I bet you’re like me sometimes.
I wish things in my life were different. I wish I was different. I wish change was easier. I wish situations improved quicker.
Matthew 17:20 says “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “move from here to there,” and it would be done. Nothing would be impossible.”
Do you have a “mountain” in your life? I think we all do. My mountain is likely very different than yours, but I imagine that we each have a mountain of some kind.
This past summer, my daughter and her hubby wanted to change the landscape of their back yard. They had moved into their new home a couple of years before, and the backyard did not come landscaped. Having two small children, a dog, and yard full of goat heads was not a great combination. As time went by, they pulled together some money and ordered rock (rock is just what you do in Arizona!). They ordered a lot of rock. 20 tons to be exact.
I wish you could have seen this giant pile of rock! It was delivered and unloaded into a colossal pile in the street in front of their home. This pile of rock needed to be moved into the back yard, through a narrow side gate. There were some tools to help, like a small tractor with a small trailer, and shovels. But that giant pile of rock had to be moved from the mountain of rock, into the small trailer, one shovelful at a time. It was hot, strenuous work. (not that I helped…. yard work is a spectator sport for me!)
It took several adults, two full days to move the rock, and spread it out evenly in the back yard.
Now their yard is a wonderful place where the kids and the dog can play and run! The feeling of relief and accomplishment when the last shovelful of rock went into the yard was tremendous! Finally, they could all rest.
Often, there is no other way to move a mountain, but one shovelful at a time. The blessings are not only enjoyed when the work is finished, but they are realized in the process too.
The mountain in Matthew 17:20 is a proverbial illustration. It is not a literal possibility, if it were, people of faith would be reconstructing the landscape of this earth on a regular basis. Furthermore, if you and I had the ability to boss mountains around, that “power” could easily and quickly be used for our own devices, and not as a display of God’s ultimate power and glory.
Rather, it is in scripture to teach us a lesson. Faith is most often developed one “shovelful” at a time.
When you and I allow God to work on our hearts and lives through change, we “exercise” our faith. Exercising our muscles makes our muscles strong, and exercising our faith makes our faith strong.
Let’s pretend for a moment that we asked God to move a mountain, to change something in our life. And He did it in a flash, a blink. (Think Star Trek “beam me up, Scotty”). We could arrive on the other side of our trial instantly and without struggle! (This is something that we spend a lot of time in life wishing were the case). But, if that really did happen, we would miss so much. We would miss the opportunity to grow our faith muscle. We would miss the process of diligently, shovel by shovel, building trust as we watched the mountain be moved.
Because God is almighty, He could choose to move our mountain anyway He chooses. But there is a lesson for us when He chooses not to move it instantly. God certainly does not need our help to move any mountain, but because He is always at work for our best, He often hands us the shovel. Therefore, giving you and I the opportunity to grow!
So, what’s your mountain? What situation in your life seems insurmountable? What situation seems so big that you can’t believe that it even could change? Maybe it’s so big that you don’t really pray about it, you have just accepted it as fact. But we serve a big God! Our God can move mountains! Both figuratively and literally.
Maybe it’s time to talk to Him about it, whatever it is. Maybe it’s time to pick up the shovel, and bit by bit, one shovelful at a time, allow Him to work. Do you feel a call on your heart toward change? Maybe it’s a personal change (like a goal). Maybe it’s a relational change (like improving or starting one). Maybe it’s a ministry change (are you feeling pulled to join one?). Or even a job or location change.
There are also mountains in the lives of those we care about. Situations in our loved ones’ lives that are not right, that cause us worry and heartache. These mountains can often feel even larger than our own personal mountains, because there is so little we can do ourselves to change them. But trust me when I say that I have seen the biggest mountains EVER, be completely thrown into the sea.
Whatever your mountain is, Proverbs 3:5-6 speaks directly to it. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. (NLT)
He will move the mountain when the time is right. We must reject the thought that He isn’t working when He doesn’t change everything quickly. He will almost always hand us a shovel, and give us a chance to grow.