Dr. Douglas Wingate, Ph.D.
Life Christian University
As ministers of faith, it is incumbent upon us to continue to seek deeper understanding of God’s Word in order to relay the truths that we find to others in order to help them in their Christian walk.
I returned once again to Mark 11:22-26 but made sure that I read it in context so as not to miss any part of the message. Mark 11 begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem from Bethany and the Mount of Olives. His glorious entry into the city and into the Temple seems to end anticlimactically when he simply looks around observing all things then leaves again for Bethany with the Twelve, for it was late in the day.
It is important to keep in mind that as the Son of Man and the Son of God, that Jesus is orchestrating everything according to the Father’s will. Every detail is precisely planned out and has bearing on the meaning of all events that surround it. Jesus knew that he was going to cleanse the Temple of its unfruitful activity upon his return the next day.
Now the next day when he got up, having a human body like ours, Jesus was hungry. As he and the Twelve began their journey back to Jerusalem, Jesus spotted a fig tree in the distance that had leaves on it. Now I understand that much study and speculation has been done to put the next event into perspective. Why would Jesus curse a poor fig tree when it appears that it wasn’t even the season for figs?
Remember, Jesus is the Word that has become flesh, the same Word that was with God from the beginning and the same Word that created all things (John 1:1-3). That means Jesus invented and created the fig trees. If anyone knew when a fig tree should have fruit, it would be its creator, Jesus. Jesus fully expected the tree to be fruitful at that time, and because it wasn’t, he cursed its unfruitfulness, saying “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”
Now when Jesus enters the Temple and begins to judge the unfruitful works of the money changers and those who were conducting business on behalf of the priests, we start to see the parallel with the unfruitful fig tree. Israel had become altogether unfruitful in its hypocritical treatment of the people by its leaders. When someone came to the Temple to offer their sacrifice, the priests turned it down as flawed and forced the person to buy their government-approved sacrificial lamb or dove. The priests were getting wealthy by taking advantage of the people.
Of course, Jesus had to judge rightly and overturned the moneychangers’ tables and shut down their business. He then declared that the true purpose of the Temple when he said, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ But you have made it a den of thieves!”
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives in Bethany for the night, then the next morning while they were returning to Jerusalem, they pass by the fig tree and Peter says, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which you cursed has withered away.”
Now Jesus launches into his teaching on faith, and his answer to Peter is astounding. “Have God’s faith.” This is the literal translation from the Greek.
Most translations say, “Have faith in God.” The simple reason is that the translators could not handle the concept that Jesus was relaying to his disciples. He was telling them that they could use God’s faith, that they could actually have God’s faith. This concept is certainly undergirded by the apostle Paul when he taught us in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.”
In reality, none of us has any faith of our own until we spiritually hear God’s Word. At the point when we spiritiually hear, the faith of God is imparted to us as his free gift (Romans 10:17). We can pursue understanding from God’s Word and continuously build up our faith levels in many areas of life, but it is always God’s faith that is building up in us.
What a marvelous concept! All of our faith is a gift from God. When Jesus told his disciple to have God’s faith, it is as though he was holding a platter full of faith in front of them, saying “Have God’s faith. You are going to need it, and you are really going to like how well it works. Take all that you need.”
Now, let’s put the cursing of unfruitfulness into perspective while we observe the rest of the teaching from the Master. When Jesus says to cast a mountain into the sea by speaking to it, we understand that like speaking to the unfruitful fig tree, every unfruitful mountain in our lives must be cursed. We do that with God’s faith and his authority. Command it to be removed and cast into the sea.
When the mountain of sickness or the mountain of financial lack is facing us, we first take authority over its unfruitful condition and its attack against our lives and cast it far from us with God’s free gift of his faith.
Then we use the prayer of faith from Mark 11:24, which simply tells us to believe that we receive the answer to our prayer request at the very same instant that we are asking God to provide it, and then we will certainly receive it. As we know, it may require standing with faith and patience, but we know that we will receive the manifestation of the provision if we have taken the first two steps.
Now, it is important not to forget any part of the Master’s teaching, for he follows up with mentioning the only reason that we might short circuit our prayer: unforgiveness. Mark 11:25-26 says, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Wow! Could our offering of forgiveness really mean the difference in getting our prayers answered or not? According to Jesus, yes. You see, the entire gospel is based on forgiveness. God’s kingdom operates on forgiveness. If God had not taken it Himself to find the way to provide forgiveness for human sin, not one of us would ever see God’s kingdom of heaven. We would only see Satan’s hell.
Thank God that when the Father came up with the plan to lay all of the sin of mankind on one perfect man, and there was none to be found, Jesus In essence said, “Here I am. Send me. I will become a man and exchange my righteousness for their sinfulness through my sacrificial death.”
Remember, this whole issue of cursing the fig tree was brought up to Jesus by Peter. Peter once asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive his brother. Up to seven times? I wonder if one of the brothers had just offended Peter seven times, and he was now looking for permission to knock him out if he did it again. But Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but seven times seventy.” Peter might have been very disappointed, even exasperated with his answer. His thought might have been, “Great, not only do I have to forgive my brother, now I have to do math.”
No, Jesus was simply expressing how faith in God’s kingdom works. It works in conjunction with forgiveness. So when we look at the whole picture of the prayer of faith, it is broken up into three simple steps:
One: Take God’s gift of faith and command the mountain of fruitlessness to go from your life.
Two: Believe that you receive your request from the Father at the time that you pray in the name of Jesus, and you will have it.
Three: Do not nullify your use of authority and your prayer of faith with unforgiveness of any kind. Maintain the walk in the Spirit and the walk in love.
Sometimes the simplest truths are the most profound and produce the greatest results.