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"Have Faith"

Luke 17:1-10

Pastor James F. Wright

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
St John Lutheran Church  
Champaign, IL

Sun, Oct 21, 2001 

Luke 17:1-10 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause on of these little ones to sin. So, watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, "Come along now and sit down to eat"? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"

Living in such perilous times like these requires that we have faith. Faith in our government, faith in our flag, and faith in ourselves. And, yet, these things all have their limits in power to help us. Jesus gives us a faith that will never disappoint us because it is based in his identity as God the Almighty. Jesus tells us, "Have faith."

"Into every life a little rain must fall" goes the old saying. But lately it seems we have been through a thunderstorm. When we saw the towers fall a month ago, we could not believe this was happening in our country. Now as millions fear the threat of a deadly disease spread by white powder, we wonder when this will come to an end. These are terrible crimes against humanity.

Jesus says the worst crime is to lead little ones astray. The little ones are those who have come to see Jesus as the only true God and their savior. They have just begin to have faith. They are learning how to follow Jesus, and they are susceptible to stumbling and falling down in the faith. The Lord says it would be better if a heavy millstone, weighing a hundred pounds or more, were tied to their necks and dropped into the sea.

I don't suppose anyone goes about deliberately trying to deceive the children of God. It usually happens through ignorance or neglect. It happens when teachers of the Word of God lead people in the wrong way. It happens when Christian parents don't properly teach the faith to their children, leaving them to be tripped up by the materialism of our day, immorality, and other traps. It happens when the Church does not give a clear confession of the truth, when we allow the Christian faith to be portrayed as just another way to heaven, an alternate route to Judaism or Islam. People stumble when we don't take the faith seriously. This makes the Lord angry, because when we cause other people to stumble in these ways the results are eternal damnation for them.

Having faith means teaching others the truth about Jesus. It means not being afraid to live the faith so others can see. It means teaching your children to love God for the grace he continually shows to his people. Having faith means standing firm on the Bible's statement that there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved.

Having faith also means forgiving others. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, if he repents, forgive him." These are the words of the Lord Jesus. But how many times have we let the hurt we feel prevent us from sharing with others the forgiveness we have received from God? How long have we held that grudge against our brother or sister? Will we ever give in and forgive them? Most of the time when we are hurt we just walk away and store up all that anger in our heart. Jesus tells us to let other people know when they sin against us, to rebuke them. And when they express their regret, we are to forgive them every time. Even seven times in one day.

United we stand. We see these words displayed everywhere. What really unites people is when we see the great mountain of debt we owe God, and see it all has forgiven by sending Jesus to the cross in our place. If God can forgive us that great mountain, we certainly have within us the power to forgive our brother or sister the little mole hill they have committed against us. Having faith in Jesus as our savior gives us the power to forgive those who sin against us. We are united by the great debt Christ has canceled to each of us.

Jesus says have faith and you will do great things. The disciples, seeing how much Jesus was asking of them, both in leading God's people and forgiving others, recognized they lacked the faith they needed and asked Jesus to increase their faith. How many of us think that we have enough faith to get us through to the rest of our lives? Maybe we did before September 11, but now we worry about the future. Will terrorists strike near me? Will the economy hold? Will our sons and daughters be called to serve in the military?

Have faith! Jesus told his disciples if they had faith as a grain of mustard, they could move great trees out and drop them in the sea. Like the disciples, we realize that we are not up to the task of confident living. But the Holy Spirit has given us faith enough to believe that Jesus is the only true God, and our savior. We already have enough faith to do remarkable things.

Faith is not mere positive thinking we must cultivate with ourselves. It is not something we set our minds to do. Faith does not come from inside us, but from outside of us. Faith comes down from above. It is the gift God deposited inside us when we were baptized, or when we first heard the gospel story of how separated we are from God and how Jesus gave his life to bring us back to the Heavenly Father. Our faith may be as dim today as a little candle burning all by itself in the darkness of night, but as long is it is faith, it continues to burn.

The smallest, weakest faith is faith in Jesus as savior of the world. So even our small, insignificant faith has great power to save us and lead us through whatever darkness awaits us in the future. For in the smallness of our faith in Christ is concealed God's great power. Through us He will produce great wonders for his kingdom.

Having faith means seeing we really have nothing of our own. Our faith comes from God and belongs to him. This makes us humble. The Bible says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast." There is no room for boasting in what we have done. Rather, we take pride in the Lord our God and all he has done for us.

Jesus' parable about the servants who come in from the field tired and worn out, and then go about fixing dinner for the master, only then to get their own dinner and go to bed reminds us never to be proud of what we can do for God. The good works we do come from the faith God has given us. All the glory goes to him. What powerful and wonderful things we will be able to do then by the power of God Almighty.

As the modern day heroes of firemen say when they rescue someone from death, "I was only doing my job." So we must also say when God brings about something good in our daily lives, "thanks be to God." Good works are always the result of faith in Jesus Christ as savior.

Have faith. This is the answer to all our worries about the future. Not faith in yourself. Not faith in some unseen, mysterious power above. Not faith in military might. Have faith in Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven to save you. Have faith in him, and live as someone who has faith. And God will bless you richly. Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Copyright 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.

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