Sunday message: When a person gets ‘shaken’ to faith

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 6, 2019


Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

To be frank, I sometimes wish that Jesus had not said these words! “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” The short quote is so easily co-opted in support of crude theologies of faith. Especially when it gets read literally, it can distort faith into a kind of magic. 

Of course, Luke does not mean to liken faith with magic. He is speaking in metaphor. It might not be all that self-evident at first glance. What is faith, anyway? At the very least, Jesus is saying that faith is not, deep down, something we would want to measure in size or quantity. 

There was a woman who went through her first earthquake in California and she said, as it was happening, “I think a train just hit our apartment building. I think our foundation is gone. We better pray.”

Being shaken to faith is something like an earthquake. Something comes along and shakes us up. Something shakes our very foundations. Through the foundation-shaking event, we want to know more about God and faith.

Something like that is going on in our gospel. The apostles cried out, “Increase our faith.” In the context just before this verse we hear the foundation-shaking words of Jesus about forgiveness which prompted this cry for more faith.

The apostles said, “Increase our faith,” because they were all shook up by Jesus’ words about forgiveness. They realized how far from God they were. They sensed they needed to be closer to God if they were to act like God acts in offering forgiveness to sinners. They experienced what we might call a “faithquake.”

The faith factor means that we change our orientation from the ways of this world to the ways of God’s kingdom. Sometimes it takes another person’s strong words about what is really important to wake us up. That’s what happened to the apostles. Having to face our sins helps us see the need for our Saviour.

The faith factor means that we give up control of our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. We seek to do what God wants us to do, instead of stubbornly clinging to what we want to do. Submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord is the one thing needed and the hardest thing of all.

On a small commuter plane from Chicago to Rochester, Minnesota, a pastor sat next to a young business executive. As they talked, the pastor realized that the young man was living a life totally void of faith in God. The businessman indicated that all he wanted out of life was a better position with his company, more money, and more things. He also said that he’d want to get even with some executives who had put him down on numerous occasions. “I’d like to really stick it to them,” he said.

“Tell me more,” the pastor said. The young man explained that in business it’s every man for himself and that some of the executives from his company had told lies about him in order to promote themselves. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” he said, “but I can never forgive them.” Then the young man asked a question: “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a pastor and church consultant,” the minister replied. There was an awkward silence from the young non-believing man.

“My grandmother was a Christian,” the young man finally replied meekly. “My mother taught me about Christ and faith, but frankly, I haven’t been a practicing Christian. I haven’t been in church for years.”

Suddenly, a snowstorm came up and the voice of the flight attendant reminded the passengers to tighten their seatbelts. Then the flight attendant did something strange. She came down the center aisle, bent down, and with a screwdriver lifted a small section of the carpet. Then she manually opened a trap door.

“What are you doing?” the young business executive screamed.

“I’m just manually checking to see if the landing gear is down,” she said.

After she went to the cockpit, the voice of the pilot came over the loud speaker. “The flight attendant has not been able to manually determine if the landing gear is down. The electronic landing gear check isn’t working. It’s frozen. Don’t worry, we think everything is okay.” After a long pause, the pilot announced, “We will land in a few minutes.”

The young businessman turned to the pastor and said in a trembling voice, “I’m scared. Do you think we’re going to make it?”

“I don’t know,” said the pastor. “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“I don’t want to die. I’m too young. Tell me, what do I need to do to be right with God?”

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” the pastor said. “Trust him for your salvation. He is your Lord and Saviour. He will forgive you, as He promised.”

“I believe,” the young man said, “I trust him.”

Just then the plane set down on the runway without a problem. There was a collective sigh from the passengers.

“Wow,” said the young man. “That was a close call.”

“Maybe that was your wake-up call,” the pastor said. “God bless you. Remember, you have been forgiven and don’t forget to pass it on.”

The young man smiled.

The pastor smiled back. In his mind he questioned, “I wonder if the emergency really woke him up? Will this young man’s faithquake stick?”

In the blink of an eye everything can change. So make the most with those who mean the most. 

When he got to the church where he was preaching that Sunday, the pastor checked on the texts for the day. He was preaching on Luke 17:5, “Increase our faith.” The first lesson was from Habakkuk, “The righteous shall live by their faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). The second lesson included this verse: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you” (2 Timothy 1:5).


Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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