Jul 25, 2011

You Don’t Need More Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!”

I expect the title of this reflection surprised you. Maybe it even irked you. Why in the world would I say that “you don’t need more faith”? I’ll bet you wish you had more faith. I surely do. Throughout my years as a pastor, I’ve wished for more faith hundreds of times. And I’ve heard others lament the littleness of their faith. So how can I entitle this reflection “You Don’t Need More Faith”?

Answer: Because I take seriously what Jesus said in Luke 17:6. The set up is simple. The apostles said to him, “Show us how to increase our faith” (17:5). In fact, the Greek reads more bluntly, “Increase our faith!” Like most of us, the closest followers of Jesus sensed a need to trust God more.

Jesus’ response is not what we would have expected. I would have thought Jesus would remind his disciples of what they had seen and heard. Surely, given their experience of God’s power at work in Jesus, they had ample impetus to believe God more. But Jesus didn’t do that. Rather, he said, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!” (17:6). The mustard seed was well known in Jesus’ day to be tiny. Today, Jesus might say, “If you had faith even as small as an atom (or electron, or quark, or pixel). So, even if your faith is minuscule, Jesus said, you have all the faith you need to do the impossible. You have plenty of faith to participate in the miraculous work of the kingdom of God.

But if we don’t need more faith, if we have enough already, why do we live such anemic lives? Why does it seem that we lack faith? The answer, according to Jesus, lies in the exercise of faith. One with a microscopic bit of faith can work miracles, but only by exercising that faith. We will not experience the power of God working through us in amazing ways if we’re spiritual couch potatoes, sitting around watching others serve the Lord. Rather, we need to act on the faith we have. Then, and only then, will the “mulberry trees” of our lives be thrown into the sea.

According to Jesus, you don’t need more faith. You do need to act on the faith you have, however small it might be.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to Jesus’ unexpected answer to the apostles who wanted more faith? Is God calling you to step out in faith in some risky way right now? Will you act on the faith you have?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, honestly, there is still a part of me that wants more faith. I want to believe you more, to have greater confidence in you, to be completely free of the doubts that sometimes haunt my mind.

Yet, I am taking seriously what you have said today. I have enough faith to obey you. I have enough faith to do what you have called me to. I have enough faith to take risks for you. I have enough faith to obey you.

So I thank you, dear Lord, for the faith you have enabled me to have at this point. I ask you to help me act on this faith, so that you might be glorified and so that I might know you more deeply. Amen.  

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