The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
The Lord said, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Are we to believe that faith, measuring so small as the size of a mustard seed, is missing from us?
We who attend worship each week, maybe teach a Sunday School class, or volunteer in some ministry in the church, is our faith less than the tiny mustard seed? Or have we simply not used it? Maybe it is just not a normal tool we are accustomed to using in the day-to-day conduct of our lives, as we face conflicts in the home or in the work place.
I have begun to see faith as a muscle, and if it is not used regularly, stretched a bit beyond its general usage then it begins to wither and get smaller and smaller, weaker and weaker. The more we use it, the stronger it gets.
I think Jesus is telling his disciples then and us now to use the faith we have and we will be surprised at the outcome. God has given us all the faith we need if we just recognize all the God-given opportunities God gives us to use it. I think about some of the simple things that might occur every day, reaching out to someone who is lonely, being a friend to someone who needs a friend, or someone who needs a helping hand.
Perhaps this is the place where we are. We have faith but perhaps it gets down to our readiness to use it. There are lots of ordinary situations that we see all the time and, if our faith muscle is used in any of those places they will be blessed by God and it is like the extraordinary event of a mulberry tree uprooted and planted in the ocean. They become pretty extraordinary too.
I suspect that we have all been in those places where we felt we did not have enough faith. We wanted Christ to step in and help our unbelief so that the mountain in front of us would move. I recall a time before I became a pastor when I was teaching at Texas A&M University.
I had a student that had failed a major exam in my class. I knew that something was wrong. This did not represent her capabilities. She had always aced the other exams. So I called her in to discuss what was going on in her life at the moment. She explained that her parents were in the midst of a nasty divorce and she was worried for both of them. She was being pulled in two directions as she wanted them to find peace in their relationship. I asked her if it would be okay if I prayed for her and for her parents. She readily accepted that as a gift.
After our prayer I could see relief spread over her face, and much of the tension seemed to be eased in her expression. Her confidence seemed to glow. Then I did something I had never done before, I asked if she would like to retake the exam. I would write up a new one, and give it to her the next day. She was relieved at the opportunity. The next day she showed up for the test and she aced it. There were other times when I had not given students a second chance as I did her that day. It just so happened I stretched a faith muscle on that occasion and it taught me a lesson. It helped my faith get stronger in what God can do if we just show up and offer what we have to help another.
I think faith can also be an adventure, especially if you exercise it. I had never done that with a student before, so it was a new adventure to make such an offer. So, whether solving a problem at work or giving someone a second chance, faith can be stretched if we recognize our God-given opportunities and do what needs to be done. So, go ahead, stretch the faith muscle God has given you anywhere and any way you can. The unimaginable Mulberry tree will be uprooted and thrown into the sea.
- Can you recall a time when your faith muscles were stretched and God blessed all who were involved in a wonderful way?
- As you have worked with people in Via de Cristo, have you seen faith muscles stretched in them?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.