Defective Faith vs. Effective Faith

 “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’  He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you'” (Matthew 17:19-20). 

[I will say, this post is the longest I have posted so far, but I hope that you will bear with me until the end and are encouraged!]

In this story found in Matthew 17 a man brings his son who is an epileptic and demon possessed to Jesus to be healed. Interestingly enough, the man took his son to Jesus’ disciples first but they were unable to cast out the demon. Obviously, Jesus was able to rebuke the demon and the boy was healed instantly.

So, why weren’t the disciples able to cast out the demon? After all, Jesus did commission His disciples and give them the authority to cast out demons and perform other miracles. Was Jesus caught in a lie or did He simply forget to transfer His power to them after He commissioned them? No. Jesus responds to their question (“Why could we not cast it out?”) by saying, “Because of your little faith” (vs. 20).

The disciples definitely did not lack confidence, for they were shocked that they couldn’t cast out the demon, thus pushing them to ask Jesus the question. However, there is a difference between having confidence in ourselves (or lack of faith) and appropriating to our lives a faith that’s object is God Himself and His power.

Previously, the disciples, through the confession of Peter, acknowledged that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). So, they did have faith in Jesus, they knew of His power and authority, and believed that He was the promised Messiah. But for some reason, they still could not cast out the demon–because of little faith.

John MacArthur, on this idea of faith says:

“Little faith is the kind of faith that believes in God when you have something in your hand. Got it? Oh yes, I believe God. Oh yes, the Lord provides. Here it is and I’m hanging on to it. That’s little faith. But little faith can’t believe God when it doesn’t have in hand its resource, that’s little faith. Great faith says I believe God without anything in my hand. I believe God in the middle of the storm. I believe God though thy wind is howling. I believe God though there’s nothing on the cupboard. I believe God though I don’t have any clothing. I believe God. That’s great faith. Little faith, most of us are really good at little faith. We believe God because we can see what He’s done, it’s right here.”

This is very powerful stuff. Like the disciples, we are so quick to affirm God and His promises and His power when things are easy and already accessible to us. On the other hand, when things get tough, we don’t feel as though God is there or answering our prayers, or not coming through for us in any given moment of need, etc. we fail to exercise faith. It is during these times that God wants to strengthen our faith! He desires that our faith grow! Again, MacArthur states :

“And what you’ve got in the mustard seed is something that starts very, very small and grows very large.

Now what is our Lord saying? Watch. If you had the faith that is illustrated in a mustard seed, you would start out small but your faith would do what? It would grow and increase. And that’s an indictment of them. They started out with a little bit of faith and they just bailed out. Beloved, I believe there are many things that God desires for you to experience in your life that God desires to accomplish in your life that are available to you through the exercise of His divine power. But that power will never be tapped until you have the faith that starts small. And when it meets with resistance and when you don’t see it happen, the faith doesn’t die small, it gets larger and larger and larger. And you continue persistently in prayer.”

A defective faith is a faith that only believes in God when it’s easy and when the things we exercise faith for are right there in front of us and is quick to bail when it gets complicated. Effective faith is a faith that will trust God through and through. Effective faith always places God as its object-and never gives up. It is through an effective faith, one that truly trusts in the power, promises, and will of God no matter the situation, that nothing (what is in accordance with the will of God and His promises) is impossible.

Many times the disciples were accused of having little faith (Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8), all during times that were tough, new, involved distractions, or were without clarity. It is during these times that Jesus desired they showed the most faith, He desired that their faith would consistently grow, ready to face any difficult task or situation (mountains, vs. 20). God wants the same for us. He wants effective faith, one where He is the source and His will and promises are pursued through His power and consistent in prayer.




Following Jesus

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Jesus uttered these words to His disciples after he predicts His own suffering, death, and resurrection. Most Christians have probably heard this phrase hundreds and hundreds of times. However, after reading this passage in my quiet time, I wanted to look into the things Jesus tells His disciples must happen in order for someone to follow Him.

So, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him…”

  1. “Deny himself”- If we are going to be followers of Jesus, then we must be willing to humble ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus, abandoning all self-will, pride, and personal preference. This is quite the battle. Most of the time, it is very difficult to give up the things we want; however, God desires that our hearts want the things His heart wants.
  2. “Take up his cross”- As followers of Jesus, we must be willing to put to death anything that will hinder us from faithfully following Jesus. The commentary in my Bible says that we must “embrace God’s will, no matter the cost.” It is possible that following Jesus could cost you your life, as a matter of fact, there are hundreds of stories out there about those who have. Following Jesus means that we must be willing to sacrifice anything and everything for His name’s sake.
  3. “Follow me”- We have to live a life committed to the obedience and unwavering allegiance to the leadership of Jesus. Jesus once said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we are going to claim with our mouths that we are followers of Jesus, those who love Him, then we must practically do so. One of the most encouraging things about following Jesus is that it means that we are never alone. If we are following someone, then we are not isolated or without assistance. What great news! Daily denying ourselves and potentially risking our lives for the One who has called us to follow Him is going to be challenging, but we can have peace, boldness, strength, and hope knowing that He still is Imannuel, God with us!

The two verses that follow vs. 24 explain why denying  ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus is so worth it. The next two verses say, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” True, purposeful, and (most importantly) eternal life is only found in Jesus. Having everything you want in this world grants you no eternal benefit–only a life that is willing to die to self, take up the cross, and follow Jesus.


“But who do you say that I am?”

A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I believe this statement to be 100% true. What we think concerning who God is places a huge weight on our eternity.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is asking His disciples who people are saying that He is. Their response is that some people are claiming He is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other prophet. Jesus then turns the question to His disciples and asks, “But who do you say that I am?”. Simon Peter delivers the renown response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is to this response that Jesus shows affirmation, and He goes on to say, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father who is in heaven.”

There are many people out there today that claim Jesus was simply a great guy, a good teacher, or just another prophet. What is interesting is that the people who think this way about Jesus aren’t completely wrong. I mean, Jesus was a great guy; as a matter of fact, He was a perfect guy, the most morally upright person to walk this earth. Jesus was a good teacher; He’s probably (most definitely) the greatest teacher to ever live. Jesus was also a prophet; He prophesied His death and resurrection multiple times, predicted Peter’s denial, His own betrayal, and He was a fulfillment of multiple prophecies Himself! However, this way of thinking towards Jesus (God Himself), should not stop here, but unfortunately for a lot of people it does.

Jesus was more than a great guy. Jesus was more than a good teacher. Jesus was more than just another prophet. Jesus was and still is the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid His life down for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus is the Great High Priest who offered the ultimate sacrifice to God (Hebrews 4:14). Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus is the Bread of Life, the one who truly satisfies our souls (John 6:35). Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone, upon which our faith and His Church is built (Ephesians 2:19-21). Jesus is the Messiah, the promised anointed one from God (John 1:41). Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The titles and descriptions of who Jesus was and still is go on and on.

So, what comes to mind when you think about who Jesus is? To you, is He only like a genie in a bottle? Is he only a good person from the past, or someone who was good at teaching and drawing a crowd? Is He only like a spiritual 911 who you only call upon when something bad happens? Or is He just a historical figure? Who do you say that He is?

I side with Peter. I believe God has revealed to us through His Word that Jesus is who He said He was–the Christ, the son of the living God.