The guy that picked me up hitchhiking told me to believe in Jesus so I could get cool stuff. He said, “See them ‘tahrs?’ They’s ‘wahd’ oval ‘tahrs’.” (I’m guessing he was from Alabama) He said, “Ah prayed to Je-us-suhs for them ‘tahrs’ and he gave them to me. You should believe in Je-us-sus…” And on and on.
I wasn’t ready to believe in Jesus that day. But even so, I could tell there was something fishy with his theology. I remember thinking that even if Jesus had given him the wide oval tires, this guy has probably missed the point. Them ‘tahrs’ is probably worn out by now. Is that what having faith is for – so we can get cool stuff, or do cool stuff? People get that idea reading things like this:
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea ’; and it would obey you. (Luke 17:5-6)
At first it sounds like Jesus was saying if you have pure faith, even tiny pure faith then you can get or do cool stuff. That’s the way it supposedly works with the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. But that’s not what Jesus was implying.
If you look back in Luke, you’ll see Jesus had just taught the disciples that they should be willing to forgive someone who sins against them, apologizes but then goes and does it again – seven times in one day! Jesus was teaching His disciples to have the faith to live by His reality, His teachings, even when they seem to be ridiculous or impossible according to the world’s notion of reality. The world says you are a sucker to be so forgiving. Jesus says, “Trust Me on this, it’s better to forgive.”
So their response is, “How can we increase the strength of our faith ?” And Jesus uses an outlandish exaggeration (moving a tree with faith as small as a mustard seed) to teach them that it is not the size or strength of their faith so much as it is the Source of their faith that matters. Faith is in God; God supplies the power to accomplish His will.
Remember, faith is given to us by God, and connects us to God. (See: “The Source of Power in Faith“) By faith, His Spirit lives within us and works to conform our thoughts and motives to His ways. Connected with God, living in harmony with God, forgiveness extended to the repeat offender not only becomes possible but also makes sense! Same thing if God shows you He wants a tree moved or wants you to get a new set of ‘tahrs.’