Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 7, 2007
How to Increase Your Faith
In the middle of the Great Depression, the early 1930’s, a young man named B. B. McKinney was the pastor’s assistant at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He was blessed to have a job but burdened for so many men walking the streets in search of work. They appeared so forlorn with thread-bare coats turned up at the collar against the biting wind. Some of them no doubt had children who needed food and clothing and fuel for the fire. It was out of that experience that McKinney wrote the words and music that my generation grew up singing.
Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely,
He sees and knows all the way you have trod;
Never alone are the least of His children;
Have faith in God, have faith in God.
In the gospel reading for today, 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 the mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it will obey you” (vv. 5-6). Three simple statements guide us in the increase of faith.
I. Start with a living faith.
The words of Jesus imply a real condition, so that it might be translated also, “since you have faith. . .”
Dead things don’t grow. A living faith will grow as we feed it and exercise it. Toward the close of this gospel, after John had described seven miraculous signs demonstrating the mighty power of Christ, he told us why they are written. It is so “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31). Then, though your faith may be small – –
II. Exercise what faith you have.
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say . . .
The first “if” of Jesus was a real condition, assuming His disciples do have faith. This second “if” changes to different kind of conditional sentence. Jesus is suggesting: Even though you have faith, you are not using it. If you would use your faith you could see some amazing things.
How does one exercise faith? Try laying hold of the promises of God. Abraham went up Mt. Moriah with his young son Isaac asking, “Father? . . .the fire and wood are here, . . .but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered: “God himself will provide the lamb” (Gen 21:7-8).
When Caleb came to Joshua after the nation finally entered the Promised Land, he said, “”Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. . . . The Lord helping me, I will drive [the Amalakites] out just as he said (Josh. 145:12).
When Jonathan, King Saul’s son went out with his armor bearer to fight the Philistines, he said to the youngster: “Come, let’s go over to the outpost . . . . Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few (1 Sam. 14:6). That is bold faith. If you want to increase your faith, start with a living faith however small and exercise it. And one more thing:
III. Give it time.
The significance of the mustard seed is that it is so tiny but it grows into a tree-sized herb. Faith also may be small at first, but if it is a living thing, it will grow. The significance of the Mulberry tree in this passage (or Sycamine tree” in AV) is that it is a great tree. In another telling of this saying of Jesus, it is not just a tree but a whole mountain that may be ordered to go jump in the sea! (Matt. 21:21).
These apostles did not yet know that they were about to embark on a missions enterprise that would be even more amazing than either miracle. They would bear the gospel of Christ among the nations of the world and see it bear fruit. Not all at once are our prayers answered. Not all at once are our burdens lifted. Not always in an instant are our problems solved, but we can see our faith grow and increase as we exercise it.
Have faith in God; He’s on His throne;
Have faith in God, he watches o’er His own;
He cannot fail, he must prevail;
Have faith in God, Have faith in God.
(Austin B. Tucker)