The Oxymoron of Faith

You know what an ‘oxymoron’ is, don’t you? You know, words like ‘jumbo-shrimp’, ‘controlled-chaos,’ ‘open-secret’, or ‘alone in a crowd.’ It’s from an ancient Greek word that literally means ‘sharp-dull’ (oxus-moros) where the two words together are more contradictory, yet put together to emphasize a point or the apparent conflict. It’s like saying ‘deafening-silence’ to point out how intense silence can be when you are waiting for a response.

Ok, so what’s the oxymoronic thought with faith? Well, it comes from something Jesus said about faith…

Matthew 17:20 He (Jesus)replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Little faith moves big mountains? Does that not sound a little oxymoronic? How can little faith do such great things? Knowing our human nature, Jesus likes to give us these kinds of ideas to get us thinking, to rattle our cage a little, and cause us to engage our brains and think. So what does little-big faith look like?

Well, let’s look at what we know little-little faith is like. If you have some time, pull out your Bible and read Matthew chapter 8. Now look at Matthew 8:24-26.

Matthew 8:24-26 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

So little-little faith is not trusting in who’s in the boat with us, and letting fear grip us so much we freak out. Yes, life is scary; finances are tight, no job in sight, the future is unsure, cancer, a death in the family, accidents, crimes, and the list goes on. Yet to have little-big faith is to recognize Jesus is with us. Did He not say in Matthew 28:20, “I will be with you”? Yes, He did. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). So have little-big faith and recognize Jesus is right there with you no matter what storm life throws your way.

Another little-little faith example is found in Matthew 14, and yes, if you have time read the full chapter, but for sure read verses 22-33. It’s the story of Peter extending little-big faith, or we would call GREAT faith, and walking on water right in the midst of a storm (hmm, there seems to be a correlation of faith and storms…why do you think that might be? Just something to think about.). But Peter’s amazing faith has him walk on water. But then this happens?

Matthew 14:30-31 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

So great faith is not some level we arrive at and stay. We can shrink back to little-little faith. It happens when we take our eyes off Jesus. Now, we are not told what Peter was thinking. All we know is that something changed from the resolve that got him out of the boat in the middle of the storm, waves crashing, rain pelting, maybe thunder crashing and lighting flashing. Regardless of the storm, Peter’s great faith got him out of the boat and onto the impossible. It seems that little-big faith, great faith is that mental shift that agrees with Matthew 19:26.

Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Yet Peter made a shift along the way and let fear take over, and the great faith that held him up changed to sinking/little faith…he doubted. He let loose that God can do the impossible. Its true God will not answer all our prayers, even the real earnest ones, for God will do what He will do, and we don’t always know why. (Look sometime at Paul’s struggle with something he prayed for and did not get the answer he wanted in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Yet we are called to grow in faith where, though it’s little like a mustard seed, it moves mountains. Oh by the way, a Middle Eastern mustard seed is about the size of a period “.” in a sentence…that’s small.

What’s the size of your faith? Let me encourage you to have an oxymoronic faith that is little yet big because with God nothing is impossible.

Seeking to have little-big/walking on water faith with you,


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