Dear radio friends,
What do you want more of? Think about that question. What do you really want, and want to have more of? Is it wealth, honor, beauty, intelligence, fun, clothes, toys?
Born from above, the child of God answers: “Faith. Lord, increase my faith.” Faith is union to Jesus Christ. It is a spiritual bond whereby we are actually attached to Christ Himself. We are filled, then, with understanding and with assurance. The child of God wants to have more faith.
Is that true for you today? Is that your heartfelt need and desire? Do you feel it necessary that your faith be increased? If so, that is the work of God’s grace in you. And if so, then rejoice because God has given to you His Word, prayer, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the communion of saints, the preaching of His Word in the church as the means whereby He will increase your faith.
This prayer, “Lord, increase our faith,” was the prayer which the disciples spoke to Jesus. We find record of it in Luke 17:5, “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” It is not difficult to understand what caused this prayer to arise in the disciples’ souls. If you read the gospel according to Luke, in the seventeenth chapter, you will see that the disciples had been under a steady stream of the Lord’s teaching. They had just come from a season of searching, penetrating lessons from the Lord. Jesus had spoken in parables and in precepts of the eternal truths of God’s kingdom. One weighty lesson after another had pierced their hearts from the Lord’s lips. As they came under the impact of God’s Word, one thought arose: Who is sufficient for these things? No man ever spoke like this before. Who can receive such doctrine, who can follow such standards? Lord, increase our faith.
Is that true of you? Hereby you may gauge whether your hearing of the Word of God in the preaching and in your Bible reading is a hearing of tender faith of or outward habit. If it is a hearing of tender faith, you come under that Word, you see its richness, its beauty, its power; and you feel a deep sense of your own unworthiness and inadequacy. If you are doing it simply out of a mere outward custom, you yawn a little bit, and you say, “Oh, we know all that.” You look at your watch to see when the hour is going to be done for the sermon. Perhaps you do not even read the Bible anymore. But when it comes in true faith, then the truths of God’s Word press upon us the question: “How shall we live up to all these things?” Then it presses out the prayer: “Lord, increase our faith!”
But even more specifically, if we look into the context of Luke 17 we see that this prayer, “increase our faith, Lord,” arose out of the Lord’s teaching concerning our relationship toward our brothers and sisters and what our attitude of heart must be towards them. The Lord had been speaking very pointedly of the disposition of our hearts towards one another, a disposition of humility and forgiveness. The Lord had been teaching His disciples that they may not despise one another and that they must possess a forgiveness of one another which knows no boundaries and sets no limits. It was a time when the disciples, perhaps after hearing the Lord’s words, were looking down at their feet and frankly confessing that they had failed miserably to do what the Lord had told them. The Lord had just said, “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” And the apostles said unto the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
We can understand why the disciples brought this petition, can we not? So often we must confess that we do not show that readiness to forgive, that humility one to another. Therefore, seeing our inadequacy, our failure before the righteous demands of our Savior, we make the request with the disciples, “Lord, increase our faith.”
That is a very important prayer. There is a gauge for your prayer life. Do you bring that petition to God on a regular basis: “Lord, increase my faith”? Notice that we read, “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” Apostles. Now we would have expected this to have said, “disciples.” But it says apostles. Apostles refer to the Lord’s twelve as those who were sent. Later on, they would be ones through whom the foundation of the church of Christ would be laid. So the apostles, as those who are representatives of the church, or, we might say, the apostles as they represent the disciples in their very best position – they in their very best are aware of their great need that their faith be strengthened. The child of God, so to speak at his best, understands how utterly dependent he is upon the Lord and the great necessity for his faith to be strengthened.
Our faith. For there is no gift of God’s grace to us so crucial as the gift of faith which is that gracious union to Jesus Christ. God has given to us the gifts of His love and mercy. He has given to us hope and patience and joy. But the root of all of these things is faith. It is by faith that I love my brother and sister. Only when I walk by faith in Jesus Christ can I love. It is by faith that I hope. Only when I walk by faith in Jesus Christ can I hope to the end for that salvation that shall be brought in the day of Jesus Christ. It is by faith that we can be patient under many trials and discouragements. We walk, says the Word of God, by faith!
Faith is so crucial. What a gift of God of uniting us to Christ. It is that bond of faith, that experience of faith, that knowledge and assurance of faith which stands in daily need of strengthening.
Do you walk by faith? What makes you different at school, at the job, with your neighbor, with the world? Why do you not assume their outlook upon life? Why do you not have their goals? The answer is: the gift of God, faith in Jesus Christ. Because that faith is so crucial, you may be sure that it is always the object of the attack of Satan, of the world, and of our flesh. Directly and constantly these attacks are aimed at our faith. And these attacks never stop, because it is the intent of the forces of evil that they would cut, sever, destroy our faith. Therefore, we pray, “Lord, increase our faith.”
Understand: faith is that living union to Jesus Christ that God has made. God has said that His Son is the vine and we are the branches. He has engrafted us into Christ by a true and living faith. Faith is, therefore, that living, spiritual union to Christ whereby I believe for certain all that God has revealed in His Word. And I am assured that it is true, and true for me. You see, faith is not simply an outward confession of the lips. It is not merely a matter of one’s intellect or mind. Faith is not simply one’s taste in religion. It is not simply the outward, formal walk in morality. That is the kind of faith that is very popular with the world, and it is the kind of faith that the devil promotes – mere outward association with the Christian religion, a mere outward walk with Christ. It is the kind of faith that does not hold up in sorrow. It is the kind of faith that becomes a vapor at death, the kind of false faith that brings a soul to the flames of hell.
Faith is not merely an outward thing. Faith is that power by which the elect sinner, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, is united to Jesus Christ in time and in eternity, irresistibly and personally. The heart of the child of God is joined in life to Christ so that we might say with Paul in Galatians 2:20, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” By the power of that faith we are convicted of our sin, we are brought to repentance, we are assured of our pardon, we are comforted in the forgiveness of Christ. That power of faith, given of God, invades every faculty of our being. By faith we think. By faith we will. By faith we desire. Faith is that understanding whereby we embrace the truth of the Word of God and it becomes a light to our soul. Faith is that assurance that to me, I am persuaded, to me is the gospel. And it is by faith we stand. That faith needs to be strengthened.
Of ourselves, that faith is always weak, even as Jesus would say, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Then, as we said, there are all of those assaults of the devil and the world and our own flesh against our faith. Always it is the attempt of the world to overthrow if possible the faith of God’s elect.
What is the state of your faith today?
Is it lively and vigorous? Does it bring glory to God?
Or are you discouraged, and are you declining in your faith? Lord, increase our faith.
You see, faith is not something that you stockpile. It needs daily strengthening from God. Faith is not like a nuclear aircraft carrier with a nuclear reactor within it, able to sustain it for months at a time. But faith is a living relation to Christ which stands in need of daily strengthening.
What is your faith in prayer? Do you lay hold of God daily, as did Jacob who said, “I will not let Thee go till Thou bless me”? Do you say that you have no time. You have time for your business and you have time for this and for that, but you do not have time to pray? Lord, increase our faith.
How is your faith in trial, when God’s providence darkens the sky above you and leads you in a way that your flesh does not want to go; when God breaks your cherished hopes and you become weary under the trial of the present time? Lord, increase our faith.
Tell of your faith as you stand before temptations, when you are called to crucify your flesh and resist those temptations and that besetting sin in your own members. Fight the good fight of faith. Again we need to pray, “Lord, increase our faith.”
Then, when we think of His words again of how we are to love each other, that we are to forgive even as we have been forgiven of God, then we need to say, “Lord, increase our faith.”
It is God’s purpose that our faith be strengthened. It is this petition that the Lord delights to hear and He has promised to answer. He has promised to answer the petition for the increase of faith. How does He do that? In a number of ways.
He will do that, first of all, by making known to us our weakness. When you ask God to strengthen your faith, then be assured that He will lead you, as an answer to your prayer, to see how little your faith is and the weakness of your faith. He will show you your sins. Are you entertaining bitterness and resentment to your brother? Are you courting the favor of the world? Are you ashamed of Christ before the world? Have you been absent from your prayer? So, first of all, God will make known to us our weakness.
But more. When we pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” God will also send trials, because it is through the trial of our faith that that faith is strengthened. Faith must be exercised as the muscles of the human body must be exercised. Therefore, when we pray, “Lord, make our faith strong,” God will send trials whereby faith is exercised and put to the test.
Still more. God will strengthen our faith through His Word and, especially, through the preaching of the Word. We read in Romans 10:17 that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The Word of God is the means whereby faith is increased, especially if that is done through the proper and full exposition or preaching of the Word of God. Do you pray, Lord, increase my faith? Do you wish to stand strong in faith to the glory of God in your life? Then you must be under the preaching of the Word of God in its truth. You must be in church, that faithful church, twice on the Lord’s day to hear the Word of God proclaimed in all of its power and beauty.
Still more. God strengthens our faith by causing us to look to Him and to His faithfulness. It is when we, by faith, are directed to the faithfulness of our God – then we are strong.
Still more. God strengthens our faith by causing us to look to Christ. Faith ultimately is strengthened when it is brought to see Christ, Christ crucified. Faith is strengthened when it understands that His work upon the cross was complete and perfect in every respect, that there need be no additions to His work, and there can be no substitutions for His work. God, through Jesus Christ, has saved us. Faith is strengthened when it is directed to Christ and Him crucified. Then faith can stand, looking to Christ, confident in salvation.
Is this your petition: “Lord, increase my faith”? Is that what you want? Is that what you feel the need of desperately in your soul today? Once again, that is the work of God in you. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. How will God do that? God will do that in the way of showing you your weakness and sin, in the way of bringing you into trials. God will do that in the way of His Word. Go to His Word. Go in prayer. God will do that especially in the preaching of His Word. Go to church. Hear the preaching of the Word. Listen like one who hungers and thirsts after the Word, one who has come in order that his faith might be strengthened.
Still more. God will do that by pointing you to Christ crucified, the complete and perfect Savior who has forgiven all the sins of God’s people.
Look to Him. Then we might say with the apostle that great statement of faith, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
May God bless that word to our hearts.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray indeed that thou wilt strengthen and increase our faith. As we come under Thy Word, O God, we always know that we are inadequate and we fail. So Lord, we pray that we might have more faith, that we might understand and do all that Thou hast told us in Thy Word. To Thee be the glory, both now and ever, Amen.