Mustard Seed Faith
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Faith is so vital to the Christian life that Scripture tells us that, without it, it is impossible to please God.1 Yet faith is such a powerful gift from God.2 Christ told His disciples that, with just a tiny measure of it, the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains. So, what does it mean to have “mustard seed faith”?
We see the reference to “mustard seed faith” twice in Scripture. First, in Matthew 17:14–20, we see Christ’s disciples unable to exorcise a demon from a young boy, even though Jesus had previously given them the authority to do this very thing.3 When they inquired of Jesus why they were not able to drive the demon out, the Master 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.”4 Next, in Luke 17:6, Jesus tells His disciples, “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.” By using the uncommonly small mustard seed as an example, Jesus is speaking figuratively about the incalculable power of God when unleashed in the lives of those with true faith.
We know that this statement about moving mountains and uprooting trees by faith is not to be taken literally. The key to understanding the passages is the nature of faith, which is a gift from God. The power of faith reflects the omnipotent nature of the God who bestows faith on His own. The mustard seed is one of the tiniest seeds found in the Middle East, so the conclusion is that the amount of faith needed to do great things is very small indeed. Just as in the parable of the mustard seed,5 Jesus uses rhetorical hyperbole to make the point that little is much when it comes from God. The mustard seed in the parable grows to be a huge tree, representing the tiny beginnings of Christianity when just a few disciples began to preach and teach the gospel. Eventually, the kingdom grew to huge proportions, encompassing the entire world and spreading over centuries.
So, too, does the tiniest bit of faith, when it is true faith from God, grow to immense proportions in the lives of believers and spreading out to influence all they come into contact with. One has only to read histories of the great men of the faith, such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, to know that superhuman feats were performed by those whose faith was, at one time, only the size of a mustard seed.—From gotquestions.org
The potential of a seed
Unfortunately many modern English translations talk about faith “the size of a mustard seed,” but the Bible actually says that God’s kingdom and faith are “like a mustard seed,” or “as a mustard seed.”
The size of a mustard seed is only one of its characteristics, and not necessarily the most important one.
The mustard plant is a fast-growing annual herb, growing up to 10–12 feet tall in only a few months. It was the smallest seed the Jewish people planted in their gardens, so it was called the smallest of seeds. Yet it became the largest plant in their gardens when it was grown.
The mustard seed is a striking example of the potential of a seed. Although it starts out small and insignificant, it quickly grows into something that blesses others.
Now let’s consider some things about seeds other than how small they are. A seed does nothing until it is planted. Jesus seems to indicate that our faith is planted by speaking. “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say...” So to have mustard seed faith, we have to say something. Saying what God says in His Word is our best choice.
A seed can even push aside rocks or other obstacles, but it does not do so instantaneously. A seed does not move hindrances by an explosive burst, but by a relentless expansion of growth continually pushing outward and upward. As a seed becomes a plant, it continues to draw nutrients from its source, and thus continues to grow bigger and stronger, forcing hindrances out of its way.
No seed is ever affected by what other seeds do. Even if other seeds die, it keeps on. A seed is persistent, never giving up. Only death will stop it from growing and working to produce fruit. This may be the most important characteristic of a mustard seed: it never gives up!—From adevotion.org
How to have a mustard seed kind of faith
Jesus uses the mustard seed to illustrate the kind of faith we need because the tiny mustard seed grows into something much, Much, MUCH bigger than its original size. In other words, our faith is meant to grow… a lot.
Our initial introduction to the concept of faith is small. It is a faith that comes from hearing and believing the Word of God. After that, however, the only way for our faith to grow is to use it. … A mustard seed kind of faith is faith that isn’t content to stay small, but one that buries itself in the soil of God’s Word, takes root, and grows and grows and grows…—Darla Noble
Mountain-moving mustard seed faith
So many examples in the Bible highlight the importance of little things. One little stone brought down a giant; one little haircut almost lost the kingdom; one little lunch cost a prophet his life; one little manger changed the destiny of mankind; and one little deal brought death to the Savior, so that only a little mustard seed of faith could move mountains! I wonder how many mountains failed to get moved for lack of that tiny seed of faith!
The Bible tells us to “despise not the day of small things”6—even one talent; five loaves and two fishes; one wrong decision in the Garden of Eden; one tiny boat in a worldwide flood; one little Tower of Babel, which has caused worldwide confusion ever since and untold wars between nations; one little promise to Abraham, which has brought blessing to the whole world; one little man on a mountain who brought the moral laws of God to the entire earth; one little lad in a sheepcote, who became king and changed the history of the world; a handful of meal, and a few drops of oil, which kept God’s prophet and his hostess and her son alive through three years of famine, when mixed with obedience.
There are so many examples of the importance of little things throughout history, either for good or for evil, that they are almost innumerable. Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean, and the beautiful land! Even a little faith, no bigger than a grain of mustard seed, can remove a mountain. Don’t ever think that because there is so much darkness, it’s no use to have just a little light, because even one candle can be seen a mile away when it’s dark!—David Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor February 2018. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Hebrews 11:6.
2 Ephesians 2:8–9.
3 Matthew 10:1.
4 Matthew 17:14–20 NIV.
5 Matthew 13:31–32.
6 Zechariah 4:10.