Faith means believing God exists and believing that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). The disciples had no problem with the first part, but they did have trouble with the second. They had been approached by a man whose child was afflicted by a demon. They tried to cast the demon out of him, but could not.
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)
In this instance, Jesus said that the reason their faith was not rewarded was because it was ‘little’ — and its deficiency showed up when they tried to move a mountain (a demon) and nothing happened.
This prompted me to search for other places where “little faith” is mentioned. The New Testament offers several instances where faith is insufficient. For instance, if I worry over what will I eat or wear (Matthew 6:30, Luke 12:28), or I am fearful in a dangerous situation (Matthew 8:26), or if going after Jesus becomes difficult and I give up (Matthew 14:31), or anytime I doubt God will take care of me (Matthew 16:8), then my faith is too small.
Yet faith is also believing in God even when He does not respond the way I want. For instance, I have prayed for years concerning the salvation of loved ones and it does not happen. Do I throw up my hands and stop trusting God to do His work in their hearts? Or do I realize that God’s will is perfect and He will do as He sees fit in their lives?
Faith in God is not about telling Him what to do and then believing He is going to do it. Faith means knowing He hears and that His answers to my prayers are always the right ‘reward’ — no matter what I think that answer should be. I have prayed for things that seemed such a great idea, but God said ‘no’ and I later realized that His ways are far better than mine. Had that ‘no’ been an ‘okay’ I would have suffered.
Faith is often blind to what God is doing, but faith keeps me holding His hand and willingly going with Him, even in darkness, fog, and confusion. Faith is not about events or situations but about the character of God and about my relationship with Him. I trust Him because I know who He is, not because I understand or even know what He is doing.
Faith also accepts that He does not always let me in on His plans or His secrets. Great faith shows up in being calm even in chaos, in being joyful even in sorrow. Faith also knows that His ways are higher than mine and as I rest my confidence in Him, He will do even more than I ever thought to ask Him.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21)
For me, little faith is revealed most when I am trusting myself instead of trusting God. Since great faith is about believing in a great God, then believing in me is certainly evidence of a very small faith!