Matt 17:19-21 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
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. (But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.)
There are several things about this passage. The first is that the disciples expected to be able to deliver the boy from the demon and were surprised when they were unable to do so. They genuinely wanted to know why they couldn’t. The second is that they were embarrassed that they hadn’t been able to deliver him, which means that they were used to much better results generally. The third is of course Jesus’ response to their inquiry. He didn’t beat around the bush! The descriptive word for their faith in the Japanese is “thin,” as in a thin piece of paper, or your hair getting thin. I’m sure that stung their pride a bit! His next statement tests our faith indeed! We don’t claim mountain-moving faith, yet Jesus said it takes only a very small faith to be able to do such things. I have always felt that the metaphor of a seed was important, because a seed, properly planted, doesn’t remain small, but grows because it’s alive. That said, this is still an earth-shaking statement on Jesus’ part. I wonder if verse 21 wasn’t added by some copyist as a escape clause of sorts, which is why only some manuscripts have it. (Even though it appears in other Gospel accounts of this incident.) I really think we have very little understanding of faith, even on the most basic level. Some Christian teachers seem to have faith in faith, rather than faith in the Lord! It is true that we have only begun to touch the level of authority originally invested in Adam and Eve, which they proceeded to relinquish to the devil by their sin. However, “I believe in me” can get you into a lot of trouble. The Japanese word for confidence is written, “self-faith.” When I deal with the English word in my Medical English classes I tell my students that I don’t believe in me, because I’ll always betray myself. Rather, I believe in God, and so I can have assurance. The world is inspired by the Rogers and Hammerstein song that says, “I have confidence in confidence alone. So, can’t you see, I have confidence in me.” That is worlds apart from the faith Jesus is talking about, and that’s why we fail so often.
This is a struggle for me, as I’m sure it is for every thoughtful believer. I am more sure that God is real than I am that I am real, but I still don’t necessarily speak to mountains and have them move. I can say that my faith is growing, which is encouraging, I certainly can’t say I have faith in my faith, but I do know without question that anything at all is possible for God, and He might even use me in the process. I do pray for many things, but I don’t do much demanding that things happen. I have learned that God knows things perfectly, and I don’t know much at all. That was a hard lesson for me! I am still learning about faith, and I certainly look forward to the day when I stand before my Lord and faith becomes sight. Until that day I am to be faithful, seeking His will and being fully obedient, so that His will may be manifested in and through me for His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all that You are doing. I see so much upheaval in the world, and so many plans of men being totally frustrated. Thank You. Help me follow Your plans and not my own, operating in the assurance of Your presence and guidance. As You told me, help me indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!