Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Jesus takes a little and it becomes alot.


Part 4-Exponential Faith

Matthew 17:20

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pastor Brian Matherlee

A small boy riding a bus home from Sunday school was very proud of the card he had

received, which had a picture and a caption that read: “Have Faith in God.” Then to his

dismay the card slipped from his hand and fluttered out the window. “Stop the bus!” he

cried. “I’ve lost my ‘faith in God!’”

The driver pulled the bus to a stop, and as the lad climbed out and went to retrieve his

card, one of the adult riders smiled and made a comment about the innocence of youth. A

more perceptive adult observed, “All of us would be better off if we were that concerned

about our faith."

Wouldn’t you like a faith that was evidential as opposed to wishful?

Key Verse: Matthew 17:20, [Jesus says] “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’”

Where this verse is placed in Matthew’s gospel account demonstrates the up and down nature of the disciples faith. Peter gets out of the boat in chapter 14 and walks on water for a moment and then sinks. In chapter 16:5-10 they are reminded of great miracles (feeding of 5,000, which took place in chapter 14 and the feeding of the 4,000 in chapter 15) when they wonder about bread to eat. In chapter 16:13-20 Peter proclaims his belief in Jesus as the Son of God and then questions Jesus proclamation of what the future holds in 16:21-23! In 17:1-13 Peter, James and John witness the Transfiguration of Jesus and in 17:14-20 they are faced with the inadequacy of their faith in dealing with a demon possessed boy.

The mustard seed is used as an example of faith 5 times in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. 3 times they refer to the same parable which describes it as a characteristic of the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 13:31-33, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-21)

In Matthew 17 we see it in the context of deliverance for someone else. In Luke 17 we see it in the context of deliverance for themselves (disciples were overwhelmed with Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness).

1. What is the nature of exponential faith?

a. It is a gift of God.

i. The problem the disciples had in Matthew 17 with the demon-possessed boy was something new to them. They had been given authority to cast out demons by Jesus (Matthew 10:1, 8). Commentators suggest that the disciples had no success because they were treating the authority given them like a gift of magic, a bestowed power that works ex opere operato[at the cocommand of the operator]. (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (2 volumes), Pradis CD-ROM:Mt 17:19, Book Version: 5.1.50)

b. It defies logic

i. How could the smallest become the biggest?

ii. How is it that the least becomes the greatest?

c. It overcomes the insurmountable obstacles

i. Twice in Isaiah (chs. 40 & 49) the prophet refers to the obstacle of a mountain becoming a pathway for those who have endured great difficulties.

ii. In Matthew 21 Jesus has just cursed a fig tree and it withers—then he tells the disciples that they can not only do by faith what they have seen done but they can overcome the most impossible situation imaginable (throwing a mountain into the sea).

iii. What is insurmountable in your life?

d. It overcomes entrenched strongholds

i. In Luke 17, the mulberry tree could grow to 35 feet and its roots would have been exceptionally deep. Jesus points out that seemingly insignificant faith yields disproportionate results.

ii. For the disciples the stronghold of unforgiveness was an issue that they needed help with.

iii. What attitudes are entrenched in your life? Could it be a continuing sin/temptation? Could it be doubt?

e. It is always working regardless of the pace.

i. The boy was healed immediately in Matthew 17 but Jesus compared the work of the kingdom of God as a steady, permeating influence in Luke 17-works throughout the whole batch of dough.

ii. The fig tree Jesus cursed in Matthew 21 began to wither immediately but the evidence wasn’t there until later.

iii. Don’t worry that God isn’t answering prayer or working on your behalf.

iv. An elementary school teacher had a Christian student who was very outspoken about his faith. To prove a point one day, the teacher took this student to the classroom window, pointed to the sky and said, “Look up into the sky. Can you see God up there?” “No.” the student replied. “That’s because there is no God.” Smirked the teacher. “Oh.” The student said as he returned to his desk. As the teacher was making his way back up to the front of the classroom, the student turned to a classmate and said, “Look at the teacher’s head. Do you see a brain up there?” The classmate said, “Nope.” “That’s because there is no brain up there!”

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