"Just A Little Bit"

Scripture:  Luke 17:5-10

Introduction

I had the wonderful joy of officiating at my first wedding yesterday afternoon.  It’s quite an amazing blessing to be invited into such an important moment in somebody’s life – especially when you’d never met them before you began the process of planning the wedding ceremony.

One of my favorite parts of the day was having a few kids running around the church who had obviously not spent much time in a church before.  One of the flower girls asked me about a number of different things –

  Flower Girl: “What’s that book you’re holding?”

     Pastor Cody: “It has all the words that I have to read for the wedding ceremony.”

  Flower Girl:“What are you doing?”

     Pastor Cody: “I’m going to light the candles…  What are you doing?

     Flower Girl: “…Watching you…”

My favorite part of our exchange was when I got the lighter out to light the candles.

  Flower Girl: “What’s that?”

     Pastor Cody: “A lighter for the candles.”  [push the button, butane flame bursts forth]

     Flower Girl: “…WHOA!  It... It shoots fire!  It’s like…  a dragon!”

I can honestly say that I had never thought about that before.  She made a really good point – it’s a bit silly that this lighter is so intense and shoots fire, just to light a couple of candles on the altar.  We all know that it only takes a spark to get a fire going…  Yet, every time I light a candle, I use this miniature flamethrower.

You Only Need A Seed

In the passage from Luke’s gospel this morning, the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith!”  The disciples come to Jesus looking for flamethrower faith, an overabundance of faith to help them walk the path of discipleship.

And who could blame them?  Immediately before the passage we just heard, Jesus had just called on the disciples to model extravagant forgiveness toward one another:  Jesus says, “If another disciple sins against you, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.  And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”  Upon hearing this, the disciples say to Jesus, “If you’re going to expect us to live up to that standard, then you’re going to have to give us more faith!!” 

And Jesus responds, “You might think you need a flamethrower…  But all you really need is a little spark!”

Okay.  That’s not true.  What Jesus actually says is, “If you had faith even the size of a tiny mustard seed, you could perform miracles.  You could say to a tree, ‘be uprooted and planted into the sea,’ and it would obey.”

Seed-Size Faith

Spark-Sized Faith.  Seed-Sized Faith.  How many of you have ever seen a mustard seed?  Well, just in case you haven’t…  I happen to have one right here.  Can you see it?  It sort of looks like a freckle on the tip of my finger, but it’s actually a seed.  Here…  Let me take a picture and blow it up for you. 

That, my friends, is how much faith it takes for God to use us to do something amazing.  It only takes that much faith to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Isn’t that FANTASTIC news??  It only takes a little bit of faith in order to be faithful.

Alright, I'll be the first to admit...  I’d love more faith than that.  I find it hard to be satisfied with mustard seed sized faith…  And I think that most of the time, my faith is significantly greater.  But still, there are some days where a mustard seed amount is all that I can muster…  And I bet that I’m not alone in saying that.  So it is Good News to know that, even on those days, God can still use us!

Growing Seeds

It is important to note that it is a mustard seed in particular that Jesus uses as a metaphor for teeny, tiny bit of faith.  He could have used another small thing – a pebble, perhaps.  Or maybe a grain of sand.  The point of a needle.  Certainly, there were lots of other small things that Jesus could have referenced.

Instead, he chose to use an object lesson for an object that is alive.  He chose something that, though small, has the potential to grow.  And that distinction makes a world of difference.

This past summer, Crystal and I tried our hand at gardening for the first time in our lives.  The first things that I planted were tomatoes.  When I got the bag of seeds, I was disappointed to see how small the seeds were…  And I couldn’t help but wonder how these tiny seeds could possibly grow into a full-size tomato plant that will actually produce fruit.  I figured I’d give it a shot, but I didn’t trust the instructions on the seed packet…  So I went ahead and planted 10 seeds in a one-square-foot section of our garden, figuring that if I was lucky, maybe one of those seeds would actually grow.

Over the next week, I went back to the garden every single day to check on the progress of my tomato seeds.  And every single day, I was disappointed to find that they hadn’t even sprouted yet.  And I continued doing this for the next week, and the next, and the next.  Finally, I decided that I was disappointed for the last time, and I counted my losses and gave up on my tomato plant.

A week later, I went to the garden, and I found that all 10 seeds had sprouted.  I ended up having to thin out the plants because they were all growing so well that they were choking one another out.  By the end of the summer, we had more tomatoes growing in our garden than we were able to eat.

It all started from one tiny tomato seed.  If I had discounted that seed because it was so small and not planted it, it never would have had that chance to grow, to thrive, and to produce fruit.

And so it is with our faith.  If we choose sit out and sit apart from what God is doing in our lives, in our church, and in our world because we feel that our faith is not enough, we will only ever have that little bit of faith.  Our perceived lack of faith becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because seeds that aren’t planted cannot grow.  But when we do something with that faith, however small it might be, we have the opportunity to grow our faith and become better disciples.

Sometimes living out our faith is just doing your job, just doing your duty, not because of any sense of reward but simply because it needs doing.  Faith, in other words, is doing what needs to be done right in front of you and this, Jesus says, is something that only requires a mustard seed faith.  Sometimes living our faith can be pretty ordinary.  The Church community can often be a great source of people to help you recognize the fruits of your faith.

Other times, being faithful means putting one foot in front of the other and walking toward a future that remains unseen while trusting that God has a great things in store.  Faith is heading out the door each day looking for opportunities to be God’s partner and co-worker in the world.  Faith is casting a vision for the world as we wish it to be, and then working to make that vision a reality.  Faith is planting a seed without knowing exactly what is going to sprout up.

Conclusion

My prayer for each of us is that we will be willing to step out in faith – even if we feel like our faith is inadequate.  Jesus tells us that no matter how much faith we bring with us, it is enoughYou are enough.


Photo of a mustard seed <---  This is how small a mustard seed really is!

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