Elementary Faith was/is Basic in My Life: #28
For me, “faith” began as a mustard seed, which I had to put into the ground (into my heart), then I had to care for it so that God’s Spirit could make it grow. Growth, itself, requires constant attention to keep faith on track. We must partner with the Spirit of God to build and maintain faith in ourselves before we can be of any use to anyone else. In this world, we do not give orders; we carry them out! Our orders come from Jesus in Luke`17:5-6, from Paul in I Corinthians 3:5-9, in Matthew 13:24-30, and again in Luke 22:24-30.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are fellow workmen for God; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
And a parable Jesus put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to gather them?’ But he said,’No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barns.’”
A dispute also arose among the disciples, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at the table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have continued with me in my trials; as my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Faith comes in Small Servings; nevertheless, it is enough to keep us going
There is no doubt that most of us have little faith and that we are weak in our knees. And the problem is doubt. Like Peter, we seem to undertake the impossible. In order to get to Jesus, we want to walk on water. Why is it that we always seek out the more difficult road? Do we all have to walk on the water to get to the Lord? Each one of us has to answer that question for ourselves. But if we do venture out on a risky stretch of road, we should take faith with us, and not doubt. If we set out with doubt, we are certain to sink at the first wave of trouble. Like in the case of Peter, Jesus will not be there in human form to pull us out of trouble. Jesus’ Words to Peter were, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31). We are not called upon to take unnecessary risks. There are enough troublesome waters in life, which we have to cross. These troubled waters of life scare us to the point that we practically become spiritual invalids. Like the disciples, it was fear that drove them to desperation. Jesus had to calm the storm. Jesus also had to calm their hearts. Jesus said to them, “You of little faith, why are you afraid?” (Matthew 8:23-38). Fear is the product of our doubts. And faith is there to counter fear. Jesus had these words for his people, “Fear not little flock, it is the Father’s will to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). For the worst part, fear has many advocates. And doubt always lingers in its shadow. When Jairus, the ruler of the Synagogue, was told not to bother Jesus, the Teacher, because his daughter had died, Jesus encouraged Jairus saying, “Fear not, only believe.” Jairus did believe and his daughter lived (Mark 5:36). Faith knows that the “One” who cares for the birds and the flowers shall do more than supply the needs of his children (Matthew 6:25-34). Someone once said, “When fear knocks at the door, send faith to open it, and you will find that there is no one there.”
We are not born with faith. We have to acquire faith. And with most of us, faith increases. But faith also can decrease. The disciples of Jesus knew this. That is why they asked their Lord to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). It was not just faith in God, but also faith in other human beings, and foremost faith in themselves. Particularly, those of us who are prone to sin and stand in need of forgiveness. Yes! Forgiveness! Forgiving — and then not just once or twice, but seven times seventy per day. This endless forgiveness requires a lot of faith in order that these people will change for the better. Faith also requires faith on the part of those that forgive. If they do not forgive, then they have to live with a guilty conscience. In that sense, faith helps us to clear our conscience and calm our eternal soul. We have faith, that in forgiving others that we, ourselves, are being forgiven (Matthew 6:12-15). Perhaps a noteworthy example was the relationship between Jesus and Peter. The boastful Peter declared himself willing to die with Jesus, his Teacher. Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed. In that connection, the Lord said the following to his brave disciple, “Simon, Simon, watch out, Satan has sought to sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you so that your faith may not fail. And when you come back, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32; Writer’s own translation). During the arrest of Jesus, the disciples all fled, except Peter. Peter even struck Malchus’ ear with his sword. Then Peter followed Jesus, His Lord, at a distance. Inside the courtyard, Peter began to disown Jesus, His Master. At the third denial, Peter caught the eyes of Jesus looking at him with pity and with forgiveness. Peter’s conscience awakened, the moment Peter’s eyes met Jesus’ eyes. Jesus’ look of pity and forgiveness revived Peter’s memory of what Jesus had told him. Peter was overwhelmed — with remorse and guilt! Peter went outside and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:60-62). And that prayer revived Peter. Peter did gather the other followers of Jesus and he did strengthen his brethren.
Faith, small as a crumb can become a miracle
Jesus had left the region and He traveled in the area of Sidon and Tyre. A native or Canaanite woman ran after Jesus and she cried out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. my daughter is demonized by evil” (Matthew 15:22; Writer’s own translation). Jesus, who normally responded to such pleading, refused to answer. She became so annoyed that the disciples begged Jesus to send her away. However, instead, Jesus indicated that this woman was not His responsibility because He only was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. That did not stop the Canaanite woman. She knelt down before Jesus and pleaded, “Lord help me!” Then, Jesus made a remark, which seemed to be dumbfounded. Jesus’ remark still is a puzzle today, “It is not right to take bread from the children and throw it to the dogs.” The woman was equal to the challenge! She replied, “Yes Lord, but the dogs do eat the crumbs that fall off their master’s table.” Jesus acknowledged her faith and said, “Woman, great is your faith. Be it unto you as you wish.” The recorder added, “Her daughter was healed that same hour” (Matthew 15:21-28; Writer’s own translation). What we have here is that persistence in faith shall be rewarded. Faith must not be taken for granted. Faith requires determination and persistence. Above all, faith requires extreme humility. This woman did not mind being compared to dogs, just as long as her daughter was being helped. The Canaanite woman did not ask for a whole meal, but just for some crumbs. Even, the crumbs of the Lord are sufficient for our healing and for our needs. What then, was so great in this woman’s faith? It appears to be great, that even a crumb of the Lord was enough to free her daughter from mental oppression of the demons. It is this writer’s conviction that Jesus deliberately traveled to that region to meet this woman, so that Jesus could teach his followers the real meaning of a little faith.
Faith can do things that count much
Jesus was an unwelcome guest in Simon’s home, a Pharisee. However, this incident allowed a woman, of ill-reputation, to enter Simon’s home, and she dishonored Jesus by wetting His feet with tears, wiping them with her hair, and anointing Jesus’s feet with costly ointment. In Simon’s mind, Jesus could not be a prophet and allow such a person to touch Him.
And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” And Jesus continued, “A certain creditor had two depbtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And again he said to her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:40-47, 49).
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to the one, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:11-19).
And while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the jar and poured it over Jesus’ head. But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment thus wasted? For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” And they reproached her. But Jesus said. “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:3-9).
These Examples have helped me in “My Journey of Grace”
All of these incidents and lessons are based on two things Jesus emphasized.
“He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will trust you with the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:10-13).
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lordis one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And the scribe said to him, “You are right teacher; you have truly said that He is one, and there is no other but He; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more that all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34).
In this life and in this world, I must mold my faith to serve and treat others as I want to be served and treated. It is not my faith that puts me close to God, but what I do for others (Matthew 25:40). In fact, my service can gain respect from saints and sinners. We are in the world …“as sheep among wolves and ought to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We need to learn from this parable of Jesus.
“There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’He said, ‘A hundred measures of oli.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence; for the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations” (Luke 16:1-9).