Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Nature of Faith

Recently in a message I spoke about faith not being something that we muster up in our own power.  Neither is it just a matter of us hoping really hard that something is true.  It is not a crutch that we lean on when there is nothing else to lean on.  Biblical faith believes that God is and that what he says is true and that he has the power to back up what he says and such a faith is happy to rest in that.
My good friend Reid Ferguson pointed out some biblical texts that teaches some important truths about faith.  It helps us get away from the idea that if I will just believe harder than I do now, if I can grow my faith, I can trust God more.  I hope I don’t go beyond what he meant to say about these passages and if I do then hopefully he will correct me, but here is what I gleaned from his words.
Luke 17:5-6 says,  The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"  And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.” Here the apostles seem to think they need a bigger faith but Jesus ignores their request and says that you just need a faith, any faith, faith the size of a mustard see.  The size of your faith isn’t important, it is the object of your faith that matters.  Either you believe God’s Word and the God of the Word or you do not.  The same holds true in Matt. 17:20 where the KJV correctly translates “little faith” as unbelief.  Here the disciples were unable to cast out demons as Jesus did “and Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”  It isn’t that they didn’t have saving faith but in this case, they weren’t using it and so could not overcome the challenge.
In Matt. 8:25-26 we see this taught a little differently,  “And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing."  And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” Here the Greek word for little has the idea of duration and can be translated “few” faiths.  The idea is not that they didn’t have a big enough faith but they had a now and then faith.  Why did they believe Jesus would take care of them while the sea was calm but not in the storm?  Is he not the same Lord on the shore as he is on the sea?  A strong faith is a continuing faith.  It knows that God is sovereign just as much today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow.
Perhaps our prayer should not be so much that the Lord would increase our faith as much as it should be that we believe what we already know about God and live accordingly.  I don’t want to sound simplistic; you might be asking yourself, “but is it wrong to want to have a greater faith?”  That is a legitimate prayer; we do need a stronger faith.  But that comes as we learn more of God and his will from his Word to us.  Our faith is not a substance that grows but it becomes stronger as our God becomes greater.  He, of course, can never be more than he has always been but our understanding of his greatness can surely become greater.  So we grow in faith the more we come to know the kind of God we have. 
Here then we can pray that our faith grows.  Not that we just wait for him to increase it but by putting feet to our prayers and growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we study his Word.  Had the disciples remembered the day before when Jesus had fed the five thousand from practically nothing, perhaps they wouldn’t have been in such a panic in the storm.

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