There Is a Huge Difference between a Weak Faith and a Small Faith (Matthew 17:14-21)
While Jesus was away on a short retreat to the mountain with three of his most trusted disciples (see Matthew 17:1), a man brought his son who was a “lunatic and sore vexed” (KJV) to Jesus’ disciples to cure him. They tried to exercise the power that Jesus had given to them, but couldn’t. Now, these disciples of Jesus were the same set to whom He had previously given “power to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness” – Matthew 10:1. When Jesus first gave them that authority to perform miracles, they had not fully known Him. They were ‘baby Christians’. Yet, they were still able to achieve tremendous success; for, even demons submitted to them in the name of Jesus (Luke 10:17). So, what went wrong this time?
Well, they wondered the same thing and Jesus responded to them by saying, “Because of your unbelief [weak faith]; 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.” There you have your answer – they had weak faith. I acknowledge that some of the newer translations read that part of Jesus’ answer as, “You don’t have enough faith,” or, “Because you have so little faith.” However, the essence of the words is still the same, pointing to the fact that their faith was not strong.
So, Why did the Disciples have Weak Faith?
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Jesus had left for the mountain and took with Him His three most trusted disciples who were among the first set He called, and who were closest to Him. Maybe they felt that the previous authority He had given them to cast out devils was only for that previous time. Or, maybe they, at first, tried to heal the boy but suddenly began to have second thoughts of doubt in their minds as to their capability or qualification.
It’s okay for you to have a small faith because, even then, you can still move trees/mountains (difficult situations; see Luke 17:6 & Matthew 17:20). In other words, you can have small but mighty faith. However, weak faith is near-dead faith, and hence, an ineffective one. When you have weak faith, then comes doubt. And “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (James 1:6-8, NIV). But when your faith is small, it only means that your knowledge of God is little and that you are still a baby Christian, which is still okay, provided you keep growing and do not remain a baby. “Out of the mouth[s] of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength” – Psalm 8:2a. God begins where we are, in order to take us to where we need to be. You do not need to ask God for an increase of faith (see Luke 17:5-6), it will happen as you grow spiritually. What you do need to ask for is a strengthening of faith (Mark 9:23-24).
Finally, we should always pray that God will strengthen our faith. Say this audibly: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!
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Go to the miracle lessons page for the other miracle lessons.
I was around 5 when, I am strongly convinced, I first heard the distinct voice of God. But, not until I was 11 (2002) did I have a personal encounter with Him. I was in my room that night, about to pray before bed, when I saw a revelation of how filthy my heart was. I didn't argue with God that I was too young to have such amount of filth ('cause I believed I was a 'good boy,' by human standards, at least). I simply cried uncontrollably in brokenness of heart - "The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God" (Psalm 51:17) - and He didn't.
Still crying uncontrollably, I left my room and went to the living room, where my parents were watching the nightly news on TV. After I managed to tell them about the revelation I saw, my sweet mum took me to her room and led me to Christ. I got saved that night. And 6 years later, I discovered my purpose and assignment on earth, which is raising up men and women to be godly, and teaching them the simplicity of Christianity. More than a decade later, I am still fulfilling that purpose to His glory. Hallelujah!