4. A Little Faith is All You Need
Week Four in the Full Flame Series.
This week we are looking at the subjects of faith and fear.
How many would like to have a bigger faith?
Look at this exchange between Jesus and the disciples in Luke 17:5-6
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "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. Luke 17:5-6. NIV
There is no question that, in order to be a faithful and influential disciple of Jesus Christ, we need faith.
Faith in the goodness and grace of God.
Faith that God will do what He says He will do.
Faith to do what God tells us to do.
The very context of this exchange between Jesus and the disciples is that Jesus has just been giving them instructions about how to live as his disciples. Let me paraphrase the exchange
Jesus: This is how I want you to live…
Disciples: To do that, we need more faith. Give us more.
When the disciples asked Jesus for an increase faith, his answer must have seemed a little strange in the light of what they asked.
He didn’t zap them with more faith…
He didn’t give them an eight-step formula for stronger faith…
He talked about tiny seeds…
This is our first big idea:
You don’t need more faith.
You don’t need bigger faith, stronger faith, new and improved faith.
It’s not the size of the faith that’s important, but it is the direction of the faith, that matters in seeing significant things happen.
You don’t need bigger faith, Jesus is saying.
You need a faith that’s focused in the right direction.
We have the tendency to think we need something more in order to see big things happen.
We need more resources (money, people, buildings, programs, and so on.)
We need more talent, more leadership, more time, more faith. We need something more.
Jesus is saying that we already have what we need to see the impossible become possible. We have faith as small as a mustard seed.
There’s more to this exchange. Let’s look at Luke 17:7-10.
When a servant comes in from ploughing or taking care of sheep, he doesn't just sit down and eat. He must first prepare his master's meal and serve him his supper before eating his own. And the servant is not even thanked, because he is merely doing what he is supposed to do. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, “We are not worthy of praise. We are servants who have simply done our duty.” Luke 17:7-10. NLT
There’s another big idea here:
It’s not about getting what I want.
It’s all about what God wants.
A lot of people, when they think about bigger, stronger, or more effective faith, do it in the context of, “How can we get God to do what we want Him to do?”
I have a sick loved one, and I want enough faith so that God will heal her…
I want a job, and I want the kind of faith that will get me one…
I want the church to grow, and I want the faith to see it grow…
I read a question on a Christian question & answer site. I want to get a scholarship to go to medical school, but I’m not “scholarship material.” How do I increase my faith to please God so that He will give me a scholarship? (I have paraphrased the question, but that’s the general idea of it.)
Now sometimes, when we want the faith to see things happen, our motives can be really pure and sincere. It also goes without saying that we can also have really selfish motives as well.
We so often want the kind of faith so that what we want (good motives or bad) gets done.
Jesus highlights the fact that we are servants.
Some people have a real problem with this. Humanism has so infiltrated our culture that we think we are the masters and that God should be here to serve our purposes. Servanthood introduces us to very nasty four-letter-word:
We don’t like the idea of obedience. We want to be the masters. We want our wills done. We want to decide how things should be.
Many of you will know that I get into internet forum discussions with people who do not believe in God. One of them has an interested way of approaching things. A typical statement will be something like this:
“If there is a god, then this god will [you can fill in the blank with anything you think God should do].”
Then, when God doesn’t do what this guy thinks a god should do, he says, “See, I told you there wasn’t a god.”
If God exists, then by the very nature of God being God, He gets to set the agenda. If God really is God, then He gets to tell us what to do. It’s not the other way around.
God tells; we obey. God commands; we serve.
But, here’s the good bit, when we obey the Word of God, faith is released to do what God has told us to do.
Remember what Jesus said in the Great Commission? He told us to
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Matthew 28:19-20. NLT
There is something to be obeyed.
Then we are to teach others to also obey.
And then, in that context, Jesus adds these words.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20 NLT
When we obey what Jesus tells us to do, he promises to be there with us in power.
Here’s the third big idea:
We have to get the order right.
We say, “God, give me a great big faith, and I will use it to see great things happen for You.” The order here is: first – faith; then action. Once we have faith, we act on it.
Part of the reason for this is the way many (especially those who are older) have been taught to use money. The idea was always to make sure you had the money before you spent it. We know that spending money you don’t have can get you into big trouble.
And we do the same thing to faith. Give me faith, and I will use it.
Jesus is saying that we have to reverse the order.
He’s saying, “Act in obedience, and faith will be there.
I want to play a portion of this week’s video. You will see the whole thing in your small groups this week.
[For those reading this message online, here is the transcript.]
In Luke 17:5, the apostle said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Christians have wanted that ever since – faith in bulk. So what is the reply of Jesus?
“If you had faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
That must have puzzled the apostles. They wanted big faith, but he spoke of the smallest thing they knew. Perhaps you’ve never seen a mustard seed. … The people to whom Jesus spoke knew seeds very well. It was an agricultural society. Jesus spoke their farming language.
Today, we are a high tech society, and our expressions are scientific. Today, Jesus would use our common speech. He spoke 2000 years ago about the mustard seed, a small thing with mighty potency. Maybe today the Lord would talk about a microchip or fuse to illustrate his teaching.
If you had faith as small as an electric fuse, you could transplant a tree from soil to sea.
Like the mustard seed, the value of a fuse is not in breadth or length. The key is conductivity. Faith transfers the power of God to where it is needed….
Great power lines stretch across a whole country, carrying perhaps 110,000 volts in a single cable. Day and night, the huge power turbines are feeding the vast electrical power grid. Then, in our homes, a tiny sliver of wire is often the difference between light, warmth and energy and sitting in a dark, cold room. The vital link is the fuse.
The fuse is made of metal, such as silver wire, which offers low résistance to current. Low resistance means high conductivity.
Translated into the spiritual, the lower our resistance to the Word of God, the higher the power rating. The higher our resistance and disobedience to the Word, the lower the operational power of God.
A fuse with high resistance would either carry no power at all or else soon blow.
If we say we believe in the Word of God, but disobey it, we negate our faith. It blows the fuse. The power of God is little when the Word of God means little to us.
Whatever else may be true one thing is absolutely beyond contradiction, it is that Christianity is a power religion or it is nothing.
To be believers we should know in what we believe and who we believe.
The most basic lesson is that we must take the Word of God at face value. Without knowing God’s will, faith is impossible. The Word is the eternal will of God. To question Scripture is to question the only guide we have and to question God. … Our faith in God’s Word is directly proportionate to the power of God working through us.
We can’t generate power by anything we do – music, worship or atmosphere.
It is impossible for Christians to even meet in his name without Christ being there in power. If it were our work to produce the power of God, we would be the power generators, but Christ gave us power.
We are not called to go into the entire world with our own little power plant, so that folk will think how wonderful we are. We can parade our own charisma and make the sparks fly for an hour, but soon our generator will run out of fuel and begin coughing and dying.
We are not generators but conductors.
Jesus Christ is the fullness who fills all in all. We are channels, not the source. God does not need any of our energy dynamos. He has His own, two of them, right here on earth- the cross and the empty tomb. Power flows from them through those sources day and night without power cuts or breakdown. The voltage is unfailing and reliable. There is no fluctuating flow the Father of lights with whom is no variableness. He is our full equipment.
The spiritual energies of the cross and the resurrection - powerlines of the Word of God; the fuse of our faith is the vital link.
The greatness of God, the greatness of the work of Christ, the greatness of the Word of God are all there, but without faith as small as a fuse wire none of that greatness avails. The circuit is broken. The power bridge is down.
If the faith fuse fails, the dynamic of God is defused and will be refused by those to whom we preach.
Take the Word, put in the faith fuse, and the power of God comes through. There will be light, warmth, energy, salvation, healing, strength and blessing.
Our faith is no towering sensation that everybody sees and gasps. It is the hidden fuse, but by it the energies of heaven flow into the world.
Our modern culture operates on the principle of:
If I see it, then I will believe it.
It’s the principle Thomas used when the others told him about Jesus being raised from the dead. I have to see the scars in his hands and sides, and then I will believe.
It’s the principle used by many who don’t believe…
It is also used by some Christians.
See first, then believe…
Get faith first, then act…
Jesus had a habit of turning human reasoning around. To him it was a case of:
Believe it, then you will see.
Let me pick up on three quotes from the segment you just watched.
Reinhard Bonnke said,
“We are not generators but conductors.”
We don’t make things happen. God does it – though us.
He went on to say:
“The lower our resistance to the Word of God, the higher the power rating. The higher our resistance and disobedience to the Word, the lower the operational power of God.”
The power comes through putting to use the faith we already have.
One last statement:
Whatever else may be true one thing is absolutely beyond contradiction, it is that Christianity is a power religion or it is nothing.
1 Corinthians 4:20 says this:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 1 Corinthians 4:20. NIV
Let me get personal for a minute…
When we were a much bigger church than we are today, I used to think we could build an even bigger church on the talent and abilities we had back then. That was a foolish assumption. The kingdom of God isn’t about talent. It’s about the power of God. Today, we are much smaller than we used to be. We don’t have the abundance of talent that we used to have.
The temptation is to think that we can’t do as much as we used to do. But that would be a lie. God has never been very concerned about the size or ability of those He chooses.
He reduced Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300…
Jesus chose 12 guys whose talent was questionable…
We are exactly the right size for God to use us to make a difference in this city.
How do I know that?
Because with God, any size is just the right size.
We don’t need to have more before God can use us.
We simply have to act in obedience with what we’ve got.
Where’s the power today?
Where’s the power to see
o lives transformed,
o sickness healed, and
o captives set free?
It’s right where it’s always been.
We don’t need to ask for more faith.
We need to put into action the faith that we have.
A little faith is all you ever need.
Today, we’re going to pray for three things:
That we will recognise immediately when the Holy Spirit gives us promptings to do something.
It may be a prompting to pray for someone, visit someone who is sick, encourage someone who’s downhearted, do an act of kindness, or to speak a witness for Jesus.
I have missed many opportunities, only recognising them after they have passed.
We pray that we might recognise these divine appointments as they happen…
That we won’t spend too much time asking, “God is this You or me?”
We often don’t know at the moment that it’s happening whether it is the Holy Spirit who is prompting us or whether it is just our own thoughts.
If we spend too much time debating this in our minds, the opportunity will pass, and we will have done nothing.
We pray that we will have the courage to act on these promptings…
That we might see what God can do.
It’s not about what we can do. It’s about what God can do with the mustard seed faith that we have.
We pray that God will work in and through us this week to bring blessing to others…