Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.”
We see multiple times in Scripture when Jesus says to His disciples, “You of little faith!” Imagine that! The apostles whom we look up to have been accused of having little faith more than once! We often forget they were just as human as we are, capable of error as sinful human beings. Jesus first says these words to them (and a large crowd of people) during His sermon on the mount. In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus calls the audience to observe the birds and take notice that God takes the time to feed them. He says, “Are you not worth much more than they?” (v. 26). Why would God take care to feed the birds and animals yet neglect His specially created children? The creation account tells us that humans are above other creatures since we have been given dominion over them, so it does not logically follow that God would neglect His stewards of creation when He takes care of His creatures below us.
So Jesus encouraged them not to worry about their life, what they will eat and drink, or what clothes they will wear. Likewise, God takes the time to clothe the fields with grass, so how much more will He clothe us. And this is where Jesus first says, “You of little faith!” And rightly so. If we are so worried about having our basic necessities for tomorrow, we do have little faith because we are not trusting the God who takes care of the rest of His creation on a daily basis, all without pausing while He takes care of us, His children. This is why Jesus concludes that part of the section by saying, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (v. 34). Take everything one day at a time. Trust God in what He will supply tomorrow.
Jesus says the same words just two chapters later, this time directly to His personally chosen disciples. We all know of this event. It’s when Jesus calmed the storm and the sea. Jesus was sleeping during the storm, and after all efforts to not let the ship sink, the disciples feared for their lives and woke Jesus, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” (8:25). Jesus then responds with, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (v. 26). Immediately following, He calms the storm and sea. Even though Jesus’ physical presence was on the boat with them, they feared Jesus would allow them to perish.
This is a great place to see Jesus’ full humanity and divinity. He was so weary from His travels that He slept through a raging storm on the sea! I’ve been on the Sea of Galilee with waves crashing into the boat; it’s not quiet on the sea. After the disciples woke Him, in His weariness He first rebuked them and then, in spite of His weariness, calmed the sea and storm with His divine power. Amazing! If He could easily calm the storm and sea in His human weariness, then they certainly would’ve been fine while He slept peacefully. Indeed, they had little faith.
Again, in Matthew 14:28-33 we read these words. While they were in the region of Magadan (now a city in modern Russia), the disciples forgot to bring bread. In verse 6 Jesus warned them about “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They thought He was talking about actual bread, but He was warning them about the false doctrine of these Jews. The disciples discussed what this meant among themselves and concluded, “He said that because we did not bring any bread” (v. 7). Then Jesus says, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?” (v. 8). He then reminds them of the miracles He performed by making five loaves into five thousand, and seven loaves into four thousand. “Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (v. 12).
Now, why did I take you through all those times Jesus said to His disciples, “You of little faith”? To make this point: Jesus is infinitely and mercifully patient, even when we fail to trust Him. We fool ourselves into thinking we’d never doubt Jesus for the rest of our lives if we saw one of these miracles Jesus performed. Yet the disciples doubted, so what makes us think we wouldn’t doubt? The disciples, whom Jesus personally chose, and who witnessed these miracles firsthand several times, experienced doubt every now and then. Yet Jesus was patient with them. Since Jesus was so patient with His disciples, then He is just as patient with us. This is not an excuse to procrastinate, but we can use these examples of Jesus’ patience as encouragement not to dwell in shame if we repent of a sin later than we think we should have, or any other reason that makes us think Jesus is impatient with us or disappointed. We are sinners whose natural inclination is to sin, so why would Jesus be disappointed when we do what comes natural to us? This is no excuse to continue sinning (see Romans 6), but we never have to worry about Jesus losing patience with us.
As Jesus’ modern disciples, we are to mimic this patience in our faith. Lord knows this is one of my weakest areas. I can wait in a long line just fine, but when it comes to peoples’ behaviour, I tend to be impatient quite quickly. It’s definitely something I’ve been working on. Being in the faith, we must use these examples of Jesus’ patience as encouragement to be patient with one another. We have many reasons to be impatient with each other. Since this is true, Jesus has every reason to be impatient with us, but instead He remains patient with us.
How much Christlike love we truly show to people by simply being patient with them! If you’re helping someone through a troublesome time, be patient with them; don’t push them. You can’t expect them to recover at the rate you expect or desire them to. Jesus didn’t push Peter deeper into the water when he lacked faith; He pulled him up. So don’t push people into despair when they lack faith, but rather pull them up gently. As Paul put it simply, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Whomever you’re admonishing, encouraging, helping, teaching, disciplining, whatever, exercise the patience of Christ.
Stay tuned for next time when I discuss the next fruit of the Spirit: kindness.