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With this week’s sermon, came two songs, of sorts–though the first, I guess, should be called a poem, since I didn’t discover a melody as I wrote it. The challenge at the end of this week’s sermon was to believe in Christ as our Mighty God. To cast all our fear, anxiety, our constant need to be in control on the One who IS in control. To have confidence in our Mighty God.
And, at the end, I found myself praying a prayer we quote probably more than we should—“Increase my faith!” The disciples asked for this in Luke 17, after being told that temptations will come and that forgiveness must always be their response. So, in the face of these weighty words, they cry out to the Lord—“Increase our faith!” But the Lord’s response is so merciful, so gracious, so freeing. He doesn’t say, “Okay, sure—here’s what you do to ensure that that happens.” No, that’s what we want.
That’s what we think we need—a list of things to do that will increase our faith and make us better. No, His answer is far better: “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this tree, be uprooted and thrown into the sea, and it would obey you.” Have tiny faith, and you can make creation itself move. This is hyperbole, of course; ministry in any shape probably isn’t going to require of us to move some trees around. But the point He is making is that we don’t need bigger faith, bigger ideas and conceptions about God. We just need the faith we’ve already received—because it’s in the One who made everything we see. We don’t need more control over how big our faith is—we need surrender to the Faithful One as He is, as He’s revealed Himself to be.
Mighty God: the object of our faith
And today, the title in focus was Mighty God. And even after listening to all that He was, I found myself still crying out, “Increase my faith!” Why? Because I constantly believe that lie that if my faith can somehow be a little bit stronger, then my joy will follow suite. Or my ability to act as Jesus does will grow, too. Or I won’t be as anxious. If my faith is stronger, everything will finally just settle down in my heart and I’ll be o k a y.
Fact: my faith does not correspond to my well-being.
Actually, sometimes, I feel like it is my faith itself that is breaking me, crushing me, sending me to the edges of cliffs and deep darkness and foreign wildernesses. Why? To find not that my faith is weak, but that my God is faithful. That’s what I need when my faith feels weak. Not to ask for it to be stronger, but to pray that I can better know the Faithful One. The One who is in control. The Mighty God. The One who I’ve put my faith in.
When I’m looking to “increase my faith,” I’m looking at myself.
When I’m looking to Jesus, I’m looking at the Author of my faith, the perfecter of it, the finisher of its design in me.
And its design is not to make me better, stronger, faster to believe. Its design is to make me like Him. That design is that I know Him more. So, this Advent, I want to long for Him. Not for increased faith in Him, but for the faithful, Mighty God, that He is.
This is how He put that in words in my heart today:
Increase my faith
“Increase our faith!” is my self-sufficient cry,
longing to be more to have more faith so that I can do more things—
on my own.
a cry met with mercy by a Mighty God
who emptied Himself the mighty-more embodied in lowly-less,
frail like me, yet never wavering in faithfulness.
“Increase my faith!” I cry in shame,
weakened by my flesh
yet this flesh is the faith I still seek
as my tears fall into the bottle He keeps,
labeled, “For strength in me.”
a cry met with mercy by the Mighty God
I did not make but who made me
this fleshly thing to be free from the works I think free me—
He died in flesh to make me see that
flesh is not what rescues me.
“Increase my faith!” I hear my heart’s dull whisper,
but He whispers louder,
“the size of a mustard seed is all that you need.”
a puny thing He asks of me,
a puny thing in the eyes of me.
a cry met with such mercy by the Mighty God
who kills the seed
who kills me—in this divine mercy
I could never be all that He is yet He became
all the weaknesses of me
so that I could become all the strength of Him,
the covenant-faithful God,
this Mighty God I cannot see
when in all my frailty I cry
“Increase my faith!” instead of “Increase my sight!”
“Increase my faith!” my cry is silenced,
when faith by grace is given, with mercy,
the faithfulness of the Mighty God,
in the cry of a baby
awakes on Advent’s restless, final night
to awaken me from my sleep
to open my eyes to the only One I need
to see the mercy that stops looking at me for faith and strength
and He who gives me both in His own,
through a cry of mercy from the cross—
I Am met with mercy by a Mighty God.
And this is what He had me sing:
met with mercy by a Mighty God
I cry in faith too weak to save
myself will never be enough
but He has come to make me brave
my cries arise
my tears flow
met with mercy I can begin to know
that this Mighty God is my Mighty One
who saves me from myself, again.
met with mercy by a Mighty God
He comes to seek & save the lost
and sends me to the wilderness
to proclaim with them that He is God
my cries arise
my tears still flow
met with mercy I sing so that all may know
that He is God and we are not
this One who came to die has saved us from ourselves, in love
freedom is the song He sings over me and you, rejoicing
mercy comes to make us new,
rejoicing, for our Mighty God has won.
PS: please excuse the long pauses. I am giving these words to you exactly as I record them—no editing, no polishing—because that’s how God gave Himself to us, Advent-ing into the mess, right upon the dirty manger floor.