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LORD, INCREASE OUR FAITH!

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

AND

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

4 OCTOBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Luke 17:5-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14

I have heard so many people say, "If only I had your faith."

Or, they make some other comment about their lack of faith and their desire to have more.

Even the apostles had this problem.

Note what they said to Jesus, as recorded in Luke 17:5

5. And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

But the Lord doesn't increase their faith. He just reminds them that they have already been given all the faith they could ever need or call upon.

He is trying to help them and us to understand that we just have to remember that believers already have it, and then to practice it.

Faith is like anything else: the more we practice, the better our performance.

It's like my springing an unfamiliar piece of music on Eleanor and John, or organists, and asking them to play it.

They give me strange looks, and an occasional comment about not having any time to practice it before playing it in church.

They don't just want to play an organ or a piano.

They want to produce beautiful and inspiring music.

And to do that, they need to practice the music a few times before playing it in our service.

A similar thing happens with prayer.

If I call upon some people to pray in public, they look at me with terror on their face or with some other emotional look that says, ''No! No! Not me!"

Yet others just offer up a beautiful prayer.

This also comes from practice.

So, what does Jesus say to the apostles to remind them? Note verses 6-10:

6. 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.

First, let's remember that a mustard seed, or any other seed, knows only how to produce a plant or tree after its own kind.

It can't do anything else.

It has a single purpose in life: to do what the Lord commanded it and designed it to do.

We, on the other hand, have been given many tasks to do; but still with one single purpose, which we all too often forget.

We are first and foremost to serve the Lord our God.

Everything else we do should be so directed that it becomes part of our service.

Now, God doesn't want us to use our faith to uproot trees and plant them in the ocean.

That would be a waste.

But we can use less faith to accomplish far more, and have it all be productive.

Note the next four verses:

7. "But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'?

8. "But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink'?

9. "He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?

10. "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.' "

Do you hear what we are being told?

If we do only what we are being told to do, we are actually unworthy.

If we work for someone and are paid $10.00, then we should desire to produce more than just the $10.00 value.

And the boss should acknowledge that which was done, and thank the workers to the degree of their faithfulness in doing their job.

We have to look upon each other as fellow workers of God.

We must do everything with faithfulness.

If we do only what we are told, we are not exercising our faith at all.

If we do less, we are not worthy of the kingdom of God.

But if we do more than we are told, then we are stepping out in faith.

Everything we do must be for God's glory, and we must practice all that we do toward that goal.

We must show respect and kindness and love to each other at all times, no matter what our economic relationship may be or who we may be in society.

Paul knew this; and so did Timothy, who was his assistant, servant, and helper.

Note what Paul wrote to him in 2 Timothy 1:1f

1. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus,

2. to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Would you consider offering such a blessing to someone who works for you or, for that matter, to someone you work for?

If we wouldn't, we should.

But remember, our own performance must first have been an act of faith, showing that we ourselves are worthy; or what we say will be received as only so much hot air.

Let's listen to more of Paul's letter:

3. I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,

4. longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.

5. For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Note the first thing Paul remembers: It's Timothy's sincere sensitivity.

It is Timothy's loving sensitivity that brings joy to Paul's heart.

But Timothy, like so many of us, obviously didn't recognize his own strengths.

So Paul reminds him that a person who exhibits Godly love and compassion is a person who also has faith.

Why?

Because it takes faith to stand firmly against the hardness of most people in this world and to openly show love and compassion.

And Paul further reminds Timothy of this fact by telling him to look at the life of his grandmother and mother, and then to look at himself in order to see that he is exhibiting the same qualities.

Now comes the wake-up call:

6. And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

7. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline [or sound judgment].

If we fear stepping out in faith for what we know to be God's will, then we lack the fullness of God's love.

We must constantly remember the power we receive from God, and then use it.

For example: Even though gasoline gives a car power, the car won't move unless we turn the key, start the engine, put the car in gear, and go.

So, Paul tells Timothy and us to start our engines:

8. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,

9. who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

10. but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

11. for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.

What have you been appointed for?

And don't say, ''Nothing.''

For if we truly believe, we have indeed been appointed for a service to the Lord.

And remember that this power of God, His love which is freely given to us, has been around since before the creation of the heavens and the earth.

I'm not speaking of a new gospel; I'm trying to remind everyone of the correct one, and to reject the distortions we, as a society, brought into it.

The beginnings of any growth in faith come from our expression of true love.

Learn to step out in love and compassion and righteousness, and you will indeed have increased your faith.

12. For this reason [says Paul] I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

Trust is also a part of our growth in faith.

For if we don't trust God to uphold us, then we are also saying that we don't believe He is able, and that we don't really love Him.

13. Retain the standard of sound words [Paul continues] which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

14. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Each and every one of us can do this, if we really want to.

Stand firm and live in the faith you already have.

Practice it until you perfect it, and then practice it some more.

And don't limit your love and faith to those around you, but extend it to every other person in the world, and to every animal, and to even the whole of God's creation, for by doing so, we also show our love for God, and our faith in Him.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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