Summary: Even with the simple faith of a mustard seed, God can do incredible things through us.
October 7, 2007
There was a great story in the September 2007 issue of Reader’s Digest. It goes like this:
“What’s that?” asked my young patient’s father as I hung a bag of IV fluids over her bed. “Since your daughter isn’t allowed to eat or drink anything right now,” I explained, “she’s getting infusions to keep her hydrated and energized.” “Oh,” he said, as it dawned on him. “Intravenous Red Bull.”
I need to admit to you up front that I have never had a can of Red Bull or any of the other energy drinks that are on the market, but not knowing anything about a subject has never before stopped me from preaching about it, so why should it now?
Red Bull, if you believe the advertisements, “gives you wings.” I however, have never been willing to plop down $3 for a 12 ounce can. There are a couple of hundred different energy drinks on sale. Some of the drinks on the market include:
• Jolt - $2.50 for 24 ounces
• Rock Star - $2.00 for 16 ounces
• Pure Energy Drink - $2.00 for 6.8 ounces
• Cintron Sugar Free Citrus Mango Liquid Energy - $2 for 16 ounces
• Wild Buzz – 99 cents for 12 ounces
These drinks are incredibly popular with our teenagers and young adults. I don’t have recent statistics, but in 2004, sales of these beverages which are packed with sugar and caffeine reached the $1 billion mark.
The caffeine apparently is the big incentive. Folks think that they get a caffeine buzz that keeps them alert and awake. The fact of the matter, however, is that they have about as much caffeine as a weak cup of coffee. The more important ingredient, or at least the most overrated ingredient, is taurine. Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid in our bodies which is a major constituent in bile. It stimulates the nervous system and increases energy.
As it is found in energy drinks, its synthesized version has caused anxiety, irritability, high sensitivity to noise, and even self-mutilation in rats. As these energy drinks are marketed, the stated benefits to humans include: improved performance, improved concentration and reaction speed, improved emotional status, and stimulated metabolism. All of that is theoretically possible, I suppose. The science suggests that taurine also has the potential to lower blood pressure.
For those of us my age and older, an energy drink is the equivalent of Popeye gulping down a can of spinach when he need an extra boost. When we are tired, frazzled, worn-out, or at the end of our rope, we can run into the convenience store or gas station and grab a can of Red Bull and holler out, “Give me the juice.”
Keep that in mind for a minute as we go to the Scripture lesson from Luke this morning. It comes from the long travel narrative that stretches from chapter 9 through chapter 19. Jesus and his disciples have begun to make their way down to Jerusalem for the final time. Here is just a small sampling of what they did while traveling. On the way they had to bypass hostile Samaritans, send out a seventy member advance party to the places that he was about to visit, and watch as demons gave in to his authority. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, was entertained in the home of Mary and Martha, and preached and cast out demons wherever he went. On a couple of different occasions, Jesus ate at the home of a Pharisee and had to confront arrogant, self-righteous religious scholars. He preached about greed and the storing up of treasures on earth, confronted controversy by healing on the Sabbath. He taught in parables about the lost sheep, lost coin, and the prodigal son.
My guess is that by the time we reach chapter 17, the disciples are tired. Their latest challenge from Jesus was to forgive another person who has wronged them even seven times a day. The thought of that had to wear them out. They have been challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They were still walking into the unknown, unsure of what really waited for them once they reached Jerusalem. And then in verse 5 of chapter 17, they seemingly can’t take it anymore and address Jesus by asking, “Give us more faith.” Their faith was running low. Their energy was depleted. They didn’t know if they had it in them to continue down the road. They were in the midst of an incredible spiritual fatigue. They needed a faith transplant.
Before this incident, there have been five times that faith has been mentioned in the gospel of Luke. In 5:20, after some men had let a friend down through a roof in order to get him to the place where Jesus was, the record goes like this. “When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’”