“Ordinary Faith” Luke 17:5-10
1. Increase Our Faith!
I have preached for almost two months based on the book of Luke. While I have prepared and preached based on the book of Luke for last two month, from time to time, I felt a little bit annoyed and embarrassed because the sermon content has been somewhat strong. That was totally opposite to my original plan. Since I just got into the church as a new pastor, I tried to preach comforting and somewhat mellow sermon. However, I couldn’t. That is why I had checked my previous sermons to see the reasons why the sermon contents had been strong and challenging. What I found from this examination was simple. That is the book of Luke had been talking about the discipleship, how to make ourselves being disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus in the Book of Luke had taught us that we should be serious about our faith if we really want to be disciples. This means that joining the worship service, or joining a certain church, is not enough for being a disciples of Jesus Christ. We should dedicate our whole life, all aspects of our life to God. Thus, becoming real disciples of Jesus Christ is risky. Also, the real disciples should be alert all the time. There is no time to be lazy. We constantly dedicate our life to God, hoping the coming Kingdom of God. Discerning our tradition from meaningless custom or convention is also one of the important tasks. Moreover, being disciples requires the constant, shameless, and honest prayer. Above all, Jesus wants us to prioritize God, and the way of Jesus Christ, giving up our money, family, even ourselves.
Before this risky and heavy-laden way of being disciples, what would you say? Are you okay to follow the way of Jesus? Maybe Not. Honestly, while having prepared these sermons, I talk to myself: “how on earth can I be real disciples of Jesus Christ?” It seems like we are not mature enough to satisfy all requirements to be real disciples of Jesus Christ. It seems like we do not have enough faith. If you think or feel in this way, you are not alone. Disciples at Jesus’ time also felt in this way. In fact, Jesus added two more things to be real disciples of Jesus Christ in today’s chapter, chapter 17. One is that do not make other people to stumble. Jesus recognized that causing other people to stumble happens, even unconsciously, but Jesus warned sternly about it by saying like this:
“It would be better for him if a large millstone were tied around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin”. – Luke 17:2 –
The other is about forgiveness. If other brother or sister sin, we need to rebuke him or her. Then if he or she said “I repent”, we need to forgive them. This forgiveness must be endless as far as this enemy says, “I repent.”
“If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” – Luke 17:4 –
Jesus’ constant teaching of being disciples of Jesus Christ and these two more lessons led disciples to feel that it is impossible to follow the way of Jesus. How are they always watchful for their speech or behavior not let other people to stumble? How do they constantly forgive those who sin against them? That is why disciples say to Jesus like this: “make our faith greater!” In other Bible version, it says, “Increase our faith!”
2. Ordinary Faith
Disciples’ request for increasing their faith is very understandable. If I were one of them, I also asked the same thing to Jesus because the way of Jesus Christ seemed impossible for the person like me to follow. From a certain point of view, their request is the good one. If one of church members come to me and ask how he or she will increase their faith, I would be excited to hear their request and suggest several different things to do for their faith, such as prayer, Bible reading, various ministries, and missions. However, Jesus’ answer to disciples’ request was somewhat blunt and strange. Here is Jesus’ answer for them.
“If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it would obey you.” – Luke 17:6 –
Why did Jesus answer to his disciples in this way? More importantly, what does that mean? Some Christians might interpret Jesus’ saying as reproach to disciples’ lack of faith. In this case, Jesus seems to admonish them not to have faith, even the size of mustard seed. However, when we read today’s bible passage in their context carefully, we can easily find out that what Jesus said was not reproach, but the important lesson about faith. That is, faith is not something away from our lives and can be measured, but faith is our speaking and doing what God asks us to do in our lives. Nowadays, I found that many Christians tend to understand faith as the intellectual consent to a certain doctrine. Then they judge others as believers or unbelievers based on their intellectual consent. You know what? When you study the history of Christianity, you would easily find that the doctrine has constantly changed. Faith is not about intellectual consent to a certain doctrine. I do not mean that doctrine is unnecessary. In fact, sound theology and doctrine are important for our spiritual journey. However, that is not the essence of our faith. Faith is our speaking and doing according to the will of God, in our context, in our daily lives. Faith grows when we obey to the Word of God. Some people seem to believe that their faith would grow if they study a lot about the Bible or God. It would be beneficial, but only studying the Bible or God does not bring the actual growth of our faith. Faith grows when we act out our faith, even small thing like a mustard seed. If you want to grow your faith, try to live out your faith, even small things in your lives.
From time to time, I found out a few Christians who think about big and miraculous things such as healing the incurable illness or the radical growth of the church whenever they think about faith. Certainly, those things would happen. I do not deny those things. However, do not care about those things too much, considering them as real faith. Real faith is not about having miraculous and big things in your life. Real faith is to focus on living out your faith, the ordinary and small things in your life, especially in your relationship. When you see your family members in your house, what did you do? When you meet with your wife, husband, daughter, son, mother, and father, do you have some time to talk with them? Do you say you love them? Hug them? Kiss them? Do you try to let them know how much you love them and care for them? How about your church members? Did you try to say hello to them? Talk with them? How about your neighbors, and community members? Whenever you go to shop, how do you treat their staff? When you drive or use the internet, how did you treat others?
Everything I talked above seems to ordinary and small thing like a mustard seed. However, how you live out your faith in these small and ordinary things decide where you are spiritually and help you to grow your faith. When you live out your faith in your context, in your ordinary life, you would not see God’s amazing work through your faith. You might only see the small mustard seed. However, God would plant your seed in this world, and he will harvest a lot of fruit from this small seed. As today’s Bible says, your size of mustard seed faith will pull up a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea. Please remember Jesus’ saying.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.”
– Matthew 13:31-32
When our size of mustard seed faith is planted, it will grows and transform the world into the Kingdom of God. I hope our church members will plant the seed of faith today in your ordinary and daily life whether you see the fruits or not. Amen.
1. How can you live out your faith in your relationship this week?
2. What kind of mustard seed do you have for your personal or communal spiritual life? How can you plant it this week?