Sermon Audio and Write-up for 10.6.13

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“Asking Jesus” — WEEK 1 — Luke 17.5–10

We must be careful what we ask for, for if we truly ask for something from Jesus we must be prepared to receive it.  Asking Jesus for anything is dangerous because He tends to provide in the way that we least expect.  We must understand this truth by accepting the fact that none of us truly knows what we need or in what way we need things.  If God is Father and we are His children, than we must be prepared for God to help us in the way that is best for us and beyond our own human understanding.  But receiving from God once we have asked for something can be difficult.  I know many of us have experienced this most particularly in moments of tragedy and death.

Many nights as I watched after my grandfather as he lay dying, I asked/begged/cried that God would heal him and make him a testimony to God’s power.  But I failed to see two things: 1) that my grandfather’s life was already a testimony to the power and love of God, both to me and others, and 2) that through humble faith my grandfather was able in his dying days to understand his suffering better and have greater peace in the end.  God healed us both by letting our faith bring us understanding.

So listen to today’s scripture from Luke 17. 5–10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”The disciples want more faith, and so they ask Jesus to increase their faith (in Him and in His power).  The catch comes in what Jesus knows about faith that the disciples do not.  In other words, Jesus increases our faith in quality not quantity.  Both the disciples and us get caught up in the amount of faith, that we must believe a certain amount when at the end of the day, faith boils down to the quality of our relationship with Jesus.  There’s power in relationship, in the closeness that we experience and especially with Jesus.  That relationship has real power but it comes with the responsibility of using it wisely and allowing it to serve God and not ourselves.  Let’s break it down…

Now, the passage feels strange because we have the image of the mustard seed and then a weird image of a master having harsh expectations of a servant.  But what we learn here is that these two images are inseparable.

In regards to the mustard seed, Jesus wants his disciples to focus on the relationship of faith, the maintenance of faith, rather than the power of faith and its effects.  All of us can agree that there is power in relationships.  We are most often moved by the power of love and what it can do in our lives.  Sometimes we think about the things we are able to overcome through that love.  But the overcoming of various obstacles, the miracles we experience come from the quality of love, not the amount.  The image of uprooting a tree with faith seems magical.  But Jesus wants us to move mountains through a real relationship with God.  The object of real faith should be the relationship itself, not the effects of the relationship.  Therefore, it is faith and keeping it that is important, not its effects.  The effects of faith are only a consequence of genuine faith.

Faith is a gift of God, born inside the minds and hearts of those who sense the need of salvation.  In that moment of belief when we accept in our hearts that Jesus died for us and we believe we are forgiven is the moment when we are able to then move away from the life of sin we’ve always known.  We are no longer captive and like the chorus line says, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God, my Savior has ransomed me.”

But the power of sincere faith isn’t something that we are to misuse by selfish ambition or desire.  No matter how much I wanted my grandfather to be cured of cancer, it was about me getting my grandfather back.  As I heard in a funeral yesterday, “The lives of our loved ones are on loan to us from God.”  It was an honor, blessing, and privilege to have my grandfather as I did.  God blessed me and my grandfather by giving us to each other.  How we used that relationship is a reflection of our gratitude toward God and our understanding of His gift to us.  Our faith was increased by the relationship we shared and there is power that flows from that relationship.

Quality faith is about attitude and perspective.  In other words, it’s about having the humility of a servant, willing to listen and follow the Master, as a faithful servant would.  This is where the second image comes into play.

The image of a master telling his servants to come in from the hard work of the field to serve him on the spot seems harsh, but the point of the story is to teach us that our reward is our gracious employment in God’s kingdom.  Should we do our work because we think there is a reward can make that work about us and our ambition to get something in return.  The true attitude of the Christian is that we deserve nothing and that Christ would employ us in His saving work is merciful.  It is by grace we are saved, remember, and not of our own doing.  What good you may do for God is simply what you ought to be doing anyway.  Remember, true power comes in keeping relationship, not in believing a lot.

How we understand God results in how we interact with God.  Therefore, to take on the character of Jesus Christ is to live in humility.  The posture of our attitude and heart is not such bent over in painful slavery, but in reverent and dutiful faith.

Paul says in Philippians 2, “12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  This is so because, should we attempt to grow in our discipleship with anything other than humility, then we cause ourselves to stumble in our faith.  Jesus was never arrogant, proud, or selfish but He was rather focused and busy about serving His Father in humble faith.

So I want you to leave with this: that genuine faith has more to do with the quality of your relationship with God and not the amount or quantity of faith.  Through humility, we serve God with a servant’s heart, exercising a selfless faith that seeks after goodness toward God and others.  Remember, that God seeks your good in this relationship, and that His faith in you is strong because it is real.  Mustard seed faith with a humble heart makes for great faith.  Amen.


1 Comment

  1. Whit,
    Your insight is profound–maybe more than you know! I gained fresh perspective fromyour words today!
    Love you!
    Mama B.

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