Faith (Luke 17:1-10)
Rev. David French
We live in a cruel and ugly world. I know I don’t have to tell you that. We can all see it getting closer and closer to us. Even in our little town we have abuse of spouses and children. We have bank robberies and murders and rapes and alcohol and drug abuse and gangs. We have the hungry and homeless and … well, maybe the really ugly stuff isn’t so far away after all. If you think about it, it seems like there’s no shortage of hate and hostility and no safe place from the crimes we think of as being associated with them. And yet, of all the ugliness in the world that Jesus could have pointed to, the one that He says warrants having a millstone tied around your neck and thrown into the sea … is causing others to sin.
That’s what He said, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.” Now the term “little ones” in the New Testament is a term that can be understood in a lot of different ways. It’s often used of women and children, as well as the lame. It’s used of those who are new to the faith, children as well as adults, who by grace through the gift of faith, believe that Jesus is the only true God and our promised Savior. And certainly, it’s used in a general way for all of God’s children, no matter where we may see ourselves on whatever spiritual maturity scale you can think of, because we all know that, even now, we are still learning how to walk by faith in God alone.
And if you think you don’t put faith in man, just remember that those whose teachings lead us to sin do not have to be preachers. I mean, that would be way too obvious. Consider those who taught you the theory of evolution as though it was a fact. Many people, maybe even some of you, see scientists and science books as being more factual than pastors and the Bible.
And while I really don't think there are very many who call themselves teachers of the Christian faith who deliberately mislead God’s children to sin, the Scriptures make clear there will always be some who do just that. But the people who gather in Christ’s name who are misled are misled because of their own misplaced faith and neglect. That is, they have more faith in the pastor than they do Christ, and that is a result of neglecting to be in the Word for themselves.
Of course, you should respect the one who taught you the truths of God’s Word, but that respect must come because you have looked for yourself and know they’re teaching what the Scriptures teach. If you are not in the Word yourself, then when teachers of the Word of God who are themselves blind, like the Pharisees were blind, are misleading, then surely those that listen to them will be led astray.
But the most obvious teachers in our lives are, of course, our parents. Yes, even parents who have been given the responsibility of raising their children in the knowledge of the Lord can, and do, lead their own children into sin by their sin of omission. It happens when Christian parents don't live their faith at home, and so, don’t teach the faith to their children at home, and so, leave them to be guided or misguided by the materialism and immorality of our day.
People can be led to sin when the Church does not give a clear confession of Christ as the only way of salvation but, as some teach, is as some who claim the name Christian, just one of the ways to heaven. Leaving some to believe it doesn’t really matter what god you believe in. My friends, there are people all around us who are left to stumble around in the dark when we see our relationship with Christ as being so personal that it becomes something we just don’t talk about at all.
But having the gift of saving faith means we’re also called to share or teach others the truth about Jesus. It means not being afraid to live what you believe so that some may see the hope within you. It means teaching your children to love God because of the grace and mercy He offers to all and pours out on His people. Having faith means standing firm on all biblical teachings especially that “there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved.”
Having faith also means forgiving others even as you have been forgiven as we read. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, if he repents, forgive him.” But how many times have we failed to even think about sharing with those who have sinned against us what we have so freely received from the One who we continue to sin against?
By grace through faith alone we understand what a great mountain of debt we owe our God, and that on the cross, Jesus paid for those sins and even now freely offers forgiveness for all our sins through the means of grace. But the truth we live with is - that’s not the reason we forgive others - that would never be enough for us. No, it’s our faith in Jesus as our Savior alone that enables and gives us a reason and the will to forgive those who sin against us even though it may be really hard and take years of trying.
Jesus said by faith you will do great things. The disciples, seeing how much Jesus was asking of them, both in teaching God’s people and forgiving others, thought they lacked the faith they needed and asked Jesus to increase their faith. We look at faith the same way, only now we say things like “our faith ‘grows’” or we talk about faith as being “weak” or “strong,” as though those things are attributes of the faith. It’s that kind of thinking that leads one to ask, “Do I have enough?”
Tell me, do you have faith the size of a mustard seed? How much faith do you have to have to get into heaven - more or less than a mustard seed? God gives different gifts. Does He give different amounts of faith as well? I would contend it’s not our faith, but we who grow and mature, we who need to learn to trust the faith that we have been given.
What if we learn or are forced by the hardships that come to us in life to trust the faith we have had since the day of our baptism? What if the power of faith is simply to believe Jesus has the power to do everything He’s promised to do?
Faith, is it really the answer to all our problems now and all our worries about the future? Because let’s face it, that just sounds too good to be true. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And I’m not talking about faith in yourself, of course, and not faith in some power out there somewhere. Not faith in governments or military might, and certainly not faith in the wisdom and goodness of man. But hold to the faith that comes from the Word of God. The faith that believes you have been grafted into the very body of Christ.
Jesus’s parable about the servants who come in from the field tired and worn out only to begin fixing dinner for the master, before they get their own dinner and go to bed, reminds us that the truth is we really don’t have any reason to boast and if we look at it honestly, we really haven’t even done our duty. But incredibly, we do have a master who says come and sit with Me, a master who has prepared and will prepare again a supper for you, a master who is even now preparing a place for you, a master who by His Word is even now serving you who call Him your Lord and your God.
In His name, Amen.