Summary: Proposition: Faith is necessary for believers to rise to God’s expectations.
Prayer that Changes Things
Rev. Sean Lester
October 17, 2004
Text: Luke 17:1-10
LK 17:1 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.  So watch yourselves.
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, `I repent,’ forgive him."
LK 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
LK 17:6 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.
LK 17:7 "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, `Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Would he not rather say, `Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ "
A. The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith in response to two difficult statements that Jesus made:
a. Christians bear a huge responsibility for how they represent Christ.
i. Carelessness as Christians leads to offense by people who don’t understand how the faith is to be carried out. When people are turned off by how Christians behave, they are likely never to respond to another believer. The result is a person certain to go to hell.
ii. The consequences for a believer are dire. Just think for a minute how you would feel if someone went to hell because of something you did. For a sincere believer, that is a shame far greater than death.
b. Secondly, Christians bear a huge responsibility for bearing other peoples’ sins.
i. People do bad things to other people, even Christians. Yet, we absolutely can’t afford to write any relationship off. So, we have no choice but to forgive people who offend us. That hurts sometimes.
ii. Often, that hurt comes from brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to forgive as often as it takes to preserve the relationship. Jesus gives this as a command, so we have to do it. Rarely does any one want to.
B. The weight of what Jesus said seems impossible to the disciples, or any disciple.
a. “Increase our faith” means “we can’t do it on our own.”
b. “Increase our faith” means, “we don’t know how to do it.”
Proposition: Faith is necessary for believers to rise to God’s expectations.
Interrogative: How does faith increase?
Transition: Jesus responded to the disciples statement to “increase their faith” by describing succinctly what is takes for faith to increase.
I. It takes a conviction that some good thing can and must be done.
a. Two truths that are implied in Jesus’ statement about the mulberry tree.
i. Even very little faith has great power.
ii. Even very little faith causes a believer to do the unimaginable and the impossible.
b. I have heard much about the limitations to ministry for Assembly of God ministry in our own district. People are too poor. People are too old. People don’t want to do anything. But that is alright by me. One great scholar made a statement that has stuck with me, “A stagnant culture causes people with vision to rise.” For instance, when Israel and the Philistines were at a stalemate because of Goliath, David, who was otherwise overlooked because of his youth, was able to rise up. In the same way, a church culture that is stymied is perfect for people of faith to rise up.
c. We can talk until we are blue in the faith about the truths of God’s Word and the way things ought to be. But faith is not a matter of mental or verbal ascent. It is a matter of getting things done. The next time it occurs to you that something must be done for the kingdom, the next move needs to be to get started.
II. It takes an initiative to go into the unknown.
a. Jesus describes this principle in reverse.
i. Faith does not grow by simply doing what is expected of you. What is expected is what has already been done. When there are no longer any real results of what is done, doing the same thing doesn’t really help.