"And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith." Luke 17:5
What made the disciples want their faith increased? What made them dissatisfied with their current level of faith? And how did Jesus respond to their request? I'm sure we have all at times asked [or at least wished] for more faith, so this is an important request for all of us.
As we look at the context - which is always vitally important - we find Jesus had just finished two challenging statements. First, He had told them that offenses were bound to happen, but the offender was going to be in serious trouble. Second, He gave them instructions about forgiving a brother even if he came back seven times in one day for forgiveness. As the disciples listened to these sayings they exclaimed, "Increase our faith." Personally, I would have thought they would have wanted more wisdom to avoid giving offense or more strength and patience to give forgiveness. But they asked for faith.
The disciples saw how impossible it was for them to follow Christ's instructions in their current situation. There was no hope in themselves. They thought they needed a greater faith in God. Faith is trusting God. It is believing God will do what He said even when there is no evidence of it - or all the physical evidence seems to point in the other direction.
Jesus basically responded by telling them that faith was not their problem. Even faith as small as a mustard seed could to great things. Then Jesus launched into His story about the unprofitable servant.
What was Jesus trying to tell them? If in the face of impossible challenges, faith was not the problem, what was? The problem was they were still following God for what He could do for them. They were still fighting for the highest place in the coming Kingdom. They were still struggling with each other.
Jesus' point is simple: As long they had self-seeking ambition and pride the amount of faith they had was immaterial. Even if they were 100% obedient, they still would not have given God anything. If they really wanted success they needed to focus on being servants. They needed to obey, just one step at a time. Servanthood and obedience were the real issues, not faith. In fact, faith is increased through relationship which comes through obedient working with God.
In the same way we often want more faith. I don't know if we expect some magic wand to be waved over our heads so instantly we can become God's men and women of faith for this crisis hour. The Christian life is not about great dramatic events or changes. It is slow, steady progress. It is stubborn obedience to the Word of God. It is not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to. If we walk in step with God in humble servanthood, we will have all the faith we need when we need it.
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