Posts Tagged ‘Christian living’

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

It’s interesting when you read some passages in the Bible and you can actually see just how right Jesus is. I mean, if there was any doubt that Jesus knew the hearts of men, He makes it pretty clear in some instances. I think I just read one.

In Matthew 17, shortly after the Transfiguration of Jesus (the subject of my 2nd run at the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation), a man brings his son who “has seizures,” or as referenced in the King James Version, is a “lunatic.” The man originally brought the boy to the disciples and asked them to cast the demon out of him. Yet the disciples, who had been given by Jesus the power to heal and exorcise demons (Mark 6:7), could not cast this demon out of the boy.

So as Jesus comes down from the mountain (one pastor I heard recently believes this to be Mt. Hermon), the man asks Jesus to heal him because the disciples couldn’t. Jesus answers. “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus then casts the demon out of the boy.

The disciples, no doubt, were astonished. They had cast out demons of others before, yet were unable to. So of course they needed to know why they no longer had this power. Matthew 17:20 is Jesus’ reply: “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Clearly, the faith that the disciples had in Jesus had suffered from a lapse. Jesus even suggests that perhaps it had not only waned, but dissipated, as he called the disciples part of an “unbelieving and perverse generation.”

Now this seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? Don’t you think God could have seen that the disciples largely had the best of intentions and let it slide, giving them the power to cast out demons? But God knew the disciples’ hearts. He knew that they at this point didn’t even have the “faith of a mustard seed.” Jesus explains how much God can do with a little bit of unassailed faith. I think throughout history He’s proven faithful Himself on this account. Look at some of the pillars of faith, not only from Hebrews 11 but from some of the early church fathers, and even these same disciples who received the power of the Holy Spirit.

But we can even see that the disciples didn’t have the necessary faith. It’s evident in the very next passage! Matthew 17:22-23: “When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.” Jesus predicted both His death and resurrection in the same sentence, and what is the disciples’ reaction? Were they excited about Him coming back to life and reigning once again? Nope, they were filled with grief because of His death! They didn’t understand the power of coming back to life. Why? Because they didn’t even have the faith of a mustard seed.

So why do we not believe that God can do great things with our belief? Even in this story, Mark 9 records that the father asks for Jesus to “help his unbelief.” As a result of his belief, Jesus casts the demon out of his son. So with our own belief, with the faith of a mustard seed, what could Jesus do for us, or through us? I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us (myself included) don’t even have the faith of a mustard seed right now. If we did, we would be moving mountains for God’s kingdom.

This is a personal challenge to me, and I’m extending it to you, the reader, as well. What can I do in examining my own life to determine how to get my heart to start acting in faith? What can I do to “help my unbelief?” I know the answer–I can’t do that myself–but I also know that God doesn’t call me to be inert. I need to move to where He is pushing me so that I can see His power and renew my faith. Hopefully, more of us can accept the call-to-action that our faith so desperately requires.

Desperate

Many folks in our church are reading the book “Radical” by David Platt. In going through it, one thing stuck out to me in the chapter we read this week about relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a simple question posed right at the end. Platt asks the reader, “Is your life characterized by a desperation for the Holy Spirit to come and take control of your life? Is your church characterized by this desperation?”

This is a really powerful question. When we think about the work of the Holy Spirit, typically it is either in a sort of behind-the-scenes, “all works together for the good” type of way, or it is in the “when I really need the Spirit, then I’ll ask for it” kind of way. Neither way is Biblical!

God has never outlined in Scripture any context where it is perfectly acceptable to go it alone. The Holy Spirit isn’t a failsafe, something that will catch you when you can’t catch yourself. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be a Guide, the Instigator of the work in your life. God is not a background character, resigned to a bit part in the play that is your life. Rather, God should be the co-star, someone that you work alongside of, or maybe even shrink back and let Him get the curtain call. Isn’t that our purpose anyway? To make Him known and to bring Him glory?

So why don’t we do this? Is it forgetfulness? Is it laziness? Or is it a conscious decision not to surrender complete control to the One who made every rock that goes into every patch of asphalt you walk or drive across? Have we deliberately chosen not to give over our steps to the One that designed the feet that make them? Any person, Christian or not, who reads this paragraph and says, “You know, I really think I’ve given over everything to God. I can’t give any more or do any better,” has failed to grasp the nature of true holiness. There is but one Spirit that requires no extra work in order to be spotless and without need to be directed.

So why aren’t we more desperate, as churches and as people, to see this power envelop our lives? Is it because we’re afraid of what we’ll be asked to do and where we’ll be asked to go if His power is pre-eminent? Is it so we’d rather someone else be imbued with such power so we can remain comfortable? If we don’t understand what it means to be under God’s power, we cannot possibly wield it in our own defense, and we can too often take the credit for things that we cannot do without it.

So today, take the challenge to begin to be desperate for the power of the Holy Spirit. Doing so may not be comfortable, but it is respectable, and your Heavenly Father is glorified when you do so. Fulfill to the best of your ability the purpose for your creation, but never do it on your own strength. When you do that, you are not desperate in vain.