The Next Day
Many of us are familiar with the account of the cursing of the “fig tree” found in the gospel of Mark chapter 11: we read there:
from verse 13 “And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, (Jesus) came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. 14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. … and to verse 20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursed is withered away”.
On first sight this seems to be a simple enough story, and most of us assume that Jesus being hungry, was angry that there were no figs on the tree and took his anger out on it, by cursing it so that it died. If that is your conclusion, then you have missed the plot, and missed the point. This simple story goes a very long way to teaching us one of the most profound principles regarding our PRAYERS. So then, my subject for today’s Sermon is Prayer, or rather Radical Prayer in this message which I have entitled “The Next Day“.
My aim in this message is to help you to understand that while we are called and expected to live always in the presence of God and in the attitude of Prayer, to live prayerfully, there is yet another place, even more important, into which we should move and live. God wants us to move up in the realm of Prayer into the realm of Faith. This does not mean that we abandon Prayer, rather that we transform and reform our prayers to the place where we impact our world and environment dramatically, for good and for God. The writer to the Hebrews uses a very startling phrase in Chapter 11, verse 6 … where he says
“Without FAITH, it is impossible to please God“.
Notice, He does not say, without Prayer, without Obedience, without Courage, without Loyalty, without Love, without Sincerity, – none of these rank anywhere near FAITH. These other qualities are all important, and indeed were all evident in the character and life of Jesus, and I am sure that Gods purpose is that we too are in possession of them, but unless our Prayers are the prayers of Faith, unless our Courage is the courage of Faith, unless our Love is the love of Faith, then God is not pleased. It is “Impossible” says the apostle to please God without Faith. Yet in many and most of our prayers faith is missing, and there can be no resulting response from God.
Unless our prayers please him, and line up with his revealed purposes for us embodied in his word, he cannot respond, and the prayer principles do not come into force.
Let us return now to “the fig tree” and see what lessons we can glean from it, to help our prayer life. The first principle I want you to discover is
THE AUTHORITY OF GOD
that when God speaks, it is done. It is not done before he speaks, nor is it done after he speaks, but it is done while He speaks. When Jesus cursed the fig tree, – when he spoke “death” to the fig tree it died immediately. However, it did not look dead, it did not smell dead, it did not seem dead, but dead it was nevertheless. The death had taken place at the root, and it would be a little time before the evidence would become visible to the onlooker. Its rather like that when you shower your weeds in the garden with a liquid weed-killer. The plants do not immediately curl up and wither and die, rather in about a week or ten days you will notice a browning of the foliage, and a weakening of the stem, and eventually death will become apparent. This is what
happened to the fig tree, it was not until the next day the next morning that Peter notices the deterioration in the tree. Many of our Prayers are genuinely and sincerely offered to God in the expectation that at least by the next day, God will have answered us, either positively or negatively. Somehow we expect that at any rate the answer will show up soon. Now please do not misunderstand me, for God usually answers his Children’s prayers right away, (we have the proof of this in Daniel Chapter 10) but as Daniel discovered, that answer might not become visible for more than a few days. and maybe a few weeks or months. Usually when we fail to see any immediate change we automatically assume that God does not want to give us what we have asked, and that His answer must be NO? But Jesus said that if we “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all things necessary for life and living will be added onto us” (emph -DHG) God wants our priorities in life to be centred in Him, and not in things, material things, regardless of how essential those things might be.
God will often answer us right away, but the answer might not “show up” or be visible immediately. This is usually because God wants to give us the very best, and usually our concept of the “best” is not the same as His? When we don’t receive immediately our focus is then usually fixed on the material need rather than the plan and process of God to get that need to us.
The next thing I want you to notice in this story is
THE EXPECTATION FROM GOD
Answered Prayer seemed to surprise, they did not expect God to answer, nor did they assume the answer was given since the fig tree showed no immediate change. What we expect from God is usually what we will get, and most of us have a very limited
expectation of him. Although God has given us a whole book full of promises, and Gods promises are not like men’s promises,
for God keeps his word, and cannot lie to us. Yet in spite of a book of promises, in spite of a lifetime of encouragement from pulpit and platform alike, most of us still doubt God and have a very little expectation of any real change, any real miracle, or any real answer. Religion has so often robbed us of expectation in that it has transferred our focus from God to ourselves.
Today I am believing God to enable me to help change all that, so listen carefully. In Genesis Chapter 17, God made a promise to Abram that he would become the “father of many” and that “in his seed would all the families of the earth be blessed” Abram’s response was simply to laugh, and his wife Sarah laughed also. After all, at the time of this promise, Abram was about 100 and she was nearly 90. Their expectation of a family, was nil, for a start Sarah’s womb was “barren”? Abram was told that God had given him a new name “Abraham” meaning the Father of Nations” for God said “I have made you the Father of Nations”. Notice God did not say, “I will be making you….” (future tense) rather “I have made you” (past tense) for to God it was already a “done deal”. (Gen 17:5) But this still did not convince Abram. So God took him a step further, God led him from “belief” to “faith”. Belief and faith are often confused one with the other, – while there are similarities, they are not the same. Watch and see what God does. One night, one clear night, when the moon and stars were visible God said to Abram, “Abram, look up … what do you see?” Abram saw the stars, and God said “count them”. This was of course impossible, and God knew it. Which is why he responded to Abram with the promise “As the stars, so shall thy descendents be” (Gen 22:17 ) In that moment something happened, Abram moved from believing God to Faith in God. He SAW something with the physical eye, an innumerable host of stars, and similarly with a spiritual eye, a vision of faith, he saw an innumerable host of sons. From that moment Abram’s FAITH saw what could be. Belief asks and considers what could be, Faith accepts and sees the gift already given!
God is saying to you and me today, “What can you see … what can you expect” Don’t look around you, look up, and if you can see it, you can have it! Don’t give up!
Believe me, that’s faith. ASK God to show you what you can have. We read in James chapter 1: verses 6 & 7 “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that
man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord“.
If you are wavering there is no expectation of God, and thus there can be no response from God!
Now in all of these arguments, we dare not overlook
THE POWER OF GOD
The word of God does not produce results just because its there,
you must strive to understand it and then act on it. Many have said to me over the years … “doesn’t the Bible say or promise such and such, and why is it not working for me?” Others seems to have answers to their prayers, others have miracles but not me; why is this? Some think that their problems are too big for God, beyond help and beyond hope. They are discouraged and despondent. The Church folks or the Preacher might have suggested that “maybe the Lord could do something?” Those words are a contradiction in terms. “maybe the Lord”? What has happened to the “power of God”? Has the Creator of the Universe and everything in it, suddenly become weak and helpless, has Gods ability failed, has his power been short-
circuited? Has God become like a Man, helpless and hopeless, – what do you see? How big is your God?
God can do anything – but fail!
Let us look now at
THE WORD (or Promise) OF GOD
How many of you believe that Jesus never exaggerated, that he never lied to anybody. I recon all of you agree. Then why do you so often treat his words as lies? Turn with me if you will to John 16, and verse 23. Here Jesus is speaking to his disciples, and he says “In that day …Ye shall ask me nothing” Jesus is teaching about Prayer, and he says you shall not pray to me. Strange concept this with many Church-going folks who begin their prayers, Dear Jesus, or ask things “for Jesus sake”. In that day, the day of Salvation, the day of the Church after his resurrection, a new day, things are going to be different, when Salvation is consummated, Jesus says, you shall not pray to me.
Here is where some of the blockage lies. A lot of people don’t know why their prayers are not answered. As “Babes” in Christ, (new Christians) we may say all kinds of things in prayer which are theologically or doctrinally incorrect or incomplete; and God will answer them – but God expects all his Children to eventually grow up in Christ and develop in faith and knowledge. A lot of people pray “Oh Lord Jesus”, or “we thank you in the name of Jesus” but you should not pray to Jesus in the name of Jesus. He gave us the power of attorney to use his name. The British ambassador to the USA does not have his authority in Britain, but in the USA. He represents the government in another Country. Jesus said “Go in my name” and represent me! Look at Mark 16:v18 … here Jesus did not say they shall “lay hands on the sick and pray”, no – he said “they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover”.
Jesus said “Ask the Father in my name”(John 16:23) You don’t pray to Jesus – you pray to the Father…. and Jesus says my name is big enough with the Father, for you to ask for anything. Glory to God.
This dear friends is the power of the WORD, are you grasping it? In the Church and in our traditions, we do a lot of things without thinking, and God says “My people suffer for lack of knowledge.” Look again with me at John 16: verse 23, where Jesus says WHATSOEVER you ask – in other words ask what you want. Only God can talk like that, only God can do the impossible, How big is your God? How great is His power? What can you see?
The fig tree may not be showing signs yet, there may be no evidence yet of answered prayer, but wait until the next day, your answer, your blessing is on its way!
Some of you are thinking, “I wish it were so, I wish that man was right, I wish I could believe it” but the point I am making is this – that Jesus never lied, and if HE said it, it is so. In a moment we shall end our Service singing the lovely Hymn “How Great Thou art” yet for many of us we simply don’t believe it, we would be more honest singing – how small thou art! God is Great and God is Good so don’t give up on God!
We are of course unworthy of anything that God has for us, and the Devil will use this argument to keep us from the expectation of anything more or anything better. BUT listen to me friends, … Jesus took your place, he died for you, and God raised him from the dead and if you have already accepted it, then you will have already become a new creation. In that moment Eternal Life will have been imparted into your Spirit. You may not have felt it, (because he says nothing about feelings), but His word declares it. You become then worthy of his attention deserving of his best, his benefits and all of his blessings. WHY?- you are in Christ Jesus, Your Righteousness is not the righteousness of your acts, but of His. You can now come Boldly, ask for anything in the name of Jesus, and you will have Gods full attention.
GODS WORD DECLARES…
…that you are no longer an outsider. Abram saw the Stars, and saw the promise in the starry host, and thought “this is what God said, and on the basis of what he said, I can expect and receive”. Praise the Lord. Abram did not yet see the family of nations that was his, but he became (if you like) “pregnant” in his thinking, and “pregnant” in his vision. Like any pregnant person, although the child is not yet seen, the child is none the less, theirs!
Lastly, consider with me what I am calling
THE NAME OF GOD
Jesus said in John 16:23 “Whatsoever you ask…in my name”
Whatsoever – that includes what I have in my mind, in my sights. Someone asks, “What if its not God will?” and how can we know Gods will. Does this mean that everything we ask for, we must first know if it is Gods will? Do you ever read in the Bible that Jesus did not heal anyone because it was not his will? Don’t include or introduce a clause that is not there, or a condition that is not included in the text. That’s what “doubt” does! Whatsoever, whatsoever, whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name He will give it to you. We already know His will if we are regularly reading the Bible, and we’ll not ask for things we know to be contrary to that revelation.
As Christians, we should Refuse to suffer, and use the name of Jesus. A name is not the pronunciation or the sounding of it, when the Bible says that God “gave him a name” it does not
mean that he gave him a new name, but that he gave him authority; he invested all authority in that name…
and that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – a sovereign declaration that it is law, in the 3 worlds, in Heaven on Earth and in Hell. (Phil 2:10) He did not say if you have faith then you can use the name. The name of JESUS is a “gift” we don’t need extra faith or prayer to use it, we just simply need to grasp its mighty power!
One word from this JESUS killed the fig tree, can kill your Cancer, can destroy your Addictions, can release your Pardon and Peace, and can transform your Life.
It is Good news;- it used to be hard, it is not hard anymore. Jesus said: “Ask and ye shall receive” that your JOY may be full. It is his desire for us that our Joy may be full. He does not want you happy for a time, he wants you bubbling every day. I am happy every day and if I allow the Devil to rob me of that joy then I am not doing what God wants.
Now this final word
I live with God every day . I am “In God” all the time, I live there all the time. I don’t say “Lord I come into your presence” for if I have to come to him, then I must have been away from him. You come once, – and should never go away. The day you come is the day of your Salvation. If you have this Christ consciousness where will trouble come from, Nothing and no-one in the “world” is powerful enough to deter or discourage you, if the “word” controls you. Remember what Paul could say; “I can do all things through Christ” ( Phil 4:13) You should be winning all the time. Satan doesn’t like being ignored, he hates it, but in Jesus we can just walk through the
troubles. “Ask and you shall receive that your Joy may be full”
Faith and confidence in the word keeps growing, and you become bold in your asking. Everything you desire in Christ is available to you, ask and receive it.
Oh that God would grant us a Holy Boldness in the place of Prayer. We are not Beggars, under his table, but Princes at His table, heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
The fig tree may not yet show signs of any change, but your change has been granted, your prayers have been heard,
your miracle has already been given, just receive it and start to thank God for it … and that’s faith!
Faith is not believing God for a miracle, Faith is declaring that the miracle is already yours. You may not be holding that baby in your arms, but you can be pregnant with that baby,
and either way, that baby is yours!
So go on, be brave, … call it yours.
The next day, it may be.
Keep on believing God will answer Prayer, just don’t give up!
Amen and may God bless this sacred truth to all our hearts.