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How to Increase Our Little Faith?

February 1, 2017

jesus-peter
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,  and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:22-33

Today’s story calls us to have more faith. Jesus’ exhortation to Peter was: “You of little faith.” Jesus was not speaking to the rest of the disciples. The other disciples did not show faith at all. They did not decide to go out of the boat. The only one who took action was Peter. The only one to decide to do something bravely was Peter. He also became scared and doubts arouse in him and he then lost his faith.
Jesus’ exhortation is also addressed to anyone of us who has sometimes exercised faith. We can never have little faith if we have never exercised our faith. If you’ve never exercised your faith, you will not have any faith. It is a good thing to have ‘little faith.’ It is a sign that you’ve tried to at least believe, to do things. When we try to do things, especially for the Lord, we are showing faith.
The sad thing is never trying. It is a sad thing to be discouraged. Discouragement makes people inactive and passive; they do not undertake anything anymore. When we don’t undertake anything, our faith starts to die. When faith is dead, it is very difficult to believe the word of God, the Bible, and especially to believe the stories of Jesus’ miracles, wonders and signs. A good parameter for today’s message could be: how do you feel, spiritually, when you hear these out-and-out wondrous stories about Jesus? Do you feel excited? Do you feel comfortable every time you listen to stories about miracles? Or do you feel uncomfortable and resistant to believing that it could be true nowadays? Do you feel uncomfortable when you are addressed with supernatural things every time you are at church? Do you think that you have to scientifically explain every supernatural thing you hearing from the Bible in order to accept it?
If it is so, it may be sad; maybe we are falling in Peter’s category, and our faith is starting to be weakened. It is sad, but we don’t have to be ashamed. We have to take action to fix this. We have to try to solve this spiritual problem. And the only way to start solving this spiritual situation is to use the spiritual aides that will help us to improve our spiritual life before it is too late.
One of the first things we have to undertake is praying. How often do you pray? Normally, we have to pray to our Lord on a daily basis. If you are asking me, “Why daily?”, I can answer you with another question. What would you answer if I asked you how often you had to eat? You would surely answer, every day! Why? You won’t answer: because the human being has to be fed. You will answer: because I’m hungry! The same happens with prayer. We the people that pray will answer: ‘because I’m hungry spiritually and I need God’s Spirit in my life.’ But if you’ve never experienced what it is to be fed or nourished spiritually, you will never experience what it is to be hungry spiritually. Maybe you have heard about people that are suffering from bulimia and anorexia. It is a modern day ailment that pushes people to not eat, consciously or subconsciously, in order to avoid ingesting food. Doctors have discovered that these people don’t feel hunger anymore. They experience the lost of hunger for food or physical hunger pangs. And that is the reason they start to lose weight in a considerable and fast way, even without noticing it.
Do you know that the same thing is happening on a daily basis with many people, but spiritually?
But what are the consequences of it? When people begin to starve spiritually, it is firstly reflected mentally, their mood, their vision of life, their enthusiasm for life, and the way they speak; they always speak pessimistically and negatively. And with time this spiritual weaknesses will also be showed in their body; from weak mental health comes weak physical health. We Christians know that a person’s spirit has dominant control over all the other aspects of the human being.
Prayer is related with our connection with the spiritual realm, that is, with God. Reading the Bible is part of our spiritual connection with God. Many people think that reading the Bible has something to do with learning, studies or the intellectual part of the human being. It is of course natural to think so, books are related to these. But in this case, this very particular book it is just a way to be connected with God’s Word. Every time we go to this book with reverence and trust, we receive God’s word in a spiritual way, not intellectually.
And the third thing we have to take care especially is one of the most fundamental; it is to be connected to God through the community of faith. It is so sad, I can see it especially in many young people, young marriages, that they don’t pay special attention to this part. Many think that community life, that is the church life, is something that has to do with religion, costumes, family, obligation, or even an old fashioned way of life. They may even compare going to church to belonging to certain associations or clubs. That’s a pity. And there are two valid reasons for this; the first one is a spiritual one: the influence of the devil. And this is a real spiritual presence that constantly takes us away from God. And the second one is that we ourselves fail to teach our children and grandchildren, and we ourselves fail to fully understand what it means to be part of a Christian community because even for us it is not quite clear.
Let us remember that going to church is a direct commandment from God, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” It is a commandment with promise of assistance from God, and even comes with the peril of losing God’s blessing for not being part of His gathering. And at the same time it is a way to be connected with God and to receive the very best and most powerful of God’s strength for our spiritual being, through the special presence of Christ in the church, and through the sacrament of Holy Communion and the preaching of the gospel. And for this there is a direct communication of Christ: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Mt 18:20)
Dear brothers and sisters, maybe you are thinking now, ‘Oh the minister is telling us this again and again, the same old thing. Things we already knew.’ Yes, indeed. You already know all this. But the new or every time renewed truth of this is, that we have to be aware, that we have to constantly take care of our faith, and the only way to take care our faith, and to increase our faith and to search for God’s strength for our lives is to come over and over to the same old and very well known teaching from Jesus: take care of you prayer life, take care of your Bible reading, take care of your community life, your fellowship at church and God will increase your own faith in a way that may even surpass Peter’s faith.
Maybe you are thinking that the minister is right in all these observations, but still it sounds to you a little bit like at “to do” list in order to achieve closeness with God and the kind of faith that I could be needing for changes in my life. Sometimes sermons can sound a little bit old fashioned or even demanding.
If it’s so, I’m sorry, but it is not my intent. And neither is it God’s intention for us to feel bad because we don’t have the kind of faith we should have. The very same apostle Peter’s was exhorted by Jesus: ‘You of little faith’ But one thing is true, and we have to be honest with Jesus if we want change in our lives, in our own church and as a consequence in our families, we have to take action. The same kind of action Peter took. The other disciples stayed passive in the boat, we don’t know why. But Peter acted and he was able to show faith, to walk with Jesus, to be part of Jesus’ miracles and even to increase his faith.
How many times have we been in the boat with the waves and the wind swirling around us, fearful of what is going to happen next? We cry out in fear, but more often than not, we fail to heed the words of Jesus, ““Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”.” We turn to God when we are in need, but do we do as Martin Luther says, “call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” We are quick to go to God when we need help, but it tends to be a rarity when we go to God and give Him thanks for the many blessings He has showered upon us.
What kind of actions, are we going to do for Jesus and for our own sake? We are invited to take action by praying, reading the word of God and taking care of our fellowship life through the church. Amen.

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