SOMETHING TO CONSIDER FROM LUKE 17
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6)
Have you ever prayed for something … fervently … for a long time … and asked others to pray with you, those you knew to be “prayer warriors” … and God said, “No”? Have you ever tried to go through a door you were trying to pray your way through … and God shut it?
I have. Claiming verses like Luke 17:6, I told myself, “Nothing is impossible for God.” So I said to my “mulberry tree,” “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea.” But it did not move an inch. The One Who so easily could have said “Yes, I will move this tree” … the all-powerful One Who made heaven and earth … He said, “No, I will not move this tree.”
He did not say, “No, not yet.” He said, “No, not ever.” And when He did, it felt like “NO!” For two long years I asked almighty God to do something; and when His answer came, it did not feel like a door being gently closed in front of me. No, it felt more like a slam-lock. He slam-locked the door I was trying to go through; and it smashed my nose and crushed my toes. His answer hurt; and what made matters worse was that I did not see it coming. I was fully expecting a “Yes”! … but that’s not what I got. And while others counseled me as to what my Plan B should be, I was still reeling, trying to figure out why my Plan A had not worked out.
At first, I was stunned … then angry … then embittered … then disillusioned toward the One Who – in love – sent His Son to die for me. I was only two years old in the Lord, and I had no idea what was going on. My heavenly Father (seemed to have) let me down. He (seemed to have) reneged on His promise. After all, my faith was at least the size of a mustard seed. And if not mine, certainly all those prayer warriors’ faith was. I felt abandoned and confused. All my other friends … well, their lives seemed to be progressing quite nicely, the way they wanted them to. But my life? It was going nowhere. On one occasion, when others around me were praying, I did not even bow my head. What good was that going to do!
It took me two full years to recover from that “No.” It took even longer for me to understand why a believer, having the faith the size of “a mustard seed,” can say to a “mulberry tree,” “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea” … but nothing happens. I had been taught (correctly) that even a small amount of faith in a great God can move mountains. And that is what I had … a small amount of faith in a great God. Why then was my request withheld from me? What was I missing?
What I was missing was the context in which this promise is found. Luke 17:6 is found in the context of a series of commands … commands impossible to obey apart from the power of God.
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)
These particular commands (to respond rightly to a brother’s sins) are – as all of God’s commands are – impossible to perform in our own strength. It takes a miracle to obey the moral will of God; and He wants us to know that. Most certainly, the disciples did. That is why their immediate response to verses 3 and 4 was verse 5: “Increase our faith!” They knew that God’s expectation of them was beyond their reach. The bar was too high. To obey the Lord demanded a power they did not have. The fact is
Only God has the power to obey God
… which brings us back to the promise of Luke 17:6:
“Even if you have only a small amount of faith, if you pray for what you need to obey God’s will, your prayers will be granted. You can expect Him to say ‘Yes’ to your request … guaranteed.”
Most certainly, what I was asking for … fervently … for two years … with the help of others … was not inappropriate. I was not praying for something immoral. As directed by the Scriptures, I was “letting my requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
But my request had nothing to do with what my life needed to be conformed to the image of God’s Son to the glory of the Father. Truly, God has the power to give His children anything they want. But He also has the love and wisdom to give only what is best for them. And what is best for them – and for Him – is, first and foremost, our obedience to His will.
That is why prayer for the wisdom and motivation and power to do His will is the request God promises to say “Yes” to. It is the “mulberry tree” He promises to move.
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1st John 5:14-15)