Lent: The Third Week – Monday

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be 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 sit down at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Luke 17:5-10

I have been unable to continue with this project these last days because I have been overcome, once again, with the overwhelming burden of the Fell of Dark – a deep depression. I hope, God-willing, to be able to continue from this point.

To Seek and to Save

For this Lenten reflection, Dr Ferguson takes us to the plea of the apostles: “Increase our faith!” And he quite rightly points out that this is a strange plea. It forces us to ask the very basic question: what is faith? Is it true to say that we either have faith or don’t have faith? What does it mean when Jesus talks about little faith and great faith? Or, as here, faith as a grain of mustard? What is faith?

He then makes what, at first, seems to be the rather startling suggestion that there is no such thing as faith. Faith is not “a thing”. It’s not something that comes in different sizes. Instead, he suggests, we should speak about believers (our noun faith and our verb to believe come from the same word in Greek): “people who trust in Christ.”

So, what does the Bible mean when it talks about little faith and great faith? It’s talking about how much our trusting measures up to the greatness of God and the certainty of His promises. The strength of my faith is not to be found in my trusting but in His trustworthiness. “Faith takes its character and strength not from it subject (me) but from its object (the Lord and His promises).”

So, why does Jesus follow up His comment about faith with a description of a servant who does everything he possibly can to please his master but who, even so, has only done his duty? Perhaps it’s because Jesus knows that many of us have a tendency to confuse what does in us through our faith (our works) with faith itself so that we begin to think of the fruit of our faith as something that deserves a reward. The truth is that faith contributes nothing to God’s work. It only benefits from it. Faith involves an emptying of self, of confidence in our works, and a complete and total trust in God’s work for us in Christ.

“Thus the man or woman of faith contributes nothing to Christ, receives everything from Christ and does everything for Christ. Faith is always a servant and never the master.”

Still, Christ leaves us with a wonderful promise. Even though our works can only ever make us unworthy servants, there will be a day, for all who believe in Christ, when we will hear the most glorious of words, “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

Question: “If Christ were to say to you ‘Well done…’ what do you think your instinctive response would be?”

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