Scripture: Luke 17:1-6
1 And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, `I repent,' you must forgive him." 5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6 And the Lord said,"If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, `Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."
Meditation: What's the driving force in your life? Jesus
speaks of two forces at work in our lives - the power of the
temptation to sin and cause harm and the power of faith to
overcome obstacles and difficulties that stand in the way of
loving God and our neighbor. The Greek word for temptation
(scandalon) is the same as the English word scandal.
The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block
which causes one to trip and fall. The scriptures warn us about
the snare or enticement to go astray and to do what is evil. Keep
me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the
snares of evildoers! (Psalm 141:9) Whoever loves a
brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there
is no cause for stumbling (1 John 2:10).
Jesus commands us to not give bad example or
lead others into sin
The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith.
The power of faith for overcoming obstacles
While Jesus warns against the danger of giving bad example and causing scandal, he also demonstrates the power of faith for overcoming obstacles and temptation to sin. What did Jesus mean when he said that our faith can move trees and mountains as well (see Matthew17:20; Mark 11:23)? The term "mountain remover" was used for someone who could solve great problems and difficulties.
The Holy Spirit helps us to grow in expectant faith
Don't we often encounter challenges and difficulties which seem beyond our power to handle? What appears impossible to human power is possible to those who believe in God's power. Faith is a gift freely given by God to help us know God personally, to understand his truth, and to live in the power of his love. God expects more from us than we can simply do by ourselves. That is why Jesus gives us the gift and power of the Holy Spirit who helps us to grow strong in faith, persevere in hope, and endure in love.
Faith in God is the key for removing obstacles and difficulties which keep us from doing his will. We belong to God and our lives are no longer our own. Our joy and privilege is to follow the Lord Jesus and to serve in the power of his love and goodness. The Lord Jesus is ever ready to work in and through us for his glory. For our faith to be effective it must be linked with trust and with obedience - an active submission to God and a willingness to do whatever he commands. Do you trust in the grace and strength which God freely gives to help us resist temptation and to overcome obstacles in doing his will?
"Lord Jesus, you give us victory over the destructive forces of sin and harmful desires that keep us from doing your will. Give me the strength to always choose what is good and to reject what is wrong. May your love rule my heart that I may forgive those who cause me harm and guide those who need your help."
1 O LORD, you have searched me and known
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You beset me behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: To increase faith is to strengthen it by the Holy Spirit, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
"They ask, 'Add faith to us.' They do not ask simply for faith,
for perhaps you might imagine them to be without faith. They
rather ask Christ for an addition to their faith and to be
strengthened in faith. Faith partly depends on us and partly is
the gift of the divine grace. The beginning of faith depends on us
and our maintaining confidence and faith in God with all our
power. The confirmation and strength necessary for this comes from
the divine grace. For that reason, since all things are possible
with God, the Lord says that all things are possible for him who
believes (Mark 9:23). The power that comes to us through faith is
of God. Knowing this, blessed Paul also says in the first epistle
to the Corinthians, 'For to one is given through the Spirit the
word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge according to the
same Spirit, and to another faith in the same Spirit' (1
Corinthians 12:8). You see that he has placed faith also in the
catalogue of spiritual graces. The disciples requested that they
might receive this from the Savior, contributing also what was of
themselves. By the descent upon them of the Holy Spirit, he
granted it to them after the fulfillment of the dispensation.
Before the resurrection, their faith was so feeble that they were
liable even to the charge of being 'little of faith'." (excerpt
from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILIES 113-16)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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