A few days ago as I was going over one of my favorite passages in my mind I realized something that I don’t remember seeing before. Sometimes we don’t say just what we mean.
When our children were growing up I used to go in and pray with them when they were going to bed. I remember clearly when our son prayed that God would help him be patient with his sisters. I remember telling him about the danger of praying for patience. In case you don’t know, when you pray for patience God will often give you more opportunities to become better at being patient. I think his sisters were co-operative in this case. The real point is that what he really wanted was to not be annoyed by his sisters’ behavior. There is a way to do that but that is for another time.
The passage that I am referring to is found in Luke 17. Jesus is giving instructions for our behavior here. In the first 4 verses he tells his disciples that they need to be ready to forgive those who offend them often. Even if they do that very same thing 7 times in a day and then come and repent, we are to forgive them as often as they come and repent.
At this point the disciples said something to Jesus that might not have been just exactly what they meant. What they said was, “Lord, Increase our faith.” What I suspect they meant and what I believe most of us mean when we ask the same thing of God, and that is, “Lord make it so I feel like doing what you said.”
I suspect the disciples didn’t quite understand the true nature of faith. I also believe that we are inclined to not understand it correctly as well. But God is faithful and gives us exactly what we need so that we may understand and do His Will.
Next Jesus says something that is amazing if you will think about it.
And the Lord said, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, ‘Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea’; and it should obey you.”
Jesus said what he meant, unfortunately we often don’t read or listen carefully. Sometimes we add things that weren’t said. Jesus is talking about the power that is possible with faith, not the power of wishing. Those are two very different things.
The holidays are just around the corner and I could wish that turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie with whipped cream wouldn’t add inches to my waist. But faith tells me to use discretion in what I eat and I will be able to control my weight. I am subject to the laws of diet and nutrition, no matter how much I wish it were different.
Jesus went on to show us how faith really works in verses 7 to 10. Let’s look at it in the Good News Translation.
"Suppose one of you has a servant who is plowing or looking after the sheep. When he comes in from the field, do you tell him to hurry along and eat his meal? Of course not! Instead, you say to him, 'Get my supper ready, then put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may have your meal.' The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he? It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, 'We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.' "
What just happened here?
We just went from ordering trees around to working all day then fixing dinner and serving a master who may not even be thankful. How can these things both be correct?
Something that we MUST understand is, faith is always a matter of obedience to authority. (Romans 1:5)
In the example where we started, Jesus gave the disciples instructions. Faith will obey those instructions no matter how we feel. In every area of my life God will give instructions on how to proceed if I will ask, seek and listen. Often, I will not like those instructions. I won’t feel like it. But, faith will obey and in the end say, “I am only an unprofitable servant for I have only done what I was commanded.”
Some of the things that faith will do are:
· Speak evil of no one. (Titus 3:2)
· Give thanks always for all things. (Ephesians 5:20)
· Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4)
· Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
· And, Oh yes, “Be perfect just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Now that should be something to think about.