Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (October 2):  "Lord, increase our faith!"

Scripture:  Luke 17:5-10   

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."

7 "Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down  at table'?  8 Will he not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink'? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"

Meditation: How strong is your faith in God and how can you grow in it? Faith is not something vague, uncertain, undefineable, or something which requires a leap of the imagination or worse, some kind of blind allegiance. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Faith is a response of trust and belief in what is reliable, truthful, certain, and real. To have faith is to believe and trust in someone or something. We believe in the power of electricity even though we can't visibly see it with the naked eye.  We know we can tap into that power and use it to do things we could not do by our own human power. Faith in God works in a similar way.

When God reveals himself to us he gives us the "assurance" and "conviction" that his power and presence and glory is just as real, and even more real, than our experience of the natural physical world around us (Letter to the Hebrews 11:1-3). Things around us change, but God never changes. He is constant, ever true to his word, and always faithful to his promises (Psalm 145:13, Hebrews 10:23). That is why we can have the greatest assurance of his unconditional love for us and why we can hope with utter conviction that he will give us everything he has promised. Jesus is God's visible proof that his word is reliable and true - his love is unfailing and unconditional - and his power is immeasurably great and unlimited.

The Holy Spirit helps us to grow in expectant faith
What did Jesus mean when he said to his disciples 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. 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 by his Spirit 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?

Parable of the faithful servant who is indebted to God
Are you ready to give the Lord your best, regardless of what it might cost you? Perhaps we are like the laborer in Jesus' parable who expected special favor and reward for going the extra mile (Luke 17:5-10)? How unfair for the master to compel his servant to give more than what was expected! Don't we love to assert our rights: "I will give only what is required and no more!" But who can satisfy the claims of love and loyalty? Our lives are not our own - they belong to God who has ransomed us from slavery to sin with the precious blood of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18).

Jesus used this parable of the dutiful servant to explain that we can never put God in our debt or make the claim that God owes us something. We must regard ourselves as God's servants, just as Jesus came "not to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). Service of God and of our neighbor is both a voluntary or free act and a sacred duty. One can volunteer for service or be compelled to do service for one's country or for one's family when the call and need arises. Likewise, God expects us to serve him willingly and give him the worship, praise, and honor which is his due. And he gladly accepts the  free-will offering of our lives to him as our Lord and Master. What makes our offering pleasing to God is the love we express in the act of self-giving. True love is always sacrificial, generous, and selfless - it is wholly directed to the one we love and serve.

The love of God compels us to give our best
How can we love God and others selflessly and unconditionally? Scripture tells us that God himself is love (1 John 4:16) - he is the author of life and the source of all true relationships of love and friendship. He created us in love for love, and he fills our hearts with the boundless love that gives all that is good for the sake of the beloved (Romans 5:5). If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12).

God honors the faithful servant who loves and serves with a generous heart. He is ever ready to work in and through each one of us by his Spirit for his glory. We must remember, however, that God can never be indebted to us. We have no claim on him. His love compels us to give him our best! And when we have done our best, we have simply done our duty. We can never outmatch God in his immeasurable merciful love, his extravagant kindness and goodness, and his ever constant and unceasing care for us. The Scriptures remind us over and over again that God's love is steadfast, loyal, and lasts forever - it will never cease (Psalm 89, Psalm 100, Psalm 118, Psalm 136). Saint Augustine of Hippo writes, "God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love." Does the love of God compel you to give your best to him with generous love and gratitude for all that he has done for you?

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your consuming love and set my heart free to love generously and to serve selflessly. Fill me with gratitude for all you have done for me, and increase my faith and loyalty to you who are My All, My Strength, and My Life"

Psalm 95:1-2,6-9

1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  O that today you would hearken to his voice!
8 Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

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 catalog 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)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite: 
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

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 can be found here.

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