I'm writing a series of blogs based off your questions. If you have a question, send me an email to ReverendChrisMullis@hotmail.com. I will try to answer your questions over the next several weeks.
My question this week came from my church's Facebook page. "How much faith is enough?" That’s a great question and Jesus addressed it with his disciples.
“3 So watch yourselves! If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”
Forgiveness is Hard
My younger sister is only two years younger than me. We argued a lot when we were kids--mainly because she was a pesky little brat and I was perfect. (That's sarcastic humor. It's ok to laugh.) Sometimes when we fought, my mom would make us apologize and forgive each other. Did your parents ever make you do that? Well, my sister and I knew we had to obey our mom, even if we didn’t want to. So, we would scrunch up our faces and say threw gritted teeth, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”
The disciples weren’t little kids, but Jesus told them to forgive and they knew it would be hard. It’s one thing to forgive someone once, but Jesus said forgive them even if they wrong you seven times in one day and ask forgiveness. (By the way, Jesus was using the number seven as a figure of speech. He didn’t mean seven was the limit and you didn’t have to forgive a person on the eighth time. Jesus meant you got to keep on forgiving people for as many times needed.)
The Disciples weren’t sure they had the faith to forgive people like that. I mean it’s one thing to forgive something petty—like the childish things my sister and I argued about as kids. However, Jesus didn’t say only forgive people the little things. We’ve got to forgive them even when the offence is very serious and hurtful. It takes a lot of faith to forgive like that and the Disciples weren’t sure they had enough faith for forgiveness like that.
Jesus answers their fear by saying it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to make a mulberry tree be uprooted and planted in the sea. (At another time in Matthew 17:14-21, he was even more dramatic, saying faith the size of a mustard seed could move a whole mountain!) Which do you think is harder: moving a mulberry tree, a mountain, or saying “I forgive you?”
It takes faith.
What is Faith?
What is faith? I really liked what Refroe Watson said in his sermon last Sunday about faith. He said, “Faith is belief that you’re willing to act upon. Belief is believing your child can drive. Faith is being in [the car] while they drive. That’s what faith is.”
Faith is when your trust exceeds your fear. One time as a very small child, I climbed up in a tree and when I looked down, I got scared and froze up. I couldn’t climb down. Now, I was only three or four years old so I wasn’t really that high up; but for a small, frightened child it seemed way up! So my Dad came out and grabbed hold of me (I was just barely above his shoulders) and he said, “I’ve got you.” But I was scared and I was clinging to that tree with a death grip! When my Dad said, “Let go. I’ve got you,” I didn't let go. So he’s trying to pull me off the tree and I’m hanging on with all my might! It wasn’t until my faith in my Dad’s ability to hold me exceeded my fear of falling out of that tree that I was willing to let go and let him pick me up out of that tree and set my feet safely back on the ground again.
Faith makes you act. Fear makes you freeze. When your faith exceeds your fear—even by an amount as tiny as a mustard seed—you can move mountains. Now unfortunately, some people treat faith as if we’re just supposed to sit back and trust God to do everything for us. But that’s not what it says. Faith doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing, waiting for God to do all the mountain moving by Himself. Faith means we trust God can move that mountain—maybe even through us—and so we figure it out and get it done if that’s what God wants. We raise some money, hire a construction crew, and we get to work moving that mountain because God told us to and we want to obey and we believe Him when He says it's possible.
How Much Faith is Enough?
So the question today is: “How much faith is enough?” The short answer is, “Just a tiny bit more faith than your fears.” When your faith outranks your fear even by the tiniest amount, you move. You trust. You act on your trust. It doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid or you don’t hurt; it only means your faith is stronger than your fear. And even a little bit is enough to overcome.
Now, if your faith it starts to fade, you might give up. Some battles we fight take a long time and your faith has to sustain you through the long battle. So faith needs to be nurtured and grown. You must fortify your spirit with more and more faith every day. The battles you face today may be tiny compared to the ones that still lie ahead. So now is the time to build your faith so it will be stronger than your fears tomorrow. How do you build it?
- Ask God for more faith. God will answer this prayer.
- Fast and pray. Jesus told his disciples to do this (in so many words) when they lacked the necessary faith to cast a demon out of a child. Fasting and prayer can increase your faith power. Fasting doesn’t have to be some super discipline reserved for monks living in a monetary. Try this: Eat dinner tonight, then skip breakfast and lunch tomorrow while drinking lots of water and a few cups of juice,. Then break your fast by eating dinner tomorrow evening. You will be hungry, but you shouldn’t be overwhelmed with hunger. During your fast, try to focus on praying for more faith. (Note: please don’t attempt this if you are sick or unhealthy or diabetic. Talk to your doctor.)
- Read God’s Word. The Bible is full of faith inducing stories of real people who trusted God and experienced His faithfulness. Reading their experiences can fortify your own faith. However, we must read the Bible with faith, not cynicism. Cynicism is like a leech that sucks our faith away. Reading the Bible with a seed of faith can make the seed take root and flourish.
- Worship. Devoting time to adore God—especially surrounded by other people in the community of faith—is a powerful faith growing experience. Their is something contagious about being together in a group to honor God and sing His praises. Your faith builds up mine and my faith builds up yours as we forget our problems for a moment and focus more on the magnificence of God.
- And finally, act on the faith you have. As we step out in faith, we prove God’s trustworthiness. We start with small steps. As our faith increases, we can trust more and take bigger steps of faith. Faith starts out as a mustard seed, but then it grows into a very large plant. The mustard plant that grew in Jesus country he said grew so large birds could make nests in its branches. That's the way with faith. When we step out and start with the faith we already have, we find our faith begins to grow and grow until it sustains our whole life.