18 Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. 20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked. 21 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
Without true faith, nothing will happen
We can speak to a tree today as Jesus did, but it probably will not wither. We can try to work up our faith, and command a hill to throw itself into the sea, but it will not happen. In fact, it has never happened.
Why? Did Jesus lie to us here? Absolutely not!
Is it because we have no faith at all? Jesus said we only needed small faith, the size of a mustard seed. No, we all have a measure of faith.
It is because we don't understand faith, and what it takes to not have any doubts. In order to have unwavering faith, the Lord needs to speak to our heart. Faith comes from hearing from Jesus Christ.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
The Greek word for "word" here is not the usual "logos." It is "rhema," which is a word spoken to an individual. When Jesus speaks to us, it brings faith.
There are many examples of a word from Jesus bringing faith in the Bible.
Peter walks on water
26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
Any other time, if Peter had tried to walk on water, he would have sunk like a rock. But when Jesus says "come," Peter has faith to walk on the water, if only briefly, until his faith fails. This faith comes from hearing a word (rhema) from Jesus Christ.
The early disciples leave everything to follow Jesus
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
When these disciples heard Jesus say, "Come, follow me," faith sprung up in their hearts, and they immediately left everything to follow Jesus.
Jesus' command gives everyone faith, and raises the dead.
40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
As we read and meditate on God's Word, the Lord will often turn "logos" into "rhema." He will take general teaching, and speak it specifically to our hearts. It then becomes a special word to us (rhema), and our faith increases. I believe God spoke to me concerning this web site. I was preaching on Psalm 18:30, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." It was a general sermon on the Word of God. But God used it to lead me in my ministry. The Lord spoke this word to my heart, and I knew what He wanted me to do. What's more, I then had the faith to do it.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 21:21, Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
If we listen and wait, He will speak to us, and we will have faith to receive and serve.