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Sunday Night Live Sermons

Matthew 17:14-20

28th April 2002

Isn't science wonderful? In the magazine "Scientific American" there is a note about a firm in Massachusetts that has made a lead balloon fly! We all thought that it was impossible for a lead balloon to fly, but they have done it. That same firm a few years earlier made a silk purse out of a sow's ear! Science warns us not to be too sure that the impossible is outside its reach!

I was speaking to some children of primary school age about one of the familiar proverbs showing how godliness was important and that cleanliness was closely related. I said, "Do you know that old proverb: 'Cleanliness is next to…' No one replied. I asked 'Have you ever heard that before?' They looked blank. I said, "What do you think is the missing word? "Cleanliness is next to…., and a little boy said, 'Impossible!'" For little boys, I guess, cleanliness is next to impossible! There are many things that we claim are impossible.

I remember Terry Wiles so fondly. How could a young man born with only one eye, of black and white parentage, illegitimate, among people who did not want him, not possessing either legs or arms - just a little body and head - dive into water and swim backwards and forwards in the swimming pool? Impossible? No, it is not! I have seen Terry do it. Can a man without arms and legs ride a horse? Impossible! No, it is not. We have seen Terry do it. There are many things in this life that are said to be impossible. There may be something in your life - health, education, family relationships, employment prospects, future service to others - and you have dismissed it as impossible.

But such a decision may be too hasty. In the U.S.A. there is a wonderful program that helps brain-damaged children. It is called the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential. Wesley Mission is also an institute for the achievement of human potential! Here people find faith and "if you have faith," said Jesus, "nothing will be impossible for you!"

In a very moving story in Scripture, a father is deeply distressed because his son is an epileptic. When taking fits, the boy would sometimes fall into a fire or into water. Matthew 17:14-20 "A man approached Jesus and knelt before him. "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, 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."


Jesus starts by making the point about faith. "Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith."

Frequently in Scripture we find such words as "with faith all things are possible." Or "This can only done through faith." But modern people ask: "What difference will faith make when I am faced with the impossible?" The answer is that it is only when you believe that something is possible that you will get around to achieving it.

Why start with faith? There are three good reasons: First: when you have faith about something that is troubling you, you are open to possibilities. Otherwise the impossibilities overwhelm you. Second: when you have faith you know that you have the resources of God behind you. You are not facing the problem alone. It is you plus God, and you plus God is always a majority. Third: faith has great power in its effect. The brother of Jesus, James, who saw so much of the life of Jesus speaks from experience when he writes: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16


Jesus went on, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…" I found a mustard seed on a card someone had given me recently. It is very small. It is the smallest seed known in the Middle East but it grows into a shrub the size of a tree. Even faith the size of a mustard seed, once exercised, will grow and be great in its effect.

I once met Olga Deane, the famous Australian entertainer, socialite and show business personality. She was 82 at the time. Her scrapbooks are now in the Australian National Museum as a significant part of our show business history.

Olga Deane was known as "The Mustard Seed Lady." Throughout the last 30 years of her life she was so transformed by faith in Jesus Christ that she made it a habit to write cards to all prominent public persons and she would tape a mustard seed to each card! She wrote to those people whenever they were facing problems or difficulties and say, "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."

I also remember meeting Sir John Walton founder of "Walton Stores." In 1950, John Walton was Manager of the National Cash Register Company. He started as a boy pushing a broom behind the front counter and worked his way up to a significant position. Then he fell on difficult times. In 1950 he was greatly moved by a sermon by Norman Vincent Peale. It was on our theme, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, all things are possible unto you." KJV He was so inspired by the ideal of faith that his wife purchased a mustard seed and had it encased in a small sphere of plastic. When I met him, Sir John Walton still carried that mustard seed in his pocket. With renewed faith in Christ, he fought his way back and eventually developed the chain of stores which bore his name. Sir John lived by the promise that with mustard seed faith, all things are possible.


We go further, because Jesus said, "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."

What mountain are you facing? A health problem? Family troubles? Unemployment? Recently I was speaking with a young couple. They have two lovely children and they had just come into membership of the church. Then the husband received in his Friday pay packet a dismissal notice. I shared with him my feeling of dismay. He said, "I am not worried. God does not close one door without opening another." Already his newborn faith was beginning to reveal the great truth that if there is a mountain ahead, that mountain is a mountain of possibilities!

Australians know much about moving mountains. We have shifted Mount Tom Price, Iron Knob, Mount Hamersley, Mount Isa, the Snowy Mountains and Broken Hill. We can shift mountains by using heavy machinery. But how can you shift mountains by faith? With faith you require only two things: work and persistence! I had to shift a hill once. My wife and I purchased in 1972 an elevated one-story house. I decided to turn it into a two-story house. As I could not lift it up, I decided to go down. The house was 45 feet long and 25 feet wide. We had to go down about four feet. There was not enough room under the house for a machine so it had to be done with a shovel. I said to the mountain of earth, "Move from here to there!" The Lord said to me, "Get a shovel, a pick and a wheelbarrow!" I got under the house and started digging. I filled up a wheelbarrow and wheeled it to the front. We had half an acre of land on a gentle hill, so I started building up the bottom of the hill. Then, another barrow, and another, then fifty. Every Monday for years with a pick and shovel and a barrow, and I said to the Lord, "Move this mountain!" The Lord said, "Wheel the barrow!"

Gradually, I began to see a hole under the house. It was then I discovered a second great truth about dirt. More comes out of a hole than was in there originally. A hundred barrow loads of earth levelled the front lawn. Two hundred barrows of earth meant that the block beside us was now level. Meanwhile, we had to bring in truck loads of sand and metal. I mixed and barrowed hundreds of loads of concrete. Then I fitted in new house stumps and a huge steel beam under the floor. Then fitted in a dozen windows, and built dividing walls. In went the first rumpus room, and then the laundry. Through the earth moving the house began to double in size. After two years I had shifted enough earth to add a garage and workshop. I kept saying to the Lord, "Move this mountain." The Lord replied each time, "Keep wheeling. You and I are in this together." I said, "Yes, Lord, but I'm the one who is getting hot!

Gradually the front lawn area became smooth. Then came more concrete and, finally, the big, double rumpus room. Seven years after I began digging, the hill was removed. We finished the walls. We put up the table-tennis table. The windows worked and the lights were fixed. Everything was beautiful. The furniture was in and the carpet was down, and now we had a house double its original size and triple its value. Then as I finished Wesley Mission said, "Come to Sydney!" When we put our Victorian home on the market, an interested purchaser said, "What a lovely front lawn you have!" He did not know that faith, plus work, plus persistence had doubled the size of a house and turned a hill into a smooth lawn! You can shift mountains from here to there with faith and persistent work!


Nothing will be impossible! Nothing! You could do anything! These were the words of Jesus: "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." That is His promise. I believe that what the mind can conceive and the heart can believe, the will can achieve! All things are possible to those who have faith. If you do not think it is possible, you will be right. If you think it is possible, you will be right! Only faith achieves. If you can conceive it happening and believe that it is happening, you will achieve it. By faith all things are possible. Even swimming without arms or legs? Yes! Even riding a horse, limbless? Yes! All things are possible to those who believe.

The only limits we place to achievement are those we place on ourselves. The key is in the first part of the phrase of Jesus, "If … you have faith." This is the way the Apostle John put it: "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."1 John 5:4,5

What mountains are you facing? Perhaps in your marriage? Within your work situation? Within your finances? Whatever it is, believe, then work at it, persist and you will find that all things are possible. Maybe not the result you first desired, but certainly a desirable result! What kind of faith is required? John says it is faith that "Jesus is the Son of God." That kind of faith is within your reach. All you need do is believe in Jesus!

Wesley Mission, Sydney.