The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done – Luke 17:5-10.

In our last lectionary reading from Luke 17, Jesus has been teaching on – love your enemies; bless those who curse you; forgive even when it is not deserved; give without expecting anything in return; and be ready to take up your cross. The disciples in their honest and humble response to Jesus’ teachings and guidelines to Christian faith asked Jesus to increase their faith (17:5). Christian life begins and flourishes with saving faith, a reliance on the truth of the Gospel as revealed in God’s Word. Faith comes from God, hence the disciples’ request stemming from right motives among other things acknowledges the presence and importance of faith; the imperfection, incompleteness of their faith; and the desire to increase their faith.

Increasing buoyant faith is Jesus centred centred, it is sin forgiven, heavenly minded and a call to a disciplined discipleship. To fulfil the demands and principles for dealing with our personal and corporate sins, we need God’s strength and enablement (Lk 17:1-4). Jesus in His response to the disciples also gave three principles to guide our relationship with God: trust Him (vv 5-6), do not be proud when you have done your duty (vv 7-10), and be thankful for His grace freely given (vv 11-19). 

The author of Hebrews suggest that ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Like many of us today, the apostles seem to need more of it, hence they said to Jesus to “Increase our faith!”  Jesus tells them that even a little faith, the size of a mustard seed, is enough faith to do incredible things, we could uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea. Jesus used a figure of speech to illustrate the importance of faith, ‘be planted in the sea.’ It is through faith we receive the power to do what God wants us to do. Jesus is calling and pointing us to simple faith, powerful faith and not in faith in the secular context. Simple and powerful faith is when our lives are aligned to God and we become conduits of healing and saving power. What Jesus was telling the disciples that if they have enough faith to remain faithful, then that is enough, is the same message for us today.

This passage from Luke presents ‘faith’ in terms of our steadfast devotion to Christ.  That is increasing steadfast devotion to the Christian life. Christian faith that is not increasing in steadfast devotion is declining in steadfast devotion. There is no middle line. Christian faith grows. After we are saved, our faith begins to grow just like a new-born baby. New Christian feeds and matures through the Word of God (1 Pet 2:2). As our faith grows by hearing and doing the Word of God, all other graces increase (Rom 10:17). The pattern of faith and steadfast devotion to the Christian life involves firmly believing with all our hearts that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead to bring us life, then trusting in Him as our personal Lord and Saviour (Rom 1:17). This faith involves repentance, admitting, expressing true sorrow for and turning from our own-sinful, God-defying way (Acts 17:30). This faith include obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word. Obedience as a way of life to God’s Word go together with faith, an ongoing process of spiritual purity and separation from evil. This faith is a buoyant faith that propelled the growth and spread of the movement initiated by Jesus and His immediate disciples though not without brutal persecution. This faith meant hope and assurance in the dawning of a new reign of freedom, healing and compassion that Jesus had demonstrated.

The major reason we failed to remain in this simple and powerful increasing faith in Jesus as a person, family, church or nations is our sinful and God-defying attachments to Biblical Christianity that blocs and break this flow from Jesus Christ. Faith links us with divinity. Faith clothes us with the robes of deity. Faith engages and gives us the might of God. Without faith, we cannot receive anything of the Lord. When we deny Jesus, we deny faith, and we have lost our all.

Different attachments to Biblical Christianity today reminds us of what happened during what Harvey Cox called the Age of Belief ‘when Emperor Constantine made his shrewd decision to commandeer Christianity to bolster his ambitions for the empire.’ This birth of Christianity with the seeds of the Age of Belief raised ‘new recruits who had not known Jesus or His disciples personally’ thereby ‘replacing faith in Jesus with tenets about Him.’ Faith in Jesus is shaped by tenets of heart renewal for a steadfast devotion in Him. The tenets or opinions about Jesus without faith in Jesus through heart renewal and repentance amounts to head knowledge, the letters that kills and declines the church and its leadership (2 Cor 3:6)..

The collapse of Constantine’s empire not only ‘degraded Christianity. From an energetic movement of faith … The empire became ‘Christian’ and Christianity became imperial.’ The domination of Christianity combined with the challenges of the Enlightenment and secularisation among others remains with us till date as attachment, that is, anything we convince ourselves we cannot live without.

Just as it is love that makes the feet move swiftly, faith is the foot which carries the soul. The question is ‘what are the attachments that block faith, the divine power of God from flowing throughout churches today? God gives the faith as oil to enables the wheels of holy devotion and of earnest piety to move. Only increasing faith can empower and comfort us in our troubles. Increasing faith keeps our heads above the waters. Beyond false consolation in the thoughts, debates and attempts to excuse ourselves by the recourse to our human frailties, God is calling us to remain faithful, even the size of a mustard seed for an increasing buoyant faith. No need of attachments. It is all about JESUS, THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.