The theme of the sermon this morning was “My Statement of FAITH.” The church recently got a new pastor and the installation ceremony takes place today.
During the children’s sermon, a statement was made that struck me as odd: “You have to have a LOT of faith.” I think she might have even said, “You’d have to have a lot of faith to make that happen” which is a whole other issue but for right now I’m going to focus on the LOT of faith statement. She was speaking about the Israelites having faith that God would provide food (manna) and water for them during their journey in the wilderness after they escaped from slavery in Egypt. (The manna story is told in the Bible in Exodus 16)
The people of Israel called the bread manna.
It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.
(Exodus 16:31 NIV)
I wrote a note to myself that said, “Isn’t any amount of Faith enough?” What would constitute a LOT of Faith?
What about the parable of the mustard seed?
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
(Mark 4:31 NIV)
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:5,6 ESV)
Truly I tell you, 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.”
(Matthew 17:20 NIV)
Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.
(Matthew 21:21 NLT)
The image of a mustard seed sized bit of faith has always been a source of fascination and something I ponder. I wore a mustard seed necklace somewhat similar to this one for quite a few years. (I still have it, but the chain is too short for me to wear it now.)
I thought about what I think Faith means. I thought of Hebrews 11:1,3, 6, 11-12
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
And it is impossible to please God without faith.
Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
And then, I mused about the very personal experience I had with the story of Abraham and Sarah’s miraculous child: (for a more complete telling of this FAITH and GRACE-filled story, read this.)
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man (and one woman), and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
If I ever get a tattoo, the one I would most consider would be an image of the word faith slicing through the word grace, as in “by faith are you saved through grace.” (Faith through grace, get it?) Something like this, but with it cutting through a larger word “GRACE” done in a way so that both words are clearly seen.
But I digress.
The pastor ended with the thought that each person’s statement of FAITH is their life. Your statement of FAITH is YOU.
My faith is personal. I am not one of those people who evangelize every person I meet. I don’t, however, avoid talking about my faith it if is relevant to the conversation. I pray throughout the day. If I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do. I have deep convictions about certain beliefs and a very strong sense of liberal theology (which isn’t surprising given the hodge-podge patchwork of churches I’ve attended so far in my life). This quote* says it so well:
In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity (love).
Faith is not a creed, a recitation of a list of beliefs. Faith is not something that can be measured.
Faith, in my opinion, can not be more or less than it is. One either believes or doesn’t.
Yes, there may be reservations or questions — but when it comes right down to it — are you IN or out? You can’t stay on the Titanic and be in the lifeboat at the same time. Well, technically, I guess you could do that but your ultimate choice would be Titanic in the end.
At some point the decision has to be made.
I don’t think there is more or less, to it.
I don’t believe one can have a “LOT” of faith.
Faith just IS. Or it isn’t.
You’ve taken the leap or you haven’t.
One tiny grain of faith, as small as a mustard seed is enough to move a mountain. Given that, does attempting to quantify faith make any sense?
How much more faith than that tiny grain is possible or even needed?
Faith has gotten me through all the major decision in my life. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve lived miracles. I’ve had sorrow, sadness, heartache and pain. There has been joy, laughter, and love. Through it all, like a thread woven into a gorgeous piece of fabric — FAITH is what holds it all together for me. Thanks be to God.
*The attribution of the quote is quite a story. You can read all about it here. Research points to this person as the author: Marc’ Antonio de Dominis (1560-1624), archbishop of Split (Spalato).