It’s October, and we’re watching the annual Fall and Halloween shows. One of my favorites is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. Linus spends his Halloween night in the pumpkin patch rather than trick-or-treating with the other children. He’s sure that the Great Pumpkin will give toys to the child with the most sincere pumpkin patch. Sadly, no matter how sincerely Linus waits for him, the Great Pumpkin never appears. 😞 Here’s a 3-1/2-minute clip for your viewing pleasure.
Lots of Faith is Not Enough
Most of us can empathize with Linus. We have at times put our faith in the wrong things, and have been disappointed. Generally, the problem is not with the amount of faith that we have. Even if we have great faith — or the most sincere pumpkin patch — that doesn’t help if the object of that faith is not worthy, or doesn’t even exist at all.
A Tiny Faith Can Be Enough
Contrast this with Jesus’ instructions to His disciples. When they asked Him to increase their faith, His reply was that even a tiny amount of faith, “the size of a mustard seed”, would result in miraculous things. In Luke 17:5-6, His example was that a tree would move and plant itself in the sea. In Matthew 17:19-20, it is a mountain that will move to the sea. In both cases, something obviously impossible would happen, even with only a very little faith.
However, at other times Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith. When He calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:38-41) and when He rescued Simon Peter while walking on the water (Matthew 14:28-33), He asked why they were “of so little faith”.
I wondered what the difference was. Then I realized exactly what had happened in both instances: When the disciples cried out to Jesus for help, they received it. The storm was calmed; Peter was rescued. Calling for help was showing a mustard seed of faith, and was rewarded. The “Ye of little faith” rebuke was because they panicked before they called, and then were surprised afterward. The moment of tiny faith in between, though, was enough to receive God’s help.
This is similar to the father’s dilemma in Mark 9:14-29, especially verses 22-24. When he said to Jesus”…if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!“, Jesus said “If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” The father replied honestly “I do believe; help my unbelief.” His partial, incomplete faith was enough.
That is reassuring to me. I know how inconsistent and weak my faith can be. I alternate between “Isn’t God great? He is all-powerful, and says that His power, His Spirit, is always with me!” and “Look at all that’s needed! It’s hopeless!” Often both attitudes are there at the exact same time, flip-flopping back and forth in my head. I must drive God crazy; I know I drive myself crazy!
It Depends on the Object of That Faith
In many of His healings, Jesus told the sick person that their faith had made them well (Matthew 9:22, Mark 10:52, Luke 17:11-19). Other times, it was a healthy person’s faith that brought healing for their friend or loved one (Matthew 8:5-13, Matthew 15:28, Mark 2:3-12). Knowing human nature, I highly doubt that those people had Linus’ absolute, unshakeable faith. They would have been as hopeful, and as doubtful, as I am.
I love the TV show “The Chosen“, a dramatization of the life of Jesus. In this clip of the healing at the pool of Bethesda, pause at exactly three minutes into the 4-1/2-minute scene, then watch very closely until 3:20. Check out the look in Jesse’s eyes. The actor did a magnificent job of portraying a mustard-seed-sized faith. Jesse has spent years trying to maintain his hope that getting into the pool would heal him. Here, he decides to transfer that hope to Jesus. He looks directly at Jesus instead of at the pool…and he’s healed. Enjoy the rest of the scene!
What a blessing to know that my faith can be tiny…when that faith is in God. When it’s in the Great Pumpkin, though, not so much. Faith derives its power not from the one believing, but from the object of that faith. Jesus is a trustworthy object, even if I am not a trustworthy believer.
How do I know that Jesus is a worthy object of faith? What made Jesse decide that He was worth it? Jesus just is who He is. Most of the articles on this site already discuss the evidence that the Bible is true and the many reasons to trust in God. One of the blessings of being part of my church family is that we can encourage one another by sharing stories of how God has acted in each of our lives. Knowing the rich history of God’s relationship with all of His people, including me, is certainly more trustworthy than the Great Pumpkin! It’s also more trustworthy than any other worldview or religion that I’ve ever heard about.
A Mustard Seed…Plus God
The amount of faith is not the point. Tons of faith, or just a mustard seed, doesn’t matter. The success of that faith depends on its object. Lots of faith in the wrong thing doesn’t help. Teeny faith in the right thing — or the right Person — always works.