the little faith club

Yesterday we talked about a woman Jesus identified as having “great faith”. Thinking about her made me start thinking about other people whose stories are told in the Bible who we don’t associate with great faith.

I searched for “little faith” at I was looking for Peter. What I found is that Jesus used that phrase five times in Matthew to identify people. As I looked through the references, I smiled.

Maybe you will too.

  • Early in his teaching time Jesus was talking to his followers who worry and called them “little faith” (Matthew 6).
  • Shortly after that, the disciples and Jesus were crossing the Sea of Galilee. A storm came up. They woke Jesus up from his nap. Right before making everything be quiet, he called the disciples “little faith.”
  • When Peter walked on the water and then sank, Jesus caught him and called him “little faith.”
  • Again on the lake, Jesus warned the disciples about the religious leaders, talking about the “yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The disciples missed the point and thought he was talking bread. Jesus reminded them of all the times he took care of food and called them “little faith.”
  • Still later, some of the disciples had tried an exorcism. It didn’t work. Jesus came and took care of the child. When the disciples asked why they couldn’t do it, Jesus called them “little faith.”

The people closest to Jesus were the ones we think should have had great faith. Instead, they were the ones who believed but had questions, who panicked, who worried. And who stuck around anyway. Don’t let your questions make you think Jesus doesn’t care about you.  It could be that we are closer than we think. Since asking questions and crying out goes way back among disciples.

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10 thoughts on “the little faith club

  1. Jill

    Perhaps it was because their first thought of Him was that He was human…this “gang of misfits” was trying to balance out the miracles they were seeing Him do with the humanity He walked in. The relationship seems to get in the way of the reality of who Jesus was/is because they were, by tradition, looking for something more kingly than a this man.

    I love that God chose to send redemption in the form of relationship, because He knows how hungry we all are for that aspect. The relationship starts with a simple “yes, I will follow you” and for some, the simple answer is enough… But we see how rich and deep and fulfilling the relationship can be by watching the various disciples as they question and understand.

    Nice post. It helped me to think about this concept.


    1. Jon Swanson

      very nicely developed, Jill. I think you may be right about the balancing they were doing. The woman in yesterday’s story first heard about Jesus as a healer. The disciples knew what he had for supper and how well he could cook over a campfire. Two very difference experiences.

      But it does also explain, as you are pointing to, why by the end of their lives they were convinced. They saw the integrity of who he was, all the way to the end and the new beginning. I like this a lot. Thanks.


  2. Whitney Hoffman

    I struggle with faith.
    I look at some folks who believe prayer is like asking Santa for a firetruck for Christmas- that prayer is a to do list you give to God, and see these people labelled as those with great faith. Yet I feel having a sense that God is more like karma and serendipity- he places who and what you need in your life at certain times, and you have to figure out why they’re there and what to do about it. It’s a different version of the divine, and I guess I get confused because so many people I see labelled and who self-label as the faithful use God and Jesus and infinite forgiveness as an excuse for their sins, or a cudgel with which to hammer others, rather than inspiration to try to do better for themselves and their communities. This confuses me to no end. When is God just a tool used at convenience, and when is it a long term relationship, in which we have as much or more responsibility than that which we give up?
    Thanks Jon, for helping me consider these things.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Hey Whitney

      I know. it’s cliche. but “i resemble that remark.”

      I’m pretty sure that God likes being a coke machine even less than I like being viewed that way. And yet many of us get email chains that say “we’re trying to get a million people praying” as if that is going to be the turning point.

      If prayer is the magic ticket, then people who are following Jesus and getting killed while praying must not be praying very well. And yet I was reading just this morning in the travel briefing that Jesus gave his disciples before sending them out on a trip (Matthew 10) that they should expect controversy and pain and false arrest and all that stuff.

      And when you talk about the hammering and excuses, I am torn between joining in listing similar abuses on one hand, and on the other apologizing for what is too often done in the name of Jesus.

      It’s why Don Miller in Blue Like Jazz talks about setting up a confessional not to take confessions but to make confession for all those abuses.

      And I love the image you end with “a long term relationship in which we have responsibility as well as giving up.” Half of the good news that Jesus talks about is “give up the idea that you have any capacity to save yourself.” The other half is “live your life loving God and loving others”.

      I would say that the faithful get it wrong a lot, but I would be more accurate to say I get it wrong a lot.


  3. Eric

    “And who stuck around anyway…” – somehow it seems like this is the key phrase. At least it is to me. As I grow older, I have more questions, not less. More confusion, more doubts, more mis-steps… Hopefully, however, I’m also becoming one “…who stuck around anyway.” Someone who didn’t choose to give up just because things didn’t make sense, didn’t work out the way I wanted, didn’t….

    Thanks Jon.

    ~ from another member of “the little faith club”


    1. Jon Swanson

      and you aren’t old enough, Eric, to say “as I grow older.” When you are my age… you’ll find that even more true. What comes to mind is the disciples response to Jesus’ question “So, are you going to leave, too?” They said, “where else can we go.” That’s where I am, too.


  4. Cheryl

    In teaching Sunday School to children it seems like I ask the questions and the children. for the most part, give me the “right” answers. I often feel like they will know the right answers but is their faith really growing? How do we encourage our children to ask questions?


    1. Jon Swanson

      There is a place for catechism. For teaching the answers in a Q and A way. However, there is a huge place for allowing them to ask questions and to take the time to think through the answer, to expand the question, to point to resources to answer. And to take the time to have a relationship that says, “Later, when you are older, you will have questions. And I want you to remember me as a person who cared as much about you as about your answers.”

      And this is a very good question.

      Oh, and what comes to mind is that Jesus often answered questions with questions, not answers.


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