Jesus was away on a field trip into the mountains with Peter, James, and John. The other nine are left to cool their heels. As always there were people hanging around waiting for Jesus, particularly those who had come to desire his healing miracles. A father arrives, no doubt disappointed to find Jesus out of the office; so he engages the services of those remaining disciples. His son is possessed by a demon who is inflicting horrible seizures which are so great that he stumbles into fires or falls into rivers. Dad is desperate. The disciples take a shot at healing. The whole thing misfires.
But Jesus finally arrives, and the desperate, frustrated father immediately comes to Jesus with a request and a complaint. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
Jesus is not happy. “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replies, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebukes the demon, and it comes out of the boy, and he is healed instantly.
The disciples suffer the rebuke in silence; but later it is just too much to bear. After all, they had tried. So once they are alone with him, they ask:
“Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replies, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Step away from the biblical narrative a bit and go directly to the question it poses. How much faith is enough? Jesus answer is counter-intuitive. “Not as much as you think.”
Wait a minute, Jesus. Moving a mountain is no small feat. I won’t need a giant earth-mover or dynamite, simply a faith-filled command, and that big rock will move? What in the world is going on here?
We often think of faith like fuel. We need to fill up our tank in order to perform a task. Some tasks require no spiritual fuel at all, just a little human energy. And when we live from that perspective we tend to opt in and out of a life of faith, thinking that we can exist without faith in God. We only go to God when life is too much for us to manage by our own power. So are considered with having a quantity of faith on hand for those emergencies.
But faith is not fuel, faith is a relationship. It is what we have not because of momentary necessity. It is what we have because we are continuously connected to the author and completer of our faith. We move mountains not because we have enough faith, but because the faith we have is the real deal. Our faith is authentic. We don’t simply tap into the faith pipeline when things are rough or challenging. Faith comes from a relationship of trust in God that produces all the power needed to deal with life.
Faith in ourselves–our abilities, our goodness, or our intelligence will not move mountains. Faith that blindly spins the dice and hopes that fate treats them kindly in a counterfeit that will ultimately fail us.
But faith in God who loves us and whose love empowers us will move mountains and more.
(c) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn