Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Luke 17: Not More Faith, but Right Faith


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Luke 17:5-19 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. "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'?  Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'?  Does he thank did what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" 

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,  who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."  When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." 

When the apostles came to Jesus and said, "Increase our faith!" his reply did not directly answer their request. Instead, he simply said that they didn't need more faith but only the right kind of faith: "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" (v. 6). The mustard seed is a very tiny seed, smaller than a grain of sand. So, if the apostles had the right kind of faith, they don't need more faith to make things happen.

The disciples were asking the wrong question. They should instead be asking, "How can we get the right kind of mountain-moving faith?"

After pointing out they were making the wrong request about faith, he asked them a seemingly unrelated question: "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'?  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?" (vv.7-9). The obvious answer is a slave does what he does because he is a slave. It's his duty and he should expect no gratitude from his master.

But what has that got to do with faith? I believe Jesus is saying that the right kind of faith is released by the right kind of attitude towards obedience to God as our Master. Faith that will move mountain is one that simply carries out whatever is our duty to perform. When we obey the Lord and do the things we are expected to do as His servants, we will experience the faith that can move mountain. Like Moses at the Red Sea who was caught between the sea and the Egyptian army because of his obedience to lead Israel out of Egypt. So, in such situation where a "mountain" (in this case it's the Red Sea) is obstructing God's servant from carrying out their task, Moses didn't need great faith but only a mustard seed faith to produce a mighty miracle. God simply asked Moses to lift up his staff over the sea (how much faith does Moses need to do that?) and God himself performed the mountain-moving miracle--parting the Red Sea to allow some two millions Hebrews cross over on dry land.

The incident following Jesus' discussion on faith illustrates the faith principle: On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus met ten lepers who shouted, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." In response, Jesus said, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." (vv. 11-14). The Scripture tells us that "as they went they were cleansed" (v.14). So, did they have great faith? No, they only had obedience. But their obedience releases faith for the healing.

Faith is not something we have--like a thing in our pocket. Faith is fruit of obedience--it is released as we obey. That is why Paul exhorts the Galatian Christians to walk by the Spirit. If they do they will bear the "fruit of the Spirit is... faith" (Gal. 5:22, KJV).

Faith is a fruit of obedience to the Holy Spirit. When we obey, we don't need "more" faith--we will have enough (mustard seed) to move the "mountain" because it is not our faith that will move the mountain but God who responds to our obedience of faith. Moses saw the greatest miracle of his life by obeying. So did Jesus. So did the apostles in the Book of Acts. We will never have the kind of "mountain-moving" faith if we are not ready to obey like servants without question or condition.

So, we don't need more faith--only more obedience.

Father, thank You that we don't need more faith, only the right kind of faith that is released by obedience. Amen.

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