1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 4 ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.’”
5 The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
7 In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; He is more awesome than all who surround Him.
8 O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before Him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
17 “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn't we drive it out?”
20 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.”
The call from God for us to have faith is a call that goes out to every person. When it comes to trying to answer the so-called big questions, like ‘Is there a God? What is the purpose of my life?’ we soon learn that we cannot wrestle with and make sense of those questions without applying some measure of faith.
The evidence of the reality of God, and how He impacts our lives is all around us. He has given and He continues to give us enough of a glimpse of Himself in order for us to believe that He is real, that He loves us and cares for us.
But He doesn’t provide conclusive, irrefutable evidence. Why is that?
Because He wants us to put our faith in Him. He wants us to believe. Of course, the alternative option is to say that because we cannot prove the existence of God with absolute certainty, He does not exist.
We’ve heard all those arguments before, but whether you believe that God is or God isn’t, you have to apply faith either way.
Atheists don’t like to hear this, but they are also people of faith, but we’ll leave that subject for another day…
So the call from God to human beings is to have faith – to believe that He exists – and this is important: our response to this call goes a long way in determining whether we will be capable of hearing other calls from God.
God came to this earth in human form as our Saviour. Jesus lived this life in order to die for us – that was the ultimate purpose of His life.
But He also came to help us to cultivate and develop our faith in the reality of God the Father.
Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”
The evidence is there. It is all around us, but the greatest revelation of God is Jesus Christ. Do you want to put your faith in and know God?
Then you must put your faith in and know Jesus.
When Jesus said in John 14:6 that no one comes to the Father except through Him, He wasn’t only talking about our eternal salvation. It is an all-encompassing statement. We will never really know God or understand Him, unless if we begin with Jesus.
Other religions that deny Jesus as the true revelation of God start out with three strikes against them. So long as they are determined to ignore Jesus or they reject Him as God, they never can and never will know the first thing about who God really is and what He is like.
Hebrews 1:3 says “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being.”
That is what God wants us to trust and believe by faith. It all starts with Jesus.
But, as we know, human faith is fickle and shaky at best. This is the lesson which Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 17.
It was the lack of faith in their hearts that limited what Jesus could do in them and what they could do for others.
Having and applying genuine faith is difficult.
2 Corinthians 5:7 says “we live by faith, not by sight.” We know all that, but living out that truth is a lot easier said than done, simply because we live our lives in the here and now. We live for the moment, and this is part of our human frailty.
We prefer to follow the faith of common sense, because it makes sense. We are logical creatures by nature, and our instinct is to examine the evidence before us and draw our conclusions from what we know and have learned.
How do we start teaching mathematics to little children? By applying logic. We put a handful of objects in front of them and we teach them to add. When you repeat it often enough, they learn simple, logical maths.
We grow up learning the principle of cause and effect. Everything happens for a logical reason. If something happens which we cannot explain, we either accept it by faith, or we reject it.
And this is why it is hard for us to apply genuine faith. It goes against our very nature.
And this creates all kinds of problems and complications when we try to answer the bigger questions of life without faith.
Because of our weak faith we deny the uniqueness of our nature as creatures of eternity made in the image of God. If we saw ourselves and others as eternal beings, made in the image of God and loved by God, the world would be completely different.
But because we see things through temporal eyes, we don’t see ourselves for who we really are, and we don’t see God as He really is. That is one of the reasons why when we experience suffering and heartache, instead of running to God and seeking His purposes, we tend to run from God, with the result that we have serious questions about His nature and His purposes for us.
Added to that are all the other philosophies and religions that offer all kinds of weird and wonderful answers to the big questions of life. This smorgasbord of belief systems confuses us, and this is why it is so important for us to turn to God in faith. He is the source of life itself, and He has all the answers, even if we cannot see or understand them.
In the words of Acts 17:28, “in Him we live and move and have our being.”
There is this mistaken idea sometimes that when Christians apply their faith they are taking nothing more than a leap of blind faith. They’ve weighed up the options – either God is or God isn’t – gone eeny meeny miny mo, and that is the foundation of their faith. That’s weak faith, but this is not the faith we apply as Bible-believing Christians.
The evidence of God though, is not restricted to the pages of the Bible. Remember, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’
You cannot study astronomy or anatomy without being amazed at the mystery of things that the finite minds of humans cannot possibly explain. There must be a God. God is a logical necessity for a rational understanding of the world and of life.
Just look through the pages of history, and the countless stories of men and women who have put their faith in God and have been transformed into powerful people of God who have achieved the most amazing things for the Kingdom.
These are the people who have had the faith to trust God and who cooperated with Him as He revealed Himself to them.
What about your own life?
How many of us in this room today have experienced God in unmistakeable ways?
Many of us here today can bear testimony to the reasonableness of faith on the basis of our own personal experience. We can say that, like Enoch, we have talked with God and that God has talked with us. Like Abraham we have walked with Him. Like the disciples after the resurrection, we have experienced the presence of the living Lord as He has come near to comfort us, to change us and to give purpose and meaning to our lives.
Faith in God is not only reasonable, but it is logical and necessary too.
Without faith life is empty and without ultimate purpose. We saw that in the desert during the Exodus. The sin of the Israelite nation was that because of their lack of faith they failed to trust God, and they paid the price by losing the Promised Land.
It also was the sin that handicapped and limited the disciples of Jesus.
So what is the real purpose of Jesus teaching His disciples and us the principle of faith based on something as small as a mustard seed? Many Christians read this teaching in Matthew 17 and Luke 17, and end up putting themselves on a guilt trip because of their small, weak faith.
But making us feel guilty is not what Jesus intended.
The purpose of Jesus teaching us this lesson is to trust God, and not ourselves. This is not really about the quantity of our faith, but rather the quality of our faith – who we put our faith in is more important than the amount of faith we have.
Your salvation does not depend on your faith. Your salvation depends on putting your faith in the God of faithfulness.
Jesus teaches His disciples about faith in Luke 17.
In verse 5 they say, “Increase our faith.”
He replies by saying “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
In Mark 11:23 He says much the same thing we read from Matthew 17: “If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”
The whole point is this: That kind of human faith is impossible.
If you’ve looked at those verses and beaten yourself up over them because you haven’t managed to throw a mountain into the sea yet, then you have missed the point entirely.
Jesus didn’t say these things in order for us to set ourselves some kind of faith target.
He told us these things so that we would see how unreliable human faith is.
He told us these things so that we would turn to Him and say, “Lord, I will never have that kind of faith. My faith will not save me, but what little faith I have, I put in you. I choose to trust in your faithfulness, and not mine.”
When we rely on our own faith to save us, then we have fallen into a religion based on works, just like every other religion in the world.
If your salvation depends on your faith, it is no different to basing your salvation on doing good and being a nice person.
It is not about our faith – it’s about HIS!
In Jeremiah 17:7 God says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.”
What is the opposite of that?
Quite simply, those who do not trust in God are not blessed.
But God goes further than that. Go back two verses, and we read these rather chilling words: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
Trusting in your own strength and your own faith is not only futile, but we are warned that it will lead to destruction.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Those same two verses in The Message read like this: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track.”
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
In a real sense, faith is a gift from God, yet it is a human response to God’s revelation of Himself, and our faith in Him can and does grow.
God is faithful and He can be depended on by those who choose to trust Him. The more we trust Him, the greater our faith will become.
If we look back at the characters we find in the Bible and through Church history, what is the one thing that sets the spiritual giants apart from the rest?
It’s not that they were more talented or more gifted. They simply out-believed their contemporaries.
James Sidlow Baxter was an Australian-born theologian who lived in England.
In 1960 he published a book titled Explore The Book.
Included in this book is this wonderful poem he wrote:
“He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ disappointments come and hope burns dim,
He never fails.
Tho’ trials surge like stormy seas around,
Tho’ testings fierce like ambushed foes abound,
Yet this my soul, with millions more has found,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ angry skies with thunder-clouds grow grim,
He never fails.
Tho’ icy blasts life’s fairest flow’rs lay low,
Tho’ earthly springs of joy all cease to flow,
Yet still ‘tis true, with millions more I know,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ sorrow’s cup should overflow the brim,
He never fails.
Tho’ oft the pilgrim way seems rough and long,
I yet shall stand amid yon white-robed throng,
And there I’ll sing, with millions more, this song -
He never fails; He never fails.”
We are encouraged to a life of faith. It is the only legitimate and logical response to God, who through Jesus, has given us Himself. And we are encouraged not only to live lives of faith, but also of faithfulness to Him. He calls us to put our confidence in Jesus Christ, and it is in Him and through Him that your faith will grow.
It may only be as small as a mustard seed, but that is all God needs to do mighty things for Himself through your life of faith.
Homegroup Study Notes
In Psalm 19 we read that “the heavens declare the glory of God.”
Of course, there are many people who deny the existence of God, but as we look around us the evidence of the existence of God as revealed in the Bible is pretty strong.
Yet for some reason, God has chosen not to provide absolute, irrefutable and 100% proof that He exists.
Why is that?
How would you describe the word faith?
(Hebrews 11:1 may help)
Read Matthew 17:20-21 and Luke 17:5-6.
Many Christians read these verses and are left feeling inadequate or even guilty because of their weak faith, but this is not the main purpose behind Jesus’ words.
What do you think He really wanted them to learn?
Despite the fact that human faith is weak and cannot really be trusted, there are many examples in the Bible and throughout Christian history where God has taken ordinary people and done extraordinary things through them. Who are some of the examples that come to mind?
What role do you think their faith played in the way God used them?
As we have seen, there are many differences between human faith and the faithfulness of God.
Discuss some of these differences in your group.
How have you experienced the faithfulness of God?