Word Alive! - Reflections on Bible

by Dr. Paulson Pulikkottil


I don't think that anyone was ever fascinated about an offer of moving mountains nor lost heart because some mountains were on their way. No one would like to try to move mountains and plant them in the sea just because there is no point in doing that. People are contend with the mountains wherever they are and would rather think of climbing over the mountain or go around it instead of trying to move the mountain. Jesus was not unaware of this when he said '... you will say to this mountain "Move from here to there and it will move" and nothing will be impossible for you".' (Mathew 17:20 and also see, 21:21). However, he puts a challenge before his disciples and before us and illustrate an essential aspect of our faith in God. The lesson is this: if you have the possibilities are unlimited.

Now comes the crucial question. How much faith does I need to attempt something of this sort. Do I need a mountain size faith to move mountain or do I need a mulberry tree size faith to move a mulberry tree. (Luke 17:5-6). In other words does my faith in proportion to the size of my challenge? Jesus' answer is no. The disciples once asked Jesus to increase their faith and Jesus instead of increasing their faith told them to have faith just the size of mustard seed. What Jesus meant is it is not the size of your faith that matters.

Luke 17:5-6: The apostles said to the Lord,  “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied,  “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree,  ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

The reference to mustard seed one of the smallest seeds is to show how insignificant is the amount of faith needed.

Though Jesus denied that size of faith does not matter, he emphasised that the quality of faith does count. This is what we hear from Jesus own mouth in Matt. 21:21 where he again speaks of faith moving mountains.

Jesus answered them,  “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain,  ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.

In this passage Jesus expands the earlier statement to clarify that what is needed faith of a particular quality. That quality is faith without doubt. What Jesus says here is that what does miracles is not a truck load of faith, but just faith the size of mustard seed which is pure. What all of us then need is faith without the bubbles of doubt.

As I empty a can of coke into a glass it bubbles and fills the cup and runs over. I stop then in a minute or two lift the glass to find to my disappointment that the glass is not even half full1 It was all bubbles! Many times we have such faith, fizzy faith, looks full but it is all bubbles of doubt. Million units of fizzy faith can not move even a ant hill forget mountains.

Two incidents in Jesus' ministry illustrate this point:

The first is an illustration of feeble faith. Matt. 14:22-33 describes an incident that happened during the ministry of Jesus. Jesus leaves the disciples and stays back and they venture to cross the sea of Galilee. There was a storm at night and they struggled in the rough weather to save their lives. Towards the morning probably between 3 to 6 am Jesus walks on the water towards them. Peter walks towards him finally Jesus calms the storm. Jesus asks Peter who tried to walk on the waves but began to sink, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” verse 31. In fact this applied to all of them; they were men of doubt but not of faith.

In this incident, the disciples of Jesus when they were left alone in the boat and struggled the whole night in troubled weather, might have looked for help. They might have longed that someone would come and help. After the whole night of struggle, in the morning they found someone walking towards the boat. Their reaction was to cry "A Ghost!." According to popular belief ghosts are active only at dark night. It is less likely for a ghost to be there in the sea in the dawn. It makes me wonder why they could not think of the possibility of it being Jesus, the passenger whom they left behind? This is  characteristic of "people of little faith." They would imagine the impossible as happening but still would avoid the possibility of God being able to intervene in their situation.

Faith is to believe in divine possibilities. That is to say faith is allowing the possibility that God could intervene in our situation. Doubt is denying this possibility. Faith adulterated with doubt is full but impotent because it always have other alternative than God. They could only think of a ghost that would walk towards them but not Jesus, a passenger who is supposed to join them!

There is another remarkable incident in the life of Jesus. This time the hero is a Roman centurion. The response of the centurion made Jesus exclaim, "In no one in Israel have I found such faith!" What is the type of faith that the centurion had?

He had faith without doubt. It was a clean faith no fizzy bubbly faith. He had known from experience that if an officer commands that is done. He believed that Jesus is a greater than himself and Jesus' words does have power to heal his servant. He had absolutely no doubt that Jesus could heal his servant. He had faith is Jesus that by his word alone he can heal. That is why he did not bother to carry his servant to the presence of Jesus.

When we pray to God we always make sure we know where the fire exit is. When we entrust our matters to Jesus we often make sure the life-boat serviced and ready or the parachute works properly. In case God fails we have some alternative to escape! This sort of faith with bubbles of doubt can not achieve anything. We disappoint God when we offer our cup of faith to God because God looks at the faith and not the bubbles, so he knows that it is only half full.

Let us not pray to increase our faith but ask God to help us to cultivate quality faith. This faith, Jesus says, can do great things: it can even move mountains.

Word Alive! | About the Author | Comments ] India Gospel Network |

Copyright ©2000.  Dr. Paulson Pulikkottil
All rights reserved.