Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Mustard Seed of Faith is Great Faith

The Smallest measure of faith is adequate. It is even great faith. Jesus’ disciples requested that He increase their struggling faith. Jesus responded that even the smallest measure of faith is great faith – enough to send a tree hurtling into the sea (Luke 17:5-6).

The Biblical evidence for this is actually staggering. God had promised Abraham that he would have a child whose offspring would prove to be a blessing to the entire world. However, although Abraham never rejected his God, he certainly had given up on seeing this promise realized. Instead, He assigned a servant to be his heir instead of the promised son.

God had to set him straight by miraculously renewing His promise to him (Gen. 15), and Abraham believed, but only for a while. In the next chapter, Abraham jumped at Sarah’s suggestion that they raise a surrogate child through the womb of their servant woman, Hagar. Once again, Abraham had despaired of the promise of God.

Even after God had appeared to Abraham (Gen. 18) and promised that he’d have his promised child next year, Abraham was once again unfaithful. He allowed another man to defile Sarah’s womb. It was only by God’s intervention, and not by Abraham’s faith or courage, that Sarah was rescued (Gen. 20). More amazingly, God informed Abimelech - the one who took Abraham’s wife - that the unfaithful Abraham would have to pray for his healing.

God is faithful even when we are unfaithful (2 Tim. 2:12-13). In Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Fame” of mustard-seed-sized faith, we find many examples of this same thing. This chapter commemorates Sarah believing the God would provide her with a child, even though this was no longer naturally possible (Heb. 11:11). However, in the original account, Sarah laughed in disbelief and then lied to the Lord (Gen. 18:15). Perhaps she did have faith, but it must have been the smallest bit of faith.

Sarah is no anomaly. Moses faith was also lauded as he fled Egypt (Heb. 11:27). However, the original account shows us that Moses “feared” (Exodus 2:14-15). Finally, when God encountered Moses after His 40 years in the wilderness and directed him to return to Egypt to free His people, the Israelites, Moses baulked. He was now a broken man, reluctant to follow God anymore (Exodus 3-4). However, Moses’ faithlessness would not impede God’s plan for His life.

My favorite example of exemplary faith is the Israelites:

  • By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)
However, just prior to this, Israel was rebelling against Moses and their God, complaining that it was never their idea to leave Egypt (Exodus 14:11-12) – not the best example of faith. However, their God did find faith in them. After all, they did pass through the sea.

We always fall short of God’s standards. Peter certainly did. Jesus had warned that He would deny any who denied Him. Peter had been warned that he would deny Jesus three times, but he didn’t believe Him. He did the very thing that he had been warned not to do. However, this didn’t foil God’s plan for Peter to “Feed My sheep.” Instead, this humbling experience enabled Peter to serve his Master even better.

It is in brokenness that we do our most faithful service:

  • Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
If we desire to feed His sheep, we must first be feed with the comforts and assurances of our Savior. We must become humbled and broken before we are willing to receive from the Lord. If life is a matter of abiding in His Word, then our Savior must humble us in order to make room for that Word of assurance:

  • He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3)
This means that we are going to struggle; our faith will be stretched to the point that we feel it has utterly disappeared. I used to reassure myself that I would never let my faith slip away. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had placed my hope in myself – the very thing that our Lord doesn’t want us to do. I had to learn a painful lesson , that I couldn’t even keep my own faith. Mercifully, He brought me through the “valley of the shadow of death” to teach me this humbling but essential lesson. My Savior would have to be the One who would bear the weight of my messy life. I thought that I could stand, but He taught me that once we think that we are able and sufficient, we are ready for a fall (1 Cor. 10:12-13; 2 Cor. 3:5; John 15:4-5).

Any measure of faith is a saving faith. Even the weakest faith, the most faithless faith, cries out to Him and finds His strength in the midst of its weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10). It doesn’t matter that our faith lacks passion or even confidence. Instead, in the hands of our Lord, it is the raw material of His Kingdom:

  • Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
Jesus was able to multiply the smallest scraps of food to feed thousands. Likewise, He glorifies Himself through our flimsiest faith offering.

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