topic: does God has faith?
The scripture contains no direct statement that God works by exercising faith or God has faith.
But the scripture is very clear that faith that a person possesses comes from God; God gives faith to humans.
The scripture, in Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please Him”.
Faith is the important spiritual quality that God considers valuable.

Now, let us read a scripture:

John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.  (NKJV)

Jesus confesses that He does what He sees the Father do and the Son also does in the like manner.
And Jesus performed signs and miracles by exercising His faith.
Jesus taught us to do miracles and signs in like manner, with faith that “does not doubt in his heart”.
That reveals a string of faith everywhere.
The faith of Jesus is the faith of God; the faith of Jesus’ disciples in all ages is the faith of God and Jesus.

In the Book of Job 9:7 we read that, “He commands the sun, and it does not rise; He seals off the stars”
That is how exactly Jesus worked; He commanded the tree.
That is how we are instructed to work, “whoever says to this mountain” to change its position, it shall be done.
And that is why the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith. (Luke 17:5)

The scripture again says that we receive faith from God or God grants us faith.
It is not created by ourselves by any kind of spiritual or physical exercise; faith is a gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. (NKJV)
Romans 12:3 says that God has given each of us a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
So God has faith, Jesus received faith from His Father God, and faith comes to us from God the Father and Jesus the Son of God.
It is the faith of God that we possess.
It is the faith of God that we exercise when we perform a miracle of sign, for the Glory of the Kingdom of God.
Only with the faith of God, we can reveal the presence of the Kingdom of God in this world.

May God bless you!

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