Jesus told his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 (NIV).
Do we think of mountains as obstacles that stand in our way? Or in the way of others? When a mountain stands in the path of what God wants to do, the mountain will have to go. “Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him!” Zechariah 4:7.
I love the mountains. The sight of mountains is awe-inspiring. Some people love the ocean, but it is mountains that inspire me. Here in California, we have many mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevada. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but Florida is flat and boring.
With this mindset, there are portions of Scripture that concern me. For instance, Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. Isaiah 40:4 (NIV). I prefer verses like May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. Psalm 72:3 (NIV)
At some point, it occurred to me that not every mountain is an obstacle, and we should seek God’s guidance before exercising faith to remove it. Sometimes a mountain can represent protection, and its removal could leave us vulnerable. When we face a mountain, we should ask, “Why is it there?” Before exercising our faith to remove the mountain”
Mountains of Safety
In Psalms, we read: “Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever.” Psalm 125:2 (NLT). The mountains that surround the city of Jerusalem serve to protect from enemies. In the same way, we must discern the true purpose of the mountains that are before us. We may think that we want to go in a particular direction or that the view would be better if that mountain were not in our way. It may very well be so, but seeing a mountain removed might prove hazardous to us until we understand God’s plans and purposes.
We often hear about open and closed doors, but do we think about mountains standing in our way in the same light? The mountain that stands in our path might indicate that God is not ready for us to move in a particular direction or that he is protecting us from some unseen peril. Perhaps God is preparing us for a more significant task, and he does not want us to be distracted by what is on the other side of the mountain. Something is exhilarating about the thought of exercising faith to move mountains, but allowing them to remain requires patience.
There is a precedent that says that God will not remove obstacles from our way until we are ready to possess what lies ahead of us. “The LORD your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once, otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you.” Deuteronomy 7:22 (NLT) God wants to prepare us to go in and take full possession of what our faith allows, and until we are ready, the obstacles will remain.
When Mountains Are Not Removed
I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited. I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. 2 Corinthians 12:7–8 (CEB)
There is not a consensus among scholars regarding the nature of Paul’s thorn in his body or “mountain.” Whatever it was, Paul pled with the Lord on three occasions for it to be taken away from him. No one would contend that Paul lacked faith, but this was a “mountain” that served a purpose.
In the book “God’s Generals” by Roberts Liardon, almost without exception, each one of the men and women that God used to remove mountains in other people’s lives faced enormous mountains in their own lives. Included are those God used to bring healing to others, yet they endured illness and disease in their own bodies.
We cannot be sure why, in Paul’s case, after petitioning three times to have his “mountain” removed, God responded, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
There are “mountains” that can remind us that God is our source of power, and without them, we would be in danger of thinking “more highly of ourselves than we should.” Only when we recognize our true weakness can God use us as a conduit for his power and provision to ourselves and others.
Having faith that moves mountains is exciting but having faith that God will remove obstacles in his perfect timing, will produce the results in our life that will give him glory and honor. We must also remember that not every mountain is an obstacle to be removed but may be a blessing from the Lord to protect us or prepare us for what he has in store.