By Rodney Shaw
Jesus made a very powerful statement concerning faith when He said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and
nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).
At first glance it appears that Jesus was complimenting small faith. After all, since the mustard seed was the smallest common seed in Palestine it would seem that Jesus was implying that a small amount of
faith was all that a person needed. But this is not Jesus’ meaning.
Just prior to His statement concerning the mustard seed, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. Moreover, He condemned the existence of small faith (Matthew 6:30; 8:23-26; 16:5-88; 17:17) and
commended those who had great faith (Matthew 8:10-13; 15:21-28). In light of these observations it is not in harmony with other passages to interpret Christ’s words concerning the mustard seed to mean that we should have small faith.
The Growth of Faith
Jesus did not tell His disciples to have faith “the size” of the mustard seed, but to have faith “as” the mustard seed. In essence, He told them that their faith should possess the characteristics of the
mustard seed. In other words, their faith was to be of the same nature at that of the mustard seed, that faith should exist by the same principles as does the mustard seed.
Jesus related the principle of the mustard seed to His disciples earlier in His ministry. (Matthew 3:31,32: Mark 4:30-32; Luke 3:18,19). When we read these teachings, we find two very important elements
concerning the mustard seed: growth and ministry.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples concerning the mustard seed, He spoke to them about its growth. “Which indeed is the least all seeds: but when it is grown, is the greatest among herbs…” Matthew 13:31-32). “But when it is sown, it groweth up and cometh greater than all herbs…” (Mark 4:30-32). “And it grew and waxed a great tree…” Luke 13:18-19).
Romans 12:3 tells us that God has given everyone a measure of faith. Surely a measurable amount would at least equal the size of a mustard seed. If Jesus were referring to size, then the disciples would have
possessed sufficient faith. But Jesus was not speaking of size, but of growth. The lesson that Jesus told His disciples is that they must nurture their faith. They needed to allow what God had given them to
come to fruition.
Our faith should never be smaller than when we first believed. From the point of repentance, our faith should constantly rise. God initially, provides us with the “seed” of faith. It is up to us to see that it
Nurturing Our Faith
There are a few ways that we can ensure the growth of our faith. We can stimulate the growth of our faith through the ingestion of God’s Word (Acts 4:4; Romans 4:18-19; 10:14-17; Galatians 3:5). Faith can also be increased by prayer (Luke 17:5; 22:32).
Jesus parabolically stated that God multiplies what we have when we use what He has already given to us (Matthew 25:29). When we see what faith we have, we stimulate its growth. Faith multiplies itself. Peter wrote that as our faith is put into action, it produces a purer faith (I Peter 1:7).
Another way to cause our faith to grow is to dispose of anything that is adverse to faith. Jesus instructed His disciples that they were to have faith and “doubt not” (Matthew 21:21). Doubt breeds doubt. We
should cleanse our minds of all thoughts that are contrary to faith, so that our faith can freely grow.
The Power of Faith
Jesus did not teach us to have small faith, but He wanted us to realize the power of faith. Although the mustard seed was the smallest in the field, it grew until it became the greatest among herbs.” It has been
said, “Any fool can count the seeds in the apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.” A seed possesses unlimited possibilities. One seed can produce millions of seeds. The seed reproduces
exponentially, without limitation. Jesus emphasized this point by using the mustard seed. Not only did He use the illustration of a seed but He also chose the least of seeds. Jesus told His disciples that even the least of all seeds could develop into a great tree.
So is our faith. It may be a little measure at first. It may for a while linger in the shadows of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and even doubt. Our faith may be small in our lives, overpowered by all sorts of influences and obstacles. But within that small measure of faith lies the unlimited potential for progress. Within that seed of faith lives the unmeasurable power to achieve, to grow, to minister, to reproduce
and to do so without boundaries, stipulations or limitations.
As we allow faith to grow, it becomes not only the equivalent to negative factors in our lives but also superior to them, towering far above all adverse obstacles. Faith will expand until it totally dominates our lives.
The Ministry of Faith
But why growth? For the sake of size? For pride, self-fulfillment or indulgence? No, ministry is the reason for growth. Ministry is the second factor concerning the character of the mustard seed.
When Jesus relayed the message of the mustard seed to His followers, He directed their attention to the ministry of the mustard seed: “And the seed becometh a great tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (Matthew 13:32). “And shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it” (Mark 4:32). “And it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the, air lodged in the branches of it” (Mark 3:19).
A vital sequence is noticed in these parables: growth and then ministry. It is impossible for us to minister adequately unless we have grown sufficiently. Birds do not build nests on top of mustard
seeds. Birds build nests in mustard trees. Growth and ministry as related to faith are inseparable.
The mustard seed did not grow simply, to become the largest herb. It grew so that it could minister to others. It became a haven for the weary bird, a place of renewal, a place of refuge. We too should allow our faith to grow so that we can reach out to minister to those around us – to those who are weary, to those who are lost, to those who are hunted. They need a place to rest.
Faith is the strongest refuge. But some people do not have faith. In fact, at one time or another, all of us experience a lack of faith. Some people find it difficult to have faith for themselves. What about
the dead who were raised back to life? Was it their faith or that of another that brought them life again? Some people are so spiritually oppressed that they cannot have faith for their situation (Matthew
15:22-28; 17:14-18). Many people are so physically ill that they depend on the faith of others for their answer (Matthew 8:5-13; 9:2-7) James5:l4-15 tells us that the faith of the one who is praying can bring healing to another.
In Numbers 13:30, we read where the faith of Caleb “stilled” the people. There is a time when those around us stand on shaky ground. Perhaps, they have not seen the things we have seen or experienced the things we have experienced. Doubt may be pressuring them. Life’s problems may seem too great for them to handle. The will of God may confound them. Their faith may be small. Their faith may be wavering. Some may not have heard from God for a season. To these people a person with a mature, well-grown faith can reach out and minister. Faith that has been developed not only causes one’s self to be at peace but also radiates a sense of calmness to others.
Faith as a grain of mustard seed is what God wants us to have-not in size, but in likeness. We all possess a measure or seed of faith, and in this measure is potential power of growth and ministry. Let us nurture our faith to grow that we might minister to others.
(The above information was published by the PENTECOSTAL HERALD, August 1993.)
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