You Don’t Need More Faith

You Don’t Need More Faith July 28, 2011

You Don’t Need More Faith

A few days ago, this post was my Daily Reflection, which appears on The High Calling website and is emailed to 15,000 people each morning. It stirred up some interesting conversation, so I thought I’d share it with my blog readers.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!”

I expect the title of this reflection surprised you. Maybe it even irked you. Why in the world would I say that “you don’t need more faith”? I’ll bet you wish you had more faith. I surely do. Throughout my years as a pastor, I’ve wished for more faith hundreds of times. And I’ve heard others lament the littleness of their faith. So how can I entitle this reflection “You Don’t Need More Faith”?

Answer: Because I take seriously what Jesus said in Luke 17:6. The set up is simple. The apostles said to him, “Show us how to increase our faith” (17:5). In fact, the Greek reads more bluntly, “Increase our faith!” Like most of us, the closest followers of Jesus sensed a need to trust God more.

A mustard flower in Southern California

Jesus’ response is not what we would have expected. I would have thought Jesus would remind his disciples of what they had seen and heard. Surely, given their experience of God’s power at work in Jesus, they had ample impetus to believe God more. But Jesus didn’t do that. Rather, he said, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!” (17:6). The mustard seed was well known in Jesus’ day to be tiny. Today, Jesus might say, “If you had faith even as small as an atom (or electron, or quark, or pixel). So, even if your faith is minuscule, Jesus said, you have all the faith you need to do the impossible. You have plenty of faith to participate in the miraculous work of the kingdom of God.

But if we don’t need more faith, if we have enough already, why do we live such anemic lives? Why does it seem that we lack faith? The answer, according to Jesus, lies in the exercise of faith. One with a microscopic bit of faith can work miracles, but only by exercising that faith. We will not experience the power of God working through us in amazing ways if we’re spiritual couch potatoes, sitting around watching others serve the Lord. Rather, we need to act on the faith we have. Then, and only then, will the “mulberry trees” of our lives be thrown into the sea.

According to Jesus, you don’t need more faith. You do need to act on the faith you have, however small it might be.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to Jesus’ unexpected answer to the apostles who wanted more faith? Is God calling you to step out in faith in some risky way right now? Will you act on the faith you have?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, honestly, there is still a part of me that wants more faith. I want to believe you more, to have greater confidence in you, to be completely free of the doubts that sometimes haunt my mind.

Yet, I am taking seriously what you have said today. I have enough faith to obey you. I have enough faith to do what you have called me to. I have enough faith to take risks for you. I have enough faith to obey you.

So I thank you, dear Lord, for the faith you have enabled me to have at this point. I ask you to help me act on this faith, so that you might be glorified and so that I might know you more deeply. Amen.

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  • Rodney

    I agree with you, Mark.  I think Jesus was making fun of the idea of “quantifying” faith.  Either you have it, or you don’t.  Now, the kind of faith . . .  I wonder if that’s a different issue altogether.

  • Linda Lee

    The amount of faith we have is dependant on the ONE who that faith is in…..hence our small amount of faith puts God in the position of action -” move this mountain”.  Where we cound not move the mountain, even our small amount of faith works because we lean on, put our hope in, believe that what we cannot do, God can do.
    Faith is about God’s actions on our behalf, not our actions for God.
    Faith is about KNOWING God on a personal level so we come to trust more.
    Increasing Faith is not about power, works or miracles which the disciples probably wanted, but it is about more and more surrendering our selves to God, because we believe He is capable, and mighty to save and act. God delights in even the smallest attempt we make to draw closer to Him.  Now that is the key to revival.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Rodney.

  • Anonymous

    Indeed. Thanks, Linda.

  • steve

    Thanks for your contribution.
    I agree that you don’t need more faith in God – but for vastly different reasons.

    If my son came to me crying out for help – would I say to him:
    “Look…come back to me when you believe in me and depending on my assessment of the strength of your belief, Ill help”
    Of course not!

    Equally, would I turn around and say “Look you actually dont need more faith in me, you just need to exercise more the faith in me you do have… and then Ill help.”Again, this is not a loving response. It is a conditional, mean-spirited response.

    In fact, requiring us to satisfy any conditions (i.e. to have more faith, or exercise what faith you do have) is actually a certain path to reducing one’s faith not building it.

    Think about it: you are actually having less faith in God the more faith you think you need for him to come into your life. In fact, this is why I believe Jesus said you need next to no faith – because it is an inverse relationship. The less faith in God you think you need – the greater is your faith in Christ. This opens the door to God’s grace i.e. although we are sinners and have virtually no faith in God – we still believe God is a great God and he will still love and sustain us and answer our prayers.

    This (I believe) is the path to genuine faith.

    One more thing. Can you imagine Jesus ministering to a suicidal depressive: “Just exercise your faith more…and then Ill help you”. Exercise faith – what should that person do..?

    No. I imagine Jesus might say “There are no conditions to my helping you. You need only an atom of faith. That’s it. Ill do the rest. Leave it to me. Take my yoke….it is light. Dwell on me. I love you.”

    Personally, I think faith and belief have been totally bent out of shape – so that belief and faith have been reduced to “works” we are trying to use to win God’s favour. And this path – when you really stand back and look at it – is rowing the boat away from God – and not towards him!

    [Then again, this is only my opinion….what would I know!]