I'd like to share with you something that I have learned over the past years. It's something that I view as integral to ministering the comfort of Christ to others. It's wisdom that I have gained in the countless hours that I have walked and talked with my brothers and sisters as well as from my own struggles with weak faith: When you speak of faith, always speak to the weak.
I know that you believe that it only takes the faith of a mustard seed and that the weakest of faith receive the same strong Christ as the greatest of faith, but are the people listening (someone is always listening) hearing this truth? Is there room for the weak of faith, the doubters, those hanging by a thread in your sphere of influence? Are you pastoring, writing to, or speaking (we are all speaking to someone) to those of little faith? Or are you only addressing the confident, the convinced, the sold-out Jesus lovers?
It's easy to speak to the steady. It's easy to talk about having great faith and doing great things in the name of Christ for those who seem to be floating along on a constant Jesus high claiming that nothing can get to them because they are confident of the Solid Rock on which they stand. It's also easy to blow out a smoldering wick.
The challenge of speaking or writing to a group is that we must speak in a way that addresses everyone in the room. And in one room you may have hundreds of believers all who have been given different measures of faith, struggling with different circumstances, and on different paths. If you preach with the assumption that everyone who receives your word has a stellar walk with God then you are sure to be snapping reeds. Talk about faith must be a talk of something outside of ourselves. If the focus is on what we can do, or what we can gain, or what we aren't doing right then the listeners find themselves with one of two options; pride or despair.
There are some listening that believe that if they just try harder to get to know Jesus better then they will be able to have the confident faith that you speak of; that they will finally feel worthy of being a disciple. This causes despair when they walk out the doors, put down the book, or turn off the podcast and find themselves doubting once again. They will wonder why they can't have the kind of faith that you have just encouraged them to have. They will assume that everyone around them has a faith that they don't have, and eventually they will begin to question their own salvation.
And then there are others who are confident in their faith and lean on the strength of their own faith instead of Christ's strength. They will hear your exhortations, take charge and in the confidence of their faith (leaving behind the confidence of Christ) they will charge ahead to do "great things" all the while stepping over the corpses of those who have since given up the race because they couldn't keep up.
Both groups of people are in great need. Both need to hear these three truths:
1. Our faith isn't strong enough and never will be.
2. Christ loves us despite our strength of faith.
3. Jesus' perfect faith and trust in the Father is what we have through Christ.
Leaving listeners with the hope and strength of Christ rules out assumptions. We must always lean on the side of comfort in Christ when we don't know the details of every person's life.
Here's a little something that Barb Duguid says in Extravagant Grace about people with weak faith that I just love:
"I counsel many people who struggle with assurance and suffer with a faith that is weak. I just can’t wait to see the joy in their faces when they finally get to heaven! Those who are blessed with strong faith in this lifetime will wake up to find themselves in glory just as they expected. They knew that it was all true, they trusted in God, and perhaps they rarely experienced a moment’s doubt. For others, however, that moment of their awakening will be worth a fortune to watch. Can you imagine the surprise and delight on their faces to find themselves in heaven after all? On earth they could barely hope that the promises of eternal life were true and that God had actually saved them, and they never felt the joy of it during their lifetime. But once they get to heaven it will all change, and I imagine that they will perhaps spend the first millennium or two in heaven surprised and delighted simply to be there. I can only imagine their joy when they hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master”(Matt 25:21). Their joy in heaven will be matched only by the Father’s joy in proving once again that the gospel of his Son really is enough to save the weakest and most broken of people. The angels are already dancing and the band is playing for them; they just don’t know it yet (Luke 15:7, 9, 22-24). God’s grace really is sufficient for the least of these."
The best gift that you can give to those listening is to dig in deep and speak from your weakness. Speak from your need for Christ. This is the only place where your strength isn't needed and certainly isn't helpful. Christ is your strength – preach that!
For the sake of God's loved ones, learn to speak the language of the bruised reeds. If you give them Christ and nothing more then everyone within earshot will be fed. You can't miss if you preach a strong Christ to weak people.