I walked out of the ICU, then out of the hospital. She couldn’t die, surely. She was young. She had a husband and two kids. Some of her family was attending my church. “Please, Lord, show this Catholic family that you are a God that heals.”
I think (possibly) that Jesus said, “Why don’t you walk in and heal her.” But I could be wrong. I was afraid. “What if I misunderstood? What if it’s not God’s will? What if I fail.” I didn’t. And she died. I’ve lost contact with her family. And I’ve always been a little haunted by that moment.
Did I miss it? I’m not sure. I don’t have any good answers. Only one thing is certain: I didn’t have the faith to see her healed.
So maybe you can understand my excitement when I read what the disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5: “Increase our faith!”
OK, what are they asking him to do? What is it they want from him?
How to have more faith, right? Jesus, give me a step-by-step faith-increasing plan. Give me a formula, give me a faith workout! At least that’s what it looks like they’re asking to me.
And that seems like a great question. I’ve asked the Lord many times for more faith. Now, I know Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing the word of God,” but Romans 10 is talking specifically about saving faith, the faith in Jesus as the Christ, that comes by preaching of the Gospel.
So, I am excited about coming to this verse. I’m with the disciples! “Teach me, Jesus, teach me to have more faith.” And, this is what Jesus says: “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 17:6).
Now, wait. Is it just me, or did he just completely not answer the question?
He didn’t tell them how to have more faith, he just told them what would happen if they did have it, what they could do if they did get more faith. He didn’t increase their faith, he just explained again how powerful it was.
Jesus had this way of sometimes dodging questions that is pleasantly disconcerting. But it made me wonder: Why did he not answer it? And honestly, I’m not sure of the answer to that.
But as I’ve thought over this, I want to suggest a possible solution: Maybe faith is something you either have or do not have. It’s not on a graduated system. You don’t believe God 20% or 60% or 90%. Either you believe God, or you do not. I think what Jesus is teaching us here is this: Faith isn’t something you get by degrees. (“I think I’m 60% of the way to faith for God to answer my prayer. If I do my faith workout today, tomorrow I will believe Him 70%.”)
You might believe him for small things like finding your car keys, but maybe that just means that you don’t believe him for big things? So how do you know if you believe? How do you know if you have faith for something?
Here’s the best analogy I can think of: Skydiving. If you decide to go skydiving, you will need faith in your parachute. What can you do to build your faith in your parachute?
You could take a class on parachutes. You could visit a parachute factory, and meet the people who make them. You could interview people who have skydived and lived through it. But you know in your heart that your stomach will probably still churn while you strap on your chute. You know thoughts will go through your mind… “what if this doesn’t go right?”
So how do I know when I have faith to skydive? I think it is when I jump. There comes a time where your feet have to leave the plane. Until you have leaped and placed yourself in a position that says “If this doesn’t work, I’m toast…” you don’t have faith.
Big faith means the possibility of big failure. You have to be willing to look entirely stupid if it doesn’t work out. The guy who has faith in a chair risks looking a little stupid if it breaks. The guy who tells the sun to stand still (in front of his army!), risks looking a lot stupid.
Big faith means the possibility of big failure.
- “Sun, stand still…” (Joshua 10:12)
- “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!” (Exodus 14)
- “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll cut off your head…” (1 Samuel 17)
- “In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3)
- “You will be blind for a season.” (Acts 13:11)
- “Stand upright on your feet!” (Acts 14:9-10)
Imagine with me for a moment how awkward it would be if you said one of these things and it didn’t happen! So we don’t. Because we don’t have faith for it.
This might be part of the problem: I think “Lord, increase my faith” really means, “Lord, I want to know I have faith before I say anything because I don’t want to look stupid.”
It sure seems like it would have helped me if I knew I had faith before I walked into that hospital room. I think what I wanted was to know that there was no way I was going to look stupid. To not give false hope to a family, to not slink away like a guilty dog if it didn’t happen.
But isn’t that self-centered instead of Jesus-centered? Isn’t that worrying more about my glory than about God’s glory? Instead, what if you felt convinced that something would glorify God and you went and spoke that it would happen.
Maybe when you speak your faith… maybe that’s when you have faith, and maybe that’s when the mountain moves.
What do you need to speak in faith in your life…today?