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“And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith (Luke 17:5).” At first glance this request of the apostles is an…. What believer doesn’t want his faith to increase? Just think how much more effective our lives would be if we had more faith. And note how the request is made. Increase our faith. Don’t Christians in general need more faith? Wouldn’t the cause of Christ go better if we all corporately had more faith? Don’t you think the world needs to see Christians with more faith?

Most sermons that I have heard or read go along these lines.

“Folks, we need to take on the attitude of the apostles and pray for more faith.” But a careful reading of the context of the apostles request reveals what Jesus thought of their request. Follow along with me as we look at the verses that follow the request, “Increase our faith.”

The way that Jesus answered the apostles is important. He did not tell them, “What a wonderful request. Yes, I will increase your faith.” Instead, Jesus says, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you (Luke 17:6).” This mild rebuke, I think, indicates that the Lord knew that their request, like many of ours, was made in ignorance. They thought that they needed more faith than they had. Jesus tells them the size of faith is not as important as that you have faith. Great things can happen even when we have just a mustard seed faith.

The problem of our faith is that it is so often mixed with doubt. We doubt God and His willingness to respond to our faith. Jesus told them when they questioned Him about the fig tree that had died at His command, “If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done (Matthew 21:21).”

While it is true that Jesus sometimes used the term “little” and “great” in reference to faith it was always related to a lack of vital faith in Him. Every problem with our faith is not in relation to size or amount, but in the lack of faith and our tendency to doubt God.

Another issue with the request to increase their faith is in their motive. Why did they want an increase in their faith? James warns, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3).” We know that the apostles at this stage in their discipleship were prone to pride and desired power. They didn’t seem to ask for the increase in their faith in order to further the kingdom, but for their own glory.

It is interesting to note that Jesus tells them what power they might have with just a mustard seed faith. “…ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you (Luke 17:6).” What purpose would there be for them to exercise such power with their faith? I think that some in their number salivated at the thought of exercising such power (James and John in particular).

In exercising our faith we need to check our motives.

To counter that lust for power, Jesus gives the parable of the servant and his master (Luke 17:7-9). It is easy for us to overlook the context of this parable and remove the connection to the request to increase their faith. No believer, no matter how mature, is ever separated from the fact that he is the servant of Christ. Our faith can never be used for carnal enrichment.

The prosperity preachers that tell you that you can have your best life now are liars. Everything that we do in this life is for the benefit of our Master. We serve Christ first, both now and forever. Many that serve Jesus will not see the rewards of their work in this life. They may have to suffer many things in this life, before they can enjoy Christ forever. We wait on the Lord Jesus, not He on us.

“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants:

we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke 17:10).” It is our duty to trust Christ and obey Him. Therefore, we are the beneficiaries of the grace of God found only in Christ Jesus.

We can never say that we have gone beyond the call of duty in our service or in our faith in Christ. When Jesus gives to each of us His “Well done My good and faithful servant” it will not be for any extra we have done for the Lord. It will be for our obedience service to Him. We trust and obey. Isn’t heaven with Jesus for eternity reward enough for that?

If you have any questions, we invite you to visit with us this Sunday. Bible study is at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:50 a.m.

We are located at 711 W. Washington Ave. Visit online at mercyatcalvary.blogspot.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Smith is the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church.)