Luke 17:5-6 (NIV) The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “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.”
When Jesus told His followers that He required them to forgive the brother who sins against them, even if they sin and repent seven times in a single day, their response was that they would need a lot more faith than they currently had to pull that off. Such a standard seemed to them to require superhuman faith. But Jesus stunned them with His next words: they didn’t need more faith; they simply needed to use the faith that they already had.
People, then and now, grossly underestimate the power of even a small amount of faith. In a sense, faith is like uranium. Even as inefficient as our current methods of enrichment and exploitation are, even a small amount of uranium can be coaxed into yielding a massive amount of power. In the same way, even a mustard seed’s worth of faith is enough to perform mighty miracles.
At one point a couple of decades ago, mustard seed necklaces, with a single, small mustard seed embedded in a glob of plastic, were all the rage among Christians. But even though the symbol was appropriated by many people, the reality was not. The power of kingdom faith was no more evident in those who wore the mustard seed than in those who didn’t.
The disciples didn’t get Jesus’ message at this point. It was not until after Pentecost that they were able to see God’s power unleashed through their lives; world-changing power that knocked down satanic strongholds, performed mighty miracles, and rescued the lost left and right. And, as they watched those miracles happen through their own lives, their faith grew far beyond mustard seed proportions.
Of course, in all of this, “faith” must be properly defined. Real miracle-working faith is not something a person has to “work up.” It is not a trick to make someone believe something that they know to be false. Real faith is simply trusting that God will do what He has promised, and that He will enable what He commands. When God told Peter and John to speak healing into the life of a lame man outside the temple (Acts 3:1-8), they exercised faith when they spoke and pulled the man to his feet. When Peter prayed for direction in the room where Tabitha lay dead (Acts9:40-41), and God instructed him to tell her to get up, he exercised faith by doing just that. In none of these cases did it take a mountain of faith to move a mustard seed; just a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain.
A powerless Christianity betrays a serious lack of faith, or, at best, a serious lack of understanding of what huge things even a small amount of faith can accomplish. Hence Jesus’ teaching to His disciples that is just as relevant to 21st century Christians.
Father, I recognize that so many Christians today really do live completely powerless lives that are virtually indistinguishable from the lives of the non-Christians around us. Forgive us for this, and help us to really understand the need to exercise biblical faith, even if our faith seems small, so that You can do amazing, life changing things through each one of us. Amen.