Answer the Question, People of Little Faith

My senior years at high school were spent writing essays. Teachers believed that the best preparation for university was learning to research a subject and condense the findings into carefully structured arguments. It worked well, except when students missed the point. Then the red ink appeared: “Answer the question!”

If the disciples had been more careful to answer Jesus’ questions to them they might have learned faster. Several times Jesus commented on their little faith: trusting the Father for practical needs (Matt. 6:30), in a storm (Matt. 8:26), sinking rather than walking on water (Matt. 14:31), forgetting to bring bread on a trip (Matt. 16:8), and failing to cast out a demon (Matt. 17:20).

When we read the Bible it can be helpful to imagine details of the scene, including the tone in which things are said. But in truth, we never know for sure any details beyond what the passage (and any parallel passages) tells us. Sometimes we assume the wrong tone and imagine facial expressions inaccurately. We do this to each other too. Phone conversations hide body language; text messages leave us clueless about a voice.

So we read Jesus’ words and perhaps imagine Him frowning and wagging a finger as He rocks in a wave-thrashed boat on Galilee.

“Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” (Matt. 8:26)

Then we reflect on our own failures, anxiety, lack of fruit, unanswered prayers, and a track record of thousands of other examples. Shame becomes our accepted norm. We learn to live at a distance from a God who seems to stand with hands on hips, tut-tutting at our little faith. Our God seems to put such unrealistic expectations on us.

When we look closely at the incidents, Jesus always adds a question to His comments about little faith: “Why are you fearful?” (Matt. 8:26); “Don’t you think that God cares more for you than He does birds and plants?” (a paraphrase of Matt. 6:25-32); “Why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31); “Do you not yet understand or remember” [the miracle of multiplied food]? (Matt. 16:9-11).

Part of the process of growing in faith requires the same attention to the questions that are implied whenever we struggle to believe and trust. As we mature we learn to ask the questions ourselves and to hear the answers from God. That’s what the disciples did when they failed to cast out the demon (Matt. 17:14-20). The answers always point to a different way of looking at life: ourselves as treasured and cared for children of the King, God as supremely powerful and ready to show His compassion and glory to people.

So, when we recognize our little faith, let’s shove aside shame. Instead, let’s answer the questions that point us away from unbelief to greater faith.

The goal of Bible Maturity is to promote spiritual growth and faith in God. Please share these short Bible devotions with your friends and family and pray for revival.

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