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Tree Tossing


Luke 17:6
"If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you".

This teaching of Jesus seems to suggest that people with faith in God can just go around ordering people and even things to get out of their way. Yet anyone who has ever tried to put it to the test in the way that Jesus seems to be suggesting here, has failed. If you've never tried it, just find a tree and tell it to fall over or do something equally unlikely. It won't work.

As a consolation, some people have suggest that what Jesus was saying is only allegorical. He is not (they say) talking about anything miraculous, but just about the great feats which can be accomplished by normal human beings when they have faith in themselves, their tools, or their organisations. They build bulldozers and then start knocking over trees and even move whole mountains (well, large hills, anyway) of earth and rock with them (and a few explosives). There may be some truth in that approach, but if there is, it seems like Jesus has exaggerated what he actually intended. Why did he make it sound like something supernatural was going to happen? And why didn't he start it by saying something like, "If you have faith in yourself..."

Everything about his life and teachings seems to suggest that Jesus was talking about faith in a real, supernatural, and personal God, who would give miraculous powers to those who have faith in him. Why did he set so many people up for disappointment if he was not (as we are so often told today) really campaigning for faith in such a miracle-working God?

The faithless world that we now occupy is the one Jesus spoke of when he said: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith left on earth?" In our world, faith in God has been replaced with faith in ourselves, faith in "the human spirit", faith in families, governments, science, and the media, faith in guns and bombs, and (most of all) faith in the Almighty Dollar to move our mountains and overcome all of our obstacles.

But what about faith in the God that Jesus spoke of? Was it just a myth of the times? a delusion that even affected Jesus?

To answer that question, we need to go back to the original conversation with the tree. Did we, perhaps, overlook something when we tried to "test" the promise? I think we did. And I think that other half of the church scene... the one that keeps telling us to "claim the promises"... has repeatedly done this, thus adding as much to the faithlessness of this generation as the outright atheists.

It is so easy to miss the big "if" statements that are always there whenever Jesus makes a promise. "If you have even the slightest bit of faith..." the passage says. The miraculous part of the promise is God's part, whereas this "if" part of the promise is our part, and what we need to dedicate our whole lives to practicing.

I think the kind of faith in God that Jesus was talking about was not a theological statement about God. It is the kind of faith that seeks to hear, understand, respect, and obey anything that our God might want to tell us.

We have heard God speaking to us most clearly through the teachings of Jesus. We have discovered that Jesus was bringing in a radically different lifestyle, which seeks to work for God rather than for money. And the more that we have tried to put that faith into practice, the more miraculously we have seen God work. Any tree or mountain that dares to come in the way between us and our God is blasted to smithereens by the power of God.

Just ask our enemies. They run in fear from us wherever we go... plucked up by the roots. The Apostle Jude used similar terminology to refer to these sort of people, when he said:

11 Woe unto them! for they ... ran greedily after the error of Balaam...

12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, ... trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;

13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

We must be careful not to become too cocky, because we understand Jesus to have said that these same enemies are going to be allowed to betray and kill many of us before he returns. But before that time comes, we will experience (and we have already experienced) miraculous protection, knowing that we have super-powers which do not operate on the basis of our will, but on the basis of the will of our God.

It seems that each year that we serve God, the evidence of his miraculous protection and guidance becomes more convincing. So look out you "trees without fruit", because we're coming your way!

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