And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5, NKJV).
Like the apostles, Christians want our faith to grow. Instead of working a miracle to put greater faith into their hearts, Jesus taught them how their faith could grow. His disciples have a responsibility to live in such a way that gives increase to their faith. (1) Faith is increased by trusting the power of faith (Luke 17:6). Faith is a force that activates us to live in harmony with God’s will. It is the fuel that feeds the engine of our lives (2 Cor. 5:7; see Hebrews 11 where people acted “by faith”). We can accomplish whatever God says to do when we trust faith’s power. (2) Faith is increased by offering the service of faith (Luke 17:7-8). Faith in the Lord requires us to serve Him, not ourselves. Our faith will not grow until we humble ourselves before the Lord and trust and serve Him first. (3) Faith is increased by obeying the duty of faith (Luke 17:9-10). Just as a servant has duties to perform, disciples of Christ are to do all we are commanded (v. 10). We have nothing in which to boast when we obey Christ in faith. We have earned nothing. We have only done our duty. Obeying Christ fulfills our duties to Him. Faith is dead without obedience (James 2:20). To increase your faith, diligently “add to your faith virtue…knowledge…self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Trust faith’s power, offer faith’s service, obey faith’s duty, and the Lord will increase your faith (Phil. 2:12-13).
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you (1 Thessalonians 3:12, NKJV).
Room for more. We may say it after a serving of delicious pie or cake. But do we say it about our brotherly love toward our fellow Christians? “We already love one another,” we might respond. The Thessalonian Christians were taught to love one another, and they were practicing it: “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10). There was room for more. Our capacity for brotherly love has no limit. It grows as we practice it. Later, Paul commended these brethren because “the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thess. 1:3). Fraternal affection in the body of Christ is a mark of our mutual purposes, shared salvation, and common faith (1 Pet. 4:8-10; Jude 3; Titus 1:4). The next time you have room for more pie or cake, remember to make room for more brotherly love. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10).
9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ (Luke 17:9–10, NKJV)
Followers of Jesus want to grow in their faith to reach spiritual maturity. This growth of faith comes as we feed on the word of God and live by its truth (Heb. 5:12-14). By using the word of God we grow and are strong in Christ. Even so, in today’s passage, the Lord explains our faith will increase when we obey the duty of faith. Just as a servant obeys his master out of duty and without merit, our obedience to Christ expresses full submission to Him. We merit nothing by our obedience (we cannot earn our way to heaven) – we are “unprofitable servants” doing our duty (v. 10). Our faith in Christ compels our obedience to Him. It is our duty to obey His word, and we freely and willingly do so. Such submissive obedience shows we trust the Lord instead of ourselves. We do His will in His way precisely because we trust His way is right and good. That kind of faith grows as we fulfill our duty before the Lord. You see, saying and not doing is not faith (Lk. 6:46; Jas. 2:17). Doing our duty as servants increases our faith in the Lord.
7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? (Luke 17:7–8, NKJV)
Jesus continues to explain how to increase our faith as He answers the apostles’ request to “increase our faith” (Lk. 17:5). We cannot fail but see that Jesus explains there are things we must do for our faith to grow. Faith is powerful when it is active (Lk. 17:6-7). Furthermore, faith grows when faith serves. We are servants of God and of one another, not masters. Our duty is to serve the will of God, not ourselves. Faith does not elevate us to a place where we demand the Lord serve us. He is the Teacher and Lord, who willing served the Father’s will for our salvation. Now, our faith compels us to be servants (Jno. 13:13-17). That includes the service of forgiving others and being careful not to become offenses (snares) to them (Lk. 17:1-4). Servants of Christ live by faith, doing His will from the heart. The servant heart is fertile ground that bears the fruit of the Spirit by holding fast to God’s word and living as a servant (Lk. 8:15; Gal. 5:22-26). Thus far, Christ has said our faith will increase when we 1) Trust the power of faith (Lk. 17:6), and when we 2) Offer the service of faith (Lk. 17:7-8). What He will say next adds a third item to this list of how to increase our faith.
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5–6, NKJV)
The apostles understood they would need faith to forgive others and avoid being offenses (Lk. 17:1-4). Their request for Jesus to increase their faith did not go unanswered. The Lord explained to them how to increase in faith (Lk. 17:6-10). Please note, the Lord did not promise to send them an “enabling grace” to empower them with the ability to believe. Since faith comes by hearing, and hearing God comes from His word, we can expect our faith to increase as we rely on His word to lead us (Rom. 10:17). We must trust the power of faith for our faith to increase (v. 6). We must practice our faith, trusting God’s will is fulfilled in us as we put our faith into action (Phil. 2:12-13). Little faith can accomplish great things because Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17-20). We devote ourselves to the power of faith when we obey His word. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). To increase in faith, use your present faith to do what Christ commands. In the context of this passage, that means start forgiving the way Jesus said to forgive (Lk. 17:3-4). Faith activates our obedience, showing we trust the power of faith.