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  • Writer's pictureAvondale Church

The secret of superpowers

Have you ever wanted to have super strength? To be able to fly? Or to shoot lasers out of your eyes?

Pastor Josh asked us this thought-provoking question this Sunday: "Would it make your life any easier if you could?"


Maybe some things would be easier. But the most important challenges of life would remain just as difficult.


MOVING MOUNTAINS IS THE EASY PART

Jesus forced them to think differently. He told them not to go bigger, but smaller.

Jesus invited his disciples to imagine commanding a mulberry tree to uproot itself and be planted in the sea (Luke 17:6), or to pick up and move a mountain (Matthew 17:20). We might think he's inviting us to aspire to have superpowers. But that wasn't the point.


You have to look at what Jesus was telling them in context:


“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:3-6)


When ancient Jews said "seven times," it basically meant unlimited, or infinity. We might say "a thousand times" to mean the same thing. The disciples were floored at the idea of forgiving people who sin against you no matter how many times they repent.


The disciples knew they could not do this. That nobody can. That's why they asked Jesus to increase their faith. This was an impossible command!


Naturally, the disciples wanted their faith increased. They thought they needed a superpower, "super-forgiveness," maybe. They thought they needed to be greater, better than they were.


Jesus forced them to think differently. He told them not to go bigger, but smaller.


POWER WORKS THE OPPOSITE WAY WE THINK IT DOES

Nobody really needs the power to toss a tree around. But we desperately need to be able to forgive.

A mustard seed was often used in Jesus's day to represent the smallest possible thing. The mulberry tree was a handy image to represent what tiny things can grow into.


These represent the most natural thing in the world, a seed growing into a tree. Jesus was using these images to demonstrate how easy - not how hard - it is to accomplish something that seems big.


We plant the seed. God makes the tree. Easy, when compared with trying to do what only God can and literally grow the tree ourselves.


Likewise, how hard is it to fling that tree into the sea? Easy, when compared to doing what only God makes possible: forgiving someone who has wronged you and asked for forgiveness a thousand times.


Nobody really needs the power to toss a tree around. But we desperately need to be able to forgive. And this, Jesus was saying, can be done with the smallest amount of faith, of genuine belief in the power and goodness of God.


Jesus referred to the mustard seed many times. Once, it was after the disciples could not cast a demon out of a young man. When the father complained to Jesus, Jesus turned to his disciples as a frustrated, invested teacher would:

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, 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.” (Matthew 17:17-20)


Again, Jesus was not making the point that they should aspire to literally move mountains. He was teaching his disciples that the ability - and necessity - to move mountains is nothing compared to the power of God to heal and transform people.


GOD'S POWER IS EASY FOR US TO OVERLOOK AND DISMISS

The kingdom of God has always looked like important things growing slowly and unnoticed.

Christians struggle to grasp what Jesus was trying to tell us about power as much as anyone. We want to see trees fly, mountains move. Some of us want to see leaders in power who will rule by our idea of righteous force.


But the kingdom of God has always looked like important things growing slowly and unnoticed. Like the tiniest seed maturing into a mighty tree.


Or, like an elderly man and woman far past childbearing age giving birth to the father of a civilization.


Or, like a baby being born in a stable to poor parents in a tiny backwater town called Bethlehem.


Faith, or belief - the words are interchangeable, Josh explained - is the smallest thing. But it does the most good. It accomplishes more than the best fictional superpowers would if they were real. It is greater than the real-life "superpowers" of money and political leadership.


For proof, just look at the disciples. Belief was all Peter and the others had.


Peter, Josh told us, defied people's expectations of him. He was an uneducated fisherman. Yet, after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he spoke with the kind of authority that can build a worldwide church.


Why? Simply because he had been with Jesus. Because all his aspirations to have greater power - to go big - had been stripped away. He went small, and aspired instead to a mustard-seed sized faith.


BELIEF LOOKS NOTHING LIKE OUR IDEA OF HAVING POWER, BUT IT IS MORE POWERFUL


You can't really move mountains. But with faith, you can do much more.


It won't look flashy. The progress made will be overlooked, the actions you take will seem unimportant to most people. Many will fail to understand why you invest time in a church community. They will wonder why you aren't doing something more productive.


But your ability to believe in God's good plans will one day grow into something that seems unbelievable now.


"The most important things will go unnoticed," Josh said. "But you can know what's really important."


That's the greatest superpower any of us could ever have.


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