Daily D – Luke 17:5
The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” LUKE 17:5 (NLT)
A song on Amazon Alexa’s Praise and Worship playlist talks about mountains being cast into the depths of the sea. The audience cheers when these words are sung. This always makes me stop and ponder. Are they excited about how great our God is, or are they excited about spectacular miracles?
Every text has a context. This request to Jesus from the apostles for more faith happens in a rather mundane setting. Jesus said, “Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive,” (v. 4). So, in effect, the apostles are asking for miracle-level patience. This is a text for quarantined people. This is a text for those footloose and fancy-free souls who are told by the officials, “Y’all stay home!”
The apostles asked for a faith increase not to engage in mountain-tossing or mulberry-uprooting activity, but to be able to get along with people who bugged the snot out of them. After a month of confinement with increasingly irritating people, we may be able to relate to the apostles’ request.
So what’s the big deal about mulberry bushes? Apparently, the kind Jesus referred to here were well known for their deep roots. The accepted wisdom was that they could live for six hundred years. Something that old and that deeply rooted would be hard to dislodge. Jesus said, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!” (v. 6).
The controlling idea here is not mulberries and mountains, but God’s power. Those things which seem extraordinarily laborious or physically impossible to us are no big deal to him. He who spoke the world into existence can rearrange it with a word if he wants. Do not settle for a religion of fun and profit like the guy on television blowing at the camera and telling the Wuhan Virus to go away while asking you for your part of his $330,000,000 budget. Settle only for knowing and experiencing God.
Notice what else Jesus says in this context. In vv. 7-10, he tells about servants serving. They did their duty. They fulfilled the expectations placed upon them. They did not get extra pay for ordinary work. Some people apparently believe that if they do what they are supposed to do that they should be rewarded above and beyond the pay scale. Was Jesus being cheap or unkind? No. Instead, he was reorienting expectations. Our great demonstrations of faith and faithful duty do not place God in our debt.
If we promise real hard to be good, God is in no way obligated to smile and say, “Okay, this time I will let you have what you want.”
Increased faith is about the object, not the amount.
Faith increases as we get to know and experience God. The more we see him for who he is, the more we trust him, the more closely we walk with him, the less we beg him for things that do not really matter. It is a greater demonstration of faith to pray, “Our Father, whatever you want, that is what I want, too,” than to promise him all you have and more.
Maybe you need miracle-level patience today. Perhaps you need miracle-level powers of forgiveness. Maybe you need miracle-level healing. The power is not in your promise; the power is in the presence of our God. He re-orients our vision to see what he sees, to experience his purpose, to follow his path wherever it may lead. As Easter reminds us, and as Frederick Buechner informs us,
“The worst isn’t the last thing about the world. It’s the next to the last thing. The last thing is the best. It’s the power from on high that comes down into the world, that wells up from the rock-bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring. Can you believe it? The last, best thing is the laughing deep in the hearts of the saints, sometimes our hearts even. Yes. You are terribly loved and forgiven. Yes. You are healed. All is well.”
The Final Beast (HarperCollins; Second Edition edition, 1982)
When you and I know Jesus as Savior, the last thing that will ever happen to us in this life is the best thing that will ever happen to us. (Hat tip: Jim Denison, Denison Forum) Why bother with mulberry bushes, mountains, and religion for fun and profit? We get to know and experience our Father in heaven who has better things in mind for us than we could ever dream or ask. Nothing is impossible for him.
The question is not how much faith do you have? The question is, “What does knowing and experiencing God make possible?” Let’s live the rest of our lives and all eternity discovering the answer to that question.
I will go all in on God.
Our Father, you are great! My faith is not. I am more mustard seed than I care to admit. You are greater than I suspect. I want to know and experience you day by day and moment by moment. I want to live the kind of life where miracles are mundane not because I control you, but because you control all things including my ability to see all that you are doing around me all the time. Open my eyes to see your reality. Empower me to join you in what you seek to accomplish in spite of how improbable or impossible it may appear to me. I trust you. My faith is in you. Amen.
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Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy. (CSB)
Matthew 14:29 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter answered him, “command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. (CSB)
Matthew 14:19, 20 Then he commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, looking up to heaven, he blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate and was satisfied. They picked up twelve baskets full of leftover pieces. (CSB)