Christian Clichés Sermon Series – If You Have Enough Faith

If You Have Enough Faith . . .

Biblical texts

Matthew 17:20  New Living Translation

“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Matthew 9:18-36  New Living Translation

18 . . . the leader of a synagogue came and knelt before him. “My daughter has just died,” he said, “but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.”

19 So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. 20 Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, 21 for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s home, he saw the noisy crowd and heard the funeral music. 24 “Get out!” he told them. “The girl isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him. 25 After the crowd was put outside, however, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up! 26 The report of this miracle swept through the entire countryside.

27 After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind him, shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”

28 They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?”

“Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.”

29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” 30 Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! Jesus sternly warned them, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” 31 But instead, they went out and spread his fame all over the region.

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If you have enough faith . . . 

  • You’ll get that raise.
  • You’ll meet your soul mate.
  • You’ll be healed of your cancer.
  • Your son will get off drugs.
  • Your candidate will win the election.

             What does it look like to have enough faith? Does it look like the pope? Does it look like the late Mother Theresa, founder of the Sisters of Charity in India? She ministered to the sick and dying street people and won the Nobel Peace Prize because of it. (At her death it became known that her diaries noted her consistent doubt in God.) Does having enough faith look like the little boy absolutely trusting his father?

             Is faith a commodity you can have more or less of?

             Jesus told his disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed they would be able to move mountains. The woman with the hemorrhage was healed and Jesus told her it was her faith that had made her well. The blind men could see and he told them it was their faith that had made it happen.

             A pastor stopped to visit a woman at her home and when she came to the door it was obvious that she had a cold and was sick. Commenting that he would come to see her when she was better, the woman responded, “I’m not sick. I’m healed by the blood of Jesus.” By declaring this and denying her sickness, the woman was depending on “her” faith. Did she worry that if she acknowledged her sickness that she would not get well? Or worse, that she was showing God that she did not have “enough” faith?

             Pastor Doug Connelly in his book Miracles: What the Bible Says wrote of the following incident. *

              I was already running late for our midweek service as I hurried down the hospital corridor. The woman sitting in a wheelchair watched me intently as I approached. I gave her a weak smile and kept walking.

              “Hey!” she shouted after me. “Are you a preacher?”

              My first thought was Is it obvious?  My next thought was I‘ll keep moving and pretend I didn’t hear her. The next thought was a gentle nudge from the Spirit of God. I stopped, turned around, walked back to her and said, “Yes, I am. Why do you ask?”

              Her response broke my heart. “Why doesn’t God heal me? I’ve prayed and prayed, but I don’t get better. My pastor told me that if I had enough faith, God would answer my prayer. What more can I do? And she began to sob.

              I wish I had taken the time to explain to her that God had not left her alone and that her Father was not sitting in heaven dangling the gift of healing overhead while she tried to ship up more faith in him.

             That women’s mindset persists in this cliché, leading to great guilt and heartache. The late Joe Bayly experienced the unthinkable. In his book, The Last Thing We Talk About, Help and Hope for Those Who Grieve,he tells about his three sons. The first died at eighteen days old after a surgery, the second died at five years old from leukemia, and the third at eighteen after a sledding accident. Can you imagine? Likely not. Nor can I. 

He related that a month or so after his five-year-old died, a well meaning Christian told him that he would not have died if Joe and his wife had had more faith.

             “Do you really believe that?” Joe asked.

             “Yes, I do” the man replied.

             Joe responded, “Do you believe it enough to pray that your own child will become sick with leukemia so that you can prove your faith?”

             The man was quiet for a long moment and then said, “No, I don’t.”

             In the book Joe sums up this incident in the following way: “I do not object to such zealots when they are dealing with other adults. I do object to the traumatic effect they may have on children and teenagers. The summer after our eighteen-year-old died, our sixteen-year-old daughter was at a Christian camp. A visiting minister, in the presence and with the silent acquiescence of the camp director, told this grieving girl, “Your brother need not have died, if your parents had only had faith for his healing. It is not God’s will for one to die before the age of sixty.” (Where did he get that from? MW)

             “When our daughter told us this in a letter, I thought about one who died in his early thirties, one who loved children enough not to hurt them.”**

              This truth is VERY IMPORTANT. Faith is a gift. It is not a work of our own. God gives it to us. We cannot manufacture it through an act of will.

             In Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, written to help parents educate their children in Christian faith, he developed a helpful teaching about the third article of the Apostle’s Creed—I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or understanding believe in Jesus Christ or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me, enlightened me, made me holy and kept me in the faith.

             Again, faith is not an act of our will. It is a gift that we receive. Faith is trusting the love of God in all things—trusting that even when terrible things happen, that God is present to help.

             I like this image when thinking about faith. We swim like fishes in the sea of God, who is behind us, around us, and even flowing into and out of us as we breathe.

             In the movie Apollo 13, three astronauts are possible stranded in space due to an explosion while they were on their way to the moon. NASA is doing everything in their capabilities to try to get them safely back to earth. Of course, the news is on high alert with frequent updates on radio and television about the recovery mission. At one point Marilyn Lovell, the wife of astronaut Jim Lovell watches a TV news clip of her husband telling about a time when he was flying his jet, seeking the safety of the aircraft carrier. It is twilight and darkening quickly and his instruments are not working. He cannot find the ship. He may need to ditch into the sea which would likely kill him. 

             Then to his astonishment, the lights in his cockpit also fail and he is in the dark. The darkness, however is a blessing. Below he sees a faint green trail lighting up the water. It is the shimmer from phosphorescent algae churned into luminosity by the screws of a cruising carrier. He followed the trail and landed safely on the carrier. As Marilyn views her husband telling this story on the TV he concludes with these words, “You never know what events are going to transpire to get you home.”

             Faith. Can it be trust that the heart of God is always trying to lead us HOME. We fix our eyes, our hopes, our lives, and our faith on Jesus. No matter what trials come our way, Christ will lead us home.

             Yes, there will be detours, some of our own making, some from the actions of others, some that just happen. The cross certainly seemed a detour leading to nothing good, yet God turned it into resurrection. Faith, as the author of Hebrews tells us, is the evidence of things not seen. In other words, we cannot prove it, but we just  ”know.”

             A college professor told the students in her spiritual growth class that the stick of chewing gum she was holding up was special; it was like faith and could help them with the challenges of life. All they had to do was chew it. The students all laughed since she had not given them any gum. The professor insisted that indeed she had given them gum which confused the students even more until an enterprising young woman got up and looked under her desk. Sure enough there was a stick of gum taped beneath the seat. So it was for all the students. They were so sure they did not have it because they had not actually seen her give it to them.

             God gives us faith. Give thanks that it so.

Please post your thoughts about this topic as I would enjoy the dialogue.

*https://www.amazon.com/Miracles-What-Bible-Douglas-Connelly/dp/0830819592/  Intervarsity Press (January 1, 1997)

** https://www.amazon.com/Last-Thing-We-Talk-About/dp/0781400481/  Chariot Family Pub; Updated edition (June 1, 1992)

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

6 Comments

  1. Loved this! Thank you

    On Sat, Nov 28, 2020 at 12:52 PM Praying on Empty wrote:

    > weisderr posted: ” If You Have Enough Faith . . . Biblical texts Matthew > 17:20 New Living Translation “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even > as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here > to there,’ and it would move. Nothi” >

    Like

  2. Thank you from one who was told I should just pray about our infertility – as if I hadn’t. Now, as an ordained Minister, I too preach a different version of faith. Bless you, for speaking against the cliches.

    Like

    1. Oh my, Patty. People just don’t seem to think deeply about advice like that, do they? I am sorry you had that heaped upon your pain at that time. If you choose to use parts of this sermon, your
      story would certainly add the “hitting home” aspect. Bless you in your ministry.

      Like

  3. Your sermons are such a blessing to me in this time where I find my faith wavering. Thank you.

    On Sat, Nov 28, 2020 at 12:52 PM Praying on Empty wrote:

    > weisderr posted: ” If You Have Enough Faith . . . Biblical texts Matthew > 17:20 New Living Translation “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even > as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here > to there,’ and it would move. Nothi” >

    Like

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