“And the Apostles said unto the Lord, increase our faith.” Luke 17:5
Prayer is the expression of need. The earnestness of prayer is evidence of the appreciation of what is asked for. The Apostles are in the presence of the Source of all good from whom many and great things may be received; but that which they felt to be their greatest need was not earthly good of any kind, but an increase of their faith; and for this they prayed. This is a genuine Apostolic prayer, and implies some facts that we desire to notice.
I. It implies that some faith is already possessed.
The petitioners already had some faith in the great fundamental truths of religion; but they desired more. All men have faith to some degree. It is so impossible for the worlds of man’s creation to hold together without faith, as for the worlds of God’s creation to maintain their integrity without gravity. It is the faith that merchant has in merchant that keeps the mercantile world from falling to pieces. It is faith that maintains the social world. What would become of the felicity of the domestic world if faith were eliminated from the families that compose it?
It is through faith that we have the knowledge that we have. Few of us are original thinkers, very few of us are given to original research; hence the knowledge that we have is very largely what we have accepted as true from some one who has given it to us, either in a book, or by direct address. Indeed, it is faith that keeps heaven and earth together. If we had no faith in a future world heaven would disappear from the vision of our souls. More than this, if we had no faith we would be unable to posses ourselves of the blessings that have been made possible to us through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Hence it is apparent that some faith is possessed by all men; that all who subscribe to the Christian creed possess it in some measure.
II. It then implies that there are degrees in faith.
One man may have stronger faith than another, there are some who have stronger eyesight than others. One man may take a tighter grip of an object than another; so may one man’s eye of faith be stronger than another’s; one man may take a stronger hold upon the great spiritual verities of religion than another.
It was their faith that made men in the early times renowned; it is through the exercise of faith that men still gain glory. We read of Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Paul; but their names would never have reached us but for their great faith in God and Christ.
It is by men of strong faith that the way of advance is pioneered along which peoples rise to higher glory.
Some men have greater influence with God than other men; but this is not because of their standing in society, their intellectual attainments; but because of their faith in God.
There are those whose composure of soul amid life’s trying circumstances make most profound impressions on the minds of those who behold them. But this composure is not because of being swayed by any stoical philosophy; it is because of a profound faith in the promises of God. There is no fact more patent than that there are degrees of faith in the great fundamentals of religion, as there are in faith of any object.
III. It implies the desirability of faith’s increase.
The results of this increase show the wisdom of desiring it. Look at some of these results:
1. There follows a deeper conviction of the facts of the existence and imminence of a personal God. This conviction puts far away from the mind all the influences of those reasoners who would argue God out of the universe, or make all things Deity. In proportion as this faith grows, do conceptions of God become more sublime and soul-uplifting. And, too, influenced by increasing faith in the imminence of God, our views of earth change. It ceases to be a mere marketing place, a playground; it becomes more and more a sacred place, because of the increasing conviction that God is everywhere present in it. How comforting is this conviction to the Christian! He knows his God is at hand with all the kindness of a heart of love to help him.
2. Increase of faith will make the promises sources of greater comfort to the soul. What glorious things God has made available to men on the exercise of their faith. What king ever promised such marvelous things to his subjects as God has promised to those who believe in Him. But there are many of the professed followers’ of Christ who take very little good out of those promises·. They read them, and often think that they are too glorious to be realizable. But as filth in God’s Word increases confidence in the availability of all those blessings that the Bible promises to man becomes so strong that those promises are taken in their fullest import and their fulfillment claimed. What comfort and peace of soul he has who has implicit faith in all that the Bible declares may be man’s portion!
3. There follows the increase of faith deeper convictions of the reality of God’s providence over men and nations. The stronger our faith becomes in the fundamentals of our religion the more firmly will we hold to the truth that God rules in the affairs of men and nations. Men of strong faith in God never think of this world as abandoned by its Maker. They never think of any of the children of men as being outside the realm of His loving care. To them it is a truth, as true as .any ever penned by men, that the nations are not left to be controlled by the wisdom of statesmen, nor the will of tyrants; but that God sways His scepter over thrones, and orders the march of the events of the nations.
4. There follows this increase a clearer, truer, knowledge. We do not get true conceptions of many things through our physical vision.We do not see the stars so as to have proper conceptions of their magnitude. The Polar star appears to our eye so small that it might be held in the hand of a man; but to the eye of faith it is a world of marvelous magnitude. We have a better view of ourselves by faith than by sight. This is also true concerning Jesus Christ. As a means of knowledge, faith is more to be relied on than are the senses. How important then that it becomes strong?
5. There follows the increase of faith a greater confidence that the mission of Christ to earth shall be accomplished in all the vastness of its purpose. There seem to be insurmountable difficulties in the way of Christ’s march of conquest; but however great may seem the difficulties, to that faith that is strong in the wisdom and resources of Christ, the final victory is certain.
6. Increase of faith in the religion we profess makes the future real, and its prospects more soul-cheering. As thus it is seen that the increase of our faith -is followed by such delightful and important. results, the great desirability of its increase must be apparent.1909 W. Downey Preacher’s Fingerpost