- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. R. Clinton Washington at Jerusalem Baptist Church in the District of Columbia.

Even after seeing the powers and miracles of the Lord, the apostles struggled to know how to increase their faith. There was a vacancy in their hearts. And a lack in their faith and spiritual power. They asked the Lord to supply them with what they lacked. They said, "Increase our faith."

As an illustration, He gave them the parable of the mustard seed [Luke 17:5-6]. "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 'Be rooted up and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."

The Lord does not give people faith because they ask for it. It is something to be built up in each individual. You can't have faith until you have gone through something. When you've had some ups, and you've had some downs. That's why young folk need to listen to those who are older, for they have already been there, and they can tell you some things.

You've got to experience it. When you're down, you know what it is to get up. That's why we thank God for the elders of the church, and we thank God for the young folk too. We need each other.

So the lesson in this parable is the desire to increase faith. It is about the unlimited power of faith. The lame walk and the lepers are cleaned. It is not that healing is a reward for believing in Jesus. To walk is a lame man's act of faith.

Faith is one necessary ingredient in our lives. Faith is the end of the rope you hold on to. In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith is hope written in the present tense. Our faith is active when our reason runs out. You have to walk by faith and not by sight. And finally, faith is the very cord that unites the creature with the Creator.

Just before the Lord gives the parable of the mustard seed, He is instructing about our offenses and forgiving those who have sinned. Christ recommended forgiveness when the offenders repent. He said, "If he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

And knowing this was hard to do, the disciples made their request, "Lord, increase our faith." Jesus referred to the mustard seed on many other occasions. When he cast out a demon [Matt. 17:18-21], the disciples said, "Why can't we do the same." What did Jesus say? "Because of your little faith," He said. "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move." Jesus is saying that out faith begins small, but it grows in power. He says that with faith we can do what seems impossible.

A small amount of faith can do wonders. Our faith may be small, but if we properly cultivate what little faith we have, it will develop into a mighty power and grow like a strong tree. Then we can say, "I will never turn back anymore."

Our generation has lost its faith. We have lost it in God and in our basic institutions. We have lost faith in the home and in our schools. We have last faith in our government and lost it in our Supreme Court. We've lost faith in our voting rights. We are plagued by a disease, and it is faithlessness. Moral and spiritual decay.

Faith is things hoped for and the assurance of things not seen. It brings power to the soul. You've got have faith. It is simply taking God at His word. The Bible tells us again and again about that faith.

Faith can survive the fiery furnace. There was the faith of Joshua at the battle of Jericho, and the faith of Abraham. And Noah had faith when he prepared for the storm. We know about the faith of our mothers and our forefathers. And finally, I've got faith because He died on Calvary. I have faith because that one Sunday morning He rose up out of the grave, and the power is in His hand. What a friend we have in Jesus.

Next week: a sermon by Rabbi Philip Pohl at B'nai Shalom Congregation in Olney.

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