The first step of the process of faith involves, not speaking, but watching and listening. It requires us to keep our mouths shut!
There’s something about Jesus you may not have noticed, even if you’ve read the New Testament many times. It’s a characteristic, or practice, that consistently marked His ministry on earth. I’ve never heard a single sermon preached about it, yet it’s of vital importance to all of us who want to walk with Him.  In the most critical and difficult situations, Jesus was a man of few words. 

Throughout the Gospels, whenever He spoke a faith command—whether He was dealing with circumstances, sickness, death or the devil—He kept it brief.

Think about it. He healed a leper by saying simply, “I will; be thou clean.” He calmed a stormy sea with “Peace, be still.” He raised a dead man with three words: “Lazarus, come forth.”

In Mark 11:14, He even turned a f ig tree in full bloom into a withered stump with nine words: “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.”

When it came to teaching, Jesus sometimes talked all day long. But when He activated the process of faith, although He spoke with boldness and got His point across, He always kept it simple…and He always got the job done.

I have to chuckle when I compare it to how we usually operate. For the most part, as His disciples, we’ve been much more long-winded and much less effective than Jesus. Can you imagine how the average believer today would deal with a f ig tree like the one in Mark 11? I can almost guarantee that even a Christian who knows something about living by faith, wouldn’t stop with nine words. He’d go on… and on…and on:
Tree, I come to you in the Name of the Creator, Almighty God and all the universe that He created, and by the hand of the Holy Ghost, and by the power and authority vested in me. I’m telling you right now, tree, you’re going to listen to what I say, and I say you’re cursed. Do you hear me? Your leaves are going to come off. Your bark is going to peel. Everything about you is going to shrivel up. Tree, you pay attention to me. I’m declaring, you’re finished. I’m casting the devil out of you, tree!
If that didn’t work, he’d try something else: “Uh…Brother Copeland, nothing seems to be happening here. Can you help me talk to this tree?”

If that didn’t work, he’d start talking unbelief: “Nothing I say comes to pass! It beats all I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why it is, but this faith stuff just doesn’t work for me.”

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve done it yourself. So have I (probably more times than anyone). But, praise God, we can repent and follow Jesus’ example. We can learn to operate in faith like He did—with few words, filled with faith.

Understanding the Process
“Well, I don’t really think we can go around acting like Jesus,” someone might say. “We don’t have His ability. We can’t talk to things and expect them to obey us.”

Why not? Through the new birth, we’ve been born of The Word and spiritually re-created in Jesus’ image. The Bible clearly says, “…as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17), so we must have the same spiritual capacities He has. As long as we keep ourselves rooted in the love of God (faith works by love), our faith can do everything Jesus’ faith did. The problem is, we haven’t understood the process of faith thoroughly enough. We’ve taken the little bit of revelation we’ve had about it and gone off halfcocked, spewing words like scattershot, just hoping some of them would stick.

Obviously, that’s not how Jesus operated. The more time I’ve spent studying Mark 11, the more aware of that I’ve become. It outlines, as well as any other chapter in the Bible, the process of faith and it reveals that the first step of the process involves, not speaking, but watching and listening. The first step of faith requires us to keep our mouths shut!

I don’t mind telling you, I read Mark 11 for years without seeing that. My attention was on the action scenes—Jesus talking to the fig tree and teaching the disciples about it; Jesus going into the temple, overturning the money-changers’ tables and driving out the merchants; Jesus talking and acting as a man of faith and power.

But one day, the Lord drew my attention to verse 11. It describes what Jesus did before He went into action. It tells us that the day before He said anything to the tree or did anything to the money-changers, “Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.”

The Day Nothing Happened
At first glance, the information in verse 11 might not seem like a big deal. But it’s actually very important. The day Jesus spent in the temple—listening instead of talking, observing instead of acting—was vital to His faith. He was there to find out how the Father wanted Him to handle the situation.

Notice, He passed the fig tree that day without saying a word to it. He went in and watched the money-changers without even making His presence known. I’m sure He was as indignant about all the junk going on there that day as He was the next, but He didn’t do or say anything. He kept so quiet no one even realized He was there.

That night, He went back to Bethany and prayed until He heard from God what He was supposed to say, and saw in His spirit what He was supposed to do.

“How do you know that, Brother Copeland?”

Because Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father do, and He only said what He heard the Father say (see John 5:19, 14:10). That’s the reason every word He said came to pass.

The next morning when He walked over to the fig tree on His way back to Jerusalem, He wasn’t just shooting from the hip. He wasn’t just reacting to the moment. He was operating in union with the Father, according to the instructions He’d received the night before.
“And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he 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. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever” (Mark 11:13-14).

Notice that Jesus spoke the desired end results to that tree and nothing else. Nine words. He never said another thing to it. As far as He was concerned, from that moment on, His act of faith was past tense and so was the tree.

When He finished speaking to it, He turned His back on it, went to the temple, drove out the moneychangers, and then preached there all day. “And when even was come, he went out of the city” (verse 19).

On the way back to Bethany, when Jesus and the disciples passed by the fig tree, 12 hours after He’d spoken to it, it looked just the same. If there had been any visible change, Peter would have said something. (Peter was like I used to be—always the first person to open his mouth in any situation.)

Now, this is vitally important to understand: The process of faith was already working, but it doesn’t work from the outside in; it works from the inside out. That’s why we can’t evaluate its effectiveness by what we can feel or see. If we speak words of faith and then say, “It doesn’t look to me like anything is happening,” we disconnect from faith and abort the process. We have to learn better than that. We have to train ourselves to be more like Jesus, to say only what the Father tells us to say…and then keep our mouths shut.

First published in the May 2011 issue of Believer's Voice of Victory Magazine
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