FAITH And Oligopistos Christians
Are you an oligopistos Christian – a “little-faith” Christian? The Lord used this term to describe some of His followers. While not a very flattering term, it is perfectly suited to those times when He calls to us in the midst of the storms and turmoil of our lives and encourages us to transform our faith by leaning on Him alone, the One who wants to strengthen us and increase our faith.
Walking On Water – Matthew 14:22-33
The disciples in the boat had never before seen such a sight – a man walking toward them on the storm-tossed sea. Can you picture this scene? They were overwhelmed, and did what was only normal – cried out in fear! But Jesus, whom they had mistaken for a ghost, told them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then, Peter, full of confidence, said: “Lord … command me to come to You on the water.” When the Lord told Peter to come, he climbed out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. No doubt, the other disciples expressed their astonishment to one another, for they saw not two men in the sea, but two men on the sea!
But when Peter saw how strong the wind was he panicked and started to sink. Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him. Even if it isn’t written, I believe that Peter gripped his Savior with all his might. Then Jesus said to him: “You of little faith … why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:31 NIV). He did not say, “Unbelieving man” but “You of little faith.” The other disciples in the boat may not have heard this reproach from Jesus, but Peter did, and he understood his Master’s lesson: Peter had run short of confidence, he had behaved like an oligopistos believer, like a “little-faith” one.
Facing The Storm – Matthew 8:24-27
At another time, with a furious storm raging, Jesus slept in the disciples’ boat, a boat now utterly drenched by the waves. In fear the disciples woke the Lord and cried out: “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Then Jesus said to them: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” And with that He stood up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a great calm (Mt. 8:26). The disciples had behaved like oligopistos believers, like “little-faith” ones.
Do these two stories in Matthew’s gospel remind you of your own circumstances right now – circumstances in which you long for the Lord to help? Like Peter, you may be sinking in an impossible situation, or like the disciples, you are overwhelmed by the waves of a storm. You face a setback in your relationship with your spouse, a pile of bills are waiting to be paid, you’ve lost your job because of the recent financial crisis, or perhaps a son or daughter has taken a disappointing path in life. Are you “of little faith”?
All Things Through Christ – Philippians 4:13
The Greek word for “of little faith” (“of not much faith” or “of little confidence”) is made up of two other words: oligos (little) and pistos (faith, confidence). Jesus is the only one who used the term oligopistos, because He is the only one capable of sounding the depths of our hearts, the only one capable of completely understanding our feelings. If He calls me an oligopistos, then I understand that it is not that I am unbelieving, but that I have too little confidence, and that I am not sufficiently dependent on Him. What then? Am I to take charge of myself, finding within me the needed resources?
We cannot simply wake up one morning and suddenly declare, “Yes, I can!” and then walk on water full of assurance and fearlessly face any mighty storm. On this topic, one has written: “The pride of man boasts that no obstacle can stop it, and finds in itself the resources not only to overcome the worst difficulties, but to do even better than ever before. This is the polar opposite of dependence on God and confidence in God alone, of which Jesus has given us the model on earth, and which is the true trait of the believer. Paul indeed said ‘I can do all things’, but we must not cut short the complete phrase, which is ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’” (Phil. 4:13 NKJV).
Worry And Lack Of Confidence – Matthew 6:30; 16:8
The Lord used the term oligopistos four times. We have just looked at two examples which deal with extraordinary circumstances: walking on water and being nearly drowned by the waves of a great storm. He used the word two more times to speak to those who worry about the future – about clothing, eating, drinking, and life in general. These are people of little faith (Mt. 6:30; Lk. 12:28). We also find disciples of the oligopistos variety, who did not have confidence in the Lord to miraculously feed the crowd (Mt. 16:8).
Increasing Our Faith
At the beginning of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote that their faith “is increasing more and more” (1:3). No doubt the young believers of Thessalonica suffered and endured persecutions and tribulations (1:4-6). There were very few oligopistos Christians among them. Their faith was increasing more and more! Difficulties and suffering are the price we must pay to see our own faith increased.
Let Us Pray
Lord Jesus, we oligopistos Christians, we little-faith ones, ask You, as the apostles long ago did, to “increase our faith” (Lk. 17:5). We can almost hear you telling us: “Do not fear. Trust in Me!” And if our faith does not increase immediately, stretch out Your hand, take hold of us and rebuke the wind and the waves. Lord, please help us to increase our confidence in You and grow in our faith. Amen!
By Richard Pigeon
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org