O you of little faith
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"O you of little faith"
We find this phrase, or a near equivalent, frequently on Jesus' lips in Matthew's account of the Gospel. It's found in 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, and 17:20.
Martin Luther thought long and hard about what it means to live by faith. He realized just how difficult this can be at times.
Faith is not so easy a matter as pope and enthusiastic fanatics dream it is. I am Doctor of Holy Scripture and have now studied the lesson of faith for twenty years and have also preached to others about it. Nevertheless, when the sun burns down upon me and temptation comes along, I feel and find that I droop and wilt, as grass in the heat and drought. And if God did not refresh me with His rain and dew, that is, with His Word and Spirit, I should have to wither away. Therefore, the lesson of faith is a lesson that must constantly be practiced and rehearsed.... God's Spirit and power, constant practice and experience, are required to arrive at the point at which I ride above all things, despise sin and death, and with all confidence cheerfully rely on God's promise.
We must learn to cling to the Word alone even though God acts with all creatures in a manner different from that recorded of Him in the Word. But, alas, how it hurts nature and reason so utterly to divest themselves of everything and to forsake all they feel and simply to cling to the bare Word, when they actually feel like doing the very opposite! God help us in times of trouble and at death to have such courage and faith.
On earth the heart can never attain or feel faith to such a degree as it should, but it always stays in the stage of wishing and a sighing of the spirit, too deep for a man to express. Then the heart says: "Ah, if only one could believe it! etc."
Nevertheless, this sighing and this spark of faith achieve so much that God regards them as a complete faith and says: According to your faith be it unto you; and because you believe, you are certainly saved.
You must stay with the person of Christ. When you have Him, you have all; but you have also lost all when you lose Him. In Christ, you come to the Father, and the Father directs you to Christ. Stay with Christ, then, who says that He is the Bread of Life, although your eyes do not see it and your reason does not grasp it.
God would tie and attach us to this one person, Christ. Apart from this person, born of Mary, and having real flesh and blood, we are neither to seek nor find God. For we are to grasp and find God only through faith in the flesh and blood of Christ.
When in danger, we should learn the more tenaciously to cling to hope the less there is to hope for. This is "against hope believing in hope (Roman 4:18).... But it is easier to say than to do this, so stubbornly do our flesh and the judgment of reason resist doing so. For the flesh cannot avert its eyes from the present peril or conceive of a deliverance that appears nowhere but in a bare Word of God, who promises to be a Deliverer in due time.
My experience and the experience of others testify how difficult the application of the comfort of Scripture really is. For about thirty years I have been reading the Bible with the greatest attentiveness and diligence, yet I am not so healed that I can with full confidence come to rest in the remedies God has pointed us to. I desire to be stronger and sturdier in the faith and prouder in Christ, but I cannot achieve my desires.
Everything is full of troubles, yet those who look to the Word remain composed and feel secure. For although God is the King of kings and Lord of lords, He often puts on the dress of a beggar, as men commonly do in a play. This is why the prophet calls Him a hidden God (Isaiah 45:15); for under the curse a blessing lies hidden, under the awareness of sin there is righteousness, under death there is life, under affliction there is consolation. But you will have to look into the Word to discover this. For those who do not have the Word follow their feelings and remain without consolation in their tears and sorrows.
You must always have the Word of God in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. Where the heart is idle and the Word does not ring out, the devil breaks in and has done damage before we are aware of it. On the other hand, such is the power of the Word if it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used that it is never without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devotion and purifies the heart and thoughts. For these are not inert or dead, but active and living words.
This only is a really strong faith: if a heart can believe what it does not see and comprehend, believe against all senses and reason, and cling solely to the Word.... In this faith one must put out of sight everything except the Word of God. He who lets his eyes rest on anything else is already lost. Faith clings to the Word alone, purely and simply, never loses sight of it, looks at nothing else, neither at its works nor its merit.
Learn, yea, learn, I say, what a treasure you have in the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ: that there is no other help and aid against the devil, sin, and eternal death than to cling to the Word of Christ, that is, to believe His promise and to make bold to take Him at His Word.
Is it not true that God's Word is greater and more important than faith? For God's Word is not based and built on faith, but faith is built on God's Word. Besides, faith may waver and change, but God's Word remains eternally.