Her name is Carol.  But for the last 10 years she has gone by the name, Miriam.   Ever since she went to Turkey and started mixing with the people, she has chosen a name that makes sense to Muslims.  


Carol, (Miriam) is 70 years old now and looks like a typical Turkish woman as she walks the streets of Istanbul.  If you were to sit down and talk with her in a coffee house, you'd find her down-to-earth, easy to talk to.   You would also find out, as many over there in Turkey have, that beneath that ordinary exterior a strange power seems to flow.  


She's smart, humble, cheerful, gutsy.  She burns with an invisible fire that ignites the lives she chooses to touch.  


Carol---Miriam--- is a woman of faith.  She is certain that God wants her in Turkey, and that's where she's going to die.  


Jean and I met Carol more than 40 years ago, when she came to Detroit as a young counselor with Teen Challenge.   She became part of our congregation while she continued to work with addicts in the Cass Corridor, a major Skid Row in the city.  


One day Carol called and said, "I'm thinking of going to seminary."


"Carol, you're already better equipped than most people coming out of seminary", I said.  "If you want to start a church, begin with a Bible study and see what happens."


A few days later she called and said, "I quit my job as a counselor.  I'm going out on faith.  I'm going to start a church in the Cass Corridor."


So we rented a hall in a cheap hotel and had an Ordination Service.  A group of local pastors commissioned her with the laying-on-of hands, ordaining her as the pastor of this new church, Christ of the Cass Corridor.


Carol continued to sing in our choir Sunday morning and conducted her service in the afternoon, when most of the folks in the Corridor were up and around.  She served that church for many years, until a call came from Earl Brown in Turkey.  Earl was once a pastor in our neighborhood, and now needed to return home.  Carol's husband had recently died, so she was free to go.   She turned her work over to Brother Sims, and headed for Turkey.


All through those years Carol never asked anybody for a dime.  No Prayer letters, no bake sales, no fund-raising.  She simply trusted God to provide.  And he did:  money, cars, over coats, whatever she needed.  That's how Carol lives to this day.


When Carol says, "The Lord spoke to me," you can be sure she's not putting you on.  She has a living faith.  She walks with God---smart, humble, cheerful, gutsy.  And the fire burning inside her is the fire of faith.


If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.

                                                            James 1:5-7


"Let them ask in faith, with no doubting!"   Did you ever ask yourself, "How strong is my faith?  Do I have the kind of faith the apostle James is talking about?"


When God looks into our hearts as we gather in this place today, does he find faith?  Not just repeating a creed.  Not just subscribing to church doctrine.  Faith in God.  Faith in Jesus as Lord.  Faith that trusts him with your life?


But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 


If Peter and John could tell a man lame from birth, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!"…..If Paul, with a few words could drive a demon out of a clairvoyant slave girl…how come we don't see any of this happening here on Sunday mornings? 


"Truly, truly I say to you, he/she who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will they do, because I go to the Father."

                                                            John 14:12


What are we going to do with that promise?


And by the way, Jesus didn't just zap people with healing.  He didn't simply snap his fingers and empty out the sick wards.  He did these things in response to faith—in him!


"Your faith has saved you, go in peace!"


"Your faith has made you well."


Where there was no faith, there was no healing.  "He could do no mighty works there, because of their unbelief."


One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side of the lake."  So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep.  And a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger.  And they went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!"  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm.  He said to them, "Where is your faith?"

                                                Luke 8:22-25


"Where is your faith?"  The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor hear the gospel.  Yet Jesus has to say to his disciples, "Where is your faith?""


And we are just like them.  We say we believe in God.  We even believe we believe.  But when a storm comes up, we fall apart, just like they did.


Is there any hope for us?  


Just as surely as Jesus lifted those disciples out of their unbelief, he will do the same for us.


Those disciples knew they had a problem with faith.  "Lord, increase our faith!" they cried.  And that's exactly what Jesus did.  He increased their faith.   In fact, all the time they were with him, they were in his School of Faith.  He was showing them the way.  He was making it possible for these faint-hearted men and women to live the life of faith.   The day came when they were doing the works that he did. 


So why shouldn't the Lord Jesus, whose Spirit is with us now do the same for us?   What better reason for us to come together! 


He will increase our faith.  All we have to do is admit our need, and bring it to him.  Instead of limping along on this plateau of half-belief, let's do what those disciples did, and say, "Lord, increase our faith!"


The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"  And the Lord said to them, "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, 'Be rooted up and be planted in the sea' and it would obey you."

                                                            Luke 17:5-6


"Increase your faith?  Why, if you had the faith of the smallest of seeds, you could move mountains and uproot trees!"  And then Jesus says, 'Here's the first step: if you want faith in God, you have to be a servant of God.  Nothing special.  Just a servant.  Serving wherever God puts you.  Doing what's in front of you to do.  No complaining.  No looking for bonuses."


"Will any of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down at table'?  Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink'?  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that is commanded of you, say, 'We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.'"

                                                            Luke 17:7-10


Faith is not a reward I get because I'm a servant.  Faith is a gift which I am only able to receive once I become a servant.


As long as I cling to my agenda, banging my head against the wall, trying to make things go my way, I am a double-minded person, unstable in all my ways.  Faith is impossible for me.


But when I let go of my agenda, and abandon myself to God---specifically God as he approaches me on my own level in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, then the miracle begins.


Whether it's Peter and John healing a lame beggar, or Paul delivering a slave girl, these men had long since abandoned their lives to the Master as servants.  Or Carol (Miriam) visiting a grumpy shop keeper in Istanbul---


"Why do I keep coming here?  You ask me to come, but when I come you ignore me as if I don't exist."


"Keep coming.  When I see your face, I know there is a God."


So think of yourself as a servant of God.  Just a servant.  Each morning you present yourself to the Master. 


"Here I am, Lord.  My life belongs to you alone.  I am here to do your will.  I present my body to you as a living sacrifice. 


I turn my mind away from the darkness, and open it to the light of your Spirit, to love you with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and my neighbor as myself.  I will trust you in all things.  I will serve you wherever you put me."


Now step into this ordinary day, doing ordinary things among ordinary people.  And as you do, Jesus will start doing for you what he did for his disciples---what he did for Carol.  He will increase your faith.  He will pour a daily measure of his Holy Spirit into you.


Just as the Israelites in the wilderness went out each morning and picked up a daily supply of Manna, so we, each morning receive a daily supply of the Spirit, who empowers us to believe.   You will find yourself, in spite of your doubts, trusting God. 


Intellectually, you're still an agnostic.  You can prove nothing to yourself or anyone else.  Yet you just know that he's going to guide you.  He's going to provide for you.  He's going to give you the right words to speak, without your even thinking about it. 


You might find yourself having a cup of coffee with a stranger, or driving a neighbor to a doctor's appointment, or just doing your job at work. Yet it will be different from the way it used to be.  You're broken bread and poured-out wine.  You're a sacramental presence.  The life of the Kingdom of God is flowing through you to the world around you.


"Lord, increase our faith!"


The day came when these men and women who cried for more faith were out there serving.  And as they served, their faith increased---to the point where they joyfully laid down their lives for the Master.


"Lord, increase our faith!" 


It is a good prayer that we need to pray as we follow in his steps.  His steps.  Not Peter's steps or John's steps or Carol's steps.  His steps.  We each have our own path of faith to walk. If we walk that path as his servants, he will increase our faith with the power of his Spirit.  


We will see mountains move, we will see streams of healing water flowing in the desert.  We will see prisoners set free, as we reach out in his name to the forgotten ones of this world.


If Jesus is truly our Lord, and we are truly his disciples,


                        he will increase our faith!