This morning’s time in the Word took me to Luke 17; and with my curiosity stirred I grabbed a couple of commentaries from the shelf to see what the writers had to say about verses 1-10. I found Darrell Bock’s remarks on verses 5 & 6 in The NIV Application Commentary especially encouraging. Recall that it is in these verses, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea”; and it would obey you’.”
In the section of the commentary entitled Original Meaning, Bock writes:
“Another Key characteristic of discipleship is faith (vv. 5-6). The issue for Jesus is not the amount of faith, but its presence. The disciples ask for their faith to be increased, but Jesus replies that all that is needed is faith the size of a mustard seed. Such faith is able to take a black mulberry tree with a deep root system and say to it, ‘Be rooted up and planted in the sea,’ and it would happen. In other words, a small faith can accomplish amazing things and lead to unusual events.”[Darrell Bock, NIV, Luke, 439]
In the next section, entitled Bridging Contexts, he remarks:
“Faith also plays a central role in our spiritual lives. We are saved by faith and we walk by faith (Gal.5:25; Heb. 11). There is no more basic attitude of the spiritual life than to walk with God in trust, which means recognizing what God is capable of doing while accepting what he delivers. Jesus is primarily concerned that faith is present; he is not concerned about its size. We must ask God to do the extraordinary or enable us to exercise spiritual strength, not in a selfish way but for our spiritual welfare (cf. [Luke] 11:9-13). Faith may mean trusting God for spiritual insight. It may mean asking him for deliverance. It may mean accepting what he has brought into our lives and relying on his grace (1 Cor.12:7-10). Above all, it means never letting go of the commitment to go where God is taking us. What it does not mean is treating God like a king of a “give me what I want” machine, who simply answers requests we make because we have them. Our spiritual development requires that he be in charge of where we are going.” [Ibid., 440-41; emphasis, mine]
In the final section, entitled Contemporary Significance, Bock presents a series of thought provoking questions that remind us just how and where God often chooses to test and refine our faith:
“When one thinks of the issue of trust, the applications are numerous. Do I trust God that he desires what is best for my spiritual welfare? Do I recognize that sometimes suffering is what is best for spiritual growth? Do I believe he can transform my heart, so I can walk righteously? Do I believe that God will support my efforts to share his goodness with others? Do I trust God to fight for me when I uphold his honor? Can I trust God to reverse a severely damaged relationship? The sphere in which true faith can exercise itself in uprooting trees and planting them in the sea is endless.
Of course, the remarks about uprooting trees and planting them in the sea are figurative for doing amazing things. Faith has a way of opening us up for God’s use and presence to work in us. This is more than positive thinking; it is relating to and connecting with God. Sometimes faith requires going in a direction that differs from the direction our culture says we should go. Sometimes it means walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), trusting in God’s care for us. Faith that merely means living life on natural instincts is not faith. No trust is required if we simply cruise through life on the basis of our own expectations. In this passage, Jesus does not call for a magic amount of faith, just its presence. When we lean on him, his strength can carry a long way and will accomplish amazing things.” [Ibid., 442; emphasis mine]
Bock’s comments remind me of words once written to a friend who had encountered a very traumatic and life-threatening accident:
The news has come that you have been called to walk a path of uncertainty. . . Uncertainty for family, friends, maybe, even for yourself. Some may ask, “Why?” We cannot. Instead, we must walk with you, perhaps for you, as so often you have walked for us, for others. We walk by faith. . . not sight. Sight asks. . . faith walks. Together we walk, where He leads.
It was concerning faith that James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4)
Moreover, it was with believers such as we are, in His mind, that “Jesus said to him [i.e., Thomas], ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed’ ” (John 20:29).
“. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith!” (Hebrews 22:2a)