Can you measure your faith in God?
In the time of the prophet Habakkuk, the southern kingdom of Judah is in a desperate position, and Habakkuk is grappling with questions about the very nature of God: Why do you let me see ruin? the prophet asks God. Habakkuk is surrounded by destruction and violence, by strife and clamorous discord. But God insists that Habakkuk must simply be patient and trust: the just one, because of his faith, shall live. It’s never easy for human beings to be patient, especially when they don’t understand what’s going on around them. When the Israelites are traveling through desert in the Book of Exodus, they fail to be patient with God and, at Massah and Meribah, as Psalm 95 reminds us, they test the Lord to see if he will intervene and provide them with water on demand. The people are not patient, they do not trust; they have little faith.
Jesus’ apostles have similar issues around trust in Luke’s Gospel. Increase our faith, they say as they journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. But Jesus is quick to point out that it’s not the measure of their faith, but its very existence that is in question: If you have faith the size of a tiny, ordinary mustard seed, he tells them, you could do extraordinary things. Consequently, they should not be seeking grace on demand, or an extra dollop of faith; rather, they should be patient and serve, simply doing what they are obliged to do as his disciples, as his followers, with trust, open to the little faith they can muster. The rest will come in due course. For all of God’s gifts, as Paul will remind the downhearted pastor Timothy, are forms of grace, particularly love and self-control, gifts that Paul calls a rich trust that Timothy must guard, a treasure for which Paul has been but a conduit: sound words born in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Timothy, like Habakkuk, like us, must simply remain patient and keep his heart open, in faith and in love, trusting in the Lord, and allowing God’s love to grow in him.
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