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Little Faith or Great Faith

Posted by on Jan 27, 2009 in discipleship, scripture | 7 comments

In Matthew 14-15, two of the accounts that mention faith are very interesting and thought-provoking to me.

First, in Matthew 14:22-33 (immediately following the account of Jesus feeding more than 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish), Jesus sends his disciples out onto the sea in a boat. In the middle of the night – in the middle of a storm – Jesus comes out to them, walking on the water. The disciples think that Jesus is a ghost, but he assures them that he is not a ghost. Peter asks if he can walk out to Jesus, and Jesus tells him to come. Peter steps out of the boat, and walks out to Jesus on the water – just as Jesus is walking on the water. Peter becomes afraid because of the wind and begins to sink into the water. He asks Jesus to save him, so Jesus grabs his hand and lifts him out of the water. Then, Jesus says to Peter:

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31 ESV)

Next, in Matthew 15:21-28 (just a few paragraphs later and following Jesus’ declaration that a person is not defiled by what goes into the body), we find the account of a Gentile woman coming to Jesus. She asks Jesus to help her daughter who is possessed by a demon. Jesus said that he came for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. The woman continues to beg for help, and Jesus said that it is not right to give the children’s bread to dogs. The woman says that even the dogs eat scraps of food that fall from the table. Then, Jesus says to the woman:

“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” (Matthew 15:28 ESV)

A man who walks on water but begins to fear the wind and doubt demonstrates “little faith”. A woman who continues asking Jesus for help, even when he initially refuses, demonstrates “much faith”.

I don’t really have much more to say about these two passages. They are fairly straightforward. I want to be one with “much faith”, but I’m not sure that I would even step out of the boat like the one with “little faith”.

Faith is important in Matthew. I want faith to be an important aspect of my life, too. Every time I think I’m starting to understand faith, I realize how little faith I actually have.

Perhaps one of the first steps of faith is realizing just how little faith we actually have, so that we can honestly call out, “I believe; help my unbelief”.


7 Comments

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  1. 1-27-2009

    Alan,

    “I’m not sure that I would even step out of the boat like the one with “little faith”.

    Good thoughts, Alan. This is what I would like to be also. However, if Jesus were to appear this way infront of me, I might be tempted to believe it is a trick of the devil. I suppose I might truly recognize the Lord. (Last sentence seems an inappropriate thing to say)

  2. 1-27-2009

    Jim,

    I don’t know if its inappropriate. His disciples didn’t recognize him, and he was the one who put them in the boat in the first place.

    -Alan

  3. 1-27-2009

    I wonder sometimes why Peter asked if he could get out of the boat. Was it faith that turned out to be too little to trust in Jesus, or was it pride because he wanted to be like Jesus?

  4. 1-27-2009

    Andy,

    That’s a good question. It doesn’t seem like Jesus had anything negative to say about Peter wanting to get out of the boat and walk on water. Instead, Jesus said he had “little faith” because of his fear/doubt.

    -Alan

  5. 1-27-2009

    Alan,

    Your point is a good one. And my feeling is that by the end of the gospel accounts Peter has probably beaten himself up more than any of us would ever want to.

    I’m not piling on, if anything I think of myself in that situation and wonder would it be faith or pride that got me out of the boat.

  6. 1-27-2009

    Andy,

    I don’t consider your comment “piling on”. I agree that I might have been acting out of pride as well.

    -Alan

  7. 10-21-2011

    Just the other day I was feeling inadequate to lead a discussion group — on missional living of all things — and feeling convinced it’s going to crash and burn and be a bad experience. And the Lord brought to mind the mustard seed analogy. I only have to have a little faith — like a mustard seed — and he can do something great with it. The size of the tree depends on him. I only have to plant the smallest of seeds. I too don’t understand what “great” faith looks like. But Jesus says we don’t need much.

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