A Little Faith Goes a Long Way/August 13, 2017

Second Baptist Church
August 13, 2017

A Little Faith Goes a Long Way

Matthew 17:14-23 (NIV)
14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him.
15 "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.
16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."
17 "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me."
18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"
20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.
23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life." And the disciples were filled with grief.

In a small Texas town, a new bar/tavern started a building to open up their business. The local Baptist church started a campaign of petitions and prayers to block the bar from opening. Work progressed, however right up till the week before opening, when a lightning strike hit the bar and it burned to the ground. The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, till the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise in its reply to the court. As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, 'I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that doesn't.' 

Recently in our Pastor’s Prayer Time on Wednesday mornings, we have been discussing faith – especially as it relates to healing. Does God heal or does our faith heal? If Jesus taught, “Your faith has made you well,” then it suggests that it is our faith that heals. But if it is our faith that heals, then God is not in it. That doesn’t make sense either. One pastor said that it isn’t the tyranny of the OR, but the genius of the AND. In other words it’s both. Healing comes by the faith of the person and the healing touch of the great physician.

In today’s text, Jesus answers a question about the quantity of faith. “How much faith does it take to receive a miracle?” Last week we read the previous scene where Jesus went with two of his disciples up onto the mountain where Jesus was “transfigured,” meaning he shone like a bright light before them. It was such a glorious experience for them that they wanted to stay up there and bask in the glory of that moment. But of course they couldn’t. As Jesus and Peter, James and John are up on the mountain, the other nine disciples are doing some ministry on their own. Earlier on in Matthew chapter 10 Jesus had given his disciples the authority to cast out demons. But when they tried to cast out the demon, their efforts failed. It might have been because they thought, “We’ll really impress the crowds with this miracle” bringing glory to themselves rather than God. It seems like they just didn’t believe it was possible according to what Jesus said. Jesus says it was because of their lack of faith. Their lack of faith meant lack of power. Do you see how the two might go hand in hand? 

Consider the churches of the 21st century. Do we believe in the power of God? Do we believe in the sufficiency of Christ to the point where we place our full trust in him?  Faith leads to power and faithlessness leads to powerlessness. 

· Lack of power affects the life and testimony of believers.
- Lack of power results in a mediocre Christian life and an ineffective, embarrassing testimony
· Lack of power affects the work of the church
- Lack of power results in ministries going undermanned, needs going overlooked, programs being under funded, and workers being overtaxed.
· Lack of power affects the evangelization of the lost.
- Lack of power cause the world to question the validity of our faith and to question God and His ability and power. 

We live in a time in which people have succumbed to advertising hype. "Liteness" is fashionable in our society. Lite is not necessarily always what it appears to be nor is it always good or beneficial. An example is a food product can be labeled "light in sodium" if the food has at least 50 percent less sodium than a reference food. It does not mean that it is low in sodium; it just has half the sodium of the referenced food. Lite does not always mean lite. When you compare Milky Way’s Lite© candy bar ounce to ounce with the regular bar, the lite bar actually contains a higher amount of sodium and carbohydrates, almost identical saturated fat, and less than 18% fewer calories. The public has also been misled with products like the "light" vegetable oil that is just light in color and the "lite" cheesecake that is just
light in texture. Lite is also not good especially when it is applied to faith. 

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”   But I will have to say that many Christians are content to live with faith lite.  Just enough to get by, but not enough to make them seem like a religious fanatic.   I will have to admit that I struggle with faith.  Quite often I am distant from God and cold spiritually.  I struggle with staying afloat spiritually.  I can be caught up in doing ministry and serving people – and I’m distant from God at the same time.  Serving as a pastor doesn’t build one’s faith.  Serving on a church board or teaching a Sunday school class doesn’t make us closer to God.  It’s easy to confuse serving the church and communing with God.   When our faith suffers, we become powerless.  We lose confidence in the living God.  When our faith becomes shallow, our life becomes weak.  Sometimes we equate our biblical knowledge and theological genius with FAITH.  It’s not the same.  I read in the last few years that 90% of young people who leave evangelical church high school youth groups and go off to college tend to drift away from the church and their relationship with God.

Those are the same kids who knew the answers in Sunday school class and won the Bible drills.  They went to all the youth conferences.  But faith and knowledge isn’t the same thing and their faith went bye-bye. In the last part of this passage, we see that Jesus told them that if they had the grain of a mustard seed, they could move mountains.   This can be a troubling verse if your loved one had cancer and you wore the knees out on your pants praying forthat loved one to be healed, and they died. I’m still having to believe that God has to want that mountain to be moved.

I’m not convinced that Jesus meant that we can usurp God’s will and take it out of God’s hands.  I think there would be a lot of mountains landing in the Atlantic ocean if this verse is taken at complete face value.  So what does it mean?  Jesus was using an old Jewish analogy.  The ancient people thought the mountains were rooted well beneath the surface of the earth.  So it was a way of referring to the impossible.  Jesus is saying that mustard seed faith and moving mountains is only scratching the surface of a life filled with faith.

 Impossible things DO happen.  My siblings and I said farewell to my mother as her heart and lungs were giving out.  That was in 1992.  Today she is healthy and remarried and is thankful for every day she has.  I saw that one with my eyes, yet don’t understand why others die when I know they had greater faith than I. 

We read in the gospels that many people came to Jesus to be healed.  Did he heal them all?  Do we get just a sampling of the ones who were healed, but there were others who were not healed?  Why wasn’t the apostle Paul healed of his “Thorn in the flesh?” that he spoke about in 2 Corinthians 12:7.  On and on the questions go. 

Let me say something about mountains.  I mentioned last week how I love mountains. Guess what? I don’t think Lewis and Clark liked mountains.  They expected to reach the Rockies and find one mountain range of a few miles to climb over and it would be smooth sailing to the Pacific.What they found was 300 miles of nearly impassible mountains and the upper reaches of the Missouri not navigable.  They would liked to have had the power to move mountains.  But what they discovered about the mountains is that they are obstacles.  They not only slowed down Lewis and Clark but they slowed down the building of the railroad, the settling of the west, the expansion of the continent.   

What obstacles do you have in your life?  What is keeping you from moving forward?  What is keeping you from loving others, from loving God?  What is keeping you from happiness and joy?  What blocks you from exercising your faith?

Faith can move those mountains – those obstacles.  Our trust in Christ and belief that he is sufficient can tear down the emotional mountains we have created.  Those obstacles can disappear one at a time when we place our trust in a loving and gracious God.  Are you ready to move those mountains out of the way in your life?  Pray with me.