discussion · Trust

“Little Faith” — Good, bad, or simply a start? (Coffee Chat 15)

coffee chat

With all the big leaps I’ve taken lately, my mind has travelled several times to the account of Peter stepping out on the water in the middle of a storm. There are a plethora of songs that allude to this idea of stepping out in faith/walking on water. Many focus on Peter sinking the moment he took his eyes off Jesus. That’s a great lesson for every season. Lately, however, I’ve been mulling over the term “little faith.”

Jesus uses this phrase throughout the gospels. The only time I found “have you no faith?” was in Mark. Most often he says, “O you of little faith.” Is it a term of disappointment, condescension or frustration? Or, is it an acknowledgement that they have faith, but it needs development?

Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 14 that I alluded to earlier:

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?””

‭‭~ Matthew‬ ‭14:23-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I find it interesting that he doesn’t say, “where’s your faith?” Or “have you no faith?!” Jesus says (in essence) “you have faith, but it needs to become greater than your fear.”

Here are thoughts/questions I’ve been pondering and I’d love to hear your input:

1) Peter was a fisherman. He knew what happened if you got out of a boat in the middle of the water—you sink. In a stormy situation, you would likely drown. He had faith enough to step out on the water and walk a little ways. Nobody else jumped out to follow him. Only Peter took that risk. Was he being brash or foolhardy? I don’t know what was on his mind, but if he had been trying to show off, I think Jesus would’ve rebuked him for that. Peter believed that Jesus had the power to help him walk on water. He had faith enough to take the first step.

2) Peter had faith, but his fear was greater. His initial trust in Jesus was overwhelmed when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the danger. His fear overshadowed his faith. I wonder if Jesus looked at him like we look at our children sometimes. For example, my children trust me, but sometimes their fear overwhelms their trust. When they went swimming in a big pool for the first time. I assured they would not be scared, but they panicked as soon as they couldn’t feel ground beneath their feet. I may have been a little disappointed in their lack of trust, but, as an adult, I also recognized that they did not possess my long experience. Sometimes this makes them rush headlong into danger and at other times it makes them reluctant to trust.

3) “Little faith” is meant to be a starting point, not a permanent residence. Thus far, these men had left their livelihoods, their families and the status quo to follow Jesus. We often shake our heads at their mishaps, but I wonder if we would have done as much as they did with the little knowledge they had. Jesus watered their faith regularly so that by the time He ascended to heaven, they had enough faith to move mountains.

4) I find it interesting in James he says this:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

~ James‬ ‭1:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Do you think James may have been thinking of this incident when he wrote this?

Your turn!

What do you think about the phrase? When Jesus uses it, what does it mean?

Grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea and join the discussion!

25 thoughts on ““Little Faith” — Good, bad, or simply a start? (Coffee Chat 15)

  1. I am going to be studying James at an intensive study in Chattanooga in May. I have lots of homework to do to prepare. It’s a wonderful book which I memorized years ago. Knowing it has helped me get through some very tough times!

    This passage helped me after we lost our son. Grief washed over me in waves like a tsunami! I was asking God for wisdom in dealing with decisions that had to made, along with my husband, of course. We were also asking for peace and strength to make it through each day. Believing He would give us these things helped keep us from being battered by the waves of grief.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Kathleen, I am so thankful that you are willing to share your story with us because, at some point, we will all be faced with grief. It is passages like these that carry us through some of the blackest nights and darkest valleys. Thank you for your comment and may the Lord be with you.

      P.S. – James is one of my favorite books too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Elihu !! There is much in the Bible about faith… Without faith we cannot become a Christian in God’s eyes… And God promises to reward those who diligently seek Him…Hebrews11:6…

    But our faith must never waver, as James tells us… When we take our eyes off of Christ, as Peter did…and rely on our own strength…we will fail most every time…

    It is indeed the full power of the Holy Spirit controlling every move that we make, as Paul urges us in Ephesians 5:18-20…that will keep our hearts filled with the love of Christ…and our joy at it’s maximum, as John pens in…

    John 15:11… “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

    And let’s not forget what John pens in 1 John 4:18… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (NKJV)

    This perfect love is only found by walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16)… And our God given peace can only overpower our fear, providing peace beyond our mortal understanding (Philippians 4:6-7), when our faith and our focus remains on the Lord Jesus Christ…

    Have a blessed day in the Lord !! bruce

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bruce! I agree, we must not doubt the Lord. I was just wondering, in the context of the passage, if Jesus was disappointed or simply making an observation about where Peter was at that point. What do you think?


      1. I believe Jesus was disappointed with Peter (as He would be with any of us believers), if we take our eyes off of Him and try to make decisions in our own flesh… Of course Jesus knew why Peter doubted his own ability to be able to walk on water… But Jesus was always (for the most part) using the mishaps of His disciples as an opportunity to teach them…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this! Our faith is so important. Jesus often says, “by your faith you are healed.” It is as if there are many blessings available to us, but God can’t deliver them if our faith isn’t strong enough. Kind of like how we want to share the joys of swimming with our kids, but if they don’t put their toe in the water, trust us and have faith, they never will.

    Often what’s going on too, is that we have faith in the wrong things. Peter probably had a whole bunch of faith in physics, in the nature of water, in the belief that he would sink.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Excellent comment, IB! I think you hit the nail on the head—his faith in Christ was “little” compared to his faith in those other things. I’m sure I’ve missed out on plenty due to my own lack of faith. I’ve certainly missed out on plenty of inner peace!

      Thanks for your input, it’s always appreciated. May the Lord be with you.


  4. I speak quite often with Christians who fear that their faith is too small. I always assure them that the size of the faith matters less than the power of the one in whom they place their faith. Enormous faith in a false savior cannot save, but even a little faith in Jesus is saving faith. The best solution is to stop measuring our faith. The tempter wants us to do that because it distracts us. When we measure our Savior, then our faith will then be able to grow. J.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, size matters not, but growth definitely does. The Hebrew writer rebuked this readers for their lack of development. We aren’t really able to say we have “arrived” or that our faith is big compared to others. I can honestly say that my faith is stronger now than it was when I chose to become a Christian, but there’s no way I can compare my faith to someone else’s—I haven’t been tested in the same way they have! 😀

      God is working on us until he calls us home. All I desire is to trust God more than I trust myself.

      Thank you for your great comment and reminder! God be with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “you have faith, but it needs to become greater than your fear.” Great quote! I’m also pondering the comment made from our pastor today that faith lives in the same community of our own hearts as does doubt, fear, anxiety, and sometimes even depression. Like the movie Inside Out (and if you haven’t seen it, do!), where sadness is destained as undesirable, but finally is given its place. Sadness is necessary for compassion to grow in us. God can also use doubt, fear, etc to increase our faith. Just an interesting thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. God definitely uses fear to test our faith—to deepen it. In Hebrews 11—the heroes of faith chapter—the people listed were tested in all sorts of ways and overcame! They were examples of real faith. We need to make it our desire to have faith and trust in God like that. I did a series awhile back on being trained to trust along these lines. It starts with our little faith and grows into faith that moves mountains.

      By the way—I LOVE Inside Out and the discovery about sadness. I took my kids to see it last year. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The move is going great! Thank you for asking. A bunch of people from our new congregation came to help us unload and the whole trailer was unpacked within an hour and twenty minutes. We really like our new neighborhood and home. I think our new church family is going to be great as well. God has been so good to us and my heart overflows with gratitude. The only thing that remains is for our old house to sell. Usually at this point my stomach would be knotted and I’d be super stressed about it, but I’ve been trained to trust the Lord and I firmly believe that He wouldn’t have carried us this far just to leave us in the lurch. In other words, I’m not consumed by anxiety like I used to be. 😀 Growth is good!

      Liked by 1 person

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