“The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” (Luk.17:5)
Greetings Friends! Have you heard people say they have a weak faith? Even the disciples asked Jesus, “Increase our faith!” We can all relate to this dilemma in our lives when doubt and uncertainty assail us. What is the answer? As always, let us find our answers through the lens of God’s “Triune Life.”** It is my hope that by the end of this post you will see your faith with an enlightened mind to help you face the future with renewed confidence in God our Father and His Son, Jesus.
Faith as Small as a Mustard Seed (Pic: Wiki Commons)
Faith is both a noun and a verb. As a noun faith speaks about religion and its statement of beliefs. Paul said this of the Christian faith, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph.4:4-6). The Christian’s faith is founded upon our God who is a Trinity, not a solitary God. God is One Godhead (unified) in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As a verb, faith speaks of articulating our statement of beliefs in our daily lives. So faith as a verb can be utilized various ways, in this post I would like to share two fundamental meanings of faith and its application. There’s an interesting point about faith that’s worthy of note in Luke 17. Let’s read it…
“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (verb) He replied, “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. Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luk.17:5-10). The parable of the mustard seed appears in parallel passages in other Gospels, but Luke’s account is unique in that it interfaces the disciples’ question about faith with the account of the master and the servant.
Faith as a Grain – Quality not Quantity:
The disciples asked for faith in the sense of quantifying faith! By saying, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed,” Jesus is talking about the quality of faith, rather than the quantity of faith. We will see what I mean by “quality” a little later. In this passage from Luke, your Bible has a pause between V.5-6 and V.7-10 to indicate two unrelated topics. V.5-6 is about faith, and V.7-10 is a parable about the Master and Servant. But the Bible in its original format had no verse or chapter breaks we see in today’s version. Verses and chapters were introduced to help readers navigate through different parts of the Bible. But it has its pros and cons, and one weakness is we are blinded by missing the context. Reading a small part is not always helpful when the author intended a book to be read through to the end. So, this passage speaks about a single topic, not two unrelated issues. It is about faith and reads from verse 5 to 10. The parable was simply Jesus way of explaining the meaning of the “mustard seed faith.” So, what has faith to do with the “master/servant” relationship?
Jesus Teaching Disciples the Mustard Seed Faith (By James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum, Wiki Commons)
Jesus explains the ‘mustard seed faith’ in the context of the “Master/Servant” faith (verb), because it is distinct from but essentially part of the believer’s “Father/Offspring” (Son/Daughter) faith. The faith we express in terms of the “Father/Offspring” relationship has to do with our adoption into God’s eternal family through Jesus. One is foundational and unmoved (“Father/Child”), while the other is functional and mobile (“Master/Servant”). By ‘functional’ I mean something that is mobile and changes with time according to God’s move in the believer’s life, yet it has eternal ramification. (Matt.25:23) In one, God is our Father, while He is Master in the other.
What we see in our lives is identical with Jesus own life where His faith is applied in two contextual realities: the foundational “Father/Son” relationship He had with His Father from eternity, and the functional “Master/Servant” relationship in His role as Savior and Redeemer. The faith we express in the “Master/Servant” relationship is no different and has to do with God’s Work, principally as it relates to the work of the Gospel. (Mat.28:18-20) God’s Work involves His labor of Love to save humanity from sin and eternal death called the ministry of reconciliation which we are given. (2 Cor.5:18) The oft quoted passage from John says, “For God so Loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:16-17). That in a nutshell, is the very heart and soul of God’s Work. So, there are two faiths working interchangeably where one is built on top of the other and mutually dependent. One is expressed in form of a noun (“Father/Son” relationship), and the other is a verb (“Master/Servant” relationship).
Finding Answers Through the Triune Lense
As we dig into this passage we do so wearing the lens of God’s “Triune Life”** so we can arrive at the right explanation of this faith, or for that matter any other topic in the Bible. Jesus brings each of us into the picture of this “Master/Servant” faith: God is Master and we are His servants. Then Jesus asks, if we had a hired house servant, would we regard him as master and treat him with all the courtesies as a servant would in a role reversal? Is it okay that the master perform the work he has paid a servant to do? Is that how this faith works? Of course not!
But what Jesus was getting at is, are we true servants, or do we sometimes regard God like a servant and we are the master? In the “Father/Offspring” relationship we know our place as children and don’t have an identity crisis here. But not so with the “Master/Servant” relationship, where the tendency to switch the roles are real. If we have initiated a role reversal in our relationship with God, whether inadvertently or ignorantly, then the faith which keeps the “Master/Servant” relationship functioning properly has been compromised and made powerless and vulnerable if not incapacitated. But if this “Master/Servant” faith is functioning correctly, even though it is small as a mustard seed, it will be powerful.
It is vital that we understand how we apply the two faiths – intuitively, we tend to overemphasize God’s role as a caring Father who provides for His children, and much less as our Master who wants us to participate in His Work. Humans are creatures of comfort and habit with the tendency to follow the path of least resistance. So we are more inclined towards His Fatherly qualities. As a Father we tend to ask Him for our many mundane needs, but do we express the same enthusiasm for His role as Master and faithfully responding as servants in His Work of the Gospel. We assume we are entitled to a life without obstacles and setbacks as children, and we become perplexed not understanding the ground (faith) we are standing upon in such circumstances.
The modern day so-called prosperity gospel is one such instance of regarding God as servant who is the source for all our wants and desires, minimizing or entirely failing at the servanthood role. Do we see the Christian life like a vacation cruise and God’s part is to indulge us with the blessed life of plenty? We exploit passages out of context like, “Faith is the evidence of things not seen,” where the “unseen things” are cravings for the material and sensual? (Heb.11:1) We just made God a servant for our selfish appetites and ambitions, and have become masters in the process.
When that happens, what we are seeing is the human version of faith which makes this role reversal a reality. But as we keep our pair of “Triune Life”** lens firmly in place, we’ll find that it is an altogether different faith which keeps the “Master/Servant” relationship healthy between God and the Christian. But though this role reversal may convey the outward appearance of the material and sensual, its underlying stimulus is spiritual self-righteousness (“solitary life”) due to deficiency of the Holy Spirit (“Triune Life”**). (Eph.5:18)
The “Master/Servant” faith starts small like a mustard seed because servanthood is something which grows from a seed to a fruitful tree for the benefit of others. In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus taught, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matt.13:31-32). The “Master/Servant” faith maybe minuscule, but as long as it is a genuine article, the seed has the quality and character in its nature to do great things. Yes, Jesus was the greatest Servant of all even though He was a Son. He is called the “Suffering Servant” (Isa.53). As a servant, Paul said of Jesus, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience (servanthood) from the things which He suffered” (Heb.5:8, NASB, emphasis mine).
Jesus – The “Suffering Servant”
A servant’s life usually takes effort, at times coupled with courage, humility, and unshakable determination, compared to living the sheltered life of a son or daughter. We live the abundant life as children enveloped in God’s incomprehensible Love. In response, children take responsibility for their Father’s Love by becoming Love themselves as He is Love. John makes this point clear for God’s children, “But anyone who does not Love does not know God, for God is Love…We know how much God Loves us, and we have put our trust in His Love. God is Love, and all who live in Love live in God, and God lives in them” (1 John 4:8,16; also 1 Cor.13; Gal.5:16-26). This speaks of our faith as children in the “Father/Offspring” relationship (noun).
However, as a servant we may suffer hardships for the moment, but it is considered negligible when compared to the glorious future our Father and Master has in store for us. (Rom.8:18) Jesus came as a “Suffering Servant,” and in His final moments at the cross, He cried to His Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt.27:46). Yes, as a servant we may feel seemingly forsaken at times, but we have His sure promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb.13:5b).
Before His death, Jesus taught His disciples the attitude of a servant by washing their feet. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead and secured our faith for all eternity. (1 Cor.15:17) As a servant Jesus fulfilled His Father’s work of redeeming mankind from sin, and endowing humanity with His Spirit to assure immortality in His eternal kingdom. (John 3:16; Tit.2:13-14; Rom.8:11)
Jesus Teaching Disciples Meaning of Servanthood and Humility by Washing Their Feet (Pic: Wiki Commons)
The faith based upon the “Father/Child” relationship is the rock foundation upon which the “Master/Servant” relationship is built. (Matt.7:24-27) However, the major portion of our lives will be lived out in the “Master/Servant” environment – the structure above ground which rests upon its foundational (“Father/Child”) faith. The foundation is “unseen” but sure, and the structure upon it gives meaning, purpose, and destiny, is clearly “seen” in the believer’s life. The structure (“Master/Servant”) puts “meat” to our family responsibility by which we will be judged and rewarded as this passage show at a future time of judgment, “His Master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!'” (Matt.25:23).
So, it goes without saying how vital this faith will be for us all, minuscule it may be from the outset. Our occupations and professions comes under the umbrella of the “Master/Servant” relationship. Paul said, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were Working for the Lord rather than for people” (Eph.6:7). Your whole life is a platform for the Work of the Lord and His Gospel. You are the living, walking, talking, Gospel of Jesus. Peter tells us how to use our platform, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord (Master). Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet.3:15, my emphasis). So, we see how God takes our every-day reality and weave it into His plan for us to be both children and servants. A cautionary note, we ought to be careful about not turning our profession (gifts) for mere material/financial benefits solely for this mundane human life and all its reciprocal appendages. Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need (for this physical life)” (Mat..6:33, also 1 Cor.15:19).
The Cross of Jesus – Symbol of the “Suffering Servant” (Pic: Wiki Commons)
Jesus – Still Serving Man as High Priest
For the most part, while we are God’s children, the greater and best chunk of life is about being a servant. Therefore, it is imperative we have the prerequisite faith to help us live the role of a servant. The servanthood life is the extension of Jesus’ own life. Let’s keep in mind that Jesus’ role as Savior did not end at the cross, that was just the beginning. He continues to perform His role as Savior today as High Priest in heaven interceding on man’s behalf for all his faults and transgressions. So, He continues to serve mankind from heaven and through us as His servants on earth. (Heb.4:14-15; Eph.3:16-19) Servanthood begins with faith – the servanthood faith is the engine of the “Master/Servant” relationship. It is initially given in its minutest form (mustard seed) upon our conversion and grows into a fruitful tree where people come to it for nourishment. (John 15:16; Gal.5:22-23; Tit.3:14)
High Priest in Israel in Full Ceremonial Regalia – Jesus Continues to Serve Mankind in His Role as High Priest in Heaven Today (Pic: Wiki Commons)
Growing the “Mustard Seed Faith” in “Good Soil”
How do we deal with our “mustard seed faith” and make it grow? With our “Triune Life”** lens firmly in place, let’s see the first and most worthy thing we can do: we sow our “mustard seed faith” on good soil so it will bring forth a bountiful harvest. What is the good soil? Jesus gave another parable about the sower where the seeds fell on four different soil types (Matt.13:1-23). Jesus explains the sower is God the Father, the seed is God’s Word (Jesus), the four soil types represent people and how they respond to God’s Word. Three did not have it in them to sustain any growth so the seeds perished. But it is only the “good soil” which receives the seed faith and brought forth fruit as Matthew records, “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matt.13:8).
Now, according to this parable, your “faith seed” (Word) is actually Jesus’ own personal faith, not our weak human faith. He is the personification of God’s Word – the “mustard seed faith.” That explains why it can move a mountain, despite the fact it is small as a mustard seed. (Matt.17:20) Paul affirms how we take ownership of the only workable faith a servant can have to do his Master’s work, saying, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20, KJV). In another passage Paul reminds us, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and on all them that believe.” (Rom.3:22, AKJV)
Mustard Seed – The Faith of Jesus
So, the “mustard seed faith” in Luke 17 is the faith of Jesus sown in you, the “good soil.” A pertinent word about perception and mindset, the “good soil” is not conveying the goodness of the human heart – that is what a person wearing the “solitary life” lens would see and like to believe. If anything, the human heart is rotten to the core through and through. (see Jer.17:9; Mar.7:20-23) But rather the “good soil” (you) is the work of the Holy Spirit. He supplies the “living waters,” and prepares the “good soil” (you) to receive the seed (Jesus’ faith) sown by the Father. (John 7: 37-39; Gal.2:20). If there is any “good” in humanity, it is the fact that God made man in His image with a divine destiny. (Gen.1:26-27). God’s plan is to bring to reality His destiny in humanity, and the “good soil,” the Spirit in you, is an intrinsic part of it. (1 Cor.3:16).
By having the “Triune Life”** mindset (and lens), we are always asking how each individual Person of the Tri-Personal God is involved with our lives and salvation. The Father and Son cannot work on their own without the Spirit for they are of One substance and act as One. The “Master/Servant” faith (mustard seed) is always Jesus own personal faith. The “good soil” (man) is always the work of the Spirit. Therefore, only the Spirit (good soil/man) can receive Jesus’ faith (mustard seed) and give growth and true life. For there is no other way for the “Master/Servant” relationship to germinate and grow in humans except within God’s “Triune Life.”**
Planting the Mustard Seed Faith in “Good Soil” (Pic: Wiki Commons)
So, rather than quantifying faith as it relates to the disciples’ question, Luke qualifies faith by personifying it as Jesus’ own faith in you. In all of this, we see God’s “Triune Life”** in motion: The Father sows the seed of His Son’s faith in the good soil (man) which the Spirit has prepared through spiritual watering or sanctification. (1 Pet.1:2,5; 2 Thes.2:13)
Human Faith Vs Jesus’ Faith
Many Christians today do not know how to live “Master/Servant” relationship. If they are, they are trying to do it on their terms with their human faith, and it can never be done. And this is the crux of the problem as to why many believers say their faith is weak. It is weak because it is still our human faith and unsuited for the task of a true servant. The believer is still viewing life through the lens of his human “solitary life.” He must replace his “solitary life” lens with God’s “Triune Life”** lens. (Read more about the human faith at http://bulamanriver.net/?p=2811).
This is what Jesus meant when He commissioned His followers to make disciples, “Baptize (induct) them in (into the life of) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matt.28:19, emphasis mine). This is foundational! Being baptized means to be “immersed” into God’s “Triune Life”** in a literal and real spiritual sense. If we do not get it right at this elementary level, then the “Master/Servant” structure being built on the foundation is flawed and will be found wanting. (Matt.7:24) We will find out soon enough our human faith is inadequate to do God’s Work. It is going to be the faith of Jesus, or nothing. It is the human faith which regards God as servant and man as master. It is man’s self-centered ego that is trying to execute what only the Holy Spirit can do in man.
Faith Turns to Gift and Calling
Jesus’ own faith (mustard seed) is made reality in man by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who in turn makes us His dwelling (temple) so He can always keep us as “good soil” for Jesus’ living faith. (John 16:13-15; 1 Cor.3:16; 6:19) The Spirit empowers each believer to embrace his/her calling with the accompanying gift to do the Work of God. Paul clarifies the connection between grace, faith and gift, saying, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to each of us…in proportion to our faith, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6). You can read more about man’s calling (gift/faith) to do God’s Work in a post I wrote at: http://bulamanriver.net/?p=3145
Servants – Called to Induct (Baptize) Believers Into the “Triune Life” of God (Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity, Wiki Commons)
On the eve of Jesus’ departure from the earth as He was about to be taken into heaven by an angelic host, He commissioned His followers the highest work they will do in their “Master/Servant” relationship with Jesus, His Father, and the Spirit, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt.28:18-20). Always be cognizant of God’s sovereignty and take hope that His purpose is absolute.
At the end of the day, Luke tells us to reflect upon God’s grace of gifting us with the faith of His Son, and respond with humility, “I have done everything I was told to do, I am an unworthy servant, and I have only done my duty” (Luk.17:10).
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to write to me in the space provided below, or email me on email@example.com. Thank you for visiting.
Until we meet again in my next post, may God bless you with the faith of Jesus His Son and may the blessings of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you always. May the Spirit enliven your spirit and make all things concerning you possible as you live the “Triune Life”** as a Bulamanriver.* Be strong in the Lord’s joy.
Kiang, (Your Servant in Christ)
* Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life”** – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bulamanriver, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my book, “Bulamanriver – The Miracle of Triune Living.”
** Triune Life: means a life lived according to the image and likeness of God. (Gen.1:26-27) It means a believer who lives the 3-dimensional life with the Triune God, as opposed to the ‘solitary’ 1-dimensional life man lives in himself. It means God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, lives and walks in you the Bulamanriver*. Man’s union with the Triune God, or “Triune Living,” is made possible by Jesus, who Himself, is one in substance and reality with the Triune God, who took our humanity into the very Being of the Triune Godhead. To live the “Triune Life” is the miraculous expression of the Spirit in us, as opposed to the “solitary life” of human self-expression. The miraculous life is the promise of the New Covenant, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them” (Ezek.36:27) You can read more at: http://bulamanriver.net/?p=8036
Please feel free to read other articles that may be relevant to your spiritual nourishment at http://bulamanriver.com (click on “blog” at top right corner)
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
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This is a topic which is near to my heart… Thank you! Where can I find the contact details for questions?