Faith: Taking God’s Word for reality itself. That’s how one friend puts it.
Faith: The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. That’s how one epistle writer puts it.
The apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”
But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake’, and it would do it.” ~(msg: Luke 17:5-6)
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it would obey you.” ~(nas: Luke 17:5-6)
I don’t know why I think I need “bigger” faith. Perhaps it’s because there is a part of me that wants to believe that if I could conjure up more faith, more stuff would break loose in my life. I think that’s why the prosperity gospel is so popular. Just say it enough times and you can make it happen.
But all that does is make me God. And I don’t think that’s a good idea.
The point of what Jesus is saying, and what I am learning it seems continually, is not the size of my faith, but rather, the size of the God I place my faith in. I remember being struck by this as I listened to N.T.Wright’s audiobook, Small Faith – Great God.
Jesus had just laid some serious, Christ-like living instruction in the verses previous to the disciples’ impassioned plea. I think I can identify with them easily. Jesus set the standard so high that, it just seems, I need incredible faith to ever attain it. But Jesus corrects their (my) faulty thinking by stating the problem wasn’t in the “size” of their faith. In fact, he goes beyond that and says there is clearly nothing wrong with their faith – their faith can accomplish incredible things….miraculous things….things that you would think only Jesus could do.
And there’s the rub. We know we’re supposed to be like Jesus, but we really don’t think we could ever live like Jesus.
I mean, really, do you really believe Jesus when he says you could uproot trees and throw them around? Really believe that? I don’t. That’s the problem I’ve identified in my life. It just seems like Jesus is speaking in the worse kind of hyperbole there is. He dangles the big, enticing carrot of the Christ-like life out in front of us, but never delivers. I don’t know anyone who has achieved this level of sanctification.
And that’s where my problem lies.
I’m as immature as those fishermen standing in front of him that day. I can easily boil the Christian walk down to a Harry Potteresque lifestyle. If I could just conjure ‘it’ up enough, I could be tossing trees and filling the seas! And in my depraved, prideful mind, I think that would be so cool – I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in on that small group?
And then I realize that my eyes are still focused on me.
The purpose Jesus’, seeming ludicrous, statements is not to infatuate his followers with their own personal grandeur. The purpose of this wonderful, environmentally unfriendly, statement is to get his followers to pull their attention away from themselves and place it where it should have been all along: on the Giver of the gift.
I’ve received the gift of faith, it came from a gracious God and I think I have all I’ll ever need. What the disciples needed to understand, and what I am coming to understand, is that God doesn’t call me to conjure up greater faith; he calls me to place that faith in a greater God.
A greater God than the god of self. Now, there’s a God worth living for.