On our first visit to Tervuren many years ago, we went to see the original Disney Aladin with Robin Williams immense as the genie who can do everything. Great as it was, I wonder if this fun film impacted my faith. Let me explain. The Genie can do anything – with such power there is nothing beyond his ability. All things are possible. Yet Jesus says (Matthew 17: 20) that if we only had the faith of a mustard seed (which isn’t at all big) then we could move mountains. We could be like the Genie right – we should have the ability to do anything, doing wonders for Almighty God whom we love and serve. Yet I don’t even begin to achieve things like that, so what does that say about my faith? Not even the size of a mustard seed? Pitiful really.
It’s made me want to examine what Jesus says in Matthew 17 more closely. Jesus has been on the Mount of Transfiguration and whilst he was away the nine disciples have been unsuccessful in trying to do a healing/exorcism. They have already been sent out to do some wonderful things (Matthew 10) so it isn’t the first time for them to be involved in healing. Is this the reason why they have not been successful – their faith in what they can achieve has grown? This is why Jesus says they need to have faith like a mustard seed – as close as possible to non-existent – for them to realise that it isn’t their faith in what they can do that matters. The contrast between the disciples and the father of the boy is clear – he is on his knees before the Lord as he knows that Jesus alone is able to make a difference in his life. There is nothing he can do other than pray and beseech.
So, on reflection I’m really glad I’ve watched Aladin. The challenge is that I want to rely upon the gifts and abilities I know I have, to be like the genie and do amazing things. Jesus words remind me that I mustn’t be like that. That when my faith in myself is tiny, then He will work through me. I suspect that I am not alone in this struggle. Many churches will organise events and have large teams of volunteers using their gifts and abilities. Yet those same churches will get but a handful when they ask people to gather and pray for those same events. Why is this so? The genie effect perhaps?
So at a time of year when we are setting goals and aspirations for the coming year, these words of Jesus in Matthew are so helpful. In essence: Be less. Pray more.