Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:30a “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today
is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much
more clothe you,. . .”
Grass, once picked, withers and dries quickly, and in a land with a scarcity of wood, is often used as fuel to bake bread. “The oven,” a round earthenware pot narrow at the top, was heated by fire within. Dough was spread on an oven’s sides to cook. Jesus was again reasoning from the lesser to the greater. If God cares for temporary grass, is He not even more likely to care for His everlasting children?
Matt. 6:30b “. . .O ye of little faith?”
Jesus bluntly stated what lies at the bottom of all our worry–“little faith.” He rebukes us here, not to condemn us, but to help us. He hopes shock therapy will wake us up, interrupt our stagnating inertia, and spur us to seek stronger faith.
Jesus wants us to repair, not despair. One of Holy Writ’s most precious promises is, “A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench” (MT 12:20). Jesus has no desire to break off a battered reed, or to put out a smoldering wick. His primary objective is always to uplift. He does not want to snuff out our “little faith,” but rather desires to expand the small portion we have.
Jesus wants to help people. Let’s join Him in His work. Jesus is the Healer, local churches are His hospitals. Make sure the emergency room is always open so that the broken, battered, and bruised gain quick access to the Great Physician.
“Little faith” always seemed to strike our Savior as an unfathomable mystery. He “marvelled” at unbelief (MK 6:6), deeming it illogical and unreasonable.
In the storm, He said to the frantic twelve, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (MT 8:26). As Peter began to sink, Jesus caught him and asked, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (MT 14:31 NAS). Jesus upbraided the hungry disciples, “O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?” (MT 16:8). Jesus is utterly amazed at the small amount of faith shown by His own followers. He rightly chides us. We should know better.
Fortunately, Jesus did not say His doubting disciples had no faith. They were true believers, having genuine faith. Their problem, like ours, was not absence, but weakness, of faith. It is possible to have real faith, and yet it be weak.
No one has perfect faith. Faith fluctuates, often strong, often weak. We can relate to the man whose son was tormented by an evil spirit. When told by Jesus to believe, the father “cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (MK 9:41). We know the feeling, belief and unbelief inside us, locked in a tug of war almost ripping apart our very essence. Abraham had a faith so strong that he was willing to offer Isaac, yet so weak that he lied about his wife.
Our danger is “little faith.” To avoid it, we had best be able to recognize it quickly and precisely. Beware its three telltale signs. First, “little faith” folds under pressure. The litmus test of faith is life’s trying times. “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small” (PR 24:10). When times are good we find it easy to believe we have a strong faith, but the exact opposite is true if at the first sign of trouble we begin to tremble and buckle. Our so-called faith is sometimes nothing more than a collection of nice words that fall apart under pressure.
Second, “little faith” downplays the importance of our personal intimacy with God. Lloyd-Jones was deeply affected by hearing a man say, the trouble with many of us Christians is, we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but do not believe Him. We trust Him for the spiritual redemption He purchased for us at the cross, but do not believe Him when He talks about earthly, physical things.
This ludicrous line of logic befalls us when “little faith” is causing our relationship with God to wane. The only way we can believe on Him yet not believe Him is if the personal intimacy between us and Him has become a stale relic of the past, something historic rather than dynamic. “Little faith” conquers us when we are not fresh in the Bible and prayer. We can grow in intimacy with Him only as we are faithful to preserve regular times of interaction without interruption. Work on this relationship daily. Keep God uppermost in our mind. He is a living Friend. To believe Him we must first know Him well. If we are not full of Him in a vibrant way, Satan will be glad to fill the resulting emptiness with “little faith.”
Third, “little faith” confines itself to one sphere only. All believers have saving faith, but way too many of us often have precious little more. Rather than realizing we are to focus our faith on the whole of life, we often concentrate it solely on the spiritual, on our salvation. “Little faith,” expecting to be rescued after death, but not before death, believes God can save us everlastingly, but not temporarily. It is confident about going out of this world, but not about staying in it.
We need to confront, acknowledge, and forsake the hypocrisy in our “little faith.” We trust God for eternity, but not for today; for the distant future, but not for tomorrow; for heaven, but not for earth; for our spirits, but not for our bodies.
”Little faith” offers worthless prayers. “God, I totally trust You, up to a point. I believe You can cover my spirit with righteousness, but not my body with clothes. I believe You can take me from Hell to Heaven, but not to food. I trust You for the tree of life in Heaven, but not for a hamburger here on earth. Amen.”
Since “little faith” limits itself to only one sphere of life, it leaves us defenseless everywhere else, susceptible to being mastered by countless details in all the many other areas of life. If we apply faith only to matters of salvation, then the ordinary things of life will spawn in us worries and cares that begin to shut down prayer and wise, logical thinking. If faith is not allowed to control the circumstance, the circumstance will take control of us, beginning in the mind.
When faithless, we lie awake at night, or stand idly at work, unable to focus on our job, or slip into social isolation, unable to hear or detect others around us. A warning sign of worry is the inability to get the mind under a grip. It slips into a loop, repeating the same thought over and over again, going round and round in circles for hours, obsessed with troubles, problems, and this world. With no place given for God to get aboard, or for spiritual evaluation, the result is hopelessness, despair, anxiety. I know, I have been there often, and still go there sometimes.
In the midst of this, a Christian must bring one question to the fore, “Where is God?” Applied faith will take hold of this merry-go-round, and stop its ceaseless roaming. Rather than worry, faith prays, consciously talks to God, seeks guidance, formulates plans, weighs options. It brings God to bear on the situation.
We often fail to apply what we know to what we are going through. When Jesus fell asleep in the ship, and the storm began to blow, His disciples cried out, “Master, Master, we perish.” His answer summarized the problem of “little faith.” He asked, “Where is your faith?” (LK 8:25). The question is valid. We have faith. Where is it? What is it focused on at this given moment? Where is it being applied right now? Strong faith focuses on the need of a given moment, applying itself to that specific trial. “Little faith” is absent, concentrating on something else.