Increase Our Faith?
Increase Our Faith?
The story is told of two brothers, one eight years old the other 10… They were very mischievous. They usually got the blame for anything that went wrong in their neighborhood, because they usually had a hand in it! Their parents were at their wits end… So they decided to take the boy‘s to the preacher, for a talk.
The youngest boy was sent in first… The pastor sat him down cross the desk from the minister, where they commenced to look at each other for about five minutes. Finally the preacher, looked at the boy, and asked, “where is God?
The eight-year-old looked under the desk and all around the room, but I didn’t see anything. So again, the minister, pointing his finger this time at the boy and asked a little louder, “where is God?” And again, the boy looked under the desk in around the room, but so nothing! So a third time, the pastor, pointing his finger at the young boy, stood up, and asked in an even louder voice, “where is God?”
At that point a little boy jumped up he ran out of the pastor‘s office… He found his older brother… And said, “we’re in big trouble this time! God is missing, and they think we did it!”
Of course, there’s no doubt that these boys had a problem. But it really wasn’t the problem they assumed. Not all together unlike the disciples in our scripture for today. The disciples had a problem… but it really wasn’t what they thought it was, either.
Jesus had been making some fairly difficult demands of his disciples. He had warned them against causing others to stumble and fall. He told him how important it was to be on the guard against sinning. He even said that they had to forgive those who repent, and ask for forgiveness, even if it was the same person, over and over and over again. As we all know we can be hard enough to forgive once… but to keep on forgiving… Seems nearly impossible. Some of the things Jesus asked his disciples to do just seemed too difficult.
So the disciples, asked Jesus for something very specific. They said, “Lord, increase our faith.”
Increase. Our. Faith.
Sounds fairly reasonable to me! Seems like asking for more faith, would be the mature and sensible, responsible thing to do. Surely it was appropriate to ask for more faith. “Lord with all of these demands that you’re giving us… With everything that you’re calling us to do… With everything you’re calling us to be… just give us more faith, and will be able to do these things.” It sounds like something a spiritually minded person would, no doubt, ask for!
But, instead of giving the disciples what they requested... instead of complementing the disciples on their maturity in asking for more faith... Jesus came down even harder on his disciples. “If you only had faith the size of a mustard seed”, Jesus said, “you could do anything I ask.” Humbling words to say the least.
In effect, Jesus was telling his disciples that the amount of faith is never the issue. By having faith at all, you have enough faith, to do anything that God wants you to do.
Of course, the problem was, the disciples had come to Jesus with what was basically an excuse, or a copout... and Jesus recognized it as such. It sounded religious, “just give us more faith”! But the fact of the matter was, they didn’t need more faith… they simply needed to be obedient.
It’s kind of like hair products. You know, hair gel and, paste, sprays that you put in your hair in order to keep it looking decent. The fact is you don’t need much of that stuff. A little goes a long way!
And according to Jesus, the same thing’s true when it comes to our faith. A little, is all you need. In fact, the tiniest of amounts is all it takes, to move mountains.
The truth is, actually... having a “little faith” is kinda like being a “little pregnant”! There’s no such thing. God says that faith the size of a mustard seed, is enough to do anything God has called us to do.
What Jesus was telling his disciples, in modern terms, is, “stop making excuses as to why you can’t, and start living out the faith you have.” Not everyone can be a preacher, or a teacher, or a leader of some sort... but we all have faith... and that faith is enough... it’s all we need to do whatever it is God has called us to do.
For most of us... faith is expressed in doing small things, ordinary things, for Christ’s sake & for God’s glory. Offering a helping hand. Being there to listen, to encourage, to support. Not taking ourselves too seriously... while offering to God our giftings and graces, in small, seemingly insignificant ways... that make a world of difference in the life of another person, and reinforce the faith we already have.
That’s how we become more Christlike. It’s how we become more faithful followers of Jesus. One step at a time! One day at a time! One moment at a time! It does not take a lot of faith... but it does take a willingness to act upon the faith we already have.
Of course, Jesus never said following him would be easy. In fact the Word of God is very clear… If you and I dedicate our lives to Christ, and follow him… then we have a cross to bear. But we follow on anyway! Because we know that following Jesus is the only way that leads to life! True life, that’s full, and abundant, and free. Life that is eternal.
Our scripture lesson today from John, does not end with an uplifting affirmation like we have in other parts of the Bible. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Or, “you are no longer servants but friends.” Here, John ends with Jesus telling the disciples they should say, “we’re unworthy servants; we’ve only done our duty.”
Where’s the great, uplifting moment of truth? Where are the trumpets, and the angels singing our praise, because of our faithfulness and dedication!? How can we get from, “you’ve only done your duty” - to - “well done thou good and faithful servant?”
My brothers and sisters, that only happens, when you and I learn to focus less on self (as in Lord increase my faith), and we begin to focus more, and more, on being more like Christ (as in not my will, but thine be done).
Instead of trying to earn God‘s favor, and the approval of others, you and I need to respond in faithful obedience to the God who loved us first, and loves us most.
Because when you and I truly learn, that obedience is better than sacrifice... and that the faith God has given us is enough… we will end up growing in Christ, and all those impossible looking things… like forgiveness, patience, and trust… Won’t be so impossible after all.