And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
Is it enough just to have faith? Isn’t faith simply belief, a black-and-white, yes-or-no proposition? Yet, several times in the Gospel accounts, Jesus chides His disciples “O you of little faith!” That would indicate that they needed to be of GREATER faith, that faith is NOT simply a matter of “Either you have it or you don’t.” So it should come as no surprise that His apostles would say to Him, “Increase our faith.” But how do we do that, increase our faith? Jesus’ reply gives a hint, but not a clear answer:
So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
A mustard seed? That’s a TINY seed that Jesus tells us grows into a plant big enough for birds to nest in (Luke 13:19), but it isn’t exactly a sequoia! Lord, we want a tall cedar of faith! We want a mighty oak tree of faith! Lord, increase our faith to be like a majestic redwood or a tough desert cypress. But a mustard seed? Surely You can do better than that for our faith.
Yes, Jesus is speaking in a parable, and His point is that any fertile faith will be enough to grow to do the Lord’s work. But how do we get it to grow? The apostle Peter had to see the death and resurrection of his Master before he was able to understand how to get that tiny seed to grow.
2 Peter 1:5-9
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Is faith alone enough for salvation? Certainly. But stagnant faith is like no faith at all when it comes to the work of the Lord. Faith must grow, flourish, become complete, be perfected in us. Peter says that if we add to our faith, we “will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v.8) But what is that knowledge? I have never met Jesus, and yet I know Him. How? Through FAITH!
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
I know Christ initially through faith, and the more I seek to be virtuous and be a man of integrity like Him, then the more I know what Christ is like. The more I add the knowledge of God’s Word, then the more I know Christ and His Father. The more I allow the Holy Spirit to reign in me and strengthen my self-control, then the better I understand Christ’s power over temptation. The more I persevere in the face of troubles, then the more I am able to live like Christ and endure the persecution that inevitably comes to believers. The more godly I strive to become – setting more and more of myself aside for God’s purposes – then the more I know Christ as He decreased while the Father increased. (John 3:30) The more I show my affection and love toward my brethren, the better I know why Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) And to continue to grow, I must always be grounded in a love like that of our Father in heaven, who gave His Son so that all might be saved.
The marvelous thing about these “additions” to faith is that they tend to snowball, to grow and grow as we practice them. The more we know Christ, the greater our love for our fellow men. The more we love others, the greater our faith. The more we persevere this time, the greater our faith the next time we face problems. It all adds up and increases our faith.
Putting the tiny fertile seed in the ground is only the beginning. It is the constant care and watering and sunshine and weeding that makes that miniscule seed grow into a plant that provides shade, that flowers, and that PRODUCES MORE SEEDS. Just as your own faith was a tiny seed planted in your life through someone sharing the gospel, so YOU must plant that tiny seed so that others might have that faith.
It is not the initial size of our faith in Christ that matters, but how our faith grows and matures. Even a simple faith can move mountains, but a flourishing and growing faith will cover that mountain with a forest of fellow believers. Living more like Christ – in virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – will increase our faith and make us more fruitful for the kingdom of God. Is faith alone enough? Yes. But why settle for “enough” when we can have so much more?
Almighty Father, I thank you this morning for the sunshine. In faith, I knew the sun would rise through the clouds after last night’s rain. Why is it so hard for us to have similar faith in You? Increase our faith, Lord, and help us to be more like You in all things. Help us to grow in You, and to bring glory to You alone. Amen.