I don’t have to tell you what a mess our world is in today. But I do want to tell you that it has been in a mess ever since man sinned. God made all good, but sin has cursed it all. Don’t think God doesn’t still love us. He does. He proved that 2,000 years ago by sending His Son to save us from this world of sin and death. What the world needs now is what it has always needed and always will need – faith (1 John 5:4). We can learn from the Bible just how to have the faith to overcome this world and to see what it looks like. I want us to see how Jesus Himself can give us this faith. In Luke 17:5, Jesus’ disciples said to the Lord, "increase our faith". On several occasions Jesus taught them how to have a greater faith in Him. We want to look at four of these times, each one from the book of Matthew, so that we, too, might learn from Jesus to have a greater faith.
Faith To Overcome OUR Worries Mat. 6:25-34
Symptom: Worry In this world we have a lot to worry about, but faith overcomes our worries. Three times Jesus said, “Do not worry” (vv. 25, 31, 34). They worried about the same things we do – life, what eat and drink, body, what wear (v. 25), tomorrow (v. 34). All of us have experienced times when money was scarce, jobs were hard to come find, disasters and tragedies have come into our lives, the future looked so uncertain. We all need to hear Jesus’ words, “Do not worry”. But worry is only the symptom of a greater underlying problem. If we want to overcome worry, we must first identify the problem. Jesus does that for us.
Problem: Little Faith What does Jesus say was their problem? They had the same problem we do – little faith (v. 30). They believed but they lacked the faith they needed. They needed to have more faith – better, bigger, stronger faith. This is how we overcome worry. Look at how Jesus addresses not just the symptom but the real problem of little faith and see what He teaches us about worry that should help us to increase our faith.
There is no worth in it (v. 25). Life and body are more important than these things we worry about (Mat. 16:24-26; Gal. 2:20; Phi. 1:21; Col. 3:4). Remember what matters most in life.
There is no need for it (vv. 26, 28-30). Argument from lesser to greater. We are much more valuable to God than the birds and lilies of the field. He was willing and able to care for them, how much more is He willing and able to care for us.
There is no use in it (v. 27). Relate story of having a girlfriend much taller than me when I was in Junior High. It will not do any good. Usually causes more problems like ulcers, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and depression. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about things you can’t change.
There is no time for it (v. 34). We have enough trouble already. Don’t spend time worrying about what may never happen but trust God for your future (1 Pet. 1:3-5). He knows and holds the future in His hands (Rev. 4-5). With that faith we will have no worry in the world.
Solution: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… (vv. 31-33). The key to a faith that overcomes our worries is to make God our priority – seek, pursue, strive for, focus your life on Him, His kingdom and His righteousness and you can trust Him for everything else! We can trust God to take care of us (vv. 31-330. He knows our every need. He keeps His promise. Consider God’s care for Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. He provided tons of food (manna from heaven, quail by east wind) and water (from a rock) every day for several million people. Their shoes and clothes never wore out (Deu. 29:5 – relate how my track shoes wore out every summer and I used cardboard to cover the holes). He led them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. He never left them alone. He brought them into the promised land. No matter what your worry… God is able (Eph. 3:20; Mat. 19:26). Take your worries to God (Phi. 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 5:7). Yes, you can trust Him with everyone and everything. In this world we have a lot to worry about, but faith overcomes our worries.
Faith To Overcome OUR Fears Matthew 8:23-27
Imagine being out on a lake, crossing over to the other side, and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there is this mighty windstorm, and the waves are beating your boat and it is filling up with water. You know you are going to sink and die. I don’t know about you, but I would be scared to death. So were the disciples. They cried out to Jesus for their lives. “But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’” (v. 26). With these words Jesus identifies both the symptom and the problem.
Symptom: Fear “Why are you fearful…?” We live in a fearful world in which there is a lot to be afraid of – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat; winds, rain, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes; the fighting, rioting, violence, crime, terrorism, war; spiders, snakes, water, heights, elevators, crowds, public speaking; germs, viruses, diseases, sickness, illness, suffering, death. Some live with fear every day. Their lives are filled with fear. They are paranoid and frantic. They are afraid to go to the doctor, go to church, go to the store, go out to eat, go to the mailbox, answer the door, answer the phone, make any contact with others, ever leave their children alone. It is a terrible thing to be afraid. It becomes exaggerated, spreads, paralyzes, overrules our senses, destroys our perspective, drives us insane.
Let me tell you about one night when I was scared to death. A hurricane was headed for Galveston and was expected to make its way straight on into Houston. At the time, Sherry and I lived in the southern part of the city just off the gulf freeway in a low-level section of the city. We pulled down the swing set in the backyard, boarded the back windows of the house in the direction from where the storm was to come, and before laying down for the night prayed for our safety. I slept like a baby, until… I was suddenly awakened by a crashing sound in the front of the house. I sat straight up in bed and froze. It was only about midnight and the storm was not supposed to arrive until later in the morning. If my windows are already breaking, I thought, we are in for trouble. Finally, I got up enough courage to go to the front room to check things out and there on the living room floor at the bottom of the window was broken glass and a big red apple. It wasn’t a hurricane. Someone had vandalized our house by throwing a piece of fruit through our front window. I was relieved and went back to bed, but don’t think I ever slept a wink. Oh, the hurricane – it never arrived in Houston but turned up the gulf shore and completely missed us.
I am reminded of this quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Problem: Little Faith Look again at what Jesus said to His disciples in verse 26, “But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’”. Notice, fear is the symptom, but the real underlying problem is little faith. A greater faith is the answer to our fears and Jesus teaches us how to have a greater faith; faith to overcome our fears.
Even when following Jesus, we will encounter storms (vv. 23-24). The disciples were following Jesus when they got in the boat to cross the sea of Galilee and the storm suddenly arose. Some have the mistaken idea that just because they have become Christians and are living faithful lives that nothing bad will ever happen to them and when it does, they are frightened, but we need to know that Christ does not take us out of the world. He says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). We will have to face the trials of life and death just like everybody else. Not only that but we will have the added burden of persecution from the world because we follow Christ (2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet 4:12-16). So, don’t be surprised when you have to face some very scary things but don’t be afraid just because bad things happen, and most importantly don’t let your fears keep you from following Jesus.
Jesus is with us in every storm (v. 25). The disciples were not alone on the boat. Neither are we (Mat. 28:20; Heb. 13:5-6). We don’t have to fear anything because He is with us (Psa. 23:4; 46:1; Isa 41:10). With Jesus there is never a reason to fear!
Jesus is greater than any storm we may have to face (vv. 26-27). The disciples were amazed at Jesus’ power to calm the storm. They “marveled”; they didn’t know what to think. They asked, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” He is the Son of God. He is the One through whom all things were made. Just as He was able and willing to deliver them from their fear that day, so He is able and willing to deliver us from our fears, too. Paul realized this in Rom 8:31-37. With God there is nothing that we cannot overcome! This was a hard lesson for the Israelites to learn (Num. 13-14). Do you remember when they sent men to spy out the promised land? They found it was an abundant land but that the cities were fortified, and it was inhabited by giants. Joshua and Caleb said that we can overcome it, but the others were afraid and said we are like grasshoppers in their sight. What was the difference? Joshua and Caleb trusted that the Lord was greater! We, too, can overcome every fear if we will trust the Lord (Psa. 34:4; 56:3-4; 112:6-7). This is perhaps best seen in the Revelation. God’s people were facing awful persecution from the Romans, but Jesus showed John a vision of the glorious Son of Man in all His holiness and power in the midst of golden lampstands which were the churches (Rev. 1:10-20). Look at John’s reaction and what Jesus said to him in verses 17-18. Don’t be afraid because Jesus is the Eternal One. Don’t be afraid to live because He is the Living One. Don’t be afraid to die because He died yet is alive forevermore. Don’t be afraid of what comes after death because He has the keys of death and Hades. Later, Jesus revealed to John that death is not to be feared but is a friend to the faithful (Rev. 2:10; 14:13).
Solution: “Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" (v. 25). This is the key to overcoming our fears. Turn to Jesus. Look to Him. Cry out to Him. Call upon Him. We do not have to live our lives in fear. My brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised that fearful times will come, remember that Jesus is always with you, and that He is greater than any storm you may have to face.
Faith To Overcome OUR Doubts Matthew 14:22-33
We all have feelings of doubt from time to time, especially when things don’t go the way we think they should or the way we want them to go. In times of great trial, suffering, loss, and temptation we may begin to doubt ourselves, others, and God, too. In this world many are doing all they can to undermine any faith in God, Jesus, or the Bible. This world may cause you to have many doubts, but faith overcomes our doubts.
In Matthew 14, Jesus had just done the impossible. He fed 5,000 men plus women and children with just five loaves and two fish. It had been a long day and He did not want to send them home hungry. He sent His disciples to cross the lake in a boat to the other side, while He stayed behind on the mountain to pray alone. Just like in our last lesson, once again the disciples of Jesus found themselves on the Sea of Galilee in a storm, but this time He was not with them in the boat. It was the fourth watch (3-6 a.m.) when they saw Jesus, walking on the water. Peter stepped out to Jesus but became insecure, uncertain and began to doubt. Not unlike us when the storms of life surround us.
Read again verse 31: “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Here Jesus identifies both the symptom and the problem facing His disciples.
Symptom: Doubt What’s the symptom besetting the disciples on this occasion? Doubt.
Problem: Little Faith What is their real, underlying problem? Little faith.
We have seen little faith show up as worry and as fear before, but here it appears as doubt. Let’s see how Jesus helped them to increase their faith and to see what we can learn to help us to find the faith to overcome our doubts.
Pray like Jesus prayed (vv. 22-23). This isn’t the first time we read of Jesus praying. Often, He would pray both with His disciples and as here, alone. Sometimes Jesus would spend hours, even all night in prayer. Jesus recognized His need to pray to His heavenly Father while He walked in this world in the flesh. His prayers demonstrate how much He, as a human being, depended upon His Father in heaven. Do we realize how important, essential prayer really is? No wonder the Bible teaches us to pray (Luke 18:1; Rom. 12 12; 1 The. 5:17; Heb. 4:16). If you want a greater faith to overcome your doubts – start spending more time in prayer with God.
Step out of the boat to Jesus (vv. 24-29). Peter sank when he took his eyes off Jesus. But notice the faith Peter had to step out in the first place. The other disciples played it safe. Let me relate my own experience of becoming a Christian, stepping out into the aisle in faith [scared, long aisle, dark stairs and little room, into water in front of all church, but so clean and happy after my baptism]. He invites us all to come to Him (Mat. 11:28-30).
Do not take your eyes off Jesus (v. 30a). That was the mistake I made later that caused me to stumble, fall, and sink spiritually [quit reading Bible because hard to understand, started to say and do things like other kids I knew not right, conscience began to bother me, knew not where I needed to be with Lord, lost that relationship once had with Him]. I took my eyes off Jesus. Keep your focus on the Lord so that you do not become distracted by the world, by sin (Mat. 13:22; 1 John 2:15; Heb. 12:1-2).
Trust Jesus to save you (vv. 30b-33). Imagine Peter’s feelings when the Lord lifted him up. I remember my feelings [I couldn’t keep ignoring my conscience, went on mission trip, resolved to go to every service, get involved in every activity possible, rededicated myself, and was restored with penitence, confession, and prayer, and never looked back, so He has blessed me beyond what I could ever have known without Him]. Jesus pulled me back up and He can lift you up, too. He is always there to help us in every situation. He is our only remedy (John 14:6).
Solution: “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’” (v. 27). This is the key to overcoming our doubts – seeing Jesus for who He really is so that we can truly count on Him and His word. We doubt in times of temptation and trial (Jam. 1:2-5); in sadness and sorrow (Rom. 8:28; e.g., homemade biscuits). Remember what Jesus told His disciples before crucifixion (John 14:1). That’s what Jesus did on the cross (1 Pet. 2:23; 4:19). Even when things look bad trust God, especially then. This world may cause you to have many doubts, but faith overcomes our doubts.
After hearing this lesson, a boy just 11 years old was moved to take the same step that I did at 11 and was baptized into Christ. Another person who had been baptized into Christ, but took their eyes off Jesus returned to Him. Perhaps, there is someone who needs to step out in faith today and be baptized into Christ. Or, perhaps there is someone who once stepped out and became a Christian but is once again sinking in sin because they took their eyes off Jesus. Don’t wait until it is too late. He is ready to reach out and save you if you will cry out to Him.
Faith To Overcome OUR Failures Matthew 17:14-21
Jesus had just taken Peter, James, and John up on a mountain. There they witnessed marvelous things, as He was transfigured before them in bright light and Moses and Elijah appeared there with Him. They truly had a mountain-top experience with Jesus. But here they come down from the mountain. A father brought his epileptic son to the apostles of Christ because he had a demon that cast him in the water and fire. But the apostles failed to cast the demon out.
"Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief" (Mat. 17:19-20a).
Symptom: Failure (v. 19). We have all experienced failure – in school, at work, with our families, in the church, as a Christian before God. Sometimes we wonder why? Jesus reveals the underlying problem.
Problem: Little Faith (v. 20a). We often fail in this world, but faith overcomes our failures. Let’s notice:
Failing once does not make one a failure (vv. 14-16). How many of us have never failed? We all fail (Rom. 3:23). David failed. Peter failed. They were restored and God continued to use these men in great ways. We, too, must learn to accept God’s forgiveness (Heb. 8:12), and like Paul, quit looking back, and move forward (Phi. 3:12-14).
Jesus never fails (vv. 17-18). He was without sin (Heb. 4:15). He says, “Look at Me. You can do this. Don’t give up. I will be your Savior when you fail” (Heb. 5:8-9).
With God’s help we can avoid failure (vv. 19-21). The apostles learned to fast (deny self/focus on spiritual) and pray (get help from God). They never again failed to cast out a demon. God will help us, too (1 Cor. 10:13; Phi. 4:13).
Solution: “for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (v. 20b). Even a little faith can do the impossible if we will exercise it. In using what we have, it will grow. But if we do not use what we have, it will be taken away from us (Mat. 25:29). God gives us faith to learn, pray, worship, assemble, serve, teach, preach, bear fruit, but we must use the faith we have to grow and become stronger, or it will be taken from us. I once heard a story about a little frog who got stuck in a rut. It was too deep for him to jump out. His friends couldn’t help him out and went on their way but the next day they saw him out of the rut hopping happily down the road. “We thought you couldn’t get out” they said. “I couldn’t” he replied, “but a truck came along, and I did.” He couldn’t but he did. A lot of us are like that little frog. We can’t do anything because we don’t believe we can do anything. Remember, with the Lord’s help nothing will be impossible for you (Eph. 3:20). Faith overcomes our failures.
Three Things We Must Do
Recognize our need for more faith (Phi. 3:12-14; Luke 17:5; Mark 9:24).
Go to the source of faith, God’s word (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Apply what we learn to our hearts and lives (Jam. 1:21-25; 2:14-26).
How’s YOUR Faith? It is clear from Jesus, that the faith which overcomes the world, is not just a saying faith but a saving faith. It is a conviction that Jesus is who He claimed to be. It is trusting in Him, not ourselves, anyone, or anything else. It is being obedient to His will. If we want to be saved from this world of sin and death, we must truly believe, trust, and obey God. Most of us have made the decision to repent (to turn from sin to live for God). We have confessed our faith in Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Son of God, and have been immersed in water to wash away our sins calling on His name just as God has called us to do through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you haven't do it now. It is this faith in Jesus that continues to give us assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13). If you still have that faith, then you can know that no matter what is going on in this world, in this country, in your family, in your life, that you have eternal life (Rev. 2:10)! If you’ve lost that faith in Jesus, confess it, repent of it, return to Him, and once again place yourself in His hands. It is as simple as the old VBS song we still sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands, you and me brother/sister, the mommas and the poppas, the little bitty babies…” Whoever you are, whatever your need, come to Jesus in faith, today.