The more I read in the book of Matthew, the more I am drawn to the concept of 'great faith'. When I look back through the Bible pages and the notes I've made, repeated everywhere are the words "HAVE GREAT FAITH".
And I've begun to realise that this is a huge challenge.
In Matthew 8:26, we read that Jesus' disciples: the people closest to him who followed him everywhere; and spent the most time with Him; those who saw every amazing thing He did; and who knew Him better than anyone else; were referred to as "you of little faith". It was one thing to follow Jesus, to be His disciple and to love Him, but it was an entirely greater thing to have big faith. The disciples knew that Jesus was the man to help them, he was the one to go to for a plan when they were in need, but what they hadn't grasped yet was this concept of having great faith in Christ; and trusting that He had the situation under control. The disciples weren't wrong for turning to Him, but their faith in Him and what He could do to help them was lacking.
Previous to this a man approached Jesus and said that he didn't need Him to go to see his sick servant, he just needed Him to "say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Mathew 7:8). And Jesus healed the servant and announced "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith". This man asked Jesus for something and had enough faith to believe that Jesus didn't even need to move to answer his prayer. That faith is incredible! The man in this Bible passage wouldn't have actually known that his servant had been healed until he got home, and yet he had faith that it had happened. Can you say a prayer and have faith that it will be answered?! So often in life, we pray and we have to wait before we see a response. But God answers prayers, we just need to have faith. We need to have faith as great as this man: that when we ask God for something, we have faith that He will answer those prayers, no matter how that answer appears. God's response might be to answer your prayer instantly, and as you have asked for it (like in the Bible passage, he asks Jesus to heal his servant and it is done "at that very hour"). Or, God could respond by saying that your prayer will be answered but not as you expect it, or not straight away, or the answer might be no. But God always answers your prayers. And we need to have such great faith that whether we see an instant answer, or whether we don't see a change in life at all, that God has heard us and answered us. And that His solution and response are what's best for us. We also don't need to worry or panic or go into frenzy mode like the disciples do later on when there is a storm at sea, we need to have faith that God has got us and He is in control, even if we feel like we're alone (like God is asleep and not helping us as the disciples thought in Matthew 8:25).
Later men bring a paralytic man on a mat to Jesus and "when Jesus saw their faith" (Matthew 9:2) he healed the paralytic man. These men had faith that Jesus could do what would normally be considered impossible. They brought a man who would otherwise be considered incurable, a man who ordinarily in the society of the time would be ostracised, to Jesus and believed He could help. Because of the great love and great faith of his friends, the paralysed man was healed. This again is a huge challenge. Does your faith exceed the realms of possibility? How incredible is it that these men believed that something impossible could be done?! So our faith doesn't just need to be that God will answer your prayers, but that He can do the impossible to answer those prayers. It is so easy to slip into believing that God is limited by the things that limit us, the way the disciples panicked on the boat shows this. They believed they would drown because it hadn't occurred to them that Jesus could do the impossible and calm the storm. Sometimes, our prayers might not be answered the way we expect and sometimes that's because we are confining our thoughts to the realm of possibility. When you say a prayer, you need to have faith that God has heard you, that He will answer you, and that His response could come in quite literally any way. That's a great amount of faith and a huge challenge, especially for those of us who struggle to imagine the impossible being possible.
In Matthew 9:20-22, we read of even more great faith: a woman just touches Jesus' cloak and "said to herself 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed' " and she was. I find this woman incredible, not only does she believe that Jesus answers our prayers, or that Jesus can do the impossible, but she also believes that Jesus doesn't even need to be aware of her but that being that close to Him will heal her. Jesus says to her "your faith has healed you". It is because she has such great faith that she is healed. She has such great faith that she believes touching Jesus' clothes will heal her. That's incredible. She didn't try to prove herself by having a great career, or by giving everything up for a good cause, or by pretending to be something greater than she is, or even by getting Jesus' attention. She came close to Him with humility, and all she had to offer was her great faith and she was healed. And in some ways, I think this can be the hardest bit for us to grasp and apply: it can be so easy to get swept up in what the world expects of us and what the world wants of us that we can start to believe that the standards of the world are the same standards that God had for us. But the truth is, God doesn't care how you come to Him, only that you do. So come as you are and be close to Him and through the great faith that that closeness is enough, He will do immeasurably more than you could ever hope or imagine.
I want to have faith this big. I want to have faith this great. But I know it is really hard. Everyday we are faced with challenges and situations that we struggle with, and the strength of our faith will determine how we handle these struggles.
We need great faith, to pray about our struggles. When we face a problem, we need to give it to God. But don't give it to God and then continue to worry about it (as I so often do) but give it to God and let go of it, trust in Him and have faith that because you've brought it to Him and He loves you, He's handling it.
We need to have great faith that however God answers that prayer, He will do so in a way that we might not expect or believe to be possible. We need to have faith that our God can do the impossible and therefore anything is possible through Him - even the solutions that we can't conceive of or don't consider to be solutions to the problems we face.
And, we need great faith that being close to God and having a relationship with Him is enough. We don't need to try to be something more than we are, we don't have to prove ourselves to anyone, we don't have to be the best or the greatest, we don't need to be the most popular or the most attractive, we just need to be close to God and have great faith