Hudson Taylor was a 19th-century British missionary who spent 51 years in China. On one voyage as they neared the channel between the southern Malay Peninsula and the island of Sumatra, Taylor heard an urgent knock on his stateroom door. He opened it, and there stood the captain of the ship.
“Mr. Taylor,” he said, “we have no wind. We are drifting toward an island where the people are heathen, and I fear they are cannibals.”
“What can I do?” asked Taylor.
“I understand that you believe in God. I want you to pray for wind.”
“All right, Captain, I will, but you must set the sail.”
“Why that’s ridiculous! There’s not even the slightest breeze. Besides, the sailors will think I’m crazy.”
But finally, because of Taylor’s insistence, he agreed. Forty- five minutes later the captain returned and said, “You can stop praying now. “We’ve got more wind than we know what to do with!”
Hudson Taylor made a great point about faith. It issues itself in action. Faith works. Faith is evidenced in practical ways that demonstrate belief in God and His Word.
Sometimes faith is hard.
In Luke 17:5 “The disciples said to the Lord, Increase our faith.” What caused them to make that request? In the previous verses, Jesus issued a very difficult command.
“It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
When temptation assaults our souls, our faith is challenged. The word translated “offense” originally referred to the bait-stick in a trap. It has to do with someone being ensnared in the trap of temptation. The devil will attempt to weaken our resolve. Attack our minds and hearts. And ambush our faith. In such times we need to say, “Lord, increase our faith.”
When we see little children hurt and harmed by the sins of others, it easy to cry, “Why, God?” And to impugn His character. When something bad happens to innocence children, someone will say, “Where was God?” (Of course, He’s the same place He was when His son was being belittled, beaten and crucified by unbelievers.) However, when we’re hurting for the little ones let us say, “Lord, increase our faith?”
It takes faith and courage to rebuke someone when they have sinned. When I must seek the restoration of a brother who has wronged me, it is good to pray, “Lord, increase my faith.” Give me the strength I need to do this with meekness and humility.
Faith is required when the offender says, “I’m sorry. Forgive me.” In fact, Jesus offers a scenario that we find incredibly challenging. What if a brother sins against you 7 times in the same day? And each of the times he returned to ask your forgiveness? Jesus says, “forgive him.” To deal with a seemingly impossible situation I must plead, “Lord, increase my faith.”
Living the Christian life is one that calls for faith in the face of trying situations. When we face opposition, either from friends or foes. When we are suffering from ill health. When a loved dies in a tragic accident. When we must admit our own mortality and face the specter of death. In such trying times, we must pray, “Lord, increase our faith.”
Faith can be increased through the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Get into the Word. Read it. Study it. Reflect on it. Drink deeply from its wellspring of wisdom. Through it your faith will be strengthened. Coupled with God’s Word, faith can be increased through prayer, fellowship with other Christians, and weekly worship on the Lord’s day.
When we deal with life’s obstacles, heartaches, and doubts, let us echo the words of William Bathurst.
O for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by many a foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe,
That will not murmur nor complain
Beneath the chast’ning rod,
But in the hour of grief or pain
Will lean upon its God.
“Lord, increase our faith.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman