Matthew 17 paints a vivid picture of the transfiguration of Jesus. If we consider only the magnitude of the evident aspects of this event, we would, like the disciples be in awe of this simple man who walked this earth two thousand years ago.
Jesus has just spent a span of several days preaching and performing miraculous acts of healing and culminated these with the feeding of the four thousand. If there were doubts in the hearts and minds of the disciples of the Godhead of Christ, these events should have dispelled them. In fact, Jesus tested His disciples in Matthew 16:13 "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”"
Did the disciples know? We know from Matthew 16:14-18 at least one of them did: "Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Verse 16)
In the presence of Peter, James and John the brother of James, He was transfigured; Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to Jesus; and in a final crescendo of evidence, God himself, in a cloud proclaimed the personage of Jesus as the Son. If there were any remaining doubt in the hearts and minds of His disciples, these should have been totally eradicated, but consider the events that followed in the account of the failure of the disciples to drive out the demon from the child. If we were to echo the disciples we would also ask, “Why was this so?” The direct answer was given by our Lord in Matthew 17:20 in which Jesus answers saying, ““Because you have so little faith...” but He gives us a glimpse of a deeper answer in His understanding of the nature of humanity in Matthew 17:17 which He in total exasperation declared, “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?...”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the generation of which our Lord speaks of. We often speak and testify of our faith and our belief in Him, but do not always behave in like manner. In this we prove our Lord’s declaration of our disbelief and perversity.
In our daily lives, we have chosen to place our faith, beliefs, and trust in the Wall Street Journal; Newton’s Law of Physics; man’s technology; weather forecasts, and three-year limited warranties. Remember that He who set the stars in heaven and directs their course; He who created the universe; He who commands the seasons; is also He who governs the ticker-tape of fluctuating stocks and markets and the laws of gravity, motion, and energy of which we have learned to apply. By placing our faith on the manifestations of His power more than we place our faith on Him we prove our perversity.
He promises us a power that we can only begin to imagine.
He tells Peter upon his confirmation of deity: Matthew16:18-19 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not over-come it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
He tells his disciples, Matthew 17:20 “...I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. ”
How then do we come by this faith which promises so much? To do this we need to understand the nature of faith.
Faith is the basis of our covenant with God. This understanding is vital because our faith forms the basis of our Salvation — Our Justification and Sanctification:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Matt 9:2 "Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'"
Luke 7:50 "Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"
Gal 3 :22-27 - "But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Where then does this faith comes from?
The first and most important principle to understand is that while the desire for faith may seem to begin within us, it is the Holy Spirit that calls us to this faith and therefore the perfection of faith and its sustenance — yes even faith itself comes from God — Faith Comes From God’s Power — It is a Gift of the Spirit:
1Cor 2:4-5 "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power."
Eph 3:12-21 "In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Do not rely on yourselves for faith, rely on Him.
Secondly, Faith comes from the evidence and testimony of His power.
John 2:11 "This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him."
John 11:43-45 "When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him."
This is why it is so vital to be involved in His work. God works His miracles everyday and in every circumstance but remember that His manifest work occur at their greatest frequency and at their mightiest in the establishment of His Kingdom on earth. We are a holy priesthood, each and everyone of us — whether we are called into full-time ministry or not we are all called to minister — in our homes, our schools, our workplace and in our church. My brothers and sisters in Christ let us put ourselves directly in the path of His miracles so that our faith may be built up. Let us be intimately involved in the work of the Lord in His churches which are the organized armies of His Kingdom.
Third, Faith Comes by the Preaching and Hearing of His Word:
Rom 10:17 "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."
If we wish to strengthen our faith, we need to renew our hunger for His Word. We must make this our first priority in the daily course of our lives. Attending church one morning a week on Sunday should never satisfy us.
Fourth, Faith Must be Pursued and Practiced:
2 Tim 2:22 "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
James 2:14-26 "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
We must bear in mind that the faith of which He speaks is not natural to us. He will, in His grace give us this faith as a gift; He has provided us the tools to build this faith though the manifest evidence of His power and reality; and His Word. But all these must be put to use. We must pursue them and practice them in real and practical ways. Let us do this so that our faith, which He has freely given, will not be a “faith without deed” and become a faith that is dead.
In other words, we must live by faith — it is a lifestyle
Rom 1:17 "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"
Matt 6:30-34 "If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
We must bear in mind these words from Isaiah:
Isa 7:9b "... If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all."
Our Lord has promised us much if we only had faith as small as a mustard seed. Nothing will be impossible for us. This I firmly and unwaveringly believe, but the devil will always cause us to have an improper attitude about faith to cause us and others to stumble. Of this we must be on guard.
The devil would have us believe a lack of faith is the reason for the failures and unfortunate circumstances in our lives and in the lives of others. We must remember that He has a plan that is beyond our fathoming, did he not say that:
Deut 29:29 "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."
Isa 55:8-9 “'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"
John 13:7 “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
Remember that we are His children and He loves us and knows what’s best for us. Our relationship with Him should be our major concern. If we say we have faith in Him, we must also be willing to have faith and accept His will in our lives. As for our attitude towards others bear in mind these words from Romans 3:2-4 and Romans 14:1.
Rom 3:2-4 "Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: 'So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.'"
Rom 14:1 "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters."