What’s it all about?

There is nothing more important than settling the eternity question.

But once you get it settled that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except by Jesus, you aren't finished. In fact, you have just started to live by faith.

The bible says over and over:

The just shall live by faith.

Everything we do, think or say is a reflection of what we believe. What you believe and don't believe has direct bearing on your pleasing God or not. It really matters to God whether or not you believe Him and the things He has said.

My goal here is to get you to think about not only what you believe, but why you believe it. I also make it my aim to introduce you to (or remind you of) some amazing promises He has given us. It will be up to you whether or not you believe Him, but I will do my best to assist you.

Along the way, I want to help remove doubts from you. Doubts about God, about the bible and about yourself.

In these pages, I hope to give you plenty of reasons to trust our most awesome God in every area of your life. Nothing is too big; nothing is too small. Nothing is impossible with Him! All things are possible to him who believes.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
[Ephesians 3:20-21]

Author

Kevin McCabe
Rowlett, TX

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O You of Little Faith…

The gospel of Matthew recounts a time when the disciples could not rid a boy of a demon. Jesus had to come in and finish it:

O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. [Matthew 17:17-20]

Why did they not succeed? Because of their unbelief. In fact, just a few verses prior, Jesus called them faithless and perverse. Faithless means no faith.

The presence of any faith, however (no matter how small it might appear to be described), can not be described as unbelief or faithlessness.  In other words, even little faith cannot be called unbelief. If the mustard seed represents the smallest amount of faith one could possess, then Jesus was saying that unbelief can move nothing, while the “smallest” of faith can move gigantic things.

If that is true, then certainly size of faith is not the issue. The presence of faith is the issue!

I think there is a false notion that faith is like a bank account. That is, the more you have, the more you can purchase. Or we speak of this person having more faith than that person, in the same way we say this person can lift more pounds than that one. There seems to be a perception that there are degrees of faith. However, it is not as if there is a number line representing magnitude of faith.

Part of the problem comes from misunderstanding the gospel scriptures that speak of “little faith” and “great faith”. Let me explain.

There are four such occurrences of “little faith” in proper translations. For example, if you search the King James version you will get 5 such verses. 4 separate accounts as recorded by Matthew:

Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [Matthew 6:30]

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. [Matthew 8:26]

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
[Matthew 14:31]

But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? [Matthew 16:8]

The 5th result is in Luke, but is just a retelling of Matthew 6:30.

If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? [Luke 12:28]

However, Jesus did not use the English expression “you of little faith”. What he said in each of these passages was recorded in Greek: oligopistos. This is Strong’s reference number G3640. It yields these 2 definitions: incredulous, and lacking confidence!

Let’s examine each of those separately.

Definitions for incredulous:

1. not credulous; disinclined or indisposed to believeskeptical.

2. indicating or showing unbelief: an incredulous smile.

Synonyms: unbelieving. See doubtful.

Can you see this is a far cry from “little faith”? The phrase “little faith” carries with it the implication that you just need another helping of something you already have, or perhaps a larger dose of it. Let me tell you, you do not want a larger dose of unbelief! You do not want more doubt! You cannot afford another helping of skepticism!

The other definition of oligopistos is: lacking confidence.

Let’s say you have $90 and want to buy something that costs $100. Guess what? You are lacking money. Ten dollars to be exact. So, we can properly say you are lacking money. But even though you lack money, it can still be said that you still have money at the same time. Money is like that.

Confidence, however, is not like that! If you are lacking confidence, guess what you don’t have? That’s right; you don’t have confidence. It’s all or nothing. In math terms, we call that binary. On or off. True or false. Confidence is like that. Faith, which is confidence, is like that.

Definitions for confidence

1. full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing

2. belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance

3. certitude; assurance:

So, lacking confidence is lacking full trust. Lacking confidence is lacking assurance. It is lacking certainty.

Consider Abraham.

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” [Romans 4:20-22]

Guess what Abraham was before he was fully convinced? Unconvinced. You wouldn’t say he was a “little convinced”. He wasn’t convinced.

You should think of the phrase “you of little faith” as a euphemism–at best. In reality it is a derogatory term. As you can see from the definitions of oligopistos, it surely is not a label you want Jesus to hang around your neck!

A much stronger argument that the expression translated as “little faith” really means “no faith” follows. Let’s let the bible decipher itself. Here, again, is how Matthew recorded the event:

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. [Matthew 8:26]

I want to remind you here, that the Bible will not contradict itself, but rather, the gospels will confirm one another. So, now look what Mark had to say about the encounter:

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
[Mark 4:40]

The Greek expression used here is oo pistis. Meaning absolutely no faith! Clearly, Mark is using plain terms, so either Matthew is recording a figure of speech or idiom, or the translators just weren’t sure how best to present the expression.

So, in actuality, there really is no mention of “little faith” in the scriptures used in any way to connote a small quantity.

How about “great faith”? Surely that means a large quantity? Let’s see.

There are 2 references to “great faith”. They are Matthew 8:10 and 15:28 (and a parallel mention in Luke 7:9). Interestingly enough, the two people Jesus singled out were not even Israelites! The one was a Roman centurion, and the other a Canaanite woman.

Now if “great faith” refers to the capacity for having faith, then these 2 believed in a bigger way than anyone else Jesus ever encountered. But is that really the case?

I don’t think “great faith” refers to the ability to believe, but rather what is believed. Here’s why.

The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. [Matthew 8:8]

The bible said that Jesus marveled. Wow, the Son of God was “filled with wonder, admiration, or astonishment”. What would cause that kind of response in Him?

When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, [Matthew 8:16]

Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well. [Mark 6:56]

Understand that the majority of miracles Jesus did were local. They were done within close proximity to the recipients. (While you are here, take adavantage of this opportunity and read those 2 scriptures again. Meditate on these phrases: healed all, and as many as touched. Then check out Hebrews 13:8)

While everyone was racing to touch Jesus or his clothing, or to bring the lame to receive a touch from Him, this centurion demonstrated a different kind of faith. Not a bigger faith. Not greater quantitatively, but qualitatively.

“My servant is not here, but just say the word…”

This was new for Jesus. This caused Him to marvel.

The other “great faith” comment from Jesus is found here:

Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. [Matthew 15:28]

Hundreds (if not thousands) came to Jesus for miracles. Did this woman believe any more than the countless others who believed Jesus could and would heal them? For example this one:

And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.”  [Matthew 9:20-21]

Jesus credited this woman with faith…

But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. [Matthew 9:22]

…but not great faith. What was the difference?

If the Canaanite woman’s daughter was not present when she was seeking Jesus, we have a similar situation as with the Roman centurion: a request for a long distance miracle. That is not exactly clear. But certainly one thing is clear, and this alone could be what Jesus is calling “great faith”. That woman was told “no” how many times and in how many different ways? The disciples were wanting to shoo her away, Jesus was ignoring her, later telling her he did not come for non-Israelites, and how about this: calling her a dog?

Great faith could be that kind of faith that is demonstrated by engaging God in such a way that you do not leave the meeting until you have received what you came for. If you’ll pardon the pun, her “doggedness” could very well be what was described as great faith.

Just yesterday, I purchased a New Living Translation (NLT) version of the bible. I was very disappointed to find out how the scripture I opened this article with was translated. Here it is:

Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. “ [NLT Matthew 17:19-20]

Jesus most definitely did not say “you don’t have enough faith”!! The word in the Greek that is being translated here is apistia, which means without faith, or unbelief. The King James version gets it right (see top of article). Look, 2 verses prior Jesus said they were faithless (even in the NLT). It is wrong and misleading to equate faithless with “not enough faith”. Thank God, the Greek text is there to make sense of this. But even if it wasn’t, it should be blatantly obvious that something is wrong here if Jesus says “you don’t have enough”, and immediately follows with “if you had faith as small as…”. I hope you are getting this.

So what does all this mean for you and me? Don’t get caught up in the lie that you don’t have “enough” faith.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. [Romans 12:3]

Faith is not something you can keep pouring into yourself, and then one day you “have enough.” Faith is a decision to believe. Period. You choose, by an act of your will, whether you will trust God to do what He has promised you. What you can, however, pour into yourself is the Word of God.

On the flip side, don’t ascribe to yourself “great faith”. But, rather, thank God for your faith. Thank Him for being faithful. Thank Him for giving you the promises.

Now, if you consider yourself as one who is lacking confidence, or skeptical, there is hope.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17]

Immerse yourself in these things: the reading of the bible, the seeking of His kingdom, listening to men of faith give their testimonies.

Divorce yourself from the world! Renew your mind.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. [Romans 12:2]

Faith can be fed. You must feed on the Word of God. Search out the promises. Know that they are for today, and they are for you.

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. [2 Corinthians 1:20]

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