Mustard Seeds

Recently, our Pastor gave a sermon on Matthew 17:14-20. In this story, Jesus is up the mountain with Peter, James and John, and when they come down a man approaches Jesus to ask him to help his son, who is demon possessed. The man had asked the disciples to help, but they could not do it, so Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, telling it to leave the boy, and it did. The disciples didn’t understand why they were unable to cast it out, so Jesus tells them about a mustard seed.

Our pastor was using these passages in scripture as an example of how faith works. That it only takes the smallest, really almost microscopic, amount of faith to move whatever your mountain, because nothing is too large for God to accomplish. But as he was telling the story, I couldn’t help but think that maybe there was more to the story, maybe it wasn’t just about how faith works, but also about how misplaced faith never works.

In the story, Jesus says, “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” and I love the Contemporary English Version which states, “You people are too stubborn to have any faith.” When he says this, Jesus is not only talking to the people who are continually hounding him for a miracle, but because they ask about why they couldn’t do it, he’s also talking to his disciples. He tells them they have a faith problem, that they “don’t have enough faith,” and that if they had “faith no larger than a mustard seed, they could tell a mountain to move and it would.” A mustard seed is really, really small, and Jesus tells them that they didn’t have even the tiniest bit of faith. 

Wait, what? They didn’t have faith the size of a mustard seed? That would be like having no faith at all, and they’d been healing the sick and such all day, so they had to have something, right? It occurred to me right then, what Jesus was alluding to. It wasn’t necessarily that they had no faith, but moreover that their faith was resting in the wrong hands. It was misplaced. They had started to convince themselves that they were the reason the miracles were happening, they got full of themselves, and when they came up against a hard one, they lost sight of God, lost faith and gave up. Their faith in their own abilities had begun to eclipse their faith God’s ability, and because of that, they had no faith.

Whenever we forget about the “one who brought us,” failure is always waiting in the wings.  We lose faith, because we realize that we can’t, and we forget that with and through God, nothing is impossible! That’s why he told them about a mustard seed. Saying look you don’t even need a lot of faith. All you need is faith the size of this small seed, because that small seed, when planed in your heart grows into something much larger than yourself – trust me just this little bit and see where it takes you, and what you are able to accomplish, put your faith in me, instead of in yourselves.

It also got me thinking of Lazarus. Jesus wept for his friend, and just before he called Lazarus out of the tomb, he said a little prayer, he said, “Father I thank you that you have heard me. I knew you always hear me, but I said this on account of  those standing around, that they may believe…” And this, to me, is the most powerful example of faith; a simple prayer that doesn’t ask God if He can, but rather states, “I know You hear, I know You can – thank You.”

~SLM

A Matter of Faith

And Christ said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

What is faith? The Webster’s defines it as:  sincerity of intentions, complete trust, and a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. It’s a word we all use every day in many situations without really understanding it. Many times we say we have faith, but our actions belie our inner belief. We simply use it like a paper plate, something that is useful for the moment, only to be discarded when we don’t need it anymore.

Faith implies loyalty, commitment, conviction. It’s a hope, a belief, and an expectation of surety, and as such is an act of reverence.  Matthew 18:18-19 says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[a] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” But, so many times we let other considerations and influences encroach upon what we say we believe, and we decide that we, not God, have the answer, the solution. We take matters into our own hands, forgetting completely about our faith, about how whatever we bind on earth is also bound in heaven.

Sometimes (and honestly, often times) we are with God as teenagers are with their parents. We roll our eyes and say, “what do you know old man?” Not understanding, or perhaps willfully forgetting, that He does know, He does have a plan, and his resources are greater and more substantial than we can even comprehend! We get impatient; we discard our faith, never understanding that when God tags someone out of our lives, and replaces them with a new player, a fresh player, it’s because of his understanding, his comprehension, and his plan for our growth. We have to take it on faith, no matter how difficult or upsetting, no matter how painful it is, we must hold fast to the knowledge that God is trustworthy, that God is binding us to what we have asked of him.

If we dissent, if we show no conviction, it’s as if we are like Adam; we tell God “NO, not your way, my way!” But, if we keep our faith, hold fast in our belief, then we are like Christ; we tell God, “If this is my cup, I shall drink all of it,” trusting that through his guidance, we will become better versions of ourselves.

~SLM