Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, we begin a two-installment series of classics from our Search the Scriptures Daily archives with the late founder of The Berean Call, Dave Hunt, and TBC executive director Tom McMahon. This week, they address the question: “Do You Have the Faith of a Mustard Seed?” And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Our topic for today, as it has been for a few weeks now, is “Challenges to the Faith.” And if our faith can’t reasonably handle all challenges, then, Dave, I don’t know why anyone would base his or her eternal destiny on it.
Dave: That’s right. Well, now, Tom, that’s quite a statement you made. Some people have weak faith, so it’s not our faith. Now, what you meant by “if our faith can’t handle it,” you mean that which we believe, that upon which we base our faith.
Tom: Right, the faith.
Dave: Right, the faith, not our faith. Yeah, well, we’re continuing on through this book In Defense of the Faith, and…Tom, do you want me to read the question? You usually read it.
Dave: We come up to another question now from someone…
Tom: From someone—this is in your past, Dave.
Dave: I can’t even remember who it was.
Tom: But seriously, this book—Dave’s book In Defense of the Faith—it’s a number of questions and answers with regard to issues with regard to biblical faith. And over the years you’ve had people—whether it be on airplanes or, you know, wherever it might be—at conferences, people come up to you and they say, “Well, what about this, or what about that?” In some cases [they’re] believers who want to grow in the faith, and in other cases it may be people who are upset by what you say.
Dave: Upset by the Bible, many of them, and I have files of those kinds of challenges from skeptics, atheists, and so forth.
Tom: Right. Well, this first question begins: “Jesus very clearly said, ‘If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain: Remove hence to yonder place and it shall remove and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’ [That’s Matthew:17:20.] I never heard of a Christian moving a mountain yet, nor have I heard of a Christian to whom nothing was impossible. Yet, there are absolutely no conditions—this promise is unequivocal. Either Matthew and Luke (who gives his own version in Luke:17:6) lied, or Jesus lied. Which was it? In either case, the Bible is proven to be contradictory, is it not?”
Dave: Well, of course neither Matthew nor Luke lied, nor did Jesus lie—Jesus is not mistaken. This question comes from a basic misunderstanding of faith. However, Tom, that misunderstanding is not just among atheists, but it is promoted by the so-called faith teachers like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, the Positive Confession people.
Tom: By faith teachers, you mean these are individuals who identify faith in a way that we have problems with from a biblical perspective.
Dave: Yeah, they put a great emphasis upon faith, but in my opinion, they don’t have a biblical view of faith. In other words, to them faith is a force, some kind of power that you can tap into. And when you learn to speak—you know, make a positive confession, don’t make a negative one. Don’t say, “I’m getting a cold,” then you’ll get a cold. But if you have a cold, say, “I don’t have a cold, I don’t have a cold,” and soon the cold will go away. It may take several days, but…so you see it really works!
Tom: They would even say this is the faith that God uses, that God has faith.
Dave: Yeah, God does not have faith. When Jesus said in Mark 11, “have faith in God,” he did not mean what these men say it means. They say, “Oh no, it means have the God-kind of faith.” God does not have faith. We are told to have faith in God. In whom would God have faith?
But here we have a wrong idea of faith. Now, because of that, many people think, Well, if I just learn the techniques… For example, Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.” Well, then all I have to do is ask in His name!
Tom: No matter who you are; it’s for everybody.
Dave: That’s right, I just tack the name and I just say—I ask something and then I say, “In the name of Jesus.” Now please, anyone listening out there, we are not trying to be critical; we want to think carefully, we want to understand what the Word of God says.
What would it mean to ask in the name of Jesus? Well, I think I have given the illustration before, but when I was in the business world I represented, at one time, a multi-millionaire. I had power of attorney; it was registered in a number of different states, counties, and so forth. That meant that I could sign his name to any document. I could act for him. But it did not mean that I could write out a check for $100,000, sign his name, and put it in my bank account. There was nothing on the face of the power of attorney to indicate that I couldn’t do that, but a court of equity would say, “Wait a minute! You were given the right to use his name for his benefit, for his good, not for your own.” That’s a problem. You see, many Christians want to use the name of Jesus for their own benefit. So prayer for many Christians or people who call themselves Christians—yes, and I would say, many real Christians—is a religious technique for getting our own way. So we set our sights on what we want, and then we try to use God’s promises to get what we want, try to talk God into working it out for us the way we would like it. No, we must pray according to His will. So to ask in the name of Jesus would be to ask in His interest for those things that Jesus would desire to be accomplished. Well then, I am going to have to know His will.
Now, you have the same thing in this statement here: “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can command this mountain to move.” But wait a minute! What is faith? Is faith a power that I can pull out of the air? Is faith some—like the New Age would say—some potential that I have within me, and I just meditate and learn how to tap into this potential? Or like the Star Wars force, I can use the dark side or the light side—but I can tap into this Force and I can use it? I mean, this was a pernicious idea that was presented and promoted by the Star Wars series. Well, if that’s the case, then we’re in real trouble, because anybody can grab a hold of this thing called “faith” and use it to their own ends, and we’re going to be in a big battle with one another.
For example, well, I can…the Bible says in James: “Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, and he prayed that it would not rain for three years and it didn’t rain.” And then he asked God to make it rain, and it rained. Tom, let’s say you and I are neighbors. I want it to rain; you don’t want it to rain…
Tom: Dave, let’s use snow here.
Dave: Okay, snow; we’ve got a lot of snow coming down here.
Tom: We’ve got a hundred inches on the mountain which is 20 minutes away, and it’s coming down in plate-sized flakes right now. But okay, I don’t want it to rain, or I don’t want it to snow; you want it to snow.
Dave: Okay. So, which one of us…? It’s going to be a battle of faith, and if I’ve got more faith than you have, then we are going to fight it out—no, that’s not the way it goes.
Tom: Dave, we just quoted the scripture in the question. All I need is a mustard seed. Now, how does that work? If you have a peach seed and I’ve got a mustard seed, seems like you’d be in charge here.
Dave: Well, let’s talk about this one in particular. Jesus said, “If you have a grain of mustard seed’s worth of faith, you can say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and it will move.” I am thinking of George Müller—you remember George Müller? Now, I will put George Müller up against any of these faith teachers today, so-called faith teachers, the Positive Confession teachers, okay? George Müller, for those who don’t know (and I could remind those who do), he lived in the early 1800s in England— in Bristol, in fact—and he was one of the first to take in orphans. He finally had...at first he had dozens, and then hundreds, and finally thousands. He had to house and feed and clothe these orphans. He didn’t send out prayer letters. He never asked anyone for a dime, and by God’s grace that’s what we desire to do; not ask men, because then we become beholden to men. We are grateful for those who support the radio program, those who support our ministry The Berean Call, and so forth. But we’ll let God speak to your heart and tell you whether to give to us or not, and George Müller, that was a rule that he had. I think of Hudson Taylor who was the pioneer missionary to China, and there was a year when China got very bad press. There were all kinds of rumors going around and people stopped sending money to Hudson Taylor (I mean, many of them did), and God put on George Müller’s heart that year to send Hudson Taylor some extra money which...the Lord gave Müller extra money. He sent it to him—it was 50,000 pounds, and that was a lot of money. That would be several million dollars in our exchange rate today, and that happened to be just the amount that Hudson Taylor was short that year.
Anyway, they used to tell—well, they told a lot of stories about George Müller; let me mention just one of them: A man who had land next to Müller’s property was talking to a friend and saying, “You know, I know there are more orphans coming in. George Müller has to have more land, and he’s got to build more buildings, you know, to house them, and he wants to buy my land, and he offered me a certain price per acre. Well, I know he’s got to have it, and I’m going to hold out for a higher price.” And the friend looked at him in astonishment and said, “What? Don’t you know who George Müller is? If you don’t sell it to him at the price he asks, his God will make you give it to him.” Now, that was the reputation that George Müller had.
Tom: And of course his volumes, Dave, were answers to prayer. This is a major part of the ministry that God had put on his heart.
Dave: Thousands of specific answers to prayer. Well, the point I am getting to here finally is about the grain of mustard seed. People used to say to Brother Müller, “You must be a man of great faith.” He would say, “No, I am a man of very little faith, but it’s in a great God.” Okay, so it isn’t faith that will move mountains—that’s why you only need a mustard seed’s worth. It is God who will move the mountain, okay?
Now, that mountain is not going to move until God wants it to move, and I would be a fool to command a mountain to move if I didn’t know it was God’s will that that mountain move, if I didn’t know when God wanted to move it and where he wanted to move it, okay? God has not turned His universe over to you and me. No matter what wonderful Christians we might be, no matter how much faith we might have, He has not turned His universe over to us to shuffle it around as we please. So faith, rather than being a force that I use, faith is simply confidence in God, in His grace, His love, His mercy, trusting in Him. So I must know it is His will. Okay, if I know it is God’s will, it only takes a grain of mustard seed’s worth of faith to command even a mountain.
Now, it’s not that Jesus is suggesting that we don’t need bulldozers and so forth, and Christians can get in the earth-moving business, and we can just move mountains around whenever we want. He is using that as an illustration that nothing is impossible with God. But now, that’s with God. So don’t get the idea, please, any of our listeners out there, that if you can just study and you get some kind of technique, you can go to a seminar on faith, building faith, and so forth—wait a minute! Jesus said you only need a mustard seed’s worth. Stop focusing on yourself and your faith and turn your eyes upon Jesus; turn your attention upon Him. Get to know Him better, begin to understand His will, and then He will begin to use you. He will give you the faith for what he wants you to do. But don’t get some ambition of your own and then decide, “Well, now if I can just confess this, if I can just believe hard enough, then it will happen.” We don’t want our will to be done, we want God’s will to be done.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, that’s a tough thing in this day and age because… Well, a while ago—I’m not exactly sure when this program is going to air—but we did a program, a live program, on Harry Potter, and one of the points that I hope we made was that this interest in the occult, and magic, and witchcraft, and sorcery, enchantments (and so on and so forth), that’s attractive stuff because it puts us in control, supposedly, as long as we learn the laws, the rules, the methodologies. And sometimes we as Christians, as you’ve just been mentioning, we pick up on those things (maybe by osmosis, because it’s all around us), and we begin to apply it to our Christianity. But it’s not Christianity—it’s not biblical Christianity. You’ve either got God as a genie in a bottle trying to do your will, or you are trying to manipulate Him in some way or fashion.
Dave: Tom, it’s not only around us to get by osmosis, but as you know, it’s in the church, and there are many who teach this. And you know that when we wrote Seduction of Christianity, I don’t know how many hundreds, even maybe thousands (I don’t remember) of letters that we have received over the years from people who said something like, “You know, I believed these so-called faith teachers. I confessed my Cadillac, I confessed my prosperity, I confessed my healing, and it didn’t work, and they told me there was something wrong with my faith and I wasn’t confessing. It destroyed my faith. I turned my back on God, I left the church, and, thank God, somebody loaned me your book, and I realized that I was trying to get what I wanted instead of being in submission to God’s will. And thank you, I am back in touch with the Lord and allowing Him to lead me and guide me.”
This is an appealing idea. This was the idea that Eve believed and destroyed the human race when Satan said, “You can be one of the gods. You can have these God-like powers, and you can command things into existence.” That’s the teaching of the New Age, of course: you can create your own reality with your mind if you believe it strongly enough it will happen. This is what Norman Vincent Peale taught, this is what his chief disciple Robert Schuller still teaches, and this is what the gurus teach and this is what the Dalai Lama teaches. He travels around the world initiating people into tantric deity, Tibetan yoga, and telling them they can become little Buddhas, little bodhisattvas, and they can create their own universe with their mind. And, in fact, the Hindu would tell you this is all Maya. We have created this common idea that we’ve all picked up: that this is the way the universe works and so forth, and if we would just change that… It is so easy to recognize that this isn’t true.
You’ve got two scientists: one in North America, let’s say, one in China on the other side of the world. They’re looking through the electron microscopes independent of one another, and what do you know? They suddenly discover some—let’s say some new subatomic...I think it takes more than an electron microscope. But anyway, let’s say they discovered some new subatomic particle. They both discover it simultaneously. It’s not that they created this with their imagination. That’s not what it is. We have not created this universe with our minds. Please, any Hindus or New Agers or whoever you are out there listening to that, we have been struggling with our instruments, with our science, to discover the increasingly deeper, deeper, deeper levels of realities of a universe that was here before we existed that… We have not created this with our mind.
You know, the person that says, “Well, if you can visualize a Cadillac…” okay? Just...I mean, they teach this in high school: “Put it under a little...under your pillow. Write down your ambition on a piece of paper and put it under your pillow,” and so forth. “If you can visualize a Cadillac, visualize it and get this clear picture in your mind, and then you can bring it into existence.”
Visualize yourself as the president of a corporation—we used to use that illustration. Suppose three or four guys (and ladies, as well) visualize themselves as the president of a corporation. You can see this is an ego trip. Who’s going to make it?
Okay, so I’m visualizing this Cadillac...oh, let’s make it a Rolls Royce, okay? I’m visualizing this Rolls Royce, and I’m going to, by visualizing it, bring it into existence. Wait a minute! All I can visualize is the gross outline of this thing. I’d have no idea of the internal structure of this, the nuts and bolts and everything to put it together. I don’t know how that engine works, and much less do I know the subatomic particles, the atoms, and molecules that are involved in this, and I’m going to create this thing by visualizing a gross outline? Please, any New Agers out there, or Hindus, or whoever you are, a sincere Christian who’s picked up this idea—it doesn’t make sense! You can’t create something; you don’t even know what is involved. There are subatomic particles that we haven’t yet discovered.
So we’re not creating the universe with our thoughts. We are struggling to discover a universe that someone else created. And the Bible tells us in Isaiah 55, “His thoughts are so far above our thoughts.” Doesn’t God know best? Well, then let’s put ourselves in His hands, let’s trust His wisdom, and let’s be willing to pray, “Not my will but thine be done.”
However, some of these so-called faith teachers say, “If you say that, you are destroying your faith.” No, “not my will but thine be done” will bring me in touch with God, and I will begin to be the instrument of His will, and He will give me the faith then to know what He wants to do through me, and He will give me the faith and the guidance to begin to experience His will in my life.
Tom: Dave, just your explanation of this—we’ve been talking about the Bible. This is our reference, our source. The program is called Search the Scriptures Daily; that’s what we want to look to. But common sense can get you a long way in this, and I like to use that in terms of witnessing. I have friends, I have some relatives who are heavily into the New Age, and I can’t just say, “Well, you know, your way is all wrong,” and I end up talking to myself. Nobody wants to hear that. But I think, in terms of asking questions, how does this work? I know I’ve mentioned before to you there’s a bumper sticker called, “Visualize World Peace.” I’d really like to pull somebody over and say, “Hey, wait a minute…” Or if I see them in a parking lot: “That’s interesting. How does that work?”
Dave: Or, “Think snow!”
Tom: Well, Dave, now you’re picking on a sore point here.
Dave: Even when you don’t think snow, it snows!
Tom: But my point is that we can bring people into a discussion about this by asking them questions. Have them go down the end of this logic, so called, and see how it concludes, because it doesn’t make any sense.
Dave: No, it does not make sense and it doesn’t work. It frustrates people. But the problem is it’s that old line that the serpent gave to Eve: “I can become a little god. I can get in control. I can get what I want.” Now, if you’re going to pray in the name of Jesus, you are going to pray… When you say, “In the name of Jesus,” you must mean this is as Jesus would desire, this is for His interest, and this is according to His will. Otherwise, how would you dare use the name of Jesus? And that’s one of the problems, Tom. We have people who call themselves after the name of Jesus, call themselves Christians, and they do not properly represent Christ. And they give Christ a bad name because people say, “Well, they can go to church on Sunday and pray those holy prayers and sing those hymns, but you try to do business with them on Monday and Tuesday and so forth...” So we must be careful whether we pray in the name of Jesus or whether we claim to represent Jesus Christ. We truly are in submission to His will, and nothing else makes sense.
Gary: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website atthebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you can join us again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.