When Jesus’ disciples asked him to increase their faith, he answered, “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 17:5-6).
A lot has been said about these verses, but when we simply read them as they were written, we can see that Jesus was telling his students that their problem was not that their faith was too small. They asked, “Make our faith bigger!” and Jesus answered, “What you need is not bigger faith.”
Beloved Friends, it is not that we do not have enough faith to see us through in times of crisis. The truth is, we have more than enough faith. We have lots and lots and lots of it, and we use it all the time! The problem is not that we do not have enough faith. The problem is in where we are placing it!
Psalm 118 instructs us that “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (v.v. 8-9).
Did you know that when we worry, we are exercising our faith? This is true because when we worry, we are placing our faith in something or someone other than Almighty God. When we worry, we are placing our faith in our own strength - or in money, our job, our doctors, our leaders, or even our friends and family. And it can be especially frightening to place our faith in something we heard on the news or social media.
Worry is not faith-less. Worry is investing our faith in the wrong place.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!...The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together” (31:1,3).
Uh oh! That does not sound like a very good outcome for the one who puts their trust in the mortal world and all its trappings, instead of in God!
In the book of 2 Kings chapter 6:1-22, the prophet Elisha and his servant woke up early one morning to discover that during the night the city where they had been staying was surrounded by a hostile army. Confronted by the intimidating array of warriors, horses, and chariots, the servant was very distressed, and he ran to Elisha, crying “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” But Elisha replied, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed that the eyes of his servant would be opened so that he could see that the power of God was with them. The scripture relates that “…the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of [God’s] horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Then the prophet prayed that God would strike the surrounding army with blindness, which the Lord did. This allowed Elisha to lead the army into the hands of the king of Israel, instructing him to exercise mercy with his enemies, and this detente eventually led to peace between Israel and Syria.
The prophet Elisha did not place his faith in what he saw with his earthly eyes, or even in the fears of the people around him. He placed his faith in God and what he perceived with his spiritual eyes, because he knew that no matter what it looked like on the outside, God had a plan.
Notice, too, that Elisha did not stand idly by, waiting for God’s plan to reveal itself. Instead, he took an active part through prayer in the furtherance of God’s will for the nation. Even though Elisha did not depend on his own power, he knew that because he had developed an intimate relationship with God, he was not powerless. Elisha knew that his ability to face down the crisis was founded on the power of prayer through his faith in Almighty God.
In the New Testament, just before the crucifixion, Jesus prepared his disciples to face the most difficult crisis of their lives by saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus was reminding them that they were responsible for the condition of their hearts, and that if their hearts became troubled, the remedy was to place their belief – their faith and trust – in the Son of God.
Psalm 146 sums this up beautifully, giving us relief from the burden of worry by illustrating where to place our faith:
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!
All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.