Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. We here at “Word For Life Says” want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons. May God bless you!
“Increase Our Faith”
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Lesson Text: Luke 17:1-10
1) “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2) It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
3) Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4) And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
5) And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6) And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
7) But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8) And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9) Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10) So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
Forgiveness, in any form, can be a hard pill to swallow. But, let me ask you this: How many times has God said no to us whenever we have sincerely sought healing and restoration for the wrongs we have done? Exactly, He hasn’t!
Forgiveness, much like love, is nothing to be played with. It is not a lip service to please others rather; it is a heart service to the Lord. It is, in a sense, showing to others the same grace and mercy that God showed toward us and often takes an act of faith to do.
One day Jesus had a very frank conversation with His disciples about the subject of forgiveness. As carriers of the gospel truth they would be at the forefront of not only teaching others about Christ and the kingdom of God, but they would be demonstrators of the faith through their lives and actions. For one to say they are followers of Christ must then be willing to do what Christ did.
“Then said he to his disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come,” (vs. 1). One can only imagine what it would be like to live in a world of no “offences;” times when no feelings are being hurt, when others are not wronging others, where everything is fair and square with no division, corruptness, or hindrances in one’s life and walk with God. Alas, we have not yet ascended to glory. Therefore, while we remain there will be times of offences.
The particular offences that Jesus is referring to mostly are those that become blockades of belief; hindrances of the heavenly kingdom; frustraters of the faith. Those who act as stumbling blocks preventing people from accepting and drawing near to Christ and His truth; those who cause others to sin. This was particularly true of the Pharisees in those days. As those who continually stand in opposition of Jesus, they not only freely rejected Him and His teachings, but they may have an impact on others to do so as well. This was serious business and the caution bell rings loud for all to hear.
To them, Jesus warns, “But woe unto him, through whom they come!” (vs. 1). The message is very clear: God does not tolerate it. “Woe” in the Bible usually points toward a time of distress or judgment (compare Isa. 10:1-4; Lam. 5:16; Mic. 2:1-3; Rev. 12:12). Jesus likens the same seriousness of judgment for those who have become the stumbling block of another in the faith. Faith is fragile and must be nurtured.
Jesus worked at drawing peoples near the kingdom of God. For those who work opposite of His kingdom practices in this, Jesus says, “It were better for him that millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones,” (vs. 2). These “millstones” were heavy, round objects used to crush grain into flour/meal usually powered by animals such as donkeys. They were essential tools of the ancient world. Even in our early American history grains were crushed by the use of millstones, although more likely to be powered by water or wind.
To have one of these objects tied about the neck and then tossed in the sea would speak of eminent doom. It doesn’t matter the strength of the swimmer, one cannot come out of such a predicament. Yet, Jesus explicitly says between the choices of the two, the millstone jeweled about the neck would be better than causing the stumbling of any one of “these little ones” in the faith. Often in the Bible when we see the phrase “little ones” we automatically apply it to the little children. But, we can easily see how this can be applied to babes in Christ as well. Those whose faith is vulnerable and new; who are susceptible to being endangered by outside, unbelieving, and false teachings.
With that He says, “Take heed to yourselves” (vs. 3) which rings out of personal responsibility. There are specific duties for every Christian believer. One cannot receive of God and not be willing to reciprocate the same in return. For this, Jesus in essence says, “Watch yourself.” One has to tread lightly with the grace of God and be careful how they handle it and people (more on this later). I have always stressed the point that how we treat people matters. More than I think most of us are willing to admit.
Jesus continues to explain, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him,” (vs. 3). This was a command expected to be followed by all believers. This was not just pinpointing bad behavior of one group such as the Pharisees – rather, all God’s people are to go through life with the same careful attention to nurture relationships between each other.
Here, that attention carries through in dealing with the initial wrong doing, followed by a “rebuke.” Now, let’s pay attention to that word “rebuke.” If one steps out of the character of Christ and rebukes one in a harsh and unrelenting manner, it will do nothing to heal the hurt that has already taken place. Personal retribution is not what is being approved here rather; loving facing the wrong and the one who committed the wrong in order to restore peace and harmony in said relationship once again.
With that being said, Jesus also gives the command that if the one in question does indeed “repent,” (expresses true, genuine sorrow and remorsefulness of the offense) the responsibility for the next stage in the healing process falls on the lap of the one that has been wronged: forgiveness. He/she must act in accordance to the way Christ would act and forgive the sin/wrong/offense that was committed. And, just to be sure we get this straight, true forgiveness is not an act of lip service. It is an act of heart service (see Mat. 18:35).
To drive His point home even further, Jesus continues on with His teaching, stating, “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him,” (vs. 4). We are speaking of unlimited forgiveness here. The same thing God graces each of us with. Each of us has the responsibility to forgive over and over again, every day, if need be.
There was an article I previously published titled 490 Acts of Love, coming from Matthew 18:22 where Jesus speaks on the same subject of forgiveness and says, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” In that piece I wrote:
“What would happen if today God sat down and “took account” of all the wrongs we have done? What would it be like if we stood before Him unable to pay what we owe? We were there! Jesus knew the predicament that humanity was in. He knew that man could never get himself out of the debt of sin, so here He stresses grace, mercy and compassion on those who don’t deserve it.
How often have we withheld those three precious gifts from another because our feelings were hurt? Believe it or not, it’s the same thing. We may not have choked out a man, demanding retribution, but if we are withholding the same mercies that God showed us than we are choking that man spiritually and emotionally.
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” (Matthew 6:15, KJV). God will not allow us to act like that unjust servant (see parable in Matthew 18:23-35). Love has compelled Him to shower us love, at all cost to save us, just so that He could forgive us and restore us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16, KJV).
It was an act of love. An act of love that we now have the responsibility to pay it forward to another. No, people may not deserve it. But, then again, neither did we. It was only through the eyes of a merciful God that we are given another chance.” (Word For Life Says)
After hearing Jesus’ explanation of forgiveness, the “apostles” appeared to be taken aback and feeling overwhelmed by the nature of it all, therefore they asked Jesus, “Increase our faith,” (vs. 5). Humanity is frail at best. Everyone has shortcomings and deficiencies in their character. The magnitude of what Jesus was teaching was serious business. It wasn’t just their own spiritual welfare on the line, but those whom they come into contact with and minister to. To this, they believed, they needed more faith to operate in the way Jesus was teaching.
Jesus’ response to this was they didn’t need more faith; they just needed to learn how to work and operate in what they already had. It’s not always about increasing more so than what one does with what they presently possess. A little in God’s kingdom can do mighty works.
For example, Jesus gave a profound illustration: “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; it should obey you,” (vs. 6; see Mat. 17:20 and 21:21 for a similar comparison). Using the word “if” He enters this illustration showing the need for one’s faith to really be there and be presently working. Even if it was small in size, if it was authentically real and placed in the right source which is God, then it was powerful enough to do what is seemingly impossible. They didn’t need more increase; they just needed to work in the real what they already had. And, that real faith consisted of following Jesus’ commands no matter how hard it may seem at the time.
The illustration of the “sycamine tree” was used to show how even a little of this genuine faith in God, can do great things, especially in regard to forgiveness. This particular tree, which many attribute to be a mulberry tree, had a very strong root system which allowed it to endure the test of time. Now, if you are like me and love to watch those do it yourself home improvement programs, then you have seen some try to do landscaping that involved removing stumps, roots, and everything. It is quite the task. Roots not only go down deep, but they are often tangled amongst other objects making their removal all the more difficult. For those dealing with offences that stick deep within one’s system, genuine faith can cause it to be plucked up by the “root” and tossed into the sea as God does with our sins (compare Mic. 7:19).
“But which of you, have a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not,” (vss. 7-9). Jesus’ audience had a strong understanding of the master versus servant relationship. The master, being the owner of the property and possibly the servant, is to be served first. He is not going to let the servant sit down and eat first as opposed to waiting on him. Rather, their job is not complete until the master of the house and the family therein is taken care of first.
Imagine this if you will, in modern terms if one had the wealth to own a limousine with a hired driver. Now, the boss (the owner) wants to be driven somewhere. Would we deem it appropriate for the driver to say, “Ok, boss. I’ll get you when I come back. I have some errands to run first.” Absolutely, not! That driver was hired to be at the owners beck and call during certain times and is expected to carry out his/her job without extra thanks. It is their job to heed and follow the commands of his/her boss.
This is the same analogy Jesus was trying to get His disciples to understand with His parable. Regarding one’s faith, one may not always understand the entire why’s and how’s. No matter. All one needs to remember is the Who. Who gave the command to show forgiveness in such a way? And, Who it is that demonstrated such forgiveness in the first place toward us? They don’t need an increase. They just need to focus on the “author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb. 12:2), which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. They just need to follow the life He leads and walk in those same footsteps and that will direct them into paths where impossibilities become possible.
Jesus concluded this portion of teaching by stating, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do,” (vs. 10). Their reward was in their obedience; in doing what they were supposed to do.
Our culture has some who think they “deserve” more than what was promised for doing what they signed up to do. Let me explain. Take holiday and Christmas bonuses. I think it’s great that there are some companies that “reward” their employees for their service. But, in actuality, their paycheck is their reward. Companies and employers are not obligated to give you anything extra for the work that you do outside of the paycheck experience that you signed up for.
I have heard of people getting bent out of shape, saying, “Well, I didn’t get as much as so and so.” and other such statements. They DO NOT have to give you anything extra, so any extra one does receive, they should be thankful.
Jesus says it is the Christian’s duty to forgive and work in the faith that one has in this manner. It’s not about reward. It’s not about increase. It’s all about obedience and it’s an obligatory service to our Lord; one’s “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1-2), if you will. While on this earth, Jesus’s whole mission revolved around doing the will of the Father (see John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-39). He was our living example of how one operates in the surrendering of self to follow what is right in heaven and what is right in the eyes of our heavenly Father (compare with His plea in the garden of Gethsemane to let this cup pass, but not if it’s out of God’s will – see Mark 14:35-36).
Forgiveness is foregoing what one thinks is rightly owed; retribution one thinks they may deserve due to a wrong. Forgiveness releases the offender from personal condemnation. Forgiveness, through faith, just does what it is commanded to do because He first forgave us. Therefore, we are with a humble attitude “unprofitable servants;” workers of His grace just doing our job without further need of reward or gratitude.
Forgiveness is not optional. It is our Christian duty to treat others as Christ has treated us. Through love, set the captives of condemnation free and just forgive.
(Click here for PDF: Increase Our Faith Sunday School Lesson, or simply click the print button below. Enjoy!)
Below are activities to support this lesson. Enjoy
Draw the Scene: Increase Our Faith Draw the Scene
Memory Verse: Increase Our Faith Memory Verse
How Many Words?: Increase Our Faith How Many Words
Below I used templates (link found below) or any coloring page of a tree. Let students color, cut, and glue onto construction paper as a reminder of the little seed of faith and the tree in today’s lesson. On the leaves write reminders from today’s lesson that will help your students to have faith in forgiving others. Glue your chosen seed to the bottom of the page.
This tree and leaves template is from DLTK. Add any seed to the bottom (if you can find actual mustard seeds that would be awesome). Enjoy!
Below are more resources for this lesson. Enjoy!
“A Mustard Seed Faith” (Activities/Games)
“What is Faith?” (With printable craft)
“A Miraculous Turn Around” (Different lesson but concepts and games and still apply. Enjoy!)
“Hangman”: This old game is excellent for lesson reinforcement. Simply print the worksheet from Printactivities.com, get your verses or phrases from the lesson you want to use or the students want to use with each other, play and enjoy! (A single hangman page can be found atThetripclip.com. Enjoy!) (Great for memory verses!)