If only I had More Faith
Jesus’ disciples came to him and said... "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you (Luke 17:5-6).
Why did he say that? Why didn’t he pray for them, ‘Oh God, give them more faith’? In summary, I believe the answer is that:
1: We all have faith.
2: We don’t get or need more faith.
3: By telling his disciples to put their faith into action their faith would be tested, become stronger because they'd have to deal with their doubts, and their doubts would become weaker. However, we’ll ask the question…
So, how does our faith increase?
Let’s start with two facts:
a: Faith is founded upon and activated by God’s Word.
b: We all have a measure of faith.
So, there are two important points we need to remember:
a: Paul says we all have a measure of faith.
ALL not some!
b: Then, as Jesus reply to his disciples in the verses above from Luke imply, the amount of this measure of faith isn’t the important thing. Jesus was saying we don't need more faith. Instead, we just need a seed of faith that's active and growing. The seed of faith - rooted in the Word of God.
Jesus is implying that it's the hostile growing environment that makes our faith increase or become stronger.
James puts it this way… Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
In other words, faith that is tested produces perseverance. It’s a faith that says ‘we will not give up’ - like Moses who persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27).
Peter puts it this way… (Trials) have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1Peter 1:6-7). In other words - faith that is tested grows and becomes stronger because it has become more pure. It’s less compromised by our doubts, by our natural thinking.
Andrew Murray (1828–1917) said…“When the Lord wants to lead someone to great faith, he leaves his prayers unheard.”
Here are some issues relating to seeing our faith grow:
Doubt is a bad thing because doubt is sin. As Paul says… ‘But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin’ (Romans 14:23). Doubt is the fruit of our natural thinking. Doubt can produce 'Ishmaels'. Ishmael was born because Abraham dealt with his doubts over why the promised baby wasn’t on the way by initiating a natural solution instead of waiting for the supernatural one God had in mind.
However, doubt only remains a bad thing if it is allowed to override faith. Doubt is like a film negative’s view of a situation - the reverse of what it’s meant to be. But faith turns negatives into positive versions of the same thing. Doubt can turn to faith.
Doubt can also be a sign of progress. James says that a double minded man will not receive from God. That sounds like bad news. However, the fact that a person is double minded means that, instead of dimissing God's perspective on the situation, which they could well have done in the past, they are now hearing God and wanting to believe (see James 1:6-7). Like Jesus' disciples, they just need to be inspired, to see that even with the smallest of faith they can move muntains.
We must not fight shy of difficulties because difficulties, trials and temptations test and prove our faith. As Paul says… ‘No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it’
Remember, as James reminds us...
'When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into our lives, my brothers, don't resist them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance'
(James 1:2-3 J.B.Phillips).
If our life is easy our Christian life can be at risk. Learn to bring God into the small difficulties, the ones you can get through easily on your own. Then when real trials come
you will already be used to responding to God through faith.
3: Let God fix the fix
Though God is not the source of temptations or difficulties he allows things to happen that can strengthen our faith. But we must allow God to prompt the tests of faith and not arrange them ourselves. Enthusiasm isn't the same as faith. Peter made that mistake when he tried to convince Jesus that he shouldn’t go to the cross. His natural mind and his emotions got in the way of hearing what Jesus was saying, and his believing to see the outcome (Matthew 26: 31-35). Believing and faith aren't the same. Faith is putting our beliefs into action, and God knows what we can cope with (1Corinthians 10:13). It’s the Holy Spirit who gives us the green light to reach out in faith.
4: In proportion to our faith
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) said…"Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will!"
However, as we said above, we must move according to the level of our faith.
5: A step at a time
King David’s confidence when confronting Goliath wasn’t just his trust in God. It was also his testimony in the school of faith that encouraged and inspired him.
We must recognise, therefore, that God moves us forward a step at a time, so we must not try to kill our Goliaths before we have killed our bears. What is the difference between a bear/lion and a Goliath? Bears/lions roar and look frightening. Goliaths also roar and look frightening, but they also talk and subtly try to undermine our faith.
6: A step at a time
but keep moving
When Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus (Matthew 14:25-32), he wasn’t copying Jesus walking on the water in his enthusiasm for God. Yes, he was inspired by what he saw Jesus doing but that was not enough. He couldn't step out in faith on what he saw Jesus, or anyone else doing. No, he walked on the word 'come' - the 'Rhema' or ‘living’ word that came direct from the mouth of Jesus. This word was quickened to his spirit by the Holy Spirit and faith rose in his heart and he stepped forward. Like Peter walking on the water into the unknown, we must keep moving forward into the unknown and continue to take steps of faith that are founded on God’s Word and initiated and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
D L Moody (1837–1899) said… "There are three kinds of faith in Christ:
1. Struggling faith, like a man in deep water desperately swimming.
2. Clinging faith, like a man hanging to the
side of a boat.
3. Resting faith, like a man safely within the boat (and able to reach out with a hand to help someone else get in)."
All three are good and positive, and will produce the fruit of faith. So, let’s remember… God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).
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