“And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’” Luke 17:6
We find this saying in two places in the Gospels, and in Luke it comes in response to a request from the disciples: “increase our faith.” We must look carefully at how this familiar teaching applies directly to this request.
Who among us would not ask God to increase our faith? We treat faith like a vitamin. A little faith, the grain of a mustard seed faith, is good. More must be better! Give me more! That is the disciples’ logic, and it’s ours. Thus many of the inspiring testimonies we hear revolve around what so and so did and what great faith it took to accomplish this or that. We love to hear about more faith, and we long for more faith.
Notice, however, that Jesus did not say “You have asked for more faith, and that is a good thing. God will surely give it!” No. Instead He underscored the incredible effectiveness of even the smallest amount of faith. Why?
Jesus’ point here, and the point we often miss, is not the amount of faith you have, but what you do with the faith God has given you. Indisputably God has given the gift of faith to every person. We all have a will to believe. Something pulls us higher and leads us to believe in God. You have faith. Now I say this gently, instead of whining for more faith why not act on the faith you have? You think it is too paltry? Jesus did not give you an excuse for having a tiny amount of faith. He taught you the possibilities of using that tiny amount of faith.
We see these possibilities in Jesus’ life. In both Matthew and Mark we find this teaching after His entry into the Jerusalem, a week prior to His death. In fact, reading this past Sunday the story of His triumphal entry is what drew me to this passage. His imminent death was a tremendous challenge for Him, one that He even prayed to avoid. Yet after those prayers in the Garden, He rose with a resolve to go the cross and lay down His life for you and me. Think about it. The Son, in His full humanity, relied on His faith to act. The cross was faith in action.
Goethe said that thought without action is a disease. I say faith without action is a fantasy. If you do not act on your faith, you will feel helpless and only plead for more faith. Your request is completely irrelevant. God’s answer is that He has given you what you need. Now act. Use the faith He has given you. What is the task before you? By faith, take care of it! What is the burden you have borne alone? By faith, cast it upon God and leave it there. What impulse to serve have you too long ignored? By faith, get to it!
You believe you have only little faith? You probably do. We all do. But it is enough! Act on your little faith.
Dr. Terry Ellis