- Matthew 8:26 “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.”
- Matthew 14:31 “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?'”
- Matthew 17:20 “And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.'”
- Mark 14:38 “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Like any spiritual concept, faith is a touch chapter to write. As a writer, I work through every issue I write about, making sure I understand to the best I can what it is I am even saying. To write of faith, to teach on faith, requires a look at my own way in this world. And as our faith is never perfect, there is always much to learn.
Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as “the author and perfector of our faith.” The fact we have Someone who is called the “perfector” of our faith indicates that our faith still lacks. I take great comfort in that fact; Jesus doesn’t expect us to have perfect faith. Even when He rebukes with “O, you of little faith,” it is with the knowledge that we will fail. So in that same spirit, let’s take this week to learn ways to increase and strengthen our always-going-tneed-improving faith.
O YE OF LITTLE FAITH–DURING LIFE’S STORMS…
Read Matthew 8:23-27. What stands out to you?
Let’s start with the end of that passage. The men asked a very important questions; “what kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?” The New King James Version reads, “who can this be…”
Who is He, indeed! Faith is a vulnerable place to be. To trust our very lives to Someone, we sometimes need to remind ourselves Who it is in Whom we are placing our trust.
Read Psalm chapter 146. List all the things God does.
Continue your list as you read through chapter 147 as well.
Praise Him for all He is.
Since we have reminded ourselves of exactly who He is, let’s return to the scene by the sea in Matthew 8:23-27. Jesus’ words strike to the heart of the matter: “Why are you so fearful, o you of little faith?” And in that statement, He provided the answer to the rebuke. The disciples feared because their faith was small. They forgot the Man in the boat with them.
What was Jesus doing prior to the men getting His attention?
Jesus experienced the same storm the men battled. Yet His posture was one of slumber. We know Jesus felt temptation, hunger, grief, and even asked the Father to relieve Him of the cup of the cross. We know Jesus felt human emotions. And in this life-threatening situation, He slept.
But rather than stop to consider why the Man they trusted with the lives was sleeping, rather than connecting the dots that if Jesus was sleeping, maybe they shouldn’t be so concerned, instead of that, they panicked. They woke Him up and proclaimed their imminent death.
This was not just a group of men in a boat. These were Jesus’ very disciples. They believed He was the Son of God, the Messiah. They gave up life as they knew it to follow Him wherever He went. Not only did they hear His teachings to the crowds, they also receive the “back stage” explanations of the teachings. Of anyone in the world, this group of men knew best Who Jesus was. And yet, when the waves came up, they forgot the Man with them.
Don’t we do the same? We forget the power of the One we proclaim. Rather than taking cues from His posture, they panicked. Not only did the disciples overlook the power of the Man with them, they asked for help, and then were surprised when they received it! How like them are we?!? We cry out for help while not fully believing help will come.
Read what James has to say on this very topic in James 1:5-8. What are we taught here?
Jesus’ words of “o ye of little faith” were so appropriate. And yet, there was no long lecture, no parable. His rebuke was both gentle and clear. “Why do you fear, o you of little faith?”
What fears do you struggle with?
Fear chokes our growth.
Bring your fears to Jesus. And stay there until you truly believe that He is the one able to release you from your fears and deliver you from your storms.
Learn from this rebuke. The next time a storm rises remember Who you are with, look to Him and cue off of His posture, and when you cry out for help, believe He will give it, even if not in the way you expect.
O YE OF LITTLE FAITH–TO FOLLOW…
Read Matthew 14:22-33. What stands out to you?
There are six parts of this parable which parallel the life of faith.
- Fear: “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified…” (v. 26)
- Crying out: “…and they cried out in fear.” (v. 26)
- Comfort from Jesus: “But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'” (v. 27)
- Asking for guidance: “Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.'” (v. 28)
- Responding to the call: “And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” (v. 29)
- Failing to follow: “But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (v. 30)
Did you catch it? The cycle began all over again for Peter at fear. And Jesus’ words to Peter are His words to us: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (v. 31).
And like Peter, our fear often only subsides when the winds calm and our feet are on the solid ground our mortal minds expect. Though Peter was grabbed out of the waves by the hand of Christ, instead of more water-walking, Peter was put back in the boat.
We believe Jesus is there in crisis situations. We cry out, we wait, and we see His deliverance. Even in this story, Peter’s faith took him closer to Christ than that of his boat-mates.
And sometimes we do the same. Sometimes we ask for wisdom and follow, even when the guidance seems absurd. But like Peter, our water-walking doesn’t last long. Our faith falters, our eyes wander, and we drop back to step one: fear. Water-walking is over. Time to get back in the boat. The taste of water-walking fresh, we long for it, yet we battle our fear over and over.
In what ways has Jesus called you to some amazing adventures, but fears creep in and spoil the exhilarating walk?
What fears lock you down?
Imagine if we believed Jesus. Imagine if, instead of a wandering eye that drops us back to step one, we kept believing. Imagine the life differences made if we kept following.
Other situations may start at step one of fear, but as we progress through the process, water-walking is the final result, not merely a fleeting reality. This won’t be a study of fear. We know we aren’t supposed to fear. Rather, let’s study the Man we are to follow.
For each of the following scripture sets, identify the common quality describing Christ.
Set 1: Luke 4:25, Luke 9:27, Luke 12:44, Luke 21:3, John 8:45, John 16:7, John 18:37
Set 2: I Corinthians 1:9, I Thessalonians 5:24, I John 1:9, Revelation 1:5
Set 3: I Corinthians 4:10, Ephesians 6:10, Revelation 18:8
Set 4: I Timothy 1:17, Jude 25
These are just a four qualities of Christ. If a man who led us had these qualities, we would trust him. Let’s do the same with our Lord.
Read Hebrews 4:14-16. Describe Jesus’ knowledge of our plight.
If all the rest weren’t enough, Jesus also knows first-hand how we experience life. He’s been here. He’s done it. And He has experienced it all.
How little is our faith that we do not trust Him further than our eyes can see. Rather than rely on the predictability of crisis, let’s trust our Savior’s leading and experience long-term water-walking.
FAITH THE SIZE OF A MUSTARD SEED
I sit here struck. I read and re-read the verses for this section and I need to pause. For what I used to think about this scripture seismically shifted.
Read Matthew 17:19-20. What stands out to you?
For so long, we have read this passage as a bit of a rebuke. And it is. We link it to “o you of little faith.” And we have done that here as well. Pastors have taught about the tiny size of the mustard seed, comparing that to our even smaller measure of faith. And Jesus does that too.
What strikes me about this passage is all of that, and something more as well. In our small, mortal minds, we look at what we can see. We rely on measuring our faith by many things, all of which are measurable by human standards.
But there is more to a mustard seed than what we can see. The seed is a symbol of potential.
In previous weeks we’ve read how a mustard see grows and birds nest in its branches. But all Jesus compares is the size of the seed. He doesn’t speak of future size. He only speaks of the seed. Why He does this, we can only guess. Maybe it has something to do with the command that we only worry about today and let tomorrow worry about itself.
A seed has no control over many elements of its existence. It is planted by a farmer; it has no say as to where. It is nourished by soil; which contains minerals it cannot change. It relies on rain to sprout and grow; but it can only wait for the rain to come and trust there is enough.
A seed has all the potential in the world, but it must rely on sources external to itself for nourishment.
The message today is simple: be a seed.
Jesus’ words are simple: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)
Forget about the soil you’re planted in, and simply absorb the nourishment available. Forget about the rains, their schedule, and their amounts. Forget the sun, the future, and whether you’ll sprout branches or whither away. We worry too much about all the things we cannot possibly control.
Be a seed.
Look to Jesus to free you.
Let Him worry about the results.
What is He saying to you right now?
He promises that nothing will be impossible. And He’s the only One Who can deliver on that promise. Let Him.
THE SPIRIT IS WILLING BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK
“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” –Mark 14:38
We are small. He is big. Our flesh is weak. So we must pray. And we must watch.
Read John 3:27-31 and write out what you notice.
Success in this life depends on one thing. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). We are to die over and over to self, allowing Christ to increase.
Read the following passages and note what stands out to you.
We receive power from the Holy Spirit. And this is the same power by which Jesus overcame.
Read the following scriptures and note what is promised to the one who overcomes.
All things are possible. Our flesh is weak. But when the spirit is willing and reliant on the Spirit of God, the Spirit empowers us to overcome. And the promises to overcomes can be yours.
What is Jesus asking you?