A Lapse of Faith

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Matthew

Matthew 17:14-27, “A Lapse of Faith”

“Faith is a crutch!”  Ever hear that?  Christians are often blamed as relying upon Jesus by faith as a crutch.  People look upon faith as if it’s some sort of weakness, as if it’s the last option that no one would take if they really had any option at all.

That’s completely the opposite point of view as the Bible.  Jesus doesn’t look upon faith as a crutch; He sees it as vital.  What’s to be avoided is the lack of faith.  Lack of faith stopped disciples from walking in the will of God.  Lack of faith stopped people from following after Christ.  Lack of faith stopped people from experiencing the grace that God offers.  Faith is wonderful; lack of faith is dreadful.

The disciples experienced a lack of faith in Ch 17 with devastating consequences.  A boy was suffering with a demon, and because of the disciples’ lack of faith – he remained suffering until the moment that Jesus intervened and saved him.  If the disciples had but a little faith, they could have moved mountains – but they did not even exercise the barest amount with this boy.

Contextually, these events follow on the heels of the Transfiguration.  Luke’s account specifically states that this happened on the next day (Lk 9:37).  The very next day after experiencing the most profound miracle of Jesus prior to His resurrection – the next day after seeing Jesus in all of His glory as God – the bulk of the disciples (who had not seen it) experienced one of the deepest lapses of faith to date.

God forbid that we would engage in the same, though assuredly we do.  We (unlike the disciples) HAVE seen the resurrection.  Without a doubt, we know that Jesus IS the all-powerful God.  Will we walk in faith, looking to Jesus according to the word and will of God?  Time will tell.

Matthew 17:14–27
14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

  • Big problem!  Mark’s gospel provides a few more details, stating that the issue was a mute spirit (Mk 9:17).  This was no ordinary physical disease, but an issue of spiritual oppression.  When the demon would take hold of the child, it would cause him to foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, become physically rigid, and then the demon would try to throw the child into the fire or water to kill him (Mk 9:20-22).  Seemingly the issue with the deafness & mute wasn’t necessarily with the boy, but with the demon.  We’re not told what happened in the original encounter of the father with Jesus’ disciples (or when it even took place), but perhaps the disciples had tried to cast out the demon and failed thinking that because the demon could not hear them, they could not overpower it.
  • Although modern medicine is able to address many issues that ancient cultures could have only dreamt about, we’d be fooling ourselves to think that demon-possession no longer takes place.  Certainly epilepsy is a recognized physical ailment (neurological-disorder), and even to use the KJV translation of “lunatic,” there are many other issues of the brain and body which can be addressed through modern medical practices.  That said, we dare not think that the third of the angels who fell with Satan suddenly became impotent with the advance of modern medicine.  The spiritual realm is a reality, though one we cannot see, and angels and demons are absolutely real creatures.  Demons still afflict people today in very real ways all over the world, and always to the same end.  Jesus told us that the devil does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy (Jn 10:10), and Peter wrote to the church saying that the devil roams about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pt 5:8).  The devil & his minions want people to die…and more specifically, to die without knowing the saving grace of Jesus.  The devil knows exactly where he will spend eternity (though he rebels against it), and he wants as many humans to be there with him as possible.
    • The good news here is that Jesus is stronger than the devil!  This is exactly what will be displayed by the Lord.
  • Note that the father of the child is still seeking Jesus.  Whatever had taken place in his initial meeting with the disciples, the father hasn’t given up.  He knows Jesus can help his son, and he was bound & determined to ask Jesus to heal the boy.

17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.”

  • This seems rather shocking.  We’ve read so much about the compassion of Jesus and His great love for us, yet His response here seems so much the opposite.  It seems totally out of character with Jesus…almost as if He’s annoyed to have to deal with these kinds of issues right now.  The annoyance is likely real – but not for the reasons we might expect.  Obviously Jesus is not annoyed with the child – the boy was completely innocent in all of this.  The problem is not likely the boy’s father…after all, he’s just looking for help.  To be sure, he has his own issues regarding faith (which come to light in Mark’s account), but none of that seems to be the initial issue to which Jesus responds.  Nor could it be the crowd of multitude, who have little bearing on the events other than the context. 
  • So what is it?  The problem is primarily the disciples.  They are the “faithless and perverse generation.”  Certainly, “generation” refers to the people as a whole, but they are represented somewhat by the disciples themselves.  Jesus will specifically tell the disciples they failed in the task because of their unbelief (vs. 20), which is almost exactly the same root word as “faithless” (the only difference being one is an adjective & the other is a noun).  “Perverse” is a word that basically means “crooked/warped.”  A warped board isn’t good for much in construction, and neither is a warped faith good for much in the kingdom.  Of all of the people in Judea, the ones who should have had the strongest faith ought to have been the disciples – and He specifically gave them the power to cast out demons as they did the work of spreading the gospel of the kingdom (Mt 10:8).  Yet along the lines, it got twisted.  They knew Jesus as Messiah, but not well enough to do any work in His name.
    • It’s not hard to think of ways this might apply to many of us in the modern church as well.  We know Jesus – we’ve received the promises of salvation – but in many ways our walk with Christ is without faith and warped/twisted.  Some people think, “Surely Jesus had the power to help 2000 years ago, but He can’t do that today…  Praise God Jesus is my Lord, but I just can’t trust Him with this area of my life…  I know what God’s word says here, but that’s not really speaking about my situation…”  Truly we exemplify some of the symptoms of being a faithless & perverse generation! 

18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

  • It was absolutely no problem at all for Jesus to heal the boy.  Despite the fact that the demon was mute & deaf, Jesus called it out (Mk 9:25), and the demon was forced to obey the voice of its Creator.  The boy was cured & set free!  No more would the demon throw him into seizures & endangerment – the boy was free to live life as God intended him to live.
  • Jesus has power over the demons!  Infinite power – everlasting power!  There’s no battle that Jesus will have with the devil in which the outcome is in question…Jesus is always the victor!

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

  • The disciples had tried to cast out the demon, but they failed.  Again, we don’t know exactly when this had taken place.  Some scholars suggest that the failure took place while Jesus, Peter, James, and John were on the mount of transfiguration.  Thus, while 3 of the disciples saw the magnitude of the revealed glory of God, the rest of the 9 disciples had their faith tested.  That’s certainly possible from the text, but there’s just no way of knowing.
  • However, the contrast with the transfiguration is evident!  On one hand, we have the Lord of all glory Who had been ever-revealing Himself to the apostles.  He had multiplied food to feed multitudes before their very eyes.  He had healed every kind of disease, even raising the dead, with the disciples being witnesses (and Jesus had even empowered them to do the same).  He had calmed storms and walked on water.  He had taught with authority, shutting down the scribes and Pharisees, giving such insight to the word of God as the One who had written it.  All of this led to the place where they (Peter leading the way) could confess Jesus as the Christ (the Anointed King), the Son of the Living God.  They knew that Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the promises made to Abraham, Moses, and David.  Jesus’ glory was evident prior to the transfiguration, but made truly visible at that time.  Here is the One on whom all the hope of history rests!  Here is the One sent by God to redeem our souls from the grave!  Here is the One that is worthy of all worship and Who has all power! And yet His followers are impotent in His name.  It’s no wonder Jesus was exasperated with them!  Have you ever tried to teach a lesson to someone (perhaps your kids, or your co-workers) and they just don’t get it?  So you have to go through the lesson over & over again.  That’s likely the way it was with Jesus & the disciples.  The disciples would go from one extreme of believing that Jesus is God, to the next extreme of believing that He is incapable of power – in a span of days (or perhaps even an afternoon).  Jesus had to keep teaching the basics to them over & over again.
    • Of course before we point too many fingers at the disciples, we’ve got to acknowledge our own insufficiency here.  It’s so easy for me to think of examples in my own life where Jesus has had to go over the basics with me again and again.  And you’re likely the same way. 🙂  Yes, Jesus does provide – yes, Jesus can work – yes, God wants us to rely on Him by faith – yes, Jesus really does forgive.  How much better it would be to simply take Him at His word & walk with Him believing what He says!
  • Why did the disciples fail in exorcising the demon?  Jesus tells them explicitly, “because of your unbelief.”  As the time Peter fell into the water after walking upon it – as the time the disciples had wondered (again) how Jesus could possibly feed such a multitude – they had little faith.  Actually, beyond that…they seemed to have NO faith for this particular occurrence.  Obviously they had not turned apostate & left Jesus behind (He’s not talking about that kind of unbelief), but they simply didn’t believe God could or would work in this situation.  Without even that basic foundation, it’s no wonder that the disciples failed.
    • There are many people who have questions of faith when God doesn’t move the way they wanted God to move.  All of us have had questions of “Why, Lord?” from time to time.  Of course the Bible addresses those sorts of issues (which isn’t really the topic of our text today), which provide comfort for the times we experience those disappointments.  But we cannot ask God about disappointed prayer when we didn’t believe God could really do anything in the first place.  If we don’t believe that God can act, or if we don’t believe that God wants to act, why should it be any surprise when things don’t change?  It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t pull any punches here.  He doesn’t fall back on theological issues of predestination, saying, “Well you couldn’t cast out the demon because it was the wrong time for you to do it.  I wanted to teach you a lesson about faith, and that would have been impossible if you cast out the demon the first time, so I arranged things that you would come to Me.” (or whatever)  No – Jesus makes it clear that THE reason for the disciples’ failure was their lack of faith.  If we don’t believe God CAN work, that’s a big problem.
  • What Jesus goes on to say in regards to faith and the work of God are some of the most misinterpreted statements in all of the New Testament.  “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”  To that, we can say “amen” (just like Jesus did!) and rejoice.  Instead of unbelief, if we have true faith (even just a tiny bit) we can watch God do miracles.  “So,” say the faith-healers, “have a little faith & your diabetes will disappear!  Have a little faith and your back pain will dissipate!  The reason for your continued suffering is your lack of faith.  If you only believed, you would be healed!”  How pig-headed and how cruel some supposed-teachers of the Bible can be to throw Jesus’ words around like this to others.  The faith-healer doesn’t want to be held responsible for any lack of miracle that he can supposedly perform, so he shoves the blame onto the individual.  “Sorry, brother, but you just didn’t have the faith!”  We’ll look at Jesus’ verse in context here, but please note: Jesus did not upbraid the demon-possessed boy for having the lack of faith; Jesus chastised the disciples.  For faith-healers to blame the individual for the lack of faith would have been like Jesus blaming the boy.  Yet who is the real problem: the supposed faith-healer.  If anyone lacks faith in the power and will of the One True God, it’s the person strutting around on stage making promises he cannot possibly keep.
  • So what IS Jesus saying here?  Little faith can do much, but you’ve got to have faith.  Even a grain of faith from the disciples surely would have been enough to accomplish the work – after all, it would have been enough to move the mountain that Jesus had been transfigured upon – but the disciples didn’t even have that.  A little faith was enough for Peter to walk upon the water.  A little faith is enough to accomplish the impossible.  How so?  The power isn’t in the size of the faith, but in the size of the God our faith is in.  A tiny amount of faith in the infinite Creator God is enough to move a gigantic mountain because God is infinitely bigger than the mountain.  If God wants that mountain to move, it’s going to move.  When God wants to move in accordance to our faith, then all we need do is say the word & believe, and God will gladly act according to His power and will.
    • Sometimes we say “Your problem is that your god is too small.  If you really believed in the God of the Bible, you’d believe that God is big enough to handle this problem.”  And that diagnosis can be true at times.  Yet here, it’s not the size of the God that’s the problem; it’s the size of the faith.  Do you have faith – ANY faith – to believe that God is capable of doing what is according to His will?  Then ask!  Let God be God, and then be amazed at what you see Him do!
  • Faith is obviously the key here, but it’s worth taking a closer look.  After all, we cannot say, “I have faith that God can give me a billion dollars,” and wait around expecting the check to arrive.  (We can wait, but we’ll be waiting a long time!)  Faith is NOT speaking something into existence, expecting that it will happen.  Let’s be clear on that issue.  The only person that can speak something into existence is God, which is how He acted during the week of creation.  God spoke, and the world came into being.  That’s God; not us.  We speak, and air passes over our vocal cords, moves past our tongue & teeth & words come into being – but that’s about it.  God is God; we’re not.  Objection: “But wait a minutes!  The author of Hebrews says that ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ (Heb 11:1)  So all we need to do is hope for something, and believe in something we haven’t seen.  Thus we CAN create it.”  Absolutely wrong.  The whole point of Hebrews 11 is that the various saints mentioned there (both men and women) looked forward to God and His promises through faith.  They weren’t making something up within their own minds, deciding what it is that THEY wanted.  They were looking to God and the things that God had promised them, trusting that God would be good to His word to give them.  And ultimately, all of those promises looked forward to Christ, as the author of Hebrews goes on to show.  Thus what do we do when we exercise faith?  Look to Jesus.  Hebrews 12:1–2, "(1) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." []  The whole example of faith in Biblical history shows that faith is looking unto God and His promises – we do the same when we look with our eyes fixed upon our Lord Jesus.  We cast off sin, lay aside distractions, and look to our Lord – running to Him, doing the things He wants us to do.
  • “OK – great.  What does that have to do with Matthew 17?”  Everything!  Accomplishing things through faith is not doing whatever it is WE want to do; it’s doing whatever it is GOD wants us to do.  God wanted to cast the demon out of the boy.  That much was made obvious when Jesus rebuked the demon & cast it out.  Jesus had already empowered the disciples to engage in this sort of work long ago.  So there ought to have never have been a question of the power of God or the desire of God.  This is something God wanted to do, and the disciples well knew Jesus’ desire to cast out demons all over Judea…they should have acted in faith, but they didn’t.  We can accomplish anything God wants us to do when we’re acting in faith.  For example, we know that God wants to grant wisdom when we ask in faith (Jas 1:5).  So ASK!  He’s promised to do it (we know His will), He’s got the ability to do it (He’s the author of wisdom), so ask already!  We spend too much time twiddling our thumbs navel-gazing and asking ourselves over & over “What’s God’s will for this situation?” – just ask for God’s wisdom already.  Or…we know that it is God’s will for us to forgive our neighbor (or spouse or family member, etc.), yet we have a hard time doing it.  Ask in faith for the power (and perhaps desire) to forgive.  Do you honestly think that God wouldn’t grant it?  That’s a prayer request you are guaranteed to have answered.  And of course examples could abound…  What is it that God wants you to do?  Have faith in God, looking unto Jesus trusting Him, and you can be sure it will be done.
  • Question: “That all sounds great regarding the obvious areas of God’s promises.  But what about the other areas where it may not be clear what God’s will is?  What about for issues of healing, or job provision?”  To be sure, we may not know God’s precise will in every situation – but we can be certain of His will more times than we might think.  We might not know if it’s God’s specific will to grant miraculous healing, but we do know it’s God’s will to give comfort and strength to those who suffer.  We might not know the exact job God will grant us, but we do know that it’s His will to provide for His children.  (We also know that it’s God’s will for us to be wise stewards of what He’s provided!)  The key is to have faith in God.  Look to our Lord Jesus and be guided by Him.  There are times that we pray for only those things that we know – there are other times that God might grant you the gift of faith for the miraculous (1 Cor 12:9).  Act according to what God has given you – have faith in His person and His promises, and you’ll experience Him working in wondrous ways.

21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

  • Jesus puts a bit of a qualifier on this particular instance.  He doesn’t take away from the problem of the disciples’ lack of faith – He actually shows that it takes more faith that what the disciples might have expected.  The contrast with verse 21 isn’t with the disciples’ unbelief, it was with the mustard-seed faith.  Seemingly demons can have a stronger hold on people than mountains do upon the earth.  The disciples needed a strong faith to cast out this particular kind of demon, which is what prayer & fasting would have helped with.
  • Prayer & fasting” is not a legalistic method that Jesus gives.  Notice Jesus doesn’t give a particular wording in this prayer, nor a particular method in this fast.  These are simply tools that help us in strengthening our faith.  People often get the wrong idea about fasting, thinking that it’s a way to force God’s hand.  They think if they fast long & hard enough, that will be the final thing that makes God act in accordance with their prayers.  It’s the same logic that a child uses when they think that holding their breath longer will force his/her parents to do what they want.  That’s NOT what fasting is.  Fasting is simply an act of humility as we deny ourselves some things of the flesh (usually food) that we would depend more upon God in our spirit.  Fasting is a method that helps us seek after God and remain focused upon Him…likewise with prayer.  What the disciples had was a lack of faith – they depended upon themselves rather than God.  Jesus simply tells them a couple of practical ways that they could have been looking to God.
  • Those of us in the American Evangelical church don’t often think about fasting, but it’s still a good practice to engage.  Are you going through a dry time in your walk with the Lord?  Seek His face through fasting and prayer.  Is there a situation in your life in which it’s difficult to trust the Lord?  Pray & fast.  Too often our prayers are quick 2-second utterances that are interspersed between our complaining.  Spend time in prayer.  Fast, if need be to help you do that.  Take your lunch hour to go someplace quiet and spend time in dedicated prayer.  See if it doesn’t help strengthen your faith in the Lord.

22 Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.

  • Jesus had given prophecies regarding His death and resurrection before – in fact, these prophecies were coming up with increasing frequency.  He had taught about His suffering, death, and resurrection after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (16:21), briefly on the mount of transfiguration (17:12), and now again fully in the presence of all of the disciples when they can come again to Galilee (away from the mountain).  Jesus’ earthly ministry is starting to come to a close, and He’s preparing His disciples as much as He possibly can for the events that were to take place.
  • What’s unique about this is that this particular prophecy is the first time Jesus mentions His coming betrayal.  The disciples have heard about His suffering, death, and resurrection, but they had not yet heard about their own involvement in all of it.  Of course, we don’t have a transcript of everything Jesus said to the disciples, but there’s no reason to think that Jesus told them anything more about it than what He said here – but it’s clear at this point that there would be treachery involved.  Betrayal can only happen from a trusted friend (an enemy can’t “betray” – he only acts according to your expectation), so although Jesus doesn’t mention the twelve, they likely understood that someone close to Jesus would be the one to start Jesus’ sufferings.
  • This time, the disciples’ reaction was sorrow…extreme sorrow.  There’s no argument or debate with Jesus; just sorrow at the things yet to come.  They’ve accepted the reality of what Jesus has been teaching – at least in part.  They understand that He will suffer and die, but there’s no indication that they’ve understood anything at all about His resurrection.  The disciples would have believed in the concept of the resurrection, but they didn’t understand how it applied to Jesus – otherwise, how could they have experienced extreme sorrow?  Yes, Jesus would suffer and die, but He would be alive again three days later.  That ought to have been a reason for wonder & joy!  Sure, maybe they would be sorrowful at the suffering – but where’s the joy at the promised resurrection?  It’s with their faith at the demon-exorcism…they didn’t have it.  The disciples heard the plan of God, but they didn’t have faith in it.  They could now believe the reality of Jesus’ suffering and death, but they did not yet believe in the promised resurrection three days later.  As a result of their lack of faith, they experienced a lack of joy.  They believed part of Jesus’ words, but not all of them – and as a result they missed out on the promise.
    • Do you trust the plan of God?

24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”

  • The scene changes a bit in that they’re back home in Capernaum & Peter is seemingly alone without the 12 disciples.  As Peter is going throughout his day, the people in charge of receiving the temple tax come & in a discreet way ask Peter about Jesus’ back-taxes.
  • This was not a tax set by Rome, but a tax levied by the temple priests.  When God first gave the tabernacle through Moses, there was a redemption price to be paid every year.  Every Hebrew (no matter how rich or poor) was to pay the same tax which symbolized the redemption price that God paid for the people as He took them out of Egypt.  Over the years, this became the temple tax & the price seemingly increased a bit.
  • Being that this tax represented the redemption price, should Jesus have had to pay the tax?  Of course not!  He IS the redemption.  The whole temple tax system symbolized Jesus and His coming work at the cross.  Of course, the people didn’t know this, and they treated Jesus the same as everyone else.  They do show quite a bit of respect for Jesus here in that they don’t ask Him directly, but go through one of His disciples, asking if this was something that Jesus was going to do.

25 He said, “Yes.”…

  • You gotta love Peter.  He answers “yes” without having a clue with what Jesus was going to say. 🙂

… And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.

  • Jesus knew what Peter was going to say before Peter said it. (Again, demonstrating His omniscience – there’s nothing that Jesus does not know.)  Jesus knew that Peter had been asked about the temple tax, so Jesus addresses it straight out.  Did Jesus owe the tax?  No.  Again, the tax directly pointed to His work at the cross, but even more than that, Jesus is the Son of God.  If God is the King over the temple, then the Son doesn’t need to pay taxes to the temple…He’s exempt.  All of this goes to demonstrate the extent to which Jesus was a stranger upon the earth.  After all, Jesus was the one worthy of temple worship – and yet here He is, asked to pay a temple tax.
  • Who else is exempt?  Peter.  As the Son of God, Jesus is unique in His relationship with God the Father, but as believers in Jesus Christ, all Christians are made the children of God.  We’ve been born of the Holy Spirit & given the right of adoption.  The “sons are free.”
  • Obviously we do not have a temple tax today – the Church IS the temple of the Holy Spirit.  But may we never forget our freedom and our relationship with God the Father through God the Son.

27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

  • Jesus could have pressed the issue, but He didn’t.  It wasn’t worth the battle or the confusion it would cause.  Far easier to pay the tax & keep the focus upon the main things that Jesus was trying to teach.  If a tax-fight was going to distract from the gospel message, it was better simply to pay the tax and be done with it.
  • That’s all well & good, but Peter may have been asking himself how exactly Jesus was going to pay the tax.  The tax wasn’t much, but it was obviously more money than what Peter possessed.  If Peter had had the cash, he would have paid the collectors before even coming to Jesus.  There were times that the disciples had a money bag, but it either wasn’t present or there wasn’t anything in it at the time.  So Jesus provides for the temple tax in a miraculous way.
    • Personally, this is one of my favorite miracles from Jesus!  Out of all the fish in the Sea of Galilee, Peter was to bring up the first one he hooked (which was a different method than what Peter normally used for fishing), and the fish would have the money right in its mouth.  Was the money on the sea bed and scooped up just as the fish grabbed the hook?  Was the fish swimming around for days with the money in its mouth?  Did the money just materialize at the moment it was needed?  We haven’t a clue how Jesus did it – but what a miracle that He did! 
    • Jesus can provide for something as incredible as demonic exorcism – and for something as plain as a couple dollars’ worth of temple tax.  Our God is the God who provides.
  • We’re not told the rest of the story – if Peter actually went down to the dock and fished – but please note that’s the only way Peter would have been able to pay the tax.  If Peter didn’t act in faith, he would have remained at the mercy of the tax collectors.  Jesus told him what to do, and told him what would happen if he did – if Peter wanted to experience the results of the promise, then he needed to act in faith according to the word of God.  Jesus had provided the fish; Peter needed to go fish it out.  That’s the way faith often works.  God tells us what we need to do; we are the ones who need to go do it.  Moses was told to go down to Egypt to free the Hebrews, but he had to walk in obedience to the Lord to do it.  Joshua was told that the Jordan River was going to dry up, but the priests had to get their toes wet first.  God gives us the promise; we are the ones to walk in faith according to what He has said.
    • What has God told you to do that you haven’t followed through with?  Maybe you’re familiar with the instructions that God gives you regarding your marriage, but you’re hesitant to actually walk in accordance to it.  Or maybe there’s a besetting sin in your life, and you know what God says to do, but you don’t know if you actually want to go as far as what Jesus says to go in removing the temptation.  Or maybe there’s another area in your life in which there’s no doubt about what the Bible says, but you’re just afraid to take that step.  If you don’t take the step of faith, you’ll never experience the promise of God.  Trust God!  Step out in faith with the Lord Jesus!

Conclusion:
Faith is such a foundational issue to Christianity, but it’s so often misunderstood.  Some people view faith as something with which to manipulate God into giving them what they want.  Other people look at faith as something that the disciples did in the past, but apart from salvation we don’t really trust God for anything today – we just let life happen to us.  Still other people understand the promises of God, but they’re just hesitant to walk in them.  Faith is so much more than all of that!

To walk in faith is to trust the word of our Lord Jesus and walk according to His will.  It’s to keep our eyes fixed upon our Savior, trusting Him with every step that we take.  Even the smallest amount of faith in the glorious God can see amazing things…and there’s no reason for any Christian that our faith need remain small.  As we seek the face of God, continually trusting Him, our faith will grow along with our love for our Lord Jesus.

Do you have a lack of faith today? 

  • The disciples experienced a lack of faith in God’s power.  They didn’t believe that God could empower them for the task that God had already given them to do. 
  • The disciples experienced a lack of faith in God’s plan.  They understood that Jesus was going to die, but they didn’t understand all that God was going to do through the resurrection.
  • Peter experienced a test of faith in God’s provision.  Jesus gave the promise, and Peter needed to act.  More importantly than the temple tax, Peter had received a promise of being one of God’s children, and a co-heir with Jesus Christ.  Did Peter believe it?  Time would tell.

May God increase our faith!  May He help us to believe according to His promises, trusting in His power through the Holy Spirit.  Where do you lack faith today?

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