Testable Faith: Mark 11:12-14, 20-26

Focus Passage: Mark 11:12-14, 20-26 (NCV)

12 The next day as Jesus was leaving Bethany, he became hungry. 13 Seeing a fig tree in leaf from far away, he went to see if it had any figs on it. But he found no figs, only leaves, because it was not the right season for figs. 14 So Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And Jesus’ followers heard him say this.


20 The next morning as Jesus was passing by with his followers, they saw the fig tree dry and dead, even to the roots. 21 Peter remembered the tree and said to Jesus, “Teacher, look! The fig tree you cursed is dry and dead!”

22 Jesus answered, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. 24 So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you. 25 When you are praying, if you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins. [ 26 But if you don’t forgive other people, then your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.]”

Read Mark 11:12-14, 20-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever wondered or struggled with faith or doubt in your life?

Have you ever experienced complete faith and had no doubt about anything?

In my life, I can answer the first question with an easy “yes”, and the second question with just an easy of a “no”. I imagine that you can relate with me on this. Most of us cannot imagine a life without some sliver of doubt.

And with this in our minds, we come to one of Jesus’ teachings, specifically one that the self-help movement within Christianity has latched on to. In Mark 11:22-24 we read, “Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “Go, fall into the sea.” And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you.’

Mark’s gospel clearly states that Jesus says that when we have no doubts in our mind (or “heart” in some other translations) and believe, God will do it for us. However, is there an epidemic of doubt that has swept through the world today since there are not many clear “miracles”?

When I don’t receive a “yes” answer to a prayer, does this passage then tell me that the lack of an answer is because I have doubt in my mind and/or heart?

What if the prayer was something that was against God’s will? Would God change His will if I had enough faith?

This passage/teaching causes my mind to have more questions than answers – and I think Jesus intended it to. It is a challenging teaching, because it speaks into our human condition – we cannot know everything on this side of Heaven, and I wonder if even after we get to heaven, we will still be forever learning.

But does learning and knowledge erase doubt, or is something else the missing piece?

Here we have another question, and a very important one. In Hebrews 11:1, we read “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) Many modern translations substitute the word “evidence” for “conviction”, and while the Greek word can be translated either way, the “conviction” it refers to comes from something testable (i.e. evidence).

This says that faith is testable; that it is “conviction based on evidence”, and from this idea, we can conclude that a growing track record of experience strengthens our faith. The first disciples had a strong track record of miraculous faith from being with Jesus, but the second, third, and subsequent generations lost this growth experience. This might be one reason why there were fewer miracles recorded following the apostle’s deaths in early church history.

In science, when we have an idea we want to test, there is no doubt that we will find a result, it is just that we don’t really know “what” the result will be. We might have an idea of what we will find, but it is only after we test the idea that we learn what the result actually is.

How does this relate to faith in our lives?

When we approach faith similar to how we approach science, we have little reason to doubt. Our requests and subsequent responses from God help us see our lives differently; these responses help us see how God wants the best life for us – from an eternity perspective.

Some requests are returned unanswered or answered with a “no”, but that is not a reason to doubt in the One who answered, but additional evidence that He knows something that I don’t.

Faith is testable. Experience grows our faith. When we test our faith, this does not mean we doubt God, it means we want to grow into a deeper relationship with Him. When the request returns as a “no”, a “not, yet”, or a “here is something different instead”, we can trust that God knows something we don’t, and that He has our best long-term, eternity-focused interests in mind.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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