It is amazing how you can read through a passage in the Bible for the umpteenth time and see something you have never seen before. Of the many intangible reasons for the Christian faith, this is surely one of the greatest. It happened to me again as I was reading through Luke.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)
I had read this over many times and somehow skipped over the obvious truth that the apostles who were witnessing God’s miracles on a daily basis still felt it necessary to ask for more faith. Jesus doesn’t immediately answer the question, but first says something about the power of faith.
He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:6)
As I shared in my post “The Great Stink“, this passage and others like it were always very difficult for me. It makes a lavish promise concerning the effectiveness of faith that doesn’t seem to have been fulfilled in the entire history of the church. Is faith as a mustard seed truly so rare? It wasn’t until I realized that God’s greatest miracles are miracles of conversion that I realized what was meant. Jesus then goes on to answer the question the disciples asked in the parabolic style that characterized much of his teaching:
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?
Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?
Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” (Luke 17:7-11)
So increasing our faith seems to have something to do with putting God first in our lives. If we put God first in our lives, then when we pray and ask for something it will be done for us because we are not praying for what we want, but we are praying for what he wants. This is the first thing that strikes me about this passage.
The second thing that strikes me about this passage is the practical steps that we are advised to take in order to put God first. As I read this passage, I became convinced that I want to go before God before I do anything else when I get home. It may have been a long day at work, but the passage makes it clear that putting God first means attending to him before I eat or drink when I walk in the door. We understand why this is appropriate if we consider the amount of work that God does for us as we saw in my post, “Examining God’s Provision“.
Another aspect of my behaviour that needs improving to increase my faith is changing my attitude. Somehow I feel as though I have somehow earned God’s gratitude when I have done some small obedience, but this passage makes it clear that my attitude should always be one that recognizes God’s amazing generosity and the fact that I can never earn his love.
If faith is like a muscle, then perhaps putting God first in our lives increases our faith by reminding us daily of the reality of who God is? Or perhaps if we put God first we will see more powerful answers to our prayers and this will strengthen our trust in Him? However it works, this passage convinced me that I need to do more to put God first in my life.