How Much Faith?

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Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:19-20

There is a lot of theology out there that says, “If you have enough faith, you will get everything that you desire.” 

This is a dangerous belief and you will be disappointed.  Why?  Because it makes it all about you.  It places the results or lack of results on how much faith you have.  If you get results, you must have a lot of faith.  If you don’t get the results, your faith must be too small.

But wasn’t Jesus emphasizing the size of one’s faith?  In essence, wasn’t Jesus talking about the quantity of your faith?

Commentator S.K. Weber wrote: Attempting to quantify faith can be misleading. There is a common misperception today that “faith” in itself is the source of power, when true faith is actually an admission of powerlessness and a dependence on God’s power.  True faith admits that we are indeed powerless. 

Let that one sink in.  True faith admits that we are powerless.   This idea seems counterintuitive.  Wasn’t it by faith that all of the people in the Bible did marvelous deeds?  If you read Hebrews 11 you’ll find example after example of people who lived and did great things because of their faith.  But was it their faith in how much faith they had that gave them the power to overcome, or was it their faith in God who has the power to do the miraculous deeds?  How you answer this question is very important.  One answers put you front and center, the other answer puts God front and center. 

Many people misinterpret and abuse the promise, “nothing will be impossible for you” and similar statements such as John 14:13-14  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

This are not a blanket promise that say God will give us anything we desire as long as we trust in Him.  We cannot ask for murder, adultery, stealing, gambling, gossip, or anything else thing because it is not the will or nature of Jesus.  Look at what it says in John:  if you ask me anything in my name.  What does it mean to ask in the name of Jesus?   It is to ask of his very nature.  His name speaks of holiness, grace, truth, love, purity, power, majesty, and glory. His is a name that speaks of sacrifice and submission.  It means that he died for us and declared us righteous though we are sinners.  To ask in his name is to ask of those things of his nature.  

Biblical faith assumes not only a belief in God’s power, but also a heart after God’s own heart.  A heart which desires and asks for the things of God.

Biblical faith makes my will submit to God’s will.  It asks of God’s will and power and authority to move mountains so that his glory is revealed. Faith means that if God calls a person to do something, it will be accomplished through His power and the person’s trust in His power.

What is your will?  What is your desire?  Do you desire to love Jesus more than your spouse, your sons or daughters?    Do you desire to forgive your enemies?  Do you desire to love your enemies?  Do you desire to pick up your cross and follow Jesus? Do you desire to go and make disciples of all nations?

Perhaps the greatest mountain to be moved is not your circumstances but your heart.

 

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Faith in Who?

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I’ve talked to a number of people throughout the years who have left the Christian faith because of a pastor or priest who said or did things that were wrong.  Some of the wrongs were egregious in nature and some of the wrongs were more of the pastor’s or priest’s personality.  Some of the wrongs happened when they were young and some when they were much older.

Generally, by the time I talk with them, they are not only disillusioned but most are bitter.  I do not discount the hurt that these people felt and still feel.  I am saddened by what they have gone through.  At the same time, I am also saddened that they have misplaced their faith.

Your Christian faith should never rest on a pastor or priest. If it does, you are in a dangerous place.

Your Christian faith should never rest on a pastor or priest.  If it does, you are in a dangerous place.   While a pastor or priest are held to a higher standard (James 3:1, 1 Timothy 3), each pastor or priest, as godly as they might be, are fallen in sin and saved by grace just like the rest of Christians. You will be let down at some time or another and therefore your faith will crumble.  You must place your faith God and His Word.

Martin Luther, in his sermon, “The Gospel for the Early Christmas Service (Luke 2:15-20)” wrote,

“Those who believe the message on account of the one preaching it aren’t believing the Word. Neither do they believe in God through the Word. Instead, they believe in the preacher. As a result, their faith doesn’t endure.

Those who believe the Word overlook the one who is preaching it. They don’t honor the Word because of the person. On the contrary, they honor the person because of the Word. They never place the person higher than the Word. If the preacher is ruined, falls from faith, or begins preaching a different message, the believers would rather let go of the preacher than give up the Word. They would stick with the Word regardless of the person involved or the situation.

Human faith is always attached to the person. It believes, trusts, and honors the Word because of the one who speaks it. On the other hand, genuine faith clings to the Word, which is God himself.

This is the true difference between genuine and human faith. Human faith is always attached to the person. It believes, trusts, and honors the Word because of the one who speaks it. On the other hand, genuine faith clings to the Word, which is God himself. Genuine faith believes, trusts, and honors the Word because of what it is, not who said it. Faith so strongly senses that the Word is true that no one can tear it away – not even the same preacher who first brought it.”

Where does your faith rest?

Is Jesus Your Last Resort?

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There is play in football called, “The Hail Mary.”  It’s a play of a last resort, one of desperation when there seems to be very little chance of winning the game.  It goes all the way back to a 1922 game between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in which Notre Dame would say a Hail Mary prayer between each play.   Later, in 1935, with 32 seconds left in the so-called “Game of the Century” between Ohio State and Notre Dame, there was a pass that scored the game-winning touchdown.  Notre Dame head coach Elmer Layden afterwards called it a “Hail Mary” play.  The phrase has worked its way into our language and, I believe, describes much of our faith in Jesus.

We go about living our lives, trying our best because we have it in our minds that “God helps those who help themselves.”  We think, “I need to do all of this work first; I need to put all of my force into this project first and when it starts to fail, when I can’t go anymore, then I will turn to Jesus.”  We strain, we grunt, and we groan.  And then, then we cry out to Jesus. “Why oh why is this not working!”

We end up using Jesus as a last resort.

But Jesus doesn’t ever desire to be your last resort. He desires you to hold him as first above all else.  He desires for you to come to him before you begin.  He desires you to come to him during and after.   There is nothing outside of him.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17 

Oh that we would bring all of cares and all of our worries to Jesus in the first place not the last place.