By Mike Willis
On several occasions, Jesus preceded His remarks to certain individuals with the phrase,) "O ye of little faith." We have tended to think of these passages in relation to our denominational friends who deny that baptism is essential to salvation to such an extent that most of us have never made serious application of these words and their contexts to our own personal problems. Could it be possible that we might be of little faith?
Jesus' Usage of The Phrase
In order to properly understand what attitudes Jesus was condemning when He said, "O ye of little faith," let us study the various contexts in which these words appear. Here are the various places in which the words occur:
1. Mt. 6:30; Lk. 12:28. The context of these two quotations is the Sermon on the Mount. The discussion had turned to the point at which Jesus insisted that man should not make the attainment of money his primary goal in life. Rather, he should obey God and trust in Him to provide for his physical needs. Here are the statements leading up to this phrase:
"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? Any why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Mt. 6:25-30).
Notice that the one described as one of "little faith" was the man who was anxious over the material things of this life and did not trust in God to provide him with his material needs.
2. Mt. 8:26. In this passage, the disciples were with Jesus in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. After a hard day of teaching the people, Jesus lay down in the boat and fell asleep. Soon a squall arose on the sea; the waves began to cover the boat. Jesus continued to rest in peaceful slumber. Finally, the disciples awakened Him saying, "Lord, save us: we perish." Jesus replied, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith." Notice again, that littleness of faith is associated with lack of trust in God to take care of His disciples in times of danger.
3. Mt. 14:31. The occasion when Jesus uttered these words was most unusual. He had fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish the day before. When the multitude tried to take Jesus by force and make Him their new king, Jesus sent the disciples away (perhaps they were caught up in this as well). They were told to cross the sea by boat; in the meantime, Jesus retired to the mountain to pray. During the night, a storm arose on the sea and the disciples were having great trouble in crossing the sea because of a strong head-wind. Soon Jesus finished his prayer and began walking on water across the sea. The disciples saw Him and thought that He was a ghost. Jesus identified Himself to them after which Peter said, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." Jesus said, "Come." "And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, and said unto him, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Notice again, that "littleness of faith" is associated with the failure to trust in God.
4. Mt. 16:8. Here is the last context, I want to study with you. "And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?" Notice that their littleness of faith was marked by their worry about bread.
What Is Faith?
These verses refer to an aspect of faith which we tend to forget. Faith is a term used in a number of ways in the Scriptures. It is used to refer to a "body of doctrine" (Jude 3); it refers to mental assent to a set of propositions (cf. Jas. 2:19; Jn. 12:42-43-"to believe" is taken from the same root word as "faith"). It can even mean obedience (Jn. 3:36). Whereas we have zeroed in on the usages of faith which show that one must obey God to have faith in Him, I fear that there is one aspect of faith we have tended to neglect.
Faith also involves an implicit trust in God. Our failure to apply this aspect of faith has resulted in some poor conclusions. The man who is doctrinally correct on the right issues is considered a "strong man of faith," even if he worries and frets himself sick to the point that he develops an ulcer or two. Do not misunderstand what I am saying; a man must believe the right facts about Jesus in order to have a strong faith. However, he must also have the proper trust in the Lord to have a strong faith. America is suffering from a serious shortage of both aspects of faith.
Statistics indicate that 20,000 times each year here in the United States someone takes his own life. That is fifty-five people every day, more than one every half hour. Suicide has become the tenth ranking cause of death in our nation. Psychiatrists and psychologists have their offices filled with people who cannot cope with the problems of life. Doctors are giving pills to their patients as a method of coping with life's problems. Is this the way that the man of God is supposed to cope with life's problems? Can you imagine Abraham running off to his psychiatrist to get some Valium to help him cope with his problems? Was David to take his problems to God in prayer or to his local, resident psychologist?
Faith in God implies that one believes several facts about God. He believes that God is still in control of this world (Acts 14:17; 17:28). lie believes that God is still providing for man's spiritual, physical and emotional needs. Until we become convinced that such dispositions as worrying and fretting spring from lack of faith (trust) in God, we will do little or nothing to change.
Suggestions For Handling Life's Problems
I would like to conclude this article by making some suggestions for how the Christian is to cope with life's problems; here are some suggestions:
1. Pray about them. Peter said, ". . . casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Pet. 5:7); Paul added, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). 1 am afraid that we have not only forgotten what God's word has said about taking our problems to Him but do not even pay attention to what some of our own poets have said; one said,
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit;
Oh, what needless pain we bear;
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer."
-- "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."
2. Trust God. When we have cast our cares upon the Lord, then we need to patiently trust Him and wait for His answer. David said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psa. 23:4). Similarly, Jesus has promised to be with us today (Mt. 28:20). The psalmist found a refuge in God during the times when the storms of life were about to engulf him. To what do you resort when life begins to fall in on you? Do you resort to pills, worry, fretting, etc.? Is God really your "Rock of Ages" in whom you hide?
3. Accept what must be accepted. The things which we can change should be changed; the things which we cannot change must simply be accepted. Paul had to accept the fact that he had to live the rest of his life with a "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12:1-10). There was simply nothing that he could do about it; hence, he had to accept it. The things which happen to us in life might not be the things we would like to happen to us; however, if we cannot change them, we simply must accept them.
4. Live one day at a time. Jesus said, "Take no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" , (Mt. 6:34). In A Way of Life, Sir William Osler said, "If the load of tomorrow be added to that of yesterday and carried today, it will make the strongest falter. Live in day-tight compartments. Don't let yesterday and tomorrow intrude on your life. Live one day at a time. You'll avoid the waste of energy, the mental distress, the nervous worries that dog the steps of the man who's anxious about the future."
If Jesus were to look at your life, would He be forced to describe you as one with "little faith"? We must be careful in our opposition to modern denominationalism, that we do not leave undone some of the things relevant to our personal character which are demanded by God.
Truth Magazine XXI: 18, pp. 275-277
May 5, 1977