A moment of spiritual reflection is your faith the size of a mustard seed?
A moment of spiritual reflection : “….Truly I tell you, 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 17:19-20 NIV)
It takes biblical faith to accomplish what is Impossible
Last week, I received two small packages of Mustard (brown/black) seeds from Jerusalem, Israel. Of late, I have been curious to know much about why Jesus used an example of mustard seed five times in his teachings. Why Jesus did related faith and the kingdom of God to one of the tiniest seeds, size of a mustard seed? Let us try to bring the pieces of Jesus teachings by looking at the context of some of the verses about mustard seed in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and mark. I am going to focus much on his teaching about faith.
In Matthew 17:1-20, Jesus and three of his disciples had come down from the mountain of transfiguration. The Bible says he had taken with him peter, James and his brother John. Jesus during his ministry would isolate himself from the crowed to go for prayer. He has been setting an example for his disciples to follow. It seems that all other disciples were left with the crowd because the father of the demon possessed boy told Jesus, “I brought him to your disciple, but they could not heal him” (V.16) indicating that the disciple who were left with the crowd had tried to cast out the demon, but lacked enough faith required to do so. These disciple were embarrassed before the crowd that they planned to ask Jesus privately why they could not drive out the demon. (v.19). Instead of Jesus telling them because you have little faith, he used two adverbs explaining the degree of their faith as compared to the size of a mustard seed. Listen to what Jesus answered them, “Because you have so little faith.” (v.20) It’s like saying your faith has not matured enough to drive out such kind of a demon. It’s so little that it cannot match the size of a smallest seed (mustard) which you all know well.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus spoke about the sin of stumbling and making others stumble. That is sinning and causing others to sin. He warned the disciples and advise them to rebuke, correct and forgive. He went forth to a counsel them no matter how many times a person sin against them in a day, they must not withhold forgiveness. With the disciples, as with us today, this teaching of making others stumble and forgiveness is hard. We need to watch our conduct among ourselves lest we make some stumble. This teaching was so challenging to disciples that they requested Jesus to increase their faith in order to practice it. 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.” (Luke 17:6).
Let me say something I have come to know about the mustard seed. Jesus spoke about kingdom of God by using parables. In one of his parables, he used a mustard seed to describe the kingdom of God. “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.” (Mark 4:31). One thing we need to understand was that Jesus used earth in subjective form, relating to the local farmers who were familiar with the mustard seed. The Greek meaning of earth in this verse is soil or surface soil. As compared to other seeds the Jewish people planted, a mustard seed was the smallest. When dropped on the soil together with other garden seeds, it was the smallest. But it grew in to the height of approximately 3.8 miters. Larger than all planted plants of the garden. “Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants with such a big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:32). Matthew says, “Though it is the smallest of the seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds comes and perches in its branches.” (Matthew 13:32)
The truth is that our faith which starts as a small thing is able to grow to produce visible works of God. It is one thing to see the outcome after doing the obvious; while it is another thing to see the outcome of impossible. Faith moves the heart of God to act. This is a ‘revolutionary’ kind of faith. It brings sudden, complete change. Its outcome or effects are physically and spiritually visible. What makes many Christian Churches and individual believers take too long to witness the supernatural happenings among them? It is because of taking the obvious way. Obvious way is easily perceived or understood; clear, self-evident or apparent. The obvious way is closely related to ‘evolve’ which means to gradually develop. This obvious faith can be termed as ‘evolution faith.’ By ‘evolution faith,’ I don’t mean the false scientific debate about origin of humanity. I mean the kind of faith that awaits a lengthy process to witness tangible things happen in the lives of some churches and individual Christians. The ‘evolution’ kind of faith gradually develop from simple to substantial form. This is clear with many churches that wait for new born babies and weddings from other churches to increase the membership. The obvious has been putting many churches into stagnation and spiritually non reproductive. Someone would ask why we don’t see things happening in our lives and among us. We pray, pray, pray…; we fast, fast, fast….; we tithe, tithe….; and we do many things to serve God. Listen, the word of God has answers to help us understand all our detailed disabilities. At one instance, Jesus gave an example of the king of the heart that a lot of people have when they approach God in prayer. To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner. “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves they will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV).
We need to step out of the obvious and follow the word of God in order to serve Him effectively. Biblical faith is powerful to bring visible effects in the ministry of the church. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (God).” (Romans 10:17). Most of the times, we tend to substitute the word of God with our words. We tend to attract people to us without outlet to direct them to God. Jeremiah 23:17 says: this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” Biblical faith is grounded in the word of God. The Holy Scriptures. Biblical prayer is powerful enough to touch the heart of God to act. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” (James 5:17). Earnest means with expectation of a sign or something intended to happen. The complete Jewish Bible uses fervently instead of earnestly. Fervent means having or displaying a passionate intensity. It takes biblical faith to accomplish what is impossible. “But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:49). The word of God is sufficient enough to enable your faith to perform the works of God. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
By Rev. Andrew Mugo and Pr. Peninah Kariuki