The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” ~ Luke 17:5
The Christian life is built on the foundation of faith. It is by faith we are saved and it is by faith we are to live each day as followers of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10, Hebrews 10:36-39). Faith starts with belief, specifically a belief that Jesus is the crucified and resurrected Savior-King who gives us life from death, but faith is more than mere belief. Faith is a life-altering trust.
Because we have faith in Jesus, we trust that he is the greatest treasure and hope we can have, and we trust that his way is better. So, we follow him.
Faith in Jesus is to define the lives of people who claim to be his followers. And Jesus said about faith, “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” (Luke 17:6).
The fact is that I have never met a single person who spoke to a tree and saw it move (let alone a mountain, as Jesus said elsewhere in a similar situation). Mustard seeds aren’t that big. This means we have a lot of room to grow in our trust in Jesus.
Jesus’ words were in reply to a request by his followers. Jesus had just warned them about the dangers of sin but also called them to a life of constant forgiveness (17:1-4). The first thing Luke recorded they said was, “Increase our faith!” They recognized that for them to obey what Jesus had called them to they would need more trust.
Hebrews 11 defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, which begins with the reality that “we understand the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews goes on to describe men and women, imperfect and flawed and at sometimes faithful while at other times faithless, who nonetheless trusted God when everything was on the line. God gave them promises and they believed these promises would come true, even if it happened after their lifetimes.
Their faith was based in the past: God spoke and things became; but they kept looking forward to the future, desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” So by faith, many did great and wonderful things: they left home to live in tents and wander in wait of God’s promises; they stood nose to nose with Pharaoh and declared God’s greatness; they walked across dry land in a seabed as walls of water stood tall beside them; they “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, [and] received back their dead by resurrection.”
And then others, nameless in Hebrews 11, through their faith remained true to God even though they were tortured, mocked, beaten, imprisoned, sawn in half, destitute, homeless, and murdered. These were men and women who instead of receiving great rewards and riches in this life received the commendation of God. They were those “of whom the world was not worthy.”
Jesus said we can do great things in faith. The Bible confirms this over and over again. Sometimes the great thing is remaining fixed on Christ, joyful and hopeful, when the world around us is crashing down. Even this with faith as small as a mustard seed.
As we are to be people of faith, so we should each day echo the apostles in our prayers. It is a simple prayer as we seek the great and awesome God and say, “Lord, increase our faith!”
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.