(Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-9, 2 Timothy 1:1-14)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/KuqXtc2-H3A)
5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “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. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
There’s a funny story about a guy named Joe who finds himself in dire trouble. His business has gone bust and he’s in serious financial trouble. He’s so desperate that he decides to ask God for help. He begins to pray, “God, please help me. I’ve lost my business and if I don’t get some money, I’m going to lose my house as well. Please let me win the lotto.” Lotto night comes and somebody else wins it. Joe again prays, “God, please let me win the lotto! I’ve lost my business, my house and I’m going to lose my car as well.” Lotto night comes and Joe still has no luck. Once again, he prays, “My God, why have you forsaken me?? I’ve lost my business, my house, and my car. My wife and children are starving. I don’t often ask you for help and I have always been a good servant to you. PLEASE just let me win the lotto this one time so I can get my life back in order.” Suddenly there is a blinding flash of light as the heavens open and Joe is confronted by the voice of God Himself: “Joe, meet me halfway on this. Buy a ticket.”
Many of us have found ourselves in dire situations before. Maybe not as serious and life-threatening as poor Joe’s situation but in a situation that has tested our faith. And more than likely we responded to the situation by crying out, “Save me! Save me! O God, please save me!” Sometimes God saves us from such situations, sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes He uses the situation to teach us a lesson about ourselves or the world around us. Sometimes God uses the situation to teach us humility. Sometimes, just sometimes, God actually finds a way to save us from our dire situations. He does the impossible—He makes things happen that shouldn’t logically happen. He uproots mulberry trees and plants them in the sea, as the Lord suggests to the apostles in our passage from Luke. But why does God save us from dire situations? Why doesn’t He just allow situations to teach us humility or gratitude or foresight or forgiveness or compassion or any number of important lessons about life? Perhaps God chooses to teach us about love instead. Perhaps God considers our dire situations as opportunities to show us his deep and abiding love for us. He certainly has our undivided attention! We can easily come up with any number of reasons why God would choose not to help us in our dire situations but it’s a little more challenging to consider why He would help us…so why would God help us? Better yet, why should God help us in our time of need?
I think it’s helpful to hold this question in mind as we approach our assigned readings for this morning. In our first reading, the prophet Habakkuk was also crying out to God in his own time of need. “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you, ‘violence!’ and you will not save?” Habakkuk’s world had fallen apart around him. Recall that he was a prophet living in the small country of Judah, right in between the two superpowers of his time, Babylon and Egypt. Like any small country caught in the crossfire of two large, warring countries, poor Judah had been ravaged and laid waste. Destruction and violence, strife and contention were everywhere in the broken country. Habakkuk spoke for a desperate people, pleading with God to save his faithful people. God responds by encouraging Habakkuk to cling to “a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie.” Habakkuk and his people were to simply wait and hold fast to their faith in God. They were to cling to their faith, for “the righteous live by their faith.” God’s deliverance eventually does come for Habakkuk and his people as we hear in the remaining chapters of Habakkuk’s book. But how God initially responds to Habakkuk’s pleas is important. God didn’t give promises of deliverance. God didn’t give hope for deliverance. No, God simply encouraged Habakkuk and his people to keep their faith in him.
Not surprisingly, Jesus gives a similar response to his apostles when they asked him, “Increase our faith!” as he says, “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.” This is an interesting response because, on the one hand, it appears that Jesus is belittling the apostles’ request. They only wanted genuine, strong faith that would allow them to withstand their dire situations and Jesus told them the amount of their faith is of little importance. On the other hand, Jesus distinguished between the faith that the apostles were asking for and the faith that is needed. Jesus could see that the apostles were looking for more faith in themselves and their ability to endure dire situations. Habakkuk and his people were fixated on their own misery and had pled for God to give them more faith in themselves. What the apostles and Habakkuk and his people failed to focus on was faith in GOD’S ability. God is able to do what we can’t do and will never be able to do! God has already done the impossible, time and time again. God continues to do the impossible and will continue to do the impossible. Our God is an awesome God! Our faith in ourselves doesn’t need to increase. Nor does our faith in God. God’s awesome ability to save and provide exists with or without our faith. We only need a mustard’s seed size of faith to understand God’s awesome ability to save! The amount of our faith has no real relevance on God’s ability to save…it is by God’s grace that we are saved from whatever situation we find ourselves in!
God’s grace is a difficult thing to understand and yet so easy to put our faith in. God doesn’t need us to understand why He gives us grace. We don’t need to know why God chooses to help us in order to receive his help. God’s good grace is shared with us even though we don’t know why it’s shared. Perhaps it is shared out of love as I suggested earlier. God loves us so very much that He forgives our sins and stays in relationship with us even in spite of us. God bestows grace upon grace on each of us whether we cry out for it in faith or not. God’s grace is itself an impossibility that only He understands.
In a few moments, we will witness yet another display of God’s grace poured out on little Jackson. We will clothe him in Jesus’ love, wash him of his sins, and God will claim him as one of his beloved children. He will die and rise again to new life in Christ and our shared community. God’s grace will pour out on Jackson, not because Jackson understands why but because God loves him so very much and wants to be in relationship with him all the days of his life.
As we continue along our Pentecost journey, let us be less concerned about faith in our own abilities and more concerned about faith in God’s abilities. Our God is an awesome God who can do the impossible for us. It takes but a little faith to believe in an awesome, gracious God. This season cling to that faith in Him and strive to…stay connected.
As much fun as it was to hear about Joe earlier, there’s another story about a man named Jack who was walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something. “HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? HELP!” He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice. “Jack, Jack. Can you hear me?” “Yes, yes! I can hear you. I’m down here!” “I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?” “Yes, but who are you, and where are you? “I am the Lord, Jack. I’m everywhere.” “The Lord? You mean, GOD?” “That’s me.” “God, please help me! I promise if, you’ll get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning. I’ll be a really good person. I’ll serve you for the rest of my life.” “Easy on the promises, Jack. Let’s get you off from there; then we can talk. Now, here’s what I want you to do. Listen carefully.” “I’ll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do.” “Okay. Let go of the branch.” “What?!” “I said, let go of the branch. Just trust me. Let go.” There was a long silence. Finally, Jack yelled, “HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?”
In the name of the Father, son, and Holy Spirit.