Your Faith is Small, But God Can Still Act

mustard-seed1Some Christians think more about the size of their faith than the object of their faith. We speak of a “faith that can move mountains.” We wonder aloud about the degree of our faith. “Is it enough?” We ask ourselves. But the Bible does not focus very often on the size of a believer’s faith, but rather on the object of their faith. The Bible tells us, after all, that even when our faith is weak God can still do great things. Your faith may be small, friends, but God can still do great things.

God’s actions are not based on the quality or degree of our faith. He works according to His will with even the smallest amount of faith, sometimes even in the absence of faith he works. Look, for example, at Jesus’ stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Matthew 8:23-27 demonstrates the point. There we read:

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus calms the storm despite being able to say of the disciples that they are a people “of little faith.” They have already seen Jesus doing amazing things, healing myriads of people, but here in the boat with Jesus they are so afraid. We see a similarly interesting account in Matthew 9, with the healing of the paralytic. Matthew 9:1-8 tells the story of a paralytic man whose friends bring him to meet Jesus. Jesus heals the man, but the text tells us it is on the basis of “their faith,” that is on the basis of the faith of the friends. The text, in fact, says absolutely nothing about the faith of the paralytic himself. Jesus words “take heart my, son” suggest the discouragement and depression he may have felt. Perhaps his faith was non-existent. Perhaps the faith of his friends was all he had to offer. It’s not entirely clear from the text, but we see Jesus acts. Faith can be the size of a “mustard seed” we are told, and yet because it focuses on a powerful God it can accomplish great things (Matt. 17:20). Furthermore, even when we doubt completely God can work, just ask the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9 (see particularly verse 24). God acts despite the size of our faith.

Focusing on the faith we have can easily become idolatrous. Faith becomes a means of controlling God, of using Him to get what we really want. So, many false teachers today perpetuate a view of faith that suggests if you have the right amount God is bound to do whatever you ask. Such a view manipulates God, and binds Him to our will and demands. Such an emphasis on faith misses the point of faith. As N.T. Wright has so beautifully put it:

Faith in the Bible is always determined by its object… What matters is not so much the faith itself as what it is faith in. Faith, as we shall see, is like a window. It is not there because we happen to want one wall of the room to be made of glass. It is there for the sake of what we can see through it – and in order to let light into the room. (Small Faith, Great God, 25)

Faith is not inherently powerful or reality altering. It is the God of our faith that matters. Faith apart from the God of the Scriptures is worthless and idolatrous. Again Wright says:

the way to faith is always down the road of an enlarged view of God, a view constantly checked and revised in light of the Bible. Without this, the God we worship shrinks into an idol, formed by our own imagination. Faith in an idol is no faith worth having. (17)

So, even when our faith is small God can still act because His power is not contingent upon my belief. His will not dependent upon my prayers. His plans not restrained by my confidence. My faith is not in my faith, but rather my faith, however small, is in a great and powerful God.

Do not focus on your faith. You will never find the confidence you seek that way. After all, how much faith is enough faith? How do you know the quality or degree or depth of your faith? Where can you look to find confidence? Not in your faith, but in the object of your faith. Look to God. Trust that even when your faith is small He can still act. He does not need our puny faith to give Him license to display His grace, mercy, and power. Our faith is not irrelevant or unimportant, but it is never the focus of our attention. Our focus is on a great God who can work even when our faith is small.

 

Comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Excellent encouragement – thank you so much!

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