Summary: We need to understand what the Bible means when it talks about faith. We’re going go look at a passage in which Jesus describes a faith that can uproot trees. It’s the kind of faith that pursues the improbable; the kind of faith that changes lives.
(adapted from a message by Darrel Land)
I want us to talk about “Faith” this morning. What exactly does that word mean – faith? It seems to be one of those “churchy” words that mean different things to different people being dependent on how it’s used.
Sometimes “faith” refers to a list of beliefs or a religious affiliation. People will say that they belong to a particular “faith.” Maybe they’ll ask, “What faith are you?” In other instances, someone will, “Grab that basketball and take the shot. Have faith in yourself.” Or your teenager will ask for the keys to the car and say, “C’mon, Dad. Have a little faith.” Those examples are weak and anemic in their usage of the word “faith.”
We need to understand what the Bible means when it talks about faith. We’re going go look at a passage in which Jesus describes a faith that can uproot trees. It’s the kind of faith that pursues the improbable; the kind of faith that changes lives.
Turn with me to Lk. 17:5-10. Before we read this passage together, let’s understand a little background about what’s happening in context to what Jesus is saying. In this section of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about some very important things. At this point, the disciples are probably tired.
Immediately before He teaches them about what we’re going to talk about this morning, Jesus tells them that they have to forgive someone who has wronged them even if they do it seven times a day. Their exhausted bodies and minds had trouble accepting Christ’s instruction in this matter. They just didn’t see how it could be possible. Yet, in Jesus they see a walking demonstration of unwavering peace and determination. We pick up the conversation at this point.
Let’s start by looking at Lk. 5:5-6 – The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Have you been at a point similar to this one in your life? I have and still go through periods like that now and then.) 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.”
LEARNING ABOUT FAITH
The message this morning is not about forgiveness (although it takes a solid faith in God to forgive others on a continual basis.) The message is about faith. And Jesus’ message here is pretty simple to understand. It’s straightforward. Jesus says, “You don’t need more faith. You simple have to tap into the faith that you already have. You need to embrace the faith that is in you even if it’s just a small amount.” The way Jesus phrases His response to their cry for more faith implies that they already have plenty of necessary faith. The problem was that they just weren’t using it.
Jesus isn’t discussing horticulture. He isn’t saying, “Here’s the best way to transplant a tree.” Jesus simply does what He does many other times in the Gospels: He uses what is in front of His audience to teach important truths. In this instance, it’s a mulberry tree and a mustard seed
So what’s Jesus point here? I think that Jesus is teaching his disciples in the 1st century and by extension his followers today one vitally important principle: “If you truly have enough faith in Me, there are no limits to what God can do in your life.”
Jesus’ picture of faith here is that of a mustard seed. If I were to hold a mustard seed in my hand this morning, you wouldn’t be able to see it even if you sat toward the front of this auditorium.
And Jesus uses a form of teaching that was very popular in that day. He uses hyperbole – extreme exaggeration – to make His point. He uses the smallest seed available at that time and says that amount of faith will uproot a large tree and move it to where it’s planted in the sea. It was seemingly impossible for something that small to move something that big. Jesus is telling us that even a bit of faith in God can take us a long way.
You see, we often say, “God, you do this or that and I’ll believe.” God says, “You believe and I’ll show up.”
Jesus isn’t talking about faith in ourselves. He’s not talking about faith in circumstances or luck. He’s talking about faith in God. He’s talking about faith enough to follow Him no matter what. He’s talking about living our lives based on the fact that God is faithful and will keep His promises. He’s talking about walking by faith and not by sight.
. You see our faith is only as good as the object of our faith. Now many people have faith in people or things. People talk a lot about having faith in something. I can profess all day long that I have enough faith to jump off a building and fly. (It would be nice to be able to fly when I’m stuck in traffic in Terre Haute or Indianapolis). But just claiming to have faith that I can fly doesn’t mean that I can. If I jump off a building thinking I can fly, all I can say is, “Look out below!!!!” Faith is only as good as the object of that faith’s ability to do what’s needed. Faith is believing that God is who He says He is and that He does what He says He will do. Faith is not self-confidence but confidence in God.