So before our latest camping trip, we pulled out the fly and set about resealing the tape. We found out that not all the tape had come undone, just the places where more stress was put on the fly—at the staking points and over the top where it stretched tightly across the tent poles. I suppose that makes sense. After all, where is it that your pants are more likely to rip but where and when you stretch those seams the most? In the back when you bend over.
That brought to mind the disciples’ request for the Lord to “Increase our faith.” I had always thought of this as a simple request, sort of a “Help me get better” generic prayer. Suddenly I thought to check the context. Maybe there was a reason for the request, maybe those men were under some sort of stress. So I looked up Luke 17:5 and checked the verses immediately ahead of that one.
Stress? Jesus had just given them a laundry list of commands that would have stressed anyone out.
“Temptation is sure to come,” he begins in verse 1. Not “may come” or even “will probably come,” but “sure to come.” If ever a Christian feels stress it is during temptation. Yes, I think I might need increased faith to handle those times.
Then he goes on to talk about those who cause others to stumble. I suppose nothing stresses me out more than worrying about how what I say or do may affect others, especially since I teach and write so much. Yes, I need more faith to keep teaching and keep writing, especially when I receive negative reactions or hear of someone who misused what I have said, and even more when I realize I have made a careless word choice.
Then Jesus tells them to forgive, even if the same person does the same thing over and over and over and over. This is where, in an almost comedic outcry, we hear them shout, “Lord! Increase our faith!” As often as those same men misunderstood and failed to comprehend Jesus’ teaching, they certainly understood the need for faith when it comes to mercy and forgiveness. We really haven’t reached the pinnacle of that Divine trait until we can say, “I forgive you,” without adding or even thinking, “Again.”
Look up the other places where we are told to strengthen or increase or add to our faith and you will discover other areas of stress that could trip you up—times when divisions occur, when sinful desires rear their ugly heads, when we need to love the unlovable, when we are told to obey whether we understand it or not. All of these things can create stress in our lives, and endanger our souls.
“Pay attention to yourselves,” Jesus told those men in the midst of his teaching (v 3). Don’t be caught unawares in the middle of a storm. “Increase your faith” and so be prepared.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering-- 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5.