Divine Faith that Moves Mountains
In 1924, the Englishman George Mallory and a group of men tried to be the first people to climb to the top of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. After enduring unbelievable hardships, they reached the 25,000 feet mark. From this point Mallory and his partner set out for the summit, but their heroic attempt failed. They were buried in the snows of the Himalayan peak. When their colleagues returned to England to tell their story, one of them gave a report before a large audience in London. At the end of his talk, after describing the difficulties and tragedies of their expedition, he turned before a picture of Mt. Everest projected on a screen, and spoke to the mountain, “Everest, we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us. We tried to conquer you a second time, but again you were too great for us. But Everest, I want you to know that we are going to conquer you, for you can’t grow any bigger, but we can!”
One day our Lord’s disciples faced a Mount Everest. A father brought to them his son, who suffered from epilepsy, and the disciples were unable to heal him. Well the father pleaded with Christ, Jesus cured the boy instantly, and then taught his followers an important lesson about faith: “For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
With divine faith in God, all is possible! What a most beautiful and encouraging promise of our Lord. If we have faith, we can move mountains. If we have faith, we can overcome obstacles. If we have faith, we can solve problems. If we have faith, we can handle the greatest difficulties. Divine faith can comfort and strengthen, enlighten and guide us on our journey of life. Christ often healed people by saying, “Your faith has made you well.” Or “Let it be done to you according to your faith.”
Divine faith is one of the greatest virtues in life. St. Paul says, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) But how can we cultivate such divine faith in our own lives?
First of all, let us take care to properly understand the faith that Jesus praises, and I will begin in the negative. Our Lord is not lifting up faith as a simple intellectual acceptance of a certain truth. To believe that God exists means nothing. St. James writes, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble.” (Jms 2:19) Christ does not want simple intellectual belief, but desires dynamic, living faith!
Christ is also not praising a faith that turns what is supposed to be a living, dynamic, creative relationship with Him into a dry, mechanical religion fulfilled out of duty’s sake. Too many people practice an empty, joyless, meaningless religion that may even obediently practice certain rules for duty’s sake, but misses the essence of what a true relationship with God is all about. And what is that essence other than unconditional and divine love for one another, an undaunted and contagious joy, and an unconquerable and infectious hope.
The praiseworthy faith that moves mountains is “an assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things unseen” (Heb 11:1). It is an absolute and unconditional trust in the all-powerful goodness, love, and sovereignty of God in all circumstances. In other words, such divine faith puts no trust in one’s own powers, abilities or gifts, but to the contrary, understands one’s own helplessness and poverty of spirit, and thus, runs to God and hopes only in Him.
When Jesus says in His famous Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He means blessed are those who sincerely understand how wretched and hopeless we truly are. Only when we authentically believe that we are honestly poor deep within our souls, when we realize we have nothing good of our own ability, only then can we learn to beg to God without any sense of pride. Such ultimate turning to God, which ultimately means repentance, and trusting solely in Him is the beginning of a dynamic, divine, and living faith. We not only believe, but we place all our hope and trust, in our Almighty Lord, who will help us. This is what true faith is all about.
And such faith can move mountains!
Jesus assured his disciples, “If you have faith, nothing will be impossible for you!” Don’t look at problems from a human perspective, but look at them through the eyes of God. St. Paul often talked about this ultimate power of God by reassuring the early Christians, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” Why are you afraid? Why do you doubt? Why do you view any problem with despair or hopelessness. God is with us, therefore all things are possible. Thus, St. Paul, understanding the power of authentic faith in Christ, could boldly say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
This does not imply that Christ will help us do all things for our own self-centered pursuits and desires. It does mean, however, that when we walk with Jesus and put our life in his hands, our life is transformed from a weak, powerless individual suffering against the fates of life, to a person who understands the unlimited potential of God active in their own life.
When we face a difficulty in life, a person of faith does not complain about their bad luck, or give up in the face of a challenge, but they turn to Christ and trust in His ability to make sense of the situation and to see us through.
When we face an unexpected sorrow or tragedy, a person of faith doesn’t despair as people without hope, because we know that in Christ we will find peace and learn certain lessons in the mystery of life. We confront the problem which seems to have no solution, and even learn to thrive on the hope that our Lord instills in us.
As great as any problem may seem in our lives, we remember, “Christ who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (the devil and all his deceptions)” (1 Jn 4:4). Jesus comforts us by saying, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world [and all its challenges and problems].” (Jn 16:33).
All difficulties and problems we face in life are finite, they can only reach a certain point, like Mt. Everest, and get no bigger. But if we are struggling to live a spiritual life, we are united to an infinite God, who tells us that our growth is unlimited. When Christ is with us, when He is in us, all is possible. The mountain can not get any bigger, but we can!
I could mention many other ways to help such divine faith grow within us – through prayer, meditation, silence, worship, loving service to others. Yet one final way to increase the divine faith within us, and this way has always struck me as interesting whenever I read it in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, was how Paul talked about Abraham’s faith. He said, “His faith grew as Abraham gave thanks to God.” Gratitude is a great impetus for faith. Learning to acknowledge God as the Giver of all our blessings helps to increase our faith!
“For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” May we all find comfort in these words today, and never despair over anything, but always strive to cultivate within ourselves that divine faith that moves mountains.
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith
History: The Great Epochs of Orthodoxy