“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 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. “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?” Luke 17:5-10
This account of Jesus teaching His disciples is rather obscure to many people, a first reading suggests that Jesus is all over the place – He talks about forgiveness, then servants being ordered to work by a master and then what we should be like. I have discovered over time that whenever Jesus seems to be all over the place it’s actually YOU who is all over the place – for He is the Lord, He “changes not” (Malachi 3:6). Whenever you see the world moving upwards, it’s actually you that’s falling down. The subject the Lord is addressing is faith, without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)
I Talk To Trees
There was a musical movie quite famous back in the 70’s called “Paint Your Wagon a western starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood and it was the only movie in which Clint Eastwood ever sang. His song was called “I talk to the trees”… and the opening line was…
I talk to the trees but they don’t listen to me
I think this very appropriately sums up many Christians experience of the working of faith as expressed by the Lord when problems that appear deeply ‘rooted in’ like trees. I shared a few weeks ago about the “spiritual man” and one of the things I said then was that we can often spend so much time talking to our God about the tree – and not enough time talking to the tree about our God – and commanding situations submit to the word of God. But we also end up coming to the same point as the disciples, we too feel we need to ask the Lord to ‘increase our faith’ that might do the works that God wants us to be doing. For like us the disciples listened to Jesus and knew that the faith they had would not bear up unless somehow he gave them “greater” faith to live the way He lived and to do the things He told them to. We can sometimes also feel we come to points in our lives where we understand that we need more than what we have today and that we need “the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).
Jesus was talking about forgiveness and how His people should live, that is, in an attitude of constant forgiveness and live above offence at all times. “Offence” in the New Testament is the Greek word “Skandalon” literally meaning “a stone that makes you fall”, and how many people have walked out of churches and “fall” because they’ve “been offended” by someone or something! Jesus also explained the grave danger of unforgiveness in the parable of the unmerciful servant, while a person can have genuine cause for unforgiveness they themselves ended up in the same jail that the victim was in. In other words forgiving others is a win-win, they get freed as so do you!
The disciples had trouble understanding and knew they needed help to accept these things and so do we, we need help to do what the Lord expects of us. They believed that the Lord knew what He was talking about and they wanted to obey but they just could not see how this could be, so when the disciples asked for “Increased faith” the Lord surprised them by not talking to them not about quantity of their faith… but about quality of their faith.
Increase Your Focus
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
The first thing the Lord challenges his disciples about is not increasing their faith but increasing their focus. We don’t need increased faith, we need increased focus. Mustard seeds are tiny, around 1 mm in width. Though it is absolutely tiny it is full of potential. Jesus says we don’t need large amounts of poor faith, we need small seed amounts of pure faith. Poor faith has a problem. Whenever the tree is so big, the seed is tiny in comparison, in situations like David faced, when Goliath was so huge, the small smooth stone seemed significantly smaller. (1 Samuel 17) But our faith is like a precious seed, when it’s planted it always produces its aim faithfully.
The Seed Is The Word of God
Luke 8:11 – And the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God.
Romans 10:17 – Then faith is of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
IF we don’t focus on this precious seed we will see how easily it can be blown away by winds of false doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). How often do we hear a good preacher and enjoy the message but don’t apply it to our lives? The seed is blown away. We see ourselves in the mirror of God’s word and then go and forget what we’ve seen and what we are really like (James 1:24). Not only that, but the tree is so easy to focus on, it dominates the landscape by contrast. It’s so big, so real, so imposing, it’s here right now and it’s been here for generations.
In 1 Samuel 17, David’s focus was on the small smooth stones, the right stones not necessarily the biggest stones, it wasn’t about size. David focused on the fact that through God he had overcome harder than this and that the God who had delivered him from the lion and the bear would also deliver him now, for God is not a respecter of persons and the God of David is our God too. We need to remember that God is always bigger than the problem. If David had focused on the size of the giant rather than the word of the Lord within him, He could have lost. It would have been easy to listen to the possibly negative outcomes, “I could miss! “, or else the ‘wisdom’ around him… “You’re just a boy and Goliath has been a warrior from his youth ” – Saul, and unbelief, the killer of faith, could have easily creep in.
Faith As Small As A Mustard Seed
Sycamine is the ‘Black Mulberry’ tree which grows to around 50 feel high and 40 feet across . Jesus was probably pointing to one there and then and using it as a handy example. He probably at the same time pointed to the mountain (Matthew 17) as a further example. In scripture we can see the issues, issues with longstanding roots like… unforgiveness, generational curses, negativity, slack and casual attitudes, religious bitterness and so on that seem so pervasive with roots reaching everywhere. It has been that way for so long we just learn to build around these problems rather than seek to remove them. Every one of us have grown up with some form of social, emotional, conditioning. We have become accustomed to the tree and we “accommodate it” in our lives because we’ve learned that “trees of this size and duration just don’t move!” Yet Jesus tells us that we must increase focus from the tree and onto the seed (the word), to carefully handle it (not casually handle it) and focus on it and what it means so that we see for ourselves that we have something that is precious. If we don’t focus on it we will certainly lose it and its power to create! We will end up knowing it’s “somewhere” nearby but if it’s not in our hands (close to us) it will be difficult to find when we need it and when adversity’s winds blow.
A young man in the reign of bloody Mary was hanged because he was found in possession of a few lines of the Lord’s prayer written in English. Today there are smugglers taking bibles into china and places like North Korea that people might have this precious word, focus on the seed because it’s precious and lose-able.
Focus On The Seeds Potential
Looking into the word of God will let us see just who God is and what He is willing to do on behalf of His children and that’s what we are if we are given ourselves to Christ. He is willing to heal the Leper, He is willing to save and deliver to the uttermost and like any father keep his children safe from harm. It’s only when we focus and zero in on God’s word that we see these precious seed promises that are unalterable. Mustard plants always produce mustard seeds, Gods’ promises are always yes ( 2 Corinthians 1:20)
Because the seed is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) it in itself has the potential for things not seen now! As we focus upon the seed and carefully and diligently plant it in the heart (and not dig it up the next day!) we can know for sure that it is busy doing what it is designed to do, and that is produce the results it’s designed for (Isaiah 55:11). Also note – The seed looks nothing like the eventual outcome. The seed looks rather unimpressive and small (just like ink on paper) but the outcome when it’s planted within the heart of a person on his or her knees can be something amazing.
Catholic Mary queen of Scots said. “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than the armies of England!”
God’s word is just ink on paper – and the Bible is like a packet of precious seeds but when you follow the instructions and you do what the packet tell you to do it will always faithfully produce. We must focus if we want the Lord to “increase” our faith, because all future potential of everything that comes from that mustard plant is locked up in the tiny seed and without the seed there is no future.
Increase Your Forcefulness
Make Faith Work For You
“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
We don’t need increased faith – we need increased forcefulness
Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.
Jesus uses an example of a servant working all day long and then coming in from the field, because he is a servant he doesn’t expect the master to run after him “just because he’s done a job”, No, He puts him to continue to do his job and faith, your servant, works for you both inside and outside. Too often we see faith like this – we have faith sufficient to believe for the inside work – like personal salvation (because we can “feel” saved) but when it comes to the other stuff that is still in faiths job description – we think “well my faith has done ‘enough’ to get me to heaven and it’s asking too much of my faith to believe for reaching dying world … or healing the sick … or delivering the mentally possessed”. Whatever problem I have it’s either inside my house (internal to me) or outside my house (external to me). Jesus name rules over all!
IF we want increased faith we must use increased forcefulness, and become dissatisfied with the working of the servant (our faith) and stop allowing ourselves to be limited by what we think is reasonable, after all it was “reasonable” that the servant had a hard day in the field and preferred a lie down rather than coming in to work but to have increased faith we must be ready to use and make work our faith at all hours day(in the field) or night (in the house). We can make our faith work and be as confident as the master knowing that his servant was doing his job and what’s better is that we don’t even have to hover over him to make sure the job is getting done! So is our faith when we plant the seed, we don’t dig it up to see how it’s doing, we rest in the unchanging Goodness and Faithfulness of God and in His words’ ability to work all by itself.
Know that even though we get physically tired it’s simply a fact that our faith, your servant, will work DAY AND NIGHT if you command, and while you sleep your servant is still working, Inside AND outside, emotionally and physically.
“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”
One of the problems we face as Christians is that we do not see ourselves as able to do the works of Christ and to follow His commands, to go out and heal the sick and preach the Kingdom. To us this is completely unfamiliar territory, and the reason for this unfamiliarity as someone who works in faith is that we think that this is all about ourselves!
We can grasp that we need to increase focus on God’s word and its power when we obey it
and increase force and get serious about the power that is available, but we don’t grasp what the Lord is saying here which makes all the difference, and that is that all of this hinges upon our submission which brings confidence and becoming familiar in the role that God has for us as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tell us that just as faith is our servant, we must also have the same attitude ourselves and tells us that for us to have “increased faith” we need to be in absolute submission to him as servants of Christ. We must be men and women under authority which means that we don’t just operate by our own ideas, we operate in the name of Jesus Christ.
Increase Your Familiarity
Absolute Submission Brings Absolute Confidence!
We can say and do anything God says by faith, knowing that we are operating under instructions to subdue the destructive forces at work in the world. We should be familiar with the moving of the spirit and be absolutely comfortable with seeing and expecting our faith to work without and within if indeed it’s in accord with the word and therefore the will of God.
I am a servant and so are you, and therefore we are commanded to make our faith work not to try to magic up “more” faith but to understand that when I am operating in my role as a true servant of the Lord then my faith is a servant to me. Increased effectiveness of our faith only comes when we embrace the fact that this is the natural state of a believer. Jesus says “so should you be”, you should be confident to act by faith, we are only about our masters business and it’s the most natural thing in the world for a obedient servant of Christ to do the works he says we are to do, that is the works of Jesus (he who believed in me greater works will he do) and a servant doesn’t question the authority and word of the master.
The person who believes, knows that when they commands Gods word into action through faith, that it works even when they are not there, they don’t fret over it and wonder “what is the servant doing just now – no – the command has been given and his servant will obey!
We speak in the name of Jesus, it’s not our name, it’s not our goodness, it’s his precious promises. It’s our mandate to work in His name as the servants, we are and putting our “under servant” to work (our faith) and as “men under authority we can command things to be done. The centurion in Luke 7:8, who was familiar with authority, well understood this.What a joy to know its all about Jesus and not me. Our loved ones are already healed in Jesus name – but we by faith command the manifestation in Jesus name, and name the enemy and shut it down. God help us not to increase our faith – but to increase our focus on the faith we already have, to increase our forcefulness and use what we have, and to increase our familiarity with our position as servants, totally submitted to the supremacy of Gods’ word and will and operate in the good of it, healing the sick, seeking and saving the lost, declaring the kingdom.