You study this mountain from every angle. Your path runs right up to it and appears to end where it begins. There is no way around it. You run your fingers over the dark surface that stands menacingly in front of you. It runs upward as a sheer wall, impossible to climb. The stone is mercilessly solid, shouting at you a silent testimony of impenetrable might. Its face appears to be staring you down, mocking your tininess before its massive strength.
And then you hear a voice in your ear instructing you ever so calmly: “Tell it to get out of your way.” You look up at Jesus, stunned, and stammer in protest, “But, but, but… my faith is so small!” He smiles into your eyes and replies, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move.” He nods and adds gently, “Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20, NIV).
You look back at the massive mountain, unsure if Jesus really means what He is saying. How is mustard seed sized faith going to budge this thing a centimeter, much less move it out of the way?
I asked Him that question. The way He explained the answer to me makes up the third point in our Active Waiting list. (Check out the previous posts for points one and two). Here is what He said:
3) Command the Mountain
As you push forward on your race of endurance, you are in training. Another key to using your journeying time proactively consists in learning to deal with the obstacles between you and the finish line.
Jesus has given His mountain-handling directions to us in code. The crucial word tucked into the middle of His puzzling instructions is “seed.” What happens to a seed once it’s been put to use? He describes the process for us in the book of Mark: “… A mustard seed… when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches…” (Mark 4:31-32, NKJV).
The mustard seed was known proverbially in Jesus’ time as the very smallest of seeds. His point here was that this minute seed transmogrifies into something disproportionately enormous. He is wanting us to take comfort in understanding a vital truth. No matter how small our faith is when the starting gun goes off… by the time we reach the finish line, we are going to be amazed by the stature it has acquired within us. He’s giving us a vivid picture of what we’re headed for as we keep pressing forward: faith that truly does move mountains.
First, though, we must acknowledge that faith is not all that powerful when it’s tiny. If tiny faith were mighty faith, Jesus would not have lamented to His disciples, “Oh you of little faith!” Tiny faith is not actually going to push any mountains around… at least not in its embryonic stage. But – oh glory be! – He is the FINISHER of our faith! He is the One that gives the growth! He is the One who develops our faith into the place where it actually will be mighty enough to relocate mountains into the heart of the sea!
“For who dares make light of small beginnings?” (Zech. 4:10, NET). Faith must begin somewhere. Believers never start out from Day 1, “mature and complete, lacking nothing.” Rather, we begin with mustard seed faith. It’s what you do with the mustard seed that is of essential importance. And that’s where Jesus’ coded instruction comes into play.
Command the mountain. Tell it to get out of your way. Gather up all the strength your faith muscles can muster and give it a shove with everything you’ve got inside you. And then… don’t be dismayed when you take another glance at it and it hasn’t moved even a millionth a millimeter. It may even appear to be laughing at you. That’s okay. Take a deep breath. Buckle up your seatbelt and settle in for a long ride. You are going to have to keep commanding this mountain again and again – until you have completely lost track of how many times that you have done so – before you see the end of this adventure.
Is this pointless? Absolutely not!!! For you see, dear runner, every SINGLE time you command the mountain, something powerful is happening in invisible places. Not a single occasion of mountain commanding is in vain, even if you don’t see anything shifting for a long, long time. Every single command counts!!!
To better grasp this, let’s take a look into the spiritual realm. “What you bind on earth is bound in heaven.” Almost all of the time, obstacles move in the heavenlies before they move in the physical world. Consider this picture with the eyes of your heart:
Your mustard seed faith falls into the ground the very first time your raise your voice, addressing the mountain. (Just for the sake of the illustration, we’ll speed up the regular pace of this time lapse picture.) Now watch the seed sinking into earth. Watch as it begins to open up under the soil. A little glimpse of white peaks out of the seed coat, then begins slipping downwards. This becomes a tap root, and before long you see a whole system of secondary roots moving outwards in all directions. At just the right moment, a very small green shoot also emerges from the seed and moves upwards through the earth, still underneath the surface.
Do you realize that all of this is invisible to us who live above the ground? There’s only one way to perceive the very real progress that the plant (your faith) is attaining: with the eyes of your heart. As you continue to give directives to the mountain standing in your way, hidden faith development is happening beyond where you can perceive it by natural means. Your mustard seed is doing exactly what it was created to do: putting down roots and advancing towards maturity. Again and again, drawing on Holy Spirit nutrients, you give the command, “Mountain, move!” Every time you do, those roots are getting deeper and deeper; stronger and stronger.
As you do this commanding, God’s breath is on the air that moves through your vocal cords. You are one with Him in spirit. His voice is commanding too, in and through your voice. Movement is actually happening steadily in spirit each and every time you speak forth His words to this mountain. Because you are going purely on faith and not on sight, your faith is daily getting stronger. You may not even notice the moment when its germinating head pops through the surface of the soil and begins to reach and stretch towards the sun. Regardless, the bona fide growth that is happening is unstoppable.
I’m struck by how Bill Johnson explains this concept. He shares about a faith challenge that he faced a few years ago: “It felt like I was pushing against a 1,000-pound rock that wouldn’t budge. And though I pushed against that rock for months, it never moved… It wasn’t too long afterwards that I realized that while I never moved that 1,000-pound boulder, I can now move the 500 pound rock right next to it. And I couldn’t have moved this size rock before contending with the 1,000-pounder. Contending shapes us and makes us capable of carrying more than we’ve ever been able before” (Dreaming With God, p. 178).
So then, we come to realize that this mountain commanding exercise is actually more about the perfecting of our faith than it is about the mountain. Through all of this ordering about of onerous obstacles, you and I are slowly but surely leaving behind the season of “little faith” (Matt. 8:26) and growing up into the stature of “great faith” (Matt. 8:10).
At the same time, you can be assured that God cares fiercely about that ugly thing trying to intimidate you, His precious child. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He gives us a preview of the fate He Himself has planned for it: “‘I'm your enemy… Mount Destroyer, you ravager... I'll reach out, I'll take you in my hand, and I'll crush you till there's no mountain left. I'll turn you into a gravel pit — no more cornerstones cut from you, no more foundation stones quarried from you! Nothing left of you but gravel.’ God's Decree” (Jer. 51:25-26, MSG).
The mountain moving moment is coming. See it with the eyes of your heart… visualize this: The day at last arrives. You join your voice to His and finally render that decisive, commanding blow: “Who are you, O great mountain? Before [me] you shall become a plain!” (Zech. 4:7, ESV). An earth-shattering rumbling comes into your ears. It’s a sound unlike any you’ve ever heard before. The collapse of your mountainous foe vibrates through your entire being. Debris is flying everywhere; you cover your face. A moment later, you look up, and it’s GONE! Disappeared forever into the heart of the sea! As the dust settles, the path in front of you opens up clearly. As euphoric joy explodes through your heart, your running shoe hits the pavement once again…
Dear one, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!