Authored by Joykie Walter (a guest contribution)
To have faith can sound cliché, like what does it mean and how do I use it?
A couple months ago, I read through the book of Matthew and had my viewpoint on faith refreshed. Several stories stood out to me in such a dynamic way, that it was as if I was reading them for the first time. I am going to read those accounts now, and although you’re probably familiar with them, I’m sure you can find something fresh and new from these stories, like I did.
Okay, the first story is from Matthew 9:19–22, where Jesus has just been asked by a father to heal his dying daughter. It says:
Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.
She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.1
Shortly after meeting this woman, Jesus encounters two blind men:
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
And when he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied.
Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.(2)
Then, in Matthew 15 Jesus meets a Canaanite woman:
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.(3)
Did you notice the common thread throughout these stories?
In each account, individuals were begging Jesus for healing either for themselves or for their child. They were saying, “Have mercy on us!” In other words, “Sympathize with us and heal us because You can.” But in each situation Jesus turns around and puts the ball right back in their court by telling them that He didn’t heal them because He could, but He healed them because they believed He could.
I really like the story of the blind men in particular. At first I felt a bit bugged that Jesus didn’t turn around and heal those poor guys a lot sooner. It almost seemed like He was ignoring them. Why did He wait until He arrived at the house He was staying at before addressing them? You know what I think? I think He was giving them the opportunity to prove that they had faith. I also kind of think He was waiting for them to tell Him they had faith He could heal them, rather than just asking for sympathy. Notice that the whole time they’re crying out “Have mercy, have mercy.” And finally when Jesus does address them, what does He say? “Do you believe that I can do this?” He didn’t want to heal them out of pity, it seems. He wanted to heal them because of their faith; He wanted them to know that. When He asked the magic question, they got the point. Yes, they believed He could do it. And because they believed, He healed. As simple as that.
That made me look at the story of the Canaanite woman differently. I always thought that Jesus was rather unkind to her by telling her that she is, in essence, a “dog” and was not fit to eat at the master’s table. But now I wondered, Was He really putting her down, or rather, was He giving her an opportunity to prove to Him that she had faith, an opportunity to gain a great reward for having faith at that critical moment. He didn’t answer her request right away. He had her persist and prove that she had faith in Him before He granted her what she asked. Afterwards He told her, “You have great faith!” And at that moment, her daughter was healed.
Now these next two stories involve the disciples, and I like them because I feel like I can relate to the disciples.
In the story Jesus rescues the disciples from their failed healing attempt and explains why they couldn’t do the miracle. This is in Matthew 17:14–20:
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him.
“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why could not we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”(4)
I love how Jesus makes it so simple. It was just a matter of faith. Did they believe not only that God could heal the boy, but more importantly that when they prayed, God would hear them, and answer their prayer? They knew Jesus could do it, but did they know that they too could do it?
He also gave them a size comparison—faith as tiny as a mustard seed is potent enough to receive a mammoth miracle. Think about that.
The next story is after Jesus already did the miracle of the loaves and fishes the first time. He did this miracle twice. You can find the first account in Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9, and the second account is in Matthew 15 and Mark 8. This account is from Matthew 15.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.
They all ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children.(5)
When I read this, a thought came to me. I wonder if Jesus was trying to give the disciples a chance to show their faith in Him by asking Him to do another miracle. I wonder if He was waiting for them to say something like, “Hey, You did this once before, we’re sure You can do it again!” It almost seems like Jesus is trying to lead them to that conclusion.
“These people are so hungry because they’ve been listening to Me for three days. I really don’t want to send them away, because they might all faint while walking home. What do you think should be done?”
But the disciples didn’t seem to get the hint. Notice their reply gives no indication that they think Jesus can do the miracle twice.
“True, the people are hungry, but where in the world are we going to find enough bread to feed all of them?” What an answer to give a guy who found a way to provide bread and fish for thousands of people only days before!
Jesus then asks them how much bread and fish they have—perhaps He’s trying to show them that this situation is almost identical to the last one. After they give the amounts, He goes ahead and does the miraculous yet again.
You know, I wonder if the reason the disciples didn’t ask Jesus to do the miracle a second time was because they felt that once was already too much to ask for. One great food miracle was more than they could’ve ever expected to see in their lifetime, much less two. Maybe they even wondered if Jesus could actually do it a second time.—Like, maybe He only had so many miracles in His “hat” and had to use them sparingly.
It seems to me that constantly throughout His life on earth, Jesus was trying to make this basic yet powerful point: Miracles are not dependent on God’s power, but on our faith. I’ll say that again: Miracles are not dependent on God’s power, but on our faith. Jesus had the power to heal every single person in the world. Yet in these accounts He made it clear that He was healing these people not because He could, but because they believed He could.
These stories make me realize that I react a lot like the disciples at times. If the Lord has just answered a big personal prayer request, I feel timid in asking for another answer, because, well, He just did something for me already, so “maybe that’s all I’m entitled to for the day, or the week, or the month.” Or sometimes I won’t really have the faith when I pray because I’m not sure if the Lord can or really wants to answer that prayer. I limit my request because I’m concerned about God’s power, rather than my part in the equation, which is to have faith and ask.
Jesus says, “According to your faith will it be done to you.”(6) In other words, “If you have the faith for it, you will have it.” Quite a promise.
All this talk of faith can make faith seem nebulous, like, “What is it exactly?” Here’s a simple definition of faith that works for me: Faith is knowing God can.
I’ll say it again.
Faith is knowing God can.
After I read these accounts from Matthew, it made me stop and ask myself if there were any prayers I was praying that I didn’t really have faith for the answers. Was I expecting less from God than He was able to give? Was I confining Him to a tiny work space because of my tiny faith?
When you consider these questions, it makes you really want to expect greater things from God. It makes you want to put the ball in God’s court with the statement “I believe You can,” because then all that’s left is for God to say, “I have done it, because you believed.”
How much do you believe God can?
1 New International Version
2 Matthew 9:27–30 (NIV)
3 Matthew 15:22–28 (NIV)
4 New International Version
5 Matthew 15:32–38 (NIV)
6 Matthew 9:29 (NIV)
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International