Day 155: Matthew 17:20

It was because you do not have enough faith I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything!

In yesterday’s scripture Jesus was approached by a man who said the the disciples were unable to heal his son.  Jesus heals the man’s son, but not before chastising everyone about their lack of faith.  After the son is healed, the disciples ask Jesus why they were unable to drive out the demon that was the cause of the problem.  Jesus responds that it is because they don’t have enough faith.

As a result of this scripture the mustard seed has become a symbol of faith.  I remember when I was a young girl my best friend Debbie had a little necklace that had a clear sphere with a mustard seed in it.  I asked her what it was and why she wore it and she said she didn’t know.   She said her mom made her wear it and she thought it was kind of cute.  I thought it was kind of cute too and I wanted one.  Hmmm…that’s the problem with symbols.  Sometimes the meaning gets lost.

So in the spirit of questioning everything, I think I should be sure I understand what Jesus was talking about when he tells his disciples that they don’t have enough faith, just to be sure I’m on the right page.  When I look up the Greek word pistis, it seems to be a direct translation to the word “faith” in English.  No surprises like some of the other words I’ve explored.

Webster’s defines faith as: “strong belief or trust in someone or something.”   I explored the nature of faith relative to healing on Day 82.  Jesus says it’s faith that heals.  While Christians often say, “Prayer Changes Things” it’s hard for us to accept that “Faith Changes Things.”  I think we are more comfortable feeling like someone is doing something for us, but I think Jesus is trying to say that our attitude, our belief, our trust actually releases change in the world.  It’s a scary concept that makes maintaining a positive attitude a grave responsibility.  I think that throughout the Book of Matthew Jesus calls on us to accept our responsibilities and use the abilities that God has given us.   Jesus wants us to embrace our faith as a powerful gift from God and use it effectively to build a better world.

Faith is elusive.  It is hard to define and difficult to maintain.  I thought it would be fun and illuminating to look at how other people define faith so here are some quotes:

  • Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof. (Khalil Gibran)
  • Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. (Saint Augustine)
  • Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into. (Mahatma Gandhi)
  • Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time. (Oswald Chambers)
  • Faith is spiritualized imagination. (Henry Ward Beecher)
  • Ultimately, blind faith is the only kind. (Mason Cooley)
  • Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right. (Max Lucado)
  • Faith is like radar that sees through the fog. (Corrie Ten Boom)
  • Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark.  (Rabindranath Tagore)
  • Faith makes the discords of the present the harmonies of the future.  (Robert Collyer)

As for me, I would say that faith is your passport into God’s Kingdom.  That would be my quote.

My first exposure to real faith was in the early 1990s when the wife of one of the guys at work got a call that his wife Bonnie had a heart attack and was in the hospital.  I was sitting in his office when Felix got the call.  He asked a couple of questions and went back to work as though nothing had happened.  I said, “Felix, you’ve got to go to the hospital and be with her.”  He said, “No, I talked to her and she is going to be OK.”  I continued to insist that he needed to go see here.  I thought he was either being a jerk or having some kind of a breakdown.  He said he would stop by and see her after work.  I kept pestering him and I remember that he eventually turned to me, looked me in the eye, and said, “I do not need to go there.  She will be FINE.”  The look he gave me said, “Back off.”  I knew Felix well and I knew that he was a man who deeply loved his wife.  I also knew that he was a committed Christian.  I saw in that look he gave me that he refused to even entertain the thought that he might lose her.  The look said that death or devastating illness was not an option.  I still thought that he was delusional, but I backed off.

Felix and Bonnie1

Felix and Bonnie today. Happy and healthy.

In the end Bonnie was fine.  She didn’t require surgery or any radical treatment.  She is alive and well today.  Did his faith make her well?  Who knows.  Did his faith hurt anything?  Apparently not.  Would being negative or hysterical have helped anything?  Absolutely not.  I always remember that day, and I learned a lot from it.  I learned that it’s OK to have faith, trust in God, and expect the best possible outcome in all things.  I learned what it means to be a person doesn’t just talk about faith.  Felix showed me what it looks like to walk by faith.

The first hurtle is to believe that what you want to happen is possible.  You have to train your brain to believe that a good outcome is possible.  You have to believe in the power of good.  In other words, you have to be hopeful.  You need a positive attitude.  You need to be a visionary who can believe in something that hasn’t happened yet.  You need to have a positive view of the future.

The second hurtle is that faith often needs an ignition point.  This is something we can do to help each other.  When we get together and believe together in agreement, great things happen.  For example, people came to Jesus to be healed.  Even though many of these people had great faith, they still needed Jesus to touch them before the healing could occur.  Jesus said that their faith made them well, but it was also his affirming touch that made these miracles happen.  It was a partnership.

Every now and then it’s important to exercise your faith.  It might be good to do something I learned in a business seminar.  First, list 5 things that seem impossible.  You might want to pray about this for a while and see what God wants you to focus on.  The things could be either very personal (like the best solution to a perplexing situation) or very grand (like a quick cure for all cancers). Then, once you have developed your list, you can pick it up every day (or whenever you want) and address each one saying, “I have faith that….” and insert each of your impossible dreams.  While God is ultimately the source of all good things, he calls us to participate in the establishment of a better world by exercising our faith.  We need to build up our faith muscles if we want to see a more perfect world.  God isn’t going to drop it in our laps without our active participation.

OK.  Now let’s focus on that last sentence – “You could do anything….”  Jesus tells us that with just a little faith we could do anything.  We could move mountains.  With five loaves of bread and two fish, plus faith, we could feed thousands.  If we do our part, however small, God will take care of the rest.  Our part may be as small as a little spark of hope, a little positive thought.  God can move mountains with even that.  We should say that to ourselves every day – with just a little bit of faith we could do anything.  With just a little bit of faith I could do anything.  With just a little bit of faith you could do anythingTogether we could change the world, if we just had a little more faith.  Wow.  Now, what really needs to be done?  Hmmm….

What does this scripture say to you?


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