“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1 says. As opposed to belief, I tend to prefer the idea of trust when I think of faith. The emphasis here in Hebrews is certainly confidence in God – “assurance” and “conviction” being the operative words.
When we think of heroes of faith, we tend to think on a grand scale – Abraham leaving home to be a wanderer, Moses parting the Red Sea, Peter walking on water, etc. And there certainly are many examples in the Bible and day to day life to show that human beings are capable of extraordinary acts of faith. But it’s also true that great faith isn’t necessarily big faith. In the Bible we find the Lord praising and even marveling at seemingly inconsequential words and actions that are actually reflections of real and abiding trust.
In I Kings 19, when the Lord appeared to Elijah, it says, ‘And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”
The Great and Almighty God chooses often to reveal Himself to man in small ways. Is it no surprise that such a God would also appreciate faith that is expressed in small things?
In Luke 7, a centurion asked Jesus to come and heal a servant who was at the point of death. But when Jesus came near the house, the centurion sent friends telling the Lord not to trouble himself to come into the house for, he said, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
At this, the Bible says Jesus marveled at the man and pronounced that he had not seen such faith even in Israel – this Roman interloper outshone them all! And for what? Nothing more than a simple confidence that Jesus had the authority and power to speak a man well from afar.
Actually, perhaps it’s a little more than that. With his words, the centurion acknowledged that Jesus was more than a man with great ability. He is One with Authority – who commands angels and even nature. Like the commander of armies, Jesus doesn’t have to do it himself; he can simply order it done.
On another occasion, Jesus and his disciples were watching as people put their money in the offering box near the treasury of the temple. Several rich people gave large amounts of money – and we can easily imagine how ostentatiously they might have done so. All of those rich offerings were given without a word from the Lord.
But then a poor woman, a widow, came and donated two copper coins worth about a penny. At this, Jesus was moved enough to call his disciples and point out what she had done. “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44).”
No cathedrals could be built with the money this widow offered. She didn’t even give enough to have her name inscribed on a brick! But Jesus said that what she did was greater than the extravagance of the wealthy, who had actually sacrificed very little with their large offerings.
We can find in the Bible other small things, too, that reflect a big faith.
Prayer – If we return to the believing centurion in Acts 7, his confidence in the Lord is exactly what we’re expressing when we pray. When we bring our burdens before the Lord, we are declaring that we believe He doesn’t need to personally come down and deal with my every problem. Instead, we trust that He can and will manage it. He only has to speak a word, and it will be done. We are saying we believe that God can be at work in my life, and yours, and in someone’s life on the other side of the world – all at the same time and with no problem.
I Thessalonians 5:17 – pray without ceasing
Luke 18:1 – …always to pray and not lose heart
Philippians 4:6 – …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
If we really fulfill these verses, sincerely praying and putting our trust in God, our faith is great indeed.
Doing your part in God’s kingdom – Think about the widow in Acts 7 again. Why did she bother to put those two mites in? What good did it do? What difference would it make? The work of the temple would have gone on with or without her paltry offering. But she was determined to do what she could.
There was another woman in Bethany in Israel just before the Jesus was crucified. While Jesus was there, at Simon’s house, she broke open a flask of expensive ointment and poured it over Jesus’ head. Some were indignant at such a waste and scolded her for doing it.
But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me… She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her (Mark 14:3-9).”
It is a beautiful thing in the eyes of the Lord when we do what we can for Him, whether it is a great thing or a small thing.
It may be that you are not all that impressed with your personal gifts. Maybe you are discouraged because others seem to be richer, smarter, more talented, more spiritual, or more gifted than you are. Perhaps you wonder what you could possibly contribute that would be of any value to the Lord. But the truth is that whatever you do, if it’s all you can do, is a beautiful thing in His eyes.
Baptism – In Acts 8, when the Ethiopian eunuch came up out of the waters of baptism, he went on his way rejoicing (v. 39). Again, after the baptism of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, he and his family rejoiced that they had believed in God (v. 33-34).
Obviously, baptism is a big deal. It’s a hugely significant point, the very birth of a Christian. But the thing itself isn’t all that monumental. I’ve actually had people come up out of the baptistry with an expression on their face of, “Is that all there is to it?” For all that it means, baptism is a pretty small act. But it’s one of total submission to the will of God, and therefore a magnificent act of faith.