It’s an interesting request from the apostles to Jesus today – Increase our faith.
I wonder why they made that request.
Were they having doubts?
Were they going through some sort of crisis?
I know I’ve heard well-meaning Christians tell a sick person that if they had enough faith that God would heal them.
How much is enough faith?
How do you measure it?
I have heard TV evangelists tell their viewers that if they have faith and send in a donation that God would bless them.
Is that what faith is about?
Actually the request came after Jesus had challenged them to forgive someone who had sinned against them 7 times in one day and asked to be forgiven 7 times.
There are times when we seem to need more faith.
Maybe when we are going through a difficult time.
Maybe when we are in a time of grief.
Jesus doesn’t do what they were hoping but rather he points them to what they already have.
They have faith.
Can faith be measured?
How is faith measured?
If faith is a measurable quantity why doesn’t God give everyone the full amount of faith?
I don’t believe faith is a measurable quantity but faith can be hindered by doubt, like when Jesus says to Peter, who had faith to step out of a boat and walk on water like Jesus – but when he sees the wind and the waves he begins to sink.
Jesus says to him – you of little faith – why did you doubt.
As I consider this again – in light of what Jesus says today about “a little faith” – was it a criticism that he said “you of little faith” – or was it a statement of fact.
Maybe “a little faith” was all that was needed to walk on water just like a little faith is all that is needed to uproot a mulberry tree and have it transplanted into the sea.
But Peter’s doubt quashed that.
Notice though what Jesus does when Peter starts to sink.
He doesn’t “increase his faith” so he can again walk on water.
No, Jesus reaches out his hand and brings him back to the safety of the boat.
Faith is not a quantity issue – it is a gift of God that comes to us.
As Christians we have faith which we believe first comes to us in Baptism when we receive the Holy Spirit.
Faith is a gift and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul says that no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
That is faith.
We have faith that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The question is – what do we do with that faith.
There are times when, like Peter, we are travelling along okay with our faith.
We might even feel at times like we can walk on water.
But when we are confronted with a situation that challenges us that’s when faith is required.
But it’s not as if it isn’t there.
But that’s what faith is for – so when we are confronted with a situation we are having difficulty with that we rely on God and not ourselves.
Otherwise it’s not faith.
It’s simply ourselves if we are not challenged to trust God.
Peter walking on the water was an amazing feat.
But that, in reality, was just an ability to challenge the laws of nature.
Some might even say it falls into line with what could be a trick of magic.
But to look at adversity in the eye – the wind and waves – and say to them – you can’t overcome me – that’s faith in action.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that Peter walking on water was simply a magic trick – but there was nothing in there that was challenging.
But to continue to walk on the water while the wind and the waves attacked him – that’s faith.
And that’s what we face everyday.
It’s an act of faith to confess to the world that we are Christians.
We walk each day and are prepared to call Jesus Christ our Lord.
But what happens when the wind and the waves confront us?
What happens when an adverse situation arises and we actually need to put our faith into action?
Peter focuses away from his faith and focused on the adversities.
He didn’t need his faith increased.
He needed to rely on his faith in Jesus.
Likewise when we are faced with an adverse situation then we are called to rely on our faith in Jesus.
We don’t need to have our faith increased, we need to trust in God – which is what we call faith.
Adversity comes in many forms.
It can be a personal adversity – a sickness, a death, a family crisis.
In those situations faith can help us to weather the storm and look for God’s presence and help in it.
It’s doesn’t mean the adversity will disappear but God will help us move forward.
When Peter began to sink, note 2 things.
It doesn’t say the wind and the waves disappeared.
Faith doesn’t mean that God clears away the adversity or prevents it.
Sometimes they remain.
Sometimes a sickness doesn’t get better despite people saying if you had enough faith you’d get better.
Sometimes a death cannot be averted.
Sometimes a family crisis ends in a divorce or a relationship becoming untenable.
And that’s where the 2nd part of Peter’s experience reveals how God helps.
When Peter sinks, Jesus doesn’t “increase his faith” to enable him to start to float again and walk on the water.
Jesus reaches out his hand and takes hold of Peter and places him back in the safety of the boat and then the wind dies down.
And that’s what faith does for us.
It allows Jesus to take hold of us when we face adversity and he will lead us to a place where we can cope with that adversity and then we can continue to move forward with life.
Again, faith was not about preventing or immediately removing the adversity.
Peter faced the full force of the wind and waves until Jesus placed him back in the boat.
Faith was not restoring back to how things were.
Peter did not go back onto the water but to a place where Jesus knew he could cope.
So it was not about Jesus increasing the faith of the apostles but explaining that they had faith to use.
“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.
What prevents our faith is when we look to our own strength alone to deal with an adversity in life.
When we want to take control of a situation rather than accepting God’s will and allowing God to direct our way forward.
And that includes not just in our personal lives but also in our church lives.
We also need faith in the church when we face adversity.
Too often when things are not going the way we hope that we take matters into our own hands.
The early church faced much adversity – divisions, persecutions, theological differences.
But they worked together and grew stronger.
They faced the great schism in 1054 which saw the church divide between East and West.
They faced the Reformation which saw the Western church divide into Lutherans, Church of England, Reformed Churches and continues today.
We’re still facing massive adversities today;
The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.
The Ordination of Women.
Same sex marriage.
Declining numbers through many factors.
We need faith more than ever and God will guide us to where we can grow and move forward.
He doesn’t remove the adversities but he puts out his hand and says – trust me!
Let me take you by the hand like I took Peter – you of little faith – don’t doubt.
Little faith is good – doubt is bad.
Even with little faith we can uproot and be replanted.
But if we take matters into our own hand to fight the adversity we will sink and drown.
Sadly because of our human nature we believe we are owed more, like the story that Jesus told to go along with his explanation of faith when he said – `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!.
As servants of God we trust in God as our Lord and Master.
But as our Lord and Master Jesus does not Lord it over us but leads by example and came as a servant also.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
And he remained a servant trusting his father and remained humble and obedient even unto death on a cross.
And by that trust God gave to him the name above all names.
And that is also where God is leading us but we have to trust him.
If we want to take control then we need to be prepared to hear Jesus say to us, as he once said to Peter – get behind me Satan, for you have in mind not the things of God but the things of man.
And that’s where the apostles were heading today when they didn’t trust the faith they had but expected more.
You have faith.
You might think it is small but God doesn’t.
God could work with 2 small copper coins of the poor widow.
In fact God created the world from nothing – so a little faith is more than enough for God to work with.