WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
SEPTEMBER 21, 2023
TOPIC: FAITH AS SMALL AS A MUSTARD SEED
BY T. O. BANSO
“So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you’” (Luke 17:6 New King James Version).
Mustard seed is mentioned five times in the Bible (New King James Bible), and all by Jesus Christ. This is recorded in Matthew 13:31, Matthew 17:20, Mark 4:31, Luke 13:19, and Luke 17:6. What Jesus said in Mark 4:31-32 gives us a description of a mustard seed: “It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade” (New King James Version).
Note the phrase “smaller than all the seeds.” The New Living Translation renders that as “the smallest of all seeds.” According to the American Tract Society Dictionary, “‘A grain of mustard’ was used proverbially to denote anything extremely small.” Despite its small size, the Bible says when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs. In addition, it shoots out large so that the birds of the air nest under its shade.
In Luke 17:6, we find a relationship between a mustard seed and faith in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ regarding the prayer or request of His disciples. Prior to this, Jesus had spoken on the need to forgive. “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4 New King James Version). Matthew 18:21-22 records the words of Jesus about forgiving an offending brother, not up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Immediately after Jesus spoke the words on forgiveness in Luke 17:3-4, the Bible records in verse 5, “And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘increase our faith’” (New King James Version). It appears that the apostles considered what Jesus demanded about forgiving seven times in a day anyone who offended them and asked for forgiveness was too much for them. Therefore, they believed that they would need a greater amount of faith to do – they would need increased faith to obey His command!
One could see this as a righteous desire that Jesus would gladly grant, having underscored the importance of forgiveness in his teachings elsewhere. The response of Jesus may have shocked His disciples. He didn’t pray for them that their faith would increase. What was His reply? “So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you’” (Luke 17:6 New King James Version). If you have faith as a mustard seed? What could Jesus have meant by this? Preachers and Christians have given different explanations.
The New Living Translation says, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed.” The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “If you have [confident, abiding] faith in God [even as small] as a mustard seed.” The apostles felt their faith needed to be increased but Jesus said what they needed was faith as small as a mustard seed. What an irony! A mustard seed is not a big seed but the smallest of seeds, as the saying was in the days of Jesus.
My understanding is that Jesus was telling His disciples and those who would later believe in Him that they didn’t need increased faith but the right kind of faith – faith as small as a mustard seed. With that kind of faith, they could speak to a mulberry tree to be pulled up by the roots and planted in the sea, and it would obey them. In other words, with a simple faith in God, they would be able to do the seemingly impossible.
Hebrews 11:1-3 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (New King James Version). You need faith but not increased or big faith; you need faith as small as a mustard seed in a big God. That small faith in a big God will produce significant results like the big tree that mustard seed planted became, as Jesus said.
Many people want to give the credit of their spiritual accomplishments to their big faith! Some people like to praise themselves for the great faith responsible for the exploits they have made! But can faith work without God? It is an error to think that our faith independent of God can produce results. A man with the right kind of faith, faith as small as a mustard seed in a big God, will go home with an answer, not a man with a big faith in himself. Faith as small as a mustard seed in a big God is great faith indeed.
Matthew 8:10-13 says, “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour” (New King James Version). Note that Jesus talked about great faith, and this faith was found in this centurion. Jesus didn’t find such great faith in Israel.
The passage above was Jesus’ reaction to the reply of the centurion whose servant was lying at home paralyzed and tormented. Granting his plea, Jesus said He would come and heal the sick servant. But the centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Matthew 8:8-9 New King James Version).
Obviously, this centurion’s faith was described as great not because of its big size but because it was the right kind of faith, faith in Jesus, and what He could do. This centurion had no credentials to boast of. He said he was not worthy that Jesus should come under his roof. He had nothing to boast of that qualified him for the miracle he needed. But he knew the efficacy of power or authority. His only faith was in Jesus and His words. Because of this, his servant was healed that same hour. Faith as small as a mustard seed!
In Matthew 15, when Jesus told the Canaanite woman, whose daughter was severely demon-possessed, that it was not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs, she replied that even the little dogs ate the crumbs that fell from their masters’ table. “Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire’” (verse 28a New King James Version). Her daughter was healed from that very hour. The woman, also called a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth in Mark 7:26, was not a preacher but she had faith as small as a mustard seed, which Jesus described as great. Her faith was not in anything great or righteous she had done but in Jesus.
But in Matthew 17, responding to the explanation of a father who brought his epileptic boy to the disciples of Jesus but they couldn’t cure him, Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” (Verse 17a New King James Version). Note the word faithless in that scripture. Mark 9:19 uses the phrase “faithless generation.” In other words, they had no faith.
But when His disciples asked him privately why they couldn’t cast out the demon from the boy, Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 17:20 New International Version). Some translations omit verse 21 which talks about prayer and fasting; they also omit fasting in the same story in Mark 9:29.
Note that earlier, Jesus said His disciples were faithless (faithless and perverse generation), and in Matthew 17:20, He said they had little faith. The New King James Version uses the word “unbelief.” A little faith is different from faith as small as a mustard seed. I suppose that having a little faith of the wrong kind would amount to being faithless and it would be unproductive. You don’t need a big faith to remove a mountain (a great problem or difficulty); you need faith as small as a mustard seed; you need the right kind of faith.
On different occasions, Jesus pointed out the little faith of His disciples (Matthew 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28). However, the problem was not the quantity but the quality. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you.
When the father of the demon-possessed boy came to Jesus, he asked Him to have mercy on them and help them, if He could (Mark 9:22). What was the reply of Jesus? “‘If you can’?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Verses 23-24 New International Version). May the Lord help you to overcome your unbelief. Your faith shall be as small as a mustard seed and uproot any tree of impossibility in Jesus’ name. You will command any mountain before you and it shall move in Jesus’ name.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, I believe; help me to overcome my unbelief. I repent of my unbelief in Jesus’ name. My faith shall uproot trees of difficulties and move mountains of problems in Jesus’ name.
(For over 900 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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