17th Sunday after Pentecost | October 6, 2019
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”
6 The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!
7 “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? 8 No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ 9 And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”
Luke 17:5-10 New Living Translation (NLT)
Last week we looked at the teaching of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke’s writing gives us an indication that these next teachings follow at least one day if not several days after the previous teaching. First, Jesus teaches about forgiveness but then we have this curious statement from the disciples:
“Show us how to increase our faith.”Luke 17:5
By this time the disciples have been walking with Jesus for some time and they make this statement, “increase our faith.” You would think that by following Jesus around they would have learned and picked up was Jesus was teaching.
The first thing Jesus says after this is familiar to us.
If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!Luke 17:6
As we look at this verse, it would appear for most of us that our faith is even smaller than a mustard seed, for a mustard seed is small, but large enough that it can bloom into a small-sized tree. It appears by this teaching that it doesn’t take much faith to put God’s plan into action. Oh that we would increase our faith that we could do even greater things than this. Unfortunately this teaching has gotten misuse.
The key comes in the next part. It’s interesting to me because the Lord has speaking to me a great deal lately about the importance of obedience. We have been reading the book, Grown-up Faith by Kevin Myers. Kevin is the pastor of 12stone Church in Lawrenceville, GA. 12stone is our largest Wesleyan church. The premise of his book is that in order for us to have a Grown-up Faith we need three things to align with Jesus
- The mind – which requires biblical knowledge
- The heart – which requires spiritual intimacy
- The will – which requires holy obedience
This idea of holy obedience is something which appears – at times – to me at least – to be an idea that many Christians miss – including myself. Our will must be aligned with Jesus and that requires obedience.
Jesus tells a story about a servant who has worked out in the field all day. He comes in from the field and immediately the master tells him, “prepare my meal and serve me.” Most of us – if we were honest – would be indignant. “What do you mean? I’ve slaved for you all day in the field and now you want me to cook you dinner and wait on you hand and foot? No way!” To add insult to injury the master doesn’t even thank his servant for obedience. See we’ve missed something here. We have gotten used to being thanked for things that are naturally suppose to happen.
Jesus expands this point. So many Christians follow after Jesus: they go to church, they read their Bibles faithfully, they pray, they go to all the extra services, they support the church. They say to Jesus, “I’ve worked hard all week. I deserve some rest.” Yet, Jesus says that is not enough. Obedience to Jesus is exactly what a Christian is expected to do. We want to receive a pat on the back – an “atta-boy” for doing what is expected of us. Ouch! That hurts me even as I write this. Jesus says when you are obedient, you are doing the bare minimum. We need to realize that next to God’s holiness, we are still unworthy and by obeying the commands of Christ we have simply done our duty.
Wow! and I typed Woe! by accident. Yes a very profound truth – we as Christians feel that we are entitled benefits from God simply because we obey. As I type that, I feel like the prophet Isaiah standing in the throne room of God.
5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”Isaiah 6:5
Lord forgive us when we obey your commands and expect a pat on the back or an “atta-boy” when we have simply done the bear minimum.
So let’s go back to increase our faith. Jesus says that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can do great things for God, but in order for us to do great things we must do what he asks, for obedience to His commands are the bare minimum – in many ways we could consider them the faith as small as a mustard seed.
I pray that we will be obedient servants of Jesus, because that is the very least we can do and still “we are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.”