Daily D – Luke 17:5
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
LUKE 17:5 (CSB)
Oliver Twist stood before a fat, healthy man and said, “Please, Sir, I want some more.” Where better to go when you are hungry than to a fat, healthy man who controls who gets what at mealtime? If you are not familiar with this scene, do yourself a favor and finally get around to reading this book. The movie is good, too, but the book, of course, is superior.
Among the tight-knit group of Jesus’ closest followers, his words recorded in verses 1-4 landed like an unwelcome and unpinned hand grenade. Jesus said, “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,” (verse 3).
This sounds like three instructions for the price of one. First, “Be on your guard.” Rather than meaning something like, “Keep a close watch on your brother for any sin he might commit so that you can pounce on him and correct him,” it sounds like what Jesus might have had in mind was, “Do not initiate the sin, rebuke, repent sequence yourself.” In King James English, you might paraphrase it this way: Thou shalt not start the sin cycle.
First, do not intentionally and willfully sin. Second, when someone else does sin against you, rebuke him or her. This word in English sounds harsh. Consider that a rebuke is a reprimand. It stops hurtful or harmful behavior and redirects behavior toward more harmonious and productive ends. Ken Blanchard provides a brief masterclass on this topic in his small, but powerful book, The One-Minute Manager.
Let’s review: Do not intentionally or willfully start a sin cycle. Then, if and when someone sins against you, stop the cycle of acceleration by a firm but fair reprimand. Having reset the situation to a correct starting point, forgive the person. Forgive the person again if the person starts another sin and grievance cycle, and another, and another, and another. Reprimand and forgive, reprimand and forgive, reprimand and forgive. How long does this go on? As long as necessary.
Jesus bottom-lined this line of thinking with these precise and certain words: “you must forgive him,” (verse 4). That word “must” does not leave much wriggle room. We are to work for peace, not for victory.
It is at this point that the apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.”
If we have to be nice all the time, if we have to lead with kindness, perseverance, and peace, you better up our daily dose of faith. Thirteen guys living and traveling together for days on end with all kinds of conflicts from within and without, this rule could become rather tedious.
It was at this point that Jesus completely departed from televangelist lore. He said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you,” (verse 6). They did not need more faith. They needed genuine faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus changes things. It changes us. It changes entrenched opposition. It changes lives, families, communities, and workplaces. Real faith in Jesus is powerful and effective.
Jesus used a mustard seed (tiny, tiny, tiny) and a mulberry tree (deeply, deeply rooted) as illustrations. Tiny seed-size faith can toss a mulberry tree into the sea. The mulberry of that place is said to have roots that empower it to survive for six-hundred years. That is a firmly implanted plant. Again, the point is not the size of faith, but the object. Faith is not the victory. Faith in Jesus is.
The next time you hear someone say, “If you had more faith, . . .” smile and nod and refuse to start a sin cycle. Know that what makes the difference is not the size of your faith, but the person of Jesus. Microscopic amounts of faith in Jesus reshapes lives and rebuilds worlds.
We don’t need more faith. We need more Jesus.
Who else could blow the doors off of the grave?
Who else could blow the Spirit upon a fearful gather and turn it into a joyful multitude?
Who else could turn twelve irritable men into a force for worldwide emancipation from the law of sin and death?
“Please, Sir, I want some more Jesus.”
I will place whatever measure of faith I have in Jesus.
Our Father, nothing is impossible with you including living at peace with irritable people. Nothing is impossible with you including enduring cycles of sinful behavior and resolution. Nothing is impossible with you when our focus is on you. Give us living faith for every dying moment. Give us living faith for every entrenched worldview. Give us living faith for beating back anything that would seek to rule our hearts and minds including sinful behavior that carelessly and insidiously separates us from others. Amen.
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Psalm 139:17, 18 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
2 Corinthians 5:1-5 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.