“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “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)
The disciples ask Jesus a simple question, “Lord, increase our faith.”
It’s a similar cry that many of us could make, or have made, at almost any moment. We all long for deeper faith, because life is hard. Like the man in Mark 9 who says, “I believe, help my unbelief” we often live in the tension of believing and trusting in the power of God to overcome any obstacle, yet struggling with the reality that real life struggles of sickness and pain often seem unchangeable. We pray for God to act, but we also doubt that it will make a difference. Thus we cry out, Lord, increase our faith.
In the moments of the cancer diagnosis. We sit in the office and the doctor tells us the words we never want to hear; and we start to question life, and what is next. We know God has the power to heal, God is bigger than any cancer diagnosis, but we also know many faithful Christians who prayed and God never healed. Cancer is such a destructive disease that works outside of God’s power. Doubt starts to creep into our lives and we say, Lord, increase our faith.
In the moments of addiction. When we, or a loved one, is caught in the never-ending cycle of addiction, passing from sobriety to relapse, and we keep going back to the bottle, or the drug, or the internet. We know God has the power to rescue from addiction. We know God is more powerful than any vice. Yet we’ve seen so many with addictions who never find recovery that we wonder, God can act yet chooses not to. Why? And we cry out, Lord, increase our faith.
In the moments of families falling apart. When a marriage is broken. When a child will no longer talk to his or her parents. When siblings aren’t in relationship anymore or children are being mistreated. God can stop any of these problems. God can heal and reconcile all of these relationships. But will God choose to act? Can God heal? Are impossible family situations really beyond God’s control? We want to believe, but we start to doubt and ask, Lord, increase our faith.
We believe in the power of God, but real life is hard. It is filled with ups and downs, and impossible odds. It seems at times there is a mountain standing in our way, and no way to move it. In these moments we wonder, is there anything God can do about it.
Jesus’s response, you need the faith of a mustard seed.
We hear that, and at first we get depressed, because we hear Jesus say, oh ye of little faith. If only we had the faith of a mustard seed we could do great things, impossible things. A mustard seed is not large. But we can’t do the impossible, which means our faith must be tiny. We begin to wonder, wow, how small is our faith?
But what if Jesus is actually trying to encourage us. Faith the size of a mustard seed is all that is needed to cause amazing, extraordinary things to take place, such as causing a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. If that’s what can happen with small faith, image what God can do with our faith? We, who have been following God for years. We who have buried the old life in baptism, and been raised to new life in Jesus Christ. We who are dedicated disciples, trying our best to follow with our whole hearts. We do believe. We do trust. We know God is faithful. If God can move mountains with tiny faith, imagine what God can do with our faith.
We, who are of great faith. Nothing is too hard for us. We don’t need more faith, we simply need to rely on the Spirit who lives within us. We can’t move mountains, we can’t uproot trees, but the Holy Spirit can. And the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. We have been sealed with the Spirit. We live in the power of the Spirit.
The Lord has increased our faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit.