Luke 17: 1-10
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! 2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. 3 So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. 4 Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” 6 The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you! 7 “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? 8 No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ 9 And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”
We have seen that the disciple’s response to hearing about an increase in forgiveness was to ask for an increase in faith. Forgiveness challenges our faith, and now in part two as we look at Jesus response to their request for an increase in faith we will discover what faith is really about.
Jesus replied to their request for an increase in faith with these words , “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.” I don’t think this was the answer the disciples were looking for or even the one we might have anticipated. They wanted more because when they looked at sin they felt like their faith fell short. Like the disciples we sometimes get the idea that our relationship with God is like a gas tank that needs filling. This is because we all have times when we feel spiritually “low” and we also have times when, after a mountain top moment, we feel encouraged and it’s as if our tank has been filled back up. So why didn’t Jesus just pray for them and ask God to grant and give them more faith? After all they felt like their faith tanks were failing! It’s because Faith is not like a gas tank that constantly needs topping up, just as the church is not a gas station that merely exists to service your Christianity. We are a lot like the original disciples who thought that if they could have more faith they could be better disciples. We have a flawed faith formula today, we think that more equates to move, we think it takes more to move mountains. We look at our life and feel like we should be doing better so we say to ourselves, “If only I had more faith, then I could be a better disciple.” So we say to God the same thing the disciples said, Increase my faith! If we look at the Greek verb the original language reveals that the disciples did have faith at least as small as a mustard seed. Their response to sin was to see a shortage, Jesus saw a seed. Even though a mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds Jesus was saying “You do have faith and even if it is small, you can still do great things!” Their faith problem wasn’t an amount issue but an attitude that led to inaction. The issue was that they had enough faith they just weren’t using it. The disciples, like us, were asking for the wrong thing. They didn’t need to increase their faith they needed to increase their faithfulness and there is a big difference.
Faith is a gift from God, He gives us the amount, it never runs out but we have to put it into action. To ask God to increase our faith doesn’t just reveal our ignorance but it is an insult. Jesus transitions from the seed of faith to the service of faithfulness. Faithfulness is the response of faith, it’s what we do with our faith, the action and that is up to us. Faithfulness is living loyalty bound in love for the one we put our trust in. When we accept Jesus as Savior we put our faith in him, when we respond to Jesus as Lord, we put our faithfulness in him. The disciples are calling on Jesus as Lord because it’s not enough to say Jesus save me and see you later. The day we surrender to Jesus is not the day He becomes our security blanket it is the day we become His servants. The day we accept salvation is the day we die, we are no longer who we were. Before Jesus it’s about self after it’s about serve, we must give our entire life, every muscle and every movement. The question becomes will I crucify every cell, will I say, “God, here I am your surrendered servant, use me as you wish.” When we do we have to be willing to be faithful, when God says, “here’s what I want you to” we have to be faithful to do it. It’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of faithfulness. The problem today is that we like excuses, we say things like, “I’m not ready, I’m not prepared enough, I need to learn more, I need God to give me more faith.” The reason we fail is not a lack of faith it’s faithfulness, if you are a Christian, you are ready to do whatever God wants you to do. He is your Father, He knows you, all you need to do is be faithful, we don’t need to add we need to act. He has sent His Spirit to saturate and reign supreme and it’s time to show the seed of your faith by stepping out and relying on His strength not your own, that’s faithfulness.
Jesus leaves us with a short parable to help put things in the right perspective, the seed of faith is expressed as we faithfully serve. Jesus teaches that for a servant the end of one service should be the beginning of another. Our attitude today is that we serve then expect to be served. But notice that after working for God the servant waited on God. Christ should be served before self and we need to ask why are we serving? Today many are constantly looking for glory and praise from being a “significant” Christian who serves? Jesus made it clear that we are to simply do the things he asks us to do and reflect any praise we might receive away from ourselves. We’re only doing what he asks and in the end the honor is not found in the accomplishments and accolades but in the invitation of the Almighty. When it comes to faithfulness God does not give us a medal He given us a model, His Son the suffering servant. Servants aren’t self-absorbed they are Savior absorbed and when we get to feeling like something is not quite right in our walk with God, it’s not that we lack faith often it’s that we lack faithfulness. When we feel like our spiritual tank is running low we can’t come to church and say, “Fill me up so I can follow” we can’t blame the worship team because we are not feeling it. Have you ever noticed that those who are the most spiritual mature are those that are faithful to serve God. They are the people that are doing what it is that God wants them to be doing, living their life for Him, not for themselves. They aren’t focused on their own tanks, but others, because they know God will take care of them. Faithfulness gives us the proper perspective bringing us to the place of peace. Serving brings security, we stop fretting about becoming empty and the need to be filled because our focus is the fullness of faith. It’s only when we start using our faith that we see how full it is, until then we just hoard it to ourselves worried that we’re going to lose it. Faithfulness gives me the kind of focus and perspective to forgive. Christ says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Have you lost your life yet?