Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Monday Debrief (09/19/11)

(a weekly post reflecting on the weekend)

The Text-Matthew 17:14-21

Jesus comes down from the mountain top back into the mess.  Many of us can relate.  We’ve gone to the mountain, moving into closer proximity with God (e.g. a personal retreat, time away), and now we find ourselves back in the realities of life.  The chaos in this story involves desperate people, impacted by an awful evil, and an ineffectual church that can seemly do nothing about it.  The problem boils down to people limited by their smallness of faith.  The solution is people with smallness of faith—faith the size of a mustard seed, that can do extraordinary things.

The Insight

On the surface, this text seems to contradict itself.  Small faith is solved by small faith. How can this make any sense?  It requires a clearer understanding of faith.  And I discovered that this is not so easy.  Faith is not a simple subject.  The temptation is to challenge people to have more faith, particularly if their mountains are not moving.  But this is the easy way out. People might be temporarily inspired, but set up to lose their faith in the end when things don’t change. Something more is being said in this story.

I thought a lot about this passage this week.  I have seen so many Christians disappointed, thinking their faith would change things.  I have brought numerous needs to God that I have prayed over, believing God will answer, but nothing happens.  Is it because I need more faith?  Is God waiting for something to increase in my life before He does anything?  The disciples in this story wanted to know, just as I want to know.

Here’s what I learned.  Little faith is faith that is driven out by fear, or faith so anemic it is barely seen.  This is obvious, but here is what is less obvious–little faith is also faith that is misdirected and/or misplaced.  Little faith goes something like this: I want God to do this (heal my friend, give me this job, bring me this relationship, provide for my son…), and I want it so much it morphs into an assumption God wants this as well, and I begin to base my faith on this.  But this is a SET UP!  And Christians do this all of the time. On the other side, mustard seed type faith is faith fed by Word (faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God-Rom 10:17).  It is faith based on God’s clear promises (not want we assume), and it is ultimately focused on God and His will. In other words, it’s not the size of our faith so much as it is Who you are placing your faith in and what He has clearly revealed.  When we pray according to the character of God and the clearly revealed will of God, this kind of faith has the potential to do the impossible.  But this requires spending significant time with Him.

The Helps

Resources were harder to come by.  Not many writers have written great books on faith, but here are some that helped:  Faith & Doubt, Ortberg; , Small Faith, Great God, NT Wright; Seizing your Divine Moment, McManus

The commentaries particularly helpful this week.  The Gospel of Matthew, France; Matthew, Bruner; The Gospel According to Mark, Edwards


Given the responses and my own experience, I will go with three out of four.

  • Lori
    2:38 PM, 20 September 2011

    For what it’s worth, I thought this sermon was very eye opening. I jotted a little quadrant chart in my notes that has little to great faith across the top and little to great subject of faith across the side. I saw little faith in little things as that anemic faith you spoke of. What is the point? Great faith in little things is that misplaced/misdirected faith. Often when I’m putting my will ahead of God’s. Little faith in great things is mustard seed faith. Something that can move mountains! And the ultimate goal of great faith in great things. I’ve thought of this little chart quite often over the last few days and how I can keep moving toward that great faith in great things quadrant.

  • Deborah Hays
    7:02 AM, 22 September 2011

    Praying that this message will overtake my own assumptions and replace them with the Truth.Can’t wait to see you and Heather!

  • Taitha
    5:10 AM, 19 March 2012

    For me, ministry has been a scoure of constant stretching for me. While I did not begin this way, I now serve on a senior leadership team which has more what I call Big Church duties and responsibilities and yes, worries. I oversee the normal stuff sound, lights, greeters, worship team, creative arts, ushers, anything related to the service. But this adds more that is outside my realm like some teaching on Sundays occasionally and dealing with long term vision and planning and problem solving. OF all the things I’ve gone through in 14 years as a worship minister, I would say being catapulted into dealing when our pastor’s wife committed suicide and then when our pastor resigned stretched me the most. Because of that I know I will never be the same. I am marked by brokenness and growth. I can’t go back. So now I do feel like God is preparing me for something more. I just don’t know what it is .still waiting and praying i will remain faithful through it all.

  • Elvin
    11:19 AM, 19 June 2012

    Hey Angela! My group is a facebook group of hohcmesool moms from all over the USA. We have decided to take on the winter challenge as well! We are going to help out with their March drive of collecting baby items. We will be shipping baby items to them during the month of March!For our Week 5 challenge we are helping on of our own in our group. I am so excited to announce it to her this morning! We have a mom in our group that has 9 children, several with disabilities, and an infant who just had surgery. They have to drive several hours back and forth to the children’s hospital that is helping their children and of course it is very draining of finances. We are sending her gift cards and cards of encouragement to hopefully give her a boost and help lift her spirit during this time!We are loving our group and we are loving the James study!!!Thanks!Kellie

  • Jukimik
    1:46 PM, 19 June 2012

    Our group has come of with the suggestion that since a few of us are quite crftay we could maybe make baby blankets or even larger blankets, if this was at all helpful to them. We are also keen to buy the t-shirts, although from what we can see on the Etsy shop, they do not ship to the UK, where 5 of us in the group are living. One of our US members has offered to post them on to us once we work out the logistics.We are really excited to be able to help out in any way we can!

  • Emma
    10:31 AM, 6 September 2012

    Good job, Faith No More is for sure one of my favorite bands. They just sodneud like no one else, very innovative. I like bands that makes music for them because they like it, no just to please the music industry. I think FNM is one of them. I’ve seen FNM live once early 90 s and I missed the Reunion Tour 2010 They didn’t come to my country but If I new before, I think I would have drove to the US. Well Chears

  • Stevie
    6:59 PM, 16 April 2013

    It’s a real pleasure to find soemone who can think like that

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