And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
– Matt 17.20
We all know this direct quote of Jesus. We hear it and it leads us to doubt our faith. Why do I not have enough faith? Do I have enough faith for this or for that? I used to live next door to two elderly men who were twins, in their late seventies, who were both mute. I regularly wondered if God were to ask me to pray over them for healing if I would have the faith. Why have we never seen a physical mountain get up and move?
We do not have enough faith.
At least that’s what some people want us to believe. There is an extremely dangerous wolf in sheep’s clothing teaching Christians that having enough faith will mean that we can escape hardships. We will not get sick. We will not suffer loss. We will be happy, successful, healthy and confident. If I am sick, it is because of my lack of faith. If I do not succeed, it is because I do not have enough faith. If I suffer persecution, I need more faith.
Interestingly enough, however, the Scripture teaches us that our faith is not the determining factor in the situations in our lives. Rather, it is the sovereignty of God. Consider James and Peter:
Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
– Acts 12.1-11
Herod took James and had his head cut off. Here, the second martyr for the faith, was arrested, imprisoned and killed. Seeing that it pleased the Jews, Herod planned to do the same to Peter. Peter was arrested, imprisoned, and God decided to miraculously intervene and save him. Did Peter have more faith than James? The answer is quite simply, no. God saw fit to allow James to be put to death for the cause of Christ, and He saw fit to save Peter, this time at least. The angel was not the fulfillment of Peter’s faith, he was the servant of God.
The faith chapter itself gives us some very clear insight into the topic.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection;
– Heb 11.32-35a
This is the kind of faith we like, right? They conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the sword and even received the dead back to life. That is mountain moving, folks. Right? Notice here, that verse 35 is only half of the verse. What is the rest of it?
Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
– Heb 11.35-40
Did you know that the prophet Isaiah was sawn in two, while still alive? And this passage tells us that it was by faith that he was sawn in two. So how can it be, that in verse 34 some were rescued from the sword by faith and yet in verse 37 some were put to death by the sword? It is because faith is not the guarantee of an easy life. Faith does not rescue us from torture or persecution or sickness or difficulty. Faith is the sustaining force that carries us through the good times and the bad. God is sovereign over the situation, whatever it is, and faith says, “I trust you God, whatever you decide to do”.
If you are in Christ, if you have faith and salvation, we can rest confidently that nothing that happens in our lives is judgment for sin.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
– Rom 8.1
Jesus bore in His body the punishment for all of our sins. Now, there may be consequences to our decisions. There may even be ramifications. But there is never judgment. God does discipline us, but He is not punishing us, He is bringing about our sanctification or obedience (Heb 12.6). When we stray He will set us straight.
And in the same light, His blessings are not directly correlated to our faith. There may be times that we fail because of a lack of faith, just like the disciples who could not cast out a demon, but God does not bring about our success or happiness by the measure of faith we have. God is sovereign and faithful in the good times and in the bad. He uses peace times for His glory and He uses persecution and suffering for His glory. We need only to trust Him.
God can give you the faith to live well and to die well. Scripture says that we will all die. Scripture also says that all who desire to live godly lives will suffer persecution. There will be times that God delivers us from trials, and there will be times that God takes us through trials. There may even be times that we die at the hands of those who hate us and who hate God (just like Jesus did), but we can endure it all through faith.
So examine your heart today. Are you asking for God to release you from your current situation? Or are you asking for Him to sustain you and allow you to glorify Him through it? Are you grieving your circumstance and accusing yourself for not having enough faith? Or are you exemplifying faith by trusting God’s hand in it? Ask Him for faith today, ask Him to help you glorify Him through your situation, and trust Him. No matter what, trust Him.