2007-09-03 - Little Faith
Matthew 14:31, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
The above verse is part of the relation of Jesus walking on the water, and Peter, realizing it is Jesus, coming out of the boat to meet him, and subsequently walking on water himself. Peter was an impulsive type, and having gone some distance, he sees the wind, begins to fear (verse 30), fearing he begins to sink, and he cries out, "Lord, save me." Jesus stretches forth His hand, takes hold of him, and gives both Peter and us the wonderfully instructive phrase above. "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Peter doubts, and this is no real surprise, we can chalk it up to his being human. We all have doubts and struggles, but for Peter this doubt comes at a time when we would have expected better of him. He has just witnessed the feeding of the 5000, and seen the amazing miraculous power of Jesus demonstrated in a striking manner. And yet here, immediately after, not hearing of the feeding of the 5000, but experiencing it, and taking part in it - here he doubts. He has just had what we often call today a "spiritual high," and right away we see him doubt. Is it not true that often when we have a "mountain top" experience and feel particularly close to the Lord, that we also are prone to the greatest and nastiest apostasies? My friends, like Peter, we do not know ourselves.
When we become secure in ourselves, we look away from the Lord, who is the source of all true security. Consider when Peter began to doubt. It was when he looked away from the Lord and saw the wind. When he took his eyes off Jesus, he started to struggle. Our faith is often like Peter's. It is like a fragile flower that easily withers. Some flowers are so delicate that they die if the human hand touches them. Is not our faith often as flimsy? Do we not push all our panic buttons at the slightest sign of distress, and feel in those deep recesses of our hearts that we must handle this matter on our own, since it is too great a matter to simply rest in the Lord's hands? We do, and we do this all too often, and we invent excuses for it. This undersized faith is an outsized problem for many of us.
Let us not despair in this. Let us be mindful that little faith is still faith. The faith that says, "I do believe, help my unbelief," (Mark 9:24), is still faith. Small faith is worried. It is in a hurry to see God work, but great faith is patient and, while longing to see God work, it is mindful that the Lord's timing is best. Like Peter, we are prone to rush into things, but we would often be wiser to sit at the Lord's feet and wait patiently for Him to speak, or act. We ought always to be doing and striving, but we also must always be patiently waiting upon the Lord to set the times and seasons when He is pleased to work. Little faith seeks to harvest in the Spring, just after planting, where strong faith waits for a full harvest in the Fall.
We are very prone to force spiritual joys and claim Christian maturity without experience or trial. Growth takes time. Personal growth takes the disciplined seeking after the Lord in His Word, prayer and fellowship. It involves an ordered life that ever seeks faithfulness and new insights into the sacred. Meaningful, sustained personal growth rarely comes in the moment of spiritual bliss, or elation. They may be high points, and those high points, like walking on the water, are always memorable, but the true growth is accomplished in the grind of daily, even hourly, meeting with the Lord and seeking His face. It comes when our communion with Him is regular and frequent, and we begin to conform - as He changes us - more and more into the image of Christ.
The desires of little faith are often good and healthy. Little faith will want the whole world converted to Jesus by the year 2010. Little faith seeks a Heaven on Earth by Thursday. Little faith is often full of lofty, even honorable goals and desires. But little faith is also often so full of dreams that it loses focus on today, and fails to seek seeing our neighbor reconciled to Jesus, while we are planning the conversion of the world. Little faith, like Peter, is often impulsive and spontaneous. It can be brash and rash, and it often has that glorious zeal that mature, tested faith all too many times lacks. However, little faith will always be little faith, even with its titanic dreams, unless it does those things necessary to grow into maturity. We often see zeal without knowledge, and sadly also see knowledge that has snuffed out zeal, but it is when the two are combined that men and women of power and usefulness to the Lord are formed. May the Lord raise up many in this day with strong and zealous faith, who seek the Lord first in everything, (Matthew 6:33).
Soli Deo Gloria,