Did you ever notice the nickname Jesus used for His disciples? He called them “LittleFaiths.” When Jesus urged His disciples not to worry about God’s provision of clothing, He said, “If God so clothes the grass of the field…how much more you, LittleFaiths?” Matthew 6:30
When the disciples had to rouse Jesus from His nap in the back of the boat after a storm broke out on the sea, Jesus’ first response as the waves swept over the boat was, “Why are you afraid, LittleFaiths?” Matthew 8:26
Jesus got personal with Peter in Matthew 14 after Peter walked on the water and began to sink. Reaching out His hand to Peter, the Savior said, “LittleFaith, why did you doubt?”
The Greek word customarily translated, “O you of little faith,” is the single adjective “oligopistos.” It’s more of a moniker than a sentence. What does the word mean? First, it may be a term of endearment using the diminutive—as one of my friends calls me “Miguelito.” Second, it may be a way of highlighting the fact that God always does great things with very little (think mustard seeds). Third, it may very well be Jesus’ way of pointing out the pitfalls of being a faith insider. Let’s press into this possibility.
Jesus made it clear that outsiders displayed great faith. The centurion in Matthew 8:10 was lauded for his faith. The Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:26 was told that she had great faith. These people came from contexts of ineffective belief systems and tired religions. They carried hopelessness in their hearts until they were surprised by Jesus of Nazareth who accomplished the impossible.
But Jesus’ disciples, the people closest to Him, were “LittleFaiths.” How might insiders become people of little faith?
First, faith insiders may begin to take the miraculous for granted. The forgiveness of sins? It happens every day. God’s Word? I’ve got a dozen copies on my shelf and five translations on my phone. An answered prayer? Time to move on to the next item on the prayer list. When you grow accustomed to God’s miraculous work, you can lose your sense of awe, you may begin to treat God like ordinary business, gratitude for His grace can diminish, and you may end up being a LittleFaith.
Second, faith insiders can begin to believe they’ve outgrown life transformation. If you’ve followed Jesus for a long time, make a regular habit of going to church, and are participating in church activities, you may begin to see yourself as someone who doesn’t have a glaring sin problem anymore. The serious “sinners” are “out there,” but you and the inside crowd are doing fairly well. Unfortunately, that’s when darkness can infiltrate and a stale self-righteousness can set in. If you’re not careful, you can become a person who no longer shines the light of Christ. You can become a LittleFaith.
Third, faith insiders can become people who desire to possess God’s power rather than repent in God’s presence. Remember how the disciples fought about who is the greatest? We get into those fights, too, as we engage in unhealthy arguments about who’s right, whose opinion should prevail, and who is in control. We use God as a tool to stoke our egos rather than falling before the Lord and crying out, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Our climb upward pushes God away. We become LittleFaiths.
Is it possible to be reclaimed from the lethargic ranks of LittleFaiths? The Eleven were. What changed them and what might change you?
By Rev. Michael W. Newman
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area C