Summary: During our walk with Christ many doubt their faith and even think whether they really have a bit of it or not! They are so careful and fearful about everything they do that they miss out on all the excitement of the faith walk and having a personal ...
Opening illustration: Many years ago a shoe company in England sent one of its sales people to Africa to start a business. After a few months this salesperson sent a message back to his head office telling them that he is coming home as nobody in Africa wear shoes and therefore it is a waste of time and money being there. This shoe company did not give up, so they sent another salesperson to Africa to replace the returning one. After a few months this second salesperson sent an urgent message to head office asking them to send more order forms as nobody in Africa is wearing shoes and there are plenty of opportunities making sales. The second salesperson saw the opportunity in his situation – not the difficulties that he is facing, and more to the point, he had in himself and in his products, and because of that he succeeded where the first salesperson failed. He expected the impossible and it happened.
The apostles, realizing that they could never live up to these expectations in their own strength, said, “Increase our faith” (v.5). Jesus promised that if they had a small grain of faith they would be able to remove whatever stood in the way of their obedience to these commands (v.6). He then told a parable to show them the need to fulfill these obligations cheerfully out of love rather than grudgingly or with an eye on being rewarded (vs.7-10).
We are to humbly depend on the Lord and obey Him because our hearts are full of love and gratitude. Anything less is unworthy of even a thank you.
Let us turn to Luke 17 and catch up with the apostles as they ask Jesus to increase their faith …
Introduction: “If I just had more faith …” I think most of us have struggled with that at some point in our lives. If I just had more faith I wouldn’t have so many questions or doubts. If I just had more faith God would answer my prayers. If I just had more faith he wouldn’t have died; she would have recovered. If I just had more faith I would be more involved in the church. If I just had more faith I would be a better person, a better parent, a better spouse. If I just had more faith I would know what to do, I would handle things better. If I just had more faith life would be different.
It is an approach to faith at least as old as the apostles’ own faith. It is the approach they have taken in today’s gospel. “Increase our faith,” they ask Jesus. Jesus has just warned them not to become stumbling blocks to others and enjoined them to forgive as often as an offender repents even if it is seven times in one day. That will be difficult. It will be a challenge to live that way. “Increase our faith,” is their response. It seems like a reasonable request. If a little is good a lot must be better. If McDonald’s can supersize our fries and drink surely Jesus can supersize our faith.
How to increase your faith?
1. Expect IMPOSSIBLE things to happen (vs. 5-6)
Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus’ reply in a similar fashion, but instead of uprooting a tree, Matthew records Jesus saying you can move mountains!
It was believed that prophets would “uproot mountains” which is exactly the image Jesus uses in Matthew’s account. But the idea of uprooting is also present in Luke’s account. But a little faith uproots a mulberry tree instead of a mountain. Both, however, get cast into the sea. This is not a small feat by any means, and a little faith is the key to it.
It appears that Jesus is setting up an impossible goal for the disciples. None of them have even “mustard seed” faith apparently because there is no record of trees, much less mountains, being flung into the sea by the disciples, or anyone else for that matter.
Here’s the way we usually handle this passage. We act like Jesus is saying something that is achievable, but of course, he doesn’t mean it literally, we say. Rather, Jesus means that even a little faith can move mountains — obstacles that might be in our way. “Mountain-moving faith” we call it, or “mustard seed” faith. Remember when you could buy necklaces and bracelets that had a single mustard seed incased in a ball of plastic that magnified its size? A little faith accomplishes big things!
But suppose that’s not what Jesus means here because it never happens. The disciples never exhibit that kind of faith, as though faith were a superpower like super heroes possess. Maybe Jesus wasn’t telling them they needed more faith, maybe he was telling them they already had enough to do what they needed to do.