Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith (that trust and confidence that spring from our belief in God). 6 And the Lord answered, If you had faith (trust and confidence in God) even [so small] like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, be pulled up by the roots, and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you.
Just think if we had a little mustard seed faith, the things we could do—tell a mulberry tree what to do for no apparent reason. Think about it, why would Jesus say we could tell a mulberry tree to be uprooted and then planted in the sea? Jesus also said when the disciples asked why they couldn’t cast a demon out of a little boy, “if you had faith as a grain of mustard seed nothing would be impossible for you“. (Matthew 17:10-20).
Jesus always instructed the disciples in Kingdom living. He trained those who were interested in living in the Kingdom of God by instruction. Jesus didn’t do any abracadabra kind of spells, He didn’t say sure here is some more faith for you, but He told the disciples how to increase their faith. He gave the exact right answer they needed to have more faith.
The disciples were apparently taking heed to Jesus’ instruction to have asked for His wisdom. It appears obvious they asked questions for the intention of following through on what was commissioned of them.
Acts 5:12 Now by the hands of the apostles (special messengers) numerous and startling signs and wonders were being performed among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in the covered porch (walk) called Solomon’s. 13 And none of those who were not of their number dared to join and associate with them, but the people held them in high regard and praised and made much of them. 14 More and more there were being added to the Lord those who believed [those who acknowledged Jesus as their Savior and devoted themselves to Him joined and gathered with them], crowds both of men and of women, 15 So that they [even] kept carrying out the sick into the streets and placing them on couches and sleeping pads, [in the hope] that as Peter passed by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 And the people gathered also from the towns and hamlets around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those troubled with foul spirits, and they were all cured.
The disciples labored to increase their faith, just as Jesus taught them.
Luke 17:7 Will any man of you who has a servant plowing or tending sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, Come at once and take your place at the table? 8 Will he not instead tell him, Get my supper ready and gird yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; then afterward you yourself shall eat and drink? 9 Is he grateful and does he praise the servant because he did what he was ordered to do? 10 Even so on your part, when you have done everything that was assigned and commanded you, say, We are unworthy servants [possessing no merit, for we have not gone beyond our obligation]; we have [merely] done what was our duty to do.
Can you imagine ‘laboring to get faith’ would be their answer? Nevertheless it is the exact answer Jesus gave them. I imagine they not only wanted faith to forgive which was the topic of discussion of asking, but to have these attesting signs following them, in which they actually have had manifestation of!
Mark 16:17 And these attesting signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 They will pick up serpents; and [even] if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well.
Jesus gives us even more insight as He explains how their thinking needed to change.
Luke 17:10 Even so on your part, when you have done everything that was assigned and commanded you, say, We are unworthy servants [possessing no merit, for we have not gone beyond our obligation]; we have [merely] done what was our duty to do. MSG
Jesus said even though you have done your part, you still think you are unworthy! I believe Jesus was saying to them, you left your homes and your jobs to follow Me. You seek Me to live righteous, you have answered My call to do the will of the Father—you even laid hands on the sick and watched them recover, yet you still you think you’re unworthy.
Right before the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, Jesus had been instructing them in the Kingdom principle of forgiveness. Their reaction—increase our faith! Obviously they were thinking Jesus’ instruction was overwhelming, but Jesus immediately encouraged them with the answer.
Jesus went on to teach the disciples that their faith would increase if they would go the extra mile, not just doing their obligation, but more than is expected (Luke 17:10).
In Mark 6 of the Message translation Jesus gives a perfect example of going the extra mile and how in doing so we can not only increase our faith, but our provision.
Let me share the short story with you.
The disciples were with Jesus all day and went off in a boat to be by themselves, but as thy arrived to their destination there was already a crowd. At the sight of them the message translation expresses Jesus’ compassion toward them as— His heart broke.
Mark 6:32-34 So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves. Someone saw them going and the word got around. From the surrounding towns people went out on foot, running, and got there ahead of them. When Jesus arrived, he saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, his heart broke—like sheep with no shepherd they were. He went right to work teaching them.
Mark 6:35-36 When his disciples thought this had gone on long enough—it was now quite late in the day—they interrupted: “We are a long way out in the country, and it’s very late. Pronounce a benediction and send these folks off so they can get some supper.”
Mark 6:37 Jesus said, “You do it. Fix supper for them.” They replied, “Are you serious? You want us to go spend a fortune on food for their supper?” 38 But he was quite serious. “How many loaves of bread do you have? Take an inventory.” That didn’t take long. “Five,” they said, “plus two fish.”
Mark 4:39-44 Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. They all ate their fill. The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. More than five thousand were at the supper.
It might be that we are much like the disciples were that day. We might be focused on ourselves rather than the way of the Kingdom. When Jesus instructs us to meet a need, do we respond as they did? More than likely, but the good news is they grew from that mind-set, therefore so can we.
Jesus, whose mind is always on the Word, multiplied the food with His un-inhibited faith in the Kingdom principles of sowing and reaping. He knew the Word and acted on the Word out of His compassion for His loved ones.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside.) [He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God.] For whatever a man sows that and that only is what he will reap.
Luke 6:38 Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will they pour into [the pouch formed by] the bosom [of your robe and used as a bag]. For with the measure you deal out [with the measure you use when you confer benefits on others], it will be measured back to you. AMPC
Jesus modeled how by giving, His giving would multiply back to Him. He not only multiplied food with His faith, He increased His faith by doing beyond what was expected of Him.
To watch how thousands of people were fed by Jesus’ compassion of giving one small meal was their answer to increased faith. His heart ached for those people, so it was recorded! His mind was not on Himself, but the needs of the His children.
Jesus’ heart still aches today for His own. For the mature to count themselves worthy to do His work, for those who don’t know Him, to know Him. For all of us to increase in faith—and to represent Him.
Can He count on you? Will you care about what He cares about? Will you go for Him? Will you have compassion for His lost sheep enough to take the time needed to get increased faith, His confidence to do His work?
If so, you can start by hearing Him, hear the Word— to get faith. Hearing the Word is getting knowledge, getting to know God and having confidence to be who you are in Him.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself).