What About Moving Mountains with Faith?
Question: 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” (Matthew:17:20). I’ve never heard of a Christian moving a mountain yet, nor have I ever 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—17:6) lied, or Jesus lied. Which was it? In either case the Bible is proven to be contradictory, is it not?
Response: Neither Matthew nor Luke nor Christ lied. Let us be careful to approach the Bible with due reverence. Even if we cannot quickly explain or reconcile every difficulty in the Bible, the corroborating evidence for the accuracy and authenticity of those passages that we are able to understand is overwhelming and points to its divine origin. R. A. Torrey reminds us:
What would we think of a beginner in algebra who, having tried in vain for half an hour to solve a difficult problem, declared that there was no possible solution to the problem because he could find none! . . .
The difficulties that confront one who denies that the Bible is of divine origin and authority are far more numerous and weighty than those which confront the one who believes it to be of divine origin and authority.1
In this case, the apparent conflict is created by a misunderstanding of faith. It is not some power that can be aimed at circumstances or people or things to move them into alignment with one’s ambitions and desires. If that were the case, then Christ would be telling us that this hidden power of the mind is so incredibly strong that we only need a miniscule amount of it (the size of a tiny mustard seed) in order to effect whatever we desire. The universe would then be under man’s control instead of God’s. It would be terrifying if men had such power available to them. Fortunately they don’t, nor did Christ promise it.
Faith is not a power one possesses but complete trust in and dependence upon another person or object. Faith must have an object. Nor is there anyone or anything worthy of one’s total trust except God. Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mark:11:22). What then is faith? It is a confident trust in the love and grace and power and wisdom of God.
It is easy to show the absurdity of “faith” as some power that man wields. Suppose two men want to move a mountain, but each in a different direction. Which one of them will manage to move the mountain when and where he wants it to go? The man with the most faith? That common misunderstanding is dispelled by Christ’s statement that it only takes a very small amount of faith to move a mountain.
God Alone—Not Faith—Can Move Mountains
The mountain (or whatever else) will not move by the power of faith, because faith has no power in and of itself. The mountain can only be moved by the power of God. It will, therefore, move only when and where God wants it to move.
Surely, then, no one can have faith that a mountain is going to move at a particular time and in a certain direction unless he knows such a move to be God’s will. And how can one gain such insight and confidence? Obviously, only by getting to know God personally and learning to trust Him. It would be utter folly to trust a stranger or someone who has not yet demonstrated his reliability.
Faith puts man in touch with God, causing him to know and trust God and to know His will. By faith, man can become an instrument in the effecting of God’s will here on earth. Literal mountains rarely, if ever, require moving. That would be possible, however, if it were God’s will. Jesus used the extreme example of a mountain being moved in response to one’s faith in God to show that nothing is impossible to those who are in touch with God and who are the obedient channels of His purposes and power.
—An excerpt from In Defense of the Faith (pp. 131-33) by Dave Hunt