Great Faith

As Christians, we desire to be faithful, to have great faith. We begin looking for examples to emulate. We often look at the giants of the faith, such as Abraham, Moses, or the disciples. We consider their testimony and persistence to trust God, to trust Jesus, as something worthy of the title “great faith.” We hope to be inspired by reading about the faith of Jesus’ disciples. For example, in Luke 24, after seeing Jesus ascend into heaven, his disciples faithfully went into the heart of the city to the temple, where they praised and worshiped Jesus without fear.

Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God (Luke 24:52-53).

If only we could be so bold!

Some look to the words of Jesus to build a better understanding of what great faith is. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 15:25-28 to the Canaanite woman who persisted to receive even the scraps from Jesus’ table to heal her daughter.

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

While these are good examples of great faith, this approach does little to inspire us and often burdens us. We may try to manufacture greatness from within, and then we are crushed when our trust wavers, our perseverance fails, and the great faith we hoped to attain remains far out of reach.

On November 11, 2006, seven days after my 19th birthday, my mother passed away suddenly from a staph infection. I was utterly lost. I had never been one to ask or think about the important questions of life: Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? What happens when you die?

My mother’s death changed all of that. Soon after her passing, through what I can only call divine providence, I ended up as a junior leader at a Bible study. I had never really studied the Bible before. I had been confirmed and we did go to church at Easter and Christmas, but I was not someone you would have chosen to help lead youth in a Bible study.

As I opened God’s Word to prepare the lessons, I had no trust, no faith, in God. If you had asked me then if I had faith in God, I would have answered, “I do not know.” The first lesson that really shook me was Mark 7.

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person (Mark 7:21-23).

Jesus was telling me the opposite of what the world had told me. I thought the heart was the place where all my love, joy, and peace came from. I remember taking very seriously what Jesus said in Mark.

That night I sat in my room alone and considered honestly the thoughts and feelings that were coming out of my heart. I found myself confronted with my sinful thoughts and desires. I had to admit that Jesus was right, and if he was right about this, what else was he right about?

God had placed a desire within my heart to know him. At that time, I had no idea where that desire would lead me. Within nine months the desire to know God led me to quit my heavy-duty mechanic apprenticeship, which disappointed my father. I took the money I had planned to use to pay off my car loan, and used it to go to Bible school instead. I still was not sure if God was real or who Jesus exactly was and what it all meant, but I desired to know so badly I was willing to risk it all.

Fast forward almost 10 years and I answered God’s calling on my life to enter the pastoral ministry. Some look at my life and hear my story of abandoning it all for Jesus as an example of great faith, of something they are striving for but cannot attain. However, when looking at examples of great faith we are always seeing the end result, not the faith itself. We all love the look of a great garden, but none of us would expect a seed once planted to instantly bear fruit. This is true of the disciples and of all the great saints of the Bible.

The question we need to ask is, “Where did it start, what was the source of that great faith?” The answer is the Holy Spirit. Faith starts with the Holy Spirit placing a desire for God in someone’s heart. My act of great faith did not come out of my ability or my knowledge, but out of a desire to know God, to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8).

Do you desire to know God? To know who he is and what he has done for you? Do you desire to hear more about Jesus’ love for you that drove him to die for you? You already have what the Canaanite woman had! She did not have her theology all figured out. She did not know Jesus as well as those who had been traveling with him for three years. She simply had a Holy Spirit driven desire to know and experience Jesus’ love. This drove her to his feet, and Jesus declared her faith great!

Come to the feet of Jesus. Believe and know he is God, for this act alone is great faith!
Rev. Ryan Dittmann is Lead Pastor at Faith Lutheran Brethren Church in Estevan, Saskatchewan. Pastor Dittmann started this new call on July 1, 2023. Please pray God’s blessing over Ryan and his family as he enters his first lead pastor position.

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