Faith and Forgiveness

Jesus answered and said unto them, "Have faith in God. For assuredly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." (Mark 11:22-25)

PRETTY powerful stuff! Speak to the mountain, and it will move. When you pray, believe you receive, and you will have it. But did you notice — there is a connection between faith and forgiveness? These verses all stand together. Jesus was not changing the subject when He started talking about forgiveness. He was still teaching on faith and prayer.

"Have faith in God," He said in verse 22. The Greek text literally reads, "Have faith of God." In other words, Have the faith that comes from God. Or, Have the God kind of faith. The emphasis is not on something we place in God, but on something God places in us. We do not manufacture it — God puts it in us. We do not work it up, we work it out, applying it to the situation at hand.

Ultimately, faith finds its home in God, but first it comes from Him. That is the direction of flow. God desires to work in us and through us by means of this faith. As we exercise it, His power flows through us and into the world. Mountains move and His kingdom is enlarged.

We exercise this faith by what we say and how we pray. Our mouth and our prayer and our heart must all be in agreement. We cannot say one thing, pray another, and have our heart going back and forth between the two. That is not faith, but double-mindedness. It is instability and it won't move anything. But when our heart lines up with what we say and what we pray, the power of God can then flow through us and accomplish great and mighty things.

Continuing on the theme of faith and prayer, Jesus brought in the matter of forgiveness. Notice the parameters He used: "Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him." He left no wiggle room. Unforgiveness is not an option, not under any circumstances. The second half of verse 25 shows us why: "that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." When we forgive, we make room for God's forgiveness. But if we don't forgive, we stop the flow of God's power through us.

Think of a garden hose. Two things must happen for it to work. First, there must be a place where water flows into it (the tap end). Second, there must be a place where water flows out (the nozzle end). If we shut down the nozzle end, so that water cannot flow out, we simultaneously create a situation where water can no longer flow in. Similarly, when we refuse to extend forgiveness to others, we stop the flow of God's forgiveness in our own life. It is not that God is unwilling to extend His forgiveness, it is just that we are not able to receive it. There is no room for it.

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is the most difficult thing in the world. Consider this: God could create the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, by the word of His mouth. "Let there be," He said, and there was! But the only way God could forgive the sins of the world was to send His Son to become fully human and go to the cross for us. Forgiveness costs.

When we choose to forgive, we are sharing in the cross of Christ. The decision to forgive is a decision to suffer loss. It costs us something, just as it cost God. But at the same time, we are letting the love, forgiveness and power of God come into our lives — to flow through us. And that is gain.

Luke 17 presents another example where faith and forgiveness are linked together. Here, Jesus is talking about the offenses that come our way:

Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and seven times a day returns to you saying, "I repent," forgive him. (Luke 1:3-4).

If your brother sins, rebuke him. This is not so you can get even with him, but so he can be accountable. It is for his sake, not yours. And if he repents, forgive him — take the loss.

Now imagine that it gets much more personal. Somebody does something terrible against you, but then says, "I'm sorry. I was wrong to do that." Jesus says, "Forgive." And if that same thing happens seven times a day, what then? Jesus still answers, "Forgive. Take the loss." In another place, Jesus raised the stakes even higher. When Peter asked, "Shall I forgive seven times?" Jesus answered, "Seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22).

That's a lot of forgiveness to handle, and an awful lot of loss to take. How could anyone possibly do that? The disciples must have been thinking that same thing, for they exclaimed, "Lord, increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5). They knew they could not do this on their own. They needed God's help.

But Jesus answered, "If you have faith like a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea; and it would obey you'" (v. 6). The roots of the mulberry tree grow as deep as the tree is high, and they spread out as far as it is wide. Pulling the tree up by them is virtually impossible. It might as well be a mountain. But if you have faith, Jesus said, you can speak to it, and what you say will be done. It is not a matter of increased faith. We already have all the faith we need. It is a matter of applied faith. Like the mustard seed, it must be planted.

So it is with faith and forgiveness. Forgiveness is an impossible thing, like telling a mountain to jump into the sea, or commanding a mulberry tree to uproot and do the same. And yet, Jesus said, by faith we can do impossible things. We can forgive — and we must. For when we block the flow of God's forgiveness in us, we block the flow of His power through us. And even if we have faith to move mountains, if we don't have love, of which forgiveness is an expression, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). But when we exercise our faith and forgive, trusting God to take care of us and cover our losses, then He can flow through us with His love and power.

Faith that can move the heart to forgiveness is faith that can move the mountain as well.

© 2001 by Jeff Doles.
All Rights Reserved.

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“JEFF DOLES is a Christian author, blogger and Bible teacher. His books include The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew and Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the founders of Walking Barefoot Ministries. Visit their website at”

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