“Control Issues”: When the Mountain Doesn’t Move (Part One – Matthew 21:18-22)

I tried it yesterday. I figured since I had never been tested for it, I might actually have this skill buried inside of me just waiting to be unleashed. I reached out and summoned it with all of the kinetic energy that was stored up deep within my core… but it just sat there. I made sure I could still hear the sound of my wife taking a shower in the bathroom, and I reached out ONE more time, stretching out my fingers in one final desperate attempt. I mentally compelled the remote that was ALL the way in the kitchen to rise up, float towards me, and land next to me on the couch so I wouldn’t have to disturb the toddler who was quite happily playing in my lap… all I wanted was to push PAUSE on this TV show before I lost my mind listening to the inane ramblings of yet another CocoMelon song. Unfortunately, I am apparently weak with “The Force” after all. The remote just SAT there, ignoring my mental pleas to save me from this show that my child wasn’t even WATCHING. Guess the wheels on the bus are going to keep going round and round…

Cocomelon GIF | Gfycat

If you haven’t played Control yet, you may not understand why I thought I MIGHT have undeveloped telekinetic powers just waiting to be unleashed. This title carries a lot of inspiration from older classics such as Psi-Ops and Second Sight, giving your character a MASSIVE amount of options in how they traverse the environment as well as approach combat… sure you can move things with your mind, but you can also just FLY around them. You can pick up an object to use it as a shield against an advancing enemy, or you can simply control their mind to fight alongside you. With so many options on how to attack each of the game’s scenarios, one could be forgiven for walking away from the screen and wishing for just ONE of these incredible abilities.

A Look At Every Supernatural Ability In Remedy's Control - Game Informer

Now to be fair, the character Jesse is trying to get to the bottom of a massive conspiracy with global implications if she fails, and most of the drama in my life has significantly lower stakes. To be honest, my use of her skills wouldn’t be quite as altruistic… I am much more likely to use telekinesis to bring a bowl of Frosted Flakes over here than protect the planet from supernatural attacks. But the truth is that as a believer in Christ I have been promised some fairly substantial things, and yet I don’t always see those materialize either. I remember quoting Bible verses when I was young about “having the faith to move mountains” and if I ask anything in Jesus’s name, it would be done. But time and time again, I would find that the mountains that I tried to move SO many times didn’t seem to budge at all… and as I got older I found that many of my prayers would not get answered in the manner or immediacy that I desired. And in those moments I began to wonder why Jesus would even tell us we could move mountains if it was simply an empty promise.

Control is a Near Perfect...(a lot of gifs) | ResetEra

As a young believer I had mental images similar to the concepts from Control as I read Bible stories about Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:29), or finding enough money in the mouth of a caught fish to pay taxes (Matthew 17:27)… now THAT’s a miracle I wouldn’t mind seeing somewhere in the vicinity of April 15th. But as both the literal and figurative mountains in my life seemed to be quite content with remaining in place, I started to wonder if I was doing it all wrong. Sometimes the people I prayed for would still die… sometimes the situations in my life didn’t improve, and sometimes even got worse. So it’s time for some answers. Let’s start with the time Jesus ran into a fig tree without fruit and KILLED it. Yep… that happened. Plant lovers, avert your eyes…

Matthew 21:18-22 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Seems easy enough… have faith, don’t doubt, throw mountain into the ocean. I like nice, simple, three step plans. So why don’t we see mountains just flying into the ocean all day long? And to use a slightly less over-the-top visual, why don’t we see answers to prayer as frequently and gloriously as Jesus just demonstrated? Yes, tossing large rocks sounds fun, but I am more interested in putting broken things back together in my life and the lives of others. And to better understand the forces at work here, we are going to jump to another selection of verses that may shed some light on these mountainous dilemmas.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.gif

In Acts chapters 7-9 we find the introduction of Saul, a radical Pharisee who was responsible for persecuting the early church simply for believing in Jesus. As we see in the verses below, he was public enemy number one for the believers at the time as he would perform home invasions and physically drag off Christians to prison for punishment and worse…

Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

Acts 9:1-2 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

At the time Saul was becoming well known for his persecution of the church, and it would be safe to assume that a lot of the prayers that were going up at that time were not for his health and well-being. If you and I lived at that time, what would you have been praying for? If I am being truly honest with myself, after enough of my friends and family had been arrested and put to death by this man’s war on Christianity, I would have been praying for nothing short of his demise. I would have wanted a mountain picked up and dropped right on his head. Maybe that is a little extreme for you, so let’s probe a little bit deeper. What person or situation have you begged and pleaded for God to remove from your life or the lives of others? What physical, financial, or personal challenge have you been unable to overcome and you are just DONE with it? If this past year has shown us anything, it is that we are each closer to our breaking point than any of us have ever imagined. So why can’t that horrible, painful, POINTLESS mountain just go ANYWHERE but here?

DISCUSSING ACCESS TO THE MOUNTAINS OF NEPAL – UIAA

The truth about mountains is that they serve multiple purposes that aren’t always immediately obvious to the casual viewer. They provide a majority of the freshwater that the world consumes. A large amount of critical foods originated from mountains and mountain climates. Many species of animals live exclusively on mountains. And their placement has a massive impact on the climate of the areas they surround. Suffice to say, they are not something one should move without truly considering the ramifications of their movement FIRST. But if we as humans had our way, we would move them as soon as they posed even the most MINOR inconvenience, without any perspective as to what we had damaged in the process.

Top 30 Mountain GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

Saul represented a mountain that I am sure a LOT of early church members would have gladly preferred to have thrown into the ocean. We tend to do that as a species when something doesn’t immediately meet our expectations or serve our desired purposes. But if God had listened to those prayers and destroyed Saul, he would have thrown a mountain that was responsible for growing the church through the next two thousand years through his missionary work and Biblical writings. After Saul’s conversion to Christianity in Acts 9, this violent enemy of the Cross became an advocate for Christ and believers around the world for the rest of his days.

I know that it may seem unlikely in your current circumstance, but consider that perhaps your current enemy, the person or situation who you are CERTAIN is here to destroy you and all you hold dear… what if they are actually your future champion? What if that which oppresses you now is actually going to be INTERCEDING for you the way that the Apostle Paul did for all believers after his conversion? In all of the mysterious ways that the Lord works, nobody would have expected Saul to turn out to be the HERO of the story. But yet here we are…

Acts 9:13-15 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 

And now it becomes clear… Jesus told us to PRAY for our enemies, ESPECIALLY those who persecute us. Those who persecute us and the situations that make life so challenging are NOT the mountains He was talking about moving…. the mountains we are meant to move are INSIDE our enemy and WITHIN our situations. We are not to pray for their removal or destruction but for their DELIVERANCE and alignment with God’s plan. Consider this possibility as we wrap up… sure, our current mountain may seem like a murderous, threatening Saul bent on our destruction, but the reason God won’t simply answer our prayer to throw it into the ocean is because this mountain had a purpose that wasn’t apparent until the sun hit it JUST right.

Gotta Have Swagger — Teer Hardy

If He isn’t moving that mountain in accordance with your prayers, then perhaps the placement of that mountain IS the answer to your prayers. Just as Saul didn’t look like an answer to prayer until AFTER his conversion, your mountain may seem like it serves no purpose other than pain and inconvenience. As we will see in next week’s article, there is more than one reason why our mountain doesn’t move. Sometimes, as we saw with Saul, it is because it is not the mountain that needs moving. If your mountain is not moving, stop praying AGAINST your mountain and start praying FOR it. Perhaps that mountain that seems bent on destroying you is your future mountaintop experience. As we see so often in Control, that enemy may be your future ally and assisting you on your path forward.

Verse of the Day - Matthew 5:44 - Highland Park Baptist Church - Lenoir  City, Tennessee

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