Have you ever wondered, “How much faith is enough?”
Maybe you’ve seen well-meaning Christians tell others that the reason they aren’t getting what they want is that they don’t have enough faith.
Is that true? Or do we add insult to injury by telling people they don’t have enough faith?
The Disciple’s “Little” Faith
In Matthew 17, a man brought his son to the disciples for healing from seizures and suffering (v15). Jesus is noticeably absent during the initial attempt at healing, and the man tells Jesus that the disciples were not able to heal the boy.
Jesus’ response holds nothing back:
“Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” (Matt 17:17 NLT)
Jesus heals the boy, and in the aftermath he tells his disciples that they “don’t have enough faith” (v 20).
So what should the disciples do? Believe harder? Think positive?
My two cents? I don’t think we can fault the effort of their faith… I think the problem is the object of their faith.
Here’s another reason for reading the Bible in circles (read some before, some after, and keep expanding). In Matt 17, verses 1-13 tell us why Jesus wasn’t there for the initial healing. Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain retreat.
Climbing the mountain, I’ll wager these three disciples thought of Jesus like all the other disciples: he was their teacher… he was wise… he was going to save them (in the sense of overthrowing Rome). But the actual “Living Son of God?” Only Peter had made that connection thus far.
But that was about to change.
On the mountaintop, Jesus was transfigured before the three amigos. His face shone like the sun, and he stood talking to Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophet). When the law and the prophets are at your summons… you are surely more than just a good teacher.
Those three… Peter, James, and John… saw Jesus in all his glory. And as they descended the mountain, they entered the scene with the other disciples who could not heal a boy due to their “little faith.”
In fairness to those “other” disciples, they didn’t get the grand glimpse of glory. Perhaps their faith was too little because it made Jesus out to be a great man, but not the Living God. In other words, was the object of their faith human-sized, not God-sized?
Cases and Caveats
There are other cases where people are healed and Jesus attributes it to their faith (i.e., “Your faith has made you well“). See Mark 5:34; 10:52 for example.
But this is where people have trouble: they assume that if they truly believe, they will be healed. Which means, if they aren’t healed, they don’t really believe… or at least that’s what they’re told.
But here’s the thing with faith: faith enables healing, but faith does not guarantee healing.
Want an example? The Apostle Paul prays three times for relief from a “thorn in his flesh.” And three times, God says, “No.”
“…to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:7–9 NLT)
What should we say to Paul, then? That he didn’t have enough faith?
Before you think that God won’t help you because you don’t have enough faith:
- Make sure your faith is in the Son of God… not just a great teacher
- Understand the role of faith: it enables… it does not guarantee our desired outcome
- Trust… that God has something in mind that is far greater than we can imagine!
““No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”” (1 Cor 2:9 NLT)
What is your experience with faith? Where have you seen God deliver something better than you could imagine?
See Part 1 – “Why Won’t God Help Me?”