A mustard seed is among the smallest of seeds, but when it grows to full size; it is among the largest of herb plants and can often crowd out other herbs surrounding it. I admit, when I first heard the parable of the mustard seed, I did not understand it for I have never seen a mustard seed nor have I ever seen a mustard plant. I did not get the correlation between the mustard seed and faith. I will admit that I am still growing in understanding as I write.
So often, I have heard that faith can move mountains and that all I need is faith like a mustard seed. Once, several years ago while in church, mustard seed packets was passed out to the congregation so that we could get a tangible reference to mustard seed and faith. The seeds were definitely small. So how does such a small thing like a mustard seed translate to big faith?
Today, my understanding is clearer. While talking with a friend, he mentioned that in his conversation with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit told him that he did not have a faith problem, but a trust problem. This intrigued me and prompted me to pray and meditate on the subject.
What the Holy Spirit told me was that faith was comprised of belief and trust. These two components equaled the definition of faith we are taught as Christians. For many of us, it’s not belief that causes us not to have the fullness of faith, but the lack of trust.
The word ‘belief’ is a verb, an action word and is the mental acceptance of truth or fact. Belief means to have confidence in the truth or the existence of something (Dictionary.com). Proof is not necessary for belief. For example, as Christians we believe in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We do not need proof of this belief. We have decided that it is so and as a presupposition it is our foundation for all matters relating to the Godhead (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit). We are confident that the existence of God is factual. We have come to this conclusion and we let it rest there.
Trust, on the other hand, is closely related to belief by definition but is interpersonal and requires something more; a relationship. “To trust is to willingly relinquish control, making oneself vulnerable to someone else for a certain outcome or consequence. Trust grows as a result of positive experiences accumulated over time.” (teamtechnology.co.uk)
It is in our nature not to trust people we don’t know. We even teach our children not to talk with strangers as strangers are not to be trusted because we don’t know them. So if Jesus is a stranger to us, how can we trust Him? If we believe Jesus exists but we don’t know Him, than it is belief without trust, which can be classified as weak faith, or little faith.
Also, our trust in God can be damaged by our negative relationships with one another. Someone who knows and learns to trust God at a young age is less susceptible to a lack of trust in God than those who discover God as an adult or have experienced multiple hurts from those entrusted. Fullness of faith can take longer to develop as God also has to heal us from past hurts.
In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the phrase, “Oh you of little faith… “ is often repeated. This does not refer to someone who has no faith, but someone who has only a portion of faith; one who believes but does not trust. In Matthew 14:31, Jesus exclaims to Peter, “Oh you of little faith, why do you doubt?” It could be translated to mean this: “Oh you who believe but do not trust, why do you not trust Me?”
The Greek word for ‘little faith’ is Oligopistos, and it means trusting too little. The fullness of faith requires both belief and trust. Mustard seed faith is faith that starts out small, such as someone who has belief with a little bit of trust. As the seed is planted in the ground, it is watered upon and nurtured. The smallness of our faith is also watered and nurtured as we seek a relationship with the Godhead via the Holy Spirit and with baby steps over time; we begin to know God and begin to trust in Him.
And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17: 14-21, NKJV)
The word ‘unbelief’ in the above scripture comes from the Greek word Apistos which means a lack of belief in the divine power or in the power and promises of God. (Blueletterbible.org). It does not refer to the belief in God, but the trust in God taking action. The word ‘faith’ is translated from the Greek word Pistis and means belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ. (Blueletterbible.org).
In Matthew 17, Jesus is describing the fullness of faith, having the components of belief and trust, which is the faith that can move mountains.
A mustard seed, although small, carries the components for the fullness of faith, as is evidenced in its growth, even to the point of out-growing the rest of the herbs in the garden. It is not the size of faith that will hold us back as Christians, but the deficiency of faith; or the lack of the second component, trust. Our faith as Christians grows through the power of the Holy Spirit with belief and trust.
Mountains move because in our growing faith, we learn to see the mountains through our spiritual eyes, and not our natural eyes. Thus, we see the mountains from God’s perspective. He shows us the strategic path to overcome. There are many ways for a mountain to move. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the mountain can be moved out of our way, or we can be positioned in such a way as to go through, go over, or go around a mountain. In any case, the mountain has been moved out of our way.
The fullness of faith is not linear or of single dimension. It is like a cup of water. A straight line cannot hold water, as it is too narrow nor can it hold the fullness of faith. But a cup because of its volume and shape can be full of water. For even something as small as a thimble can hold water. The fullness of faith within us must look like a cup of water, not a straight line. Belief with trust through the power of the Holy Spirit expands the straight line into a cup and can then be used to hold our faith. As our faith grows in proportion to our growing relationship with Jesus; so also our cup will expand to hold our growing faith.
However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:21, NKJV)
Many have interpreted this part of the scripture to mean that faith to move mountains only comes by prayer and fasting but this is not the correct interpretation. Jesus is referring to the volume or heaviness of the power of the Holy Spirit necessary to cast out demons. Faith that produces this kind of power comes only by prayer and fasting. This level of power feels similar to moving your limbs under water; like gentle pressure holding you in place. This level of Holy Spirit power is so strong, that it is like steam coming from a cup of hot water. It can no longer be contained by the cup and overflows into the atmosphere. It is this intensity of power than casts out demons.
I have had the opportunity to experience this level of Holy Spirit power in a corporate setting. I remember that the church had just completed a cycle of corporate prayer and fasting. Many in the congregation were set free from demonic influence during this particular meeting and I had opportunity to witness someone being delivered from demons. I have experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions but the intensity of power differed with each encounter. In my remembrance, the most powerful presence of the Holy Spirit came with fasting and prayer.
Jesus is always faithful and knows where each of us stands in our faith walk. As we seek Him, situations arise that give us opportunity to build our trust in Him. He is patient with us and understands the obstacles that may stand in the way of us growing in faith. As always, we have to look at our situation not from our own desires or worldly expectations, but from a heavenly perspective. God loves us and desires for us to grow in the fullness of faith. God has a loving and patient attitude for us in this matter, not one that would lead us to condemnation and guilt. Gods’ patience and understanding, like a loving parent, also assists us with building trust. So the fullness of faith comes to those who diligently seek God.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV)
Since there is a comma, we could turn this verse around so that it reads like this:
He who comes to God must believe that He is, for He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. [Moreover], without faith [belief and trust] it is impossible to please Him.
So much focus has been given to the first part of the verse which states that it is impossible to please God, the later part of the verse becomes obscured. God rewards us when we diligently seek Him by increasing our faith. So He teaches us in this verse how to please Him. We please Him with our diligence in seeking Him. Then, He rewards us with increased faith. This verse brings us encouragement in telling us what to do to please God. Condemnation was never the purpose of this verse and yet many have felt condemnation and guilt for having little faith.
We can begin increasing our faith in this very moment. We can ask God to help us increase our trust, to teach us His will for our lives and to help us rest in His peace as He fashions us for our purpose in Kingdom business.
Heavenly Father, we humbly come before you in submission to Your will. We seek You for Your knowledge and wisdom and how to apply it to our lives. We ask for eyes that see and ears that hear Your purpose. Show us the strategic paths around the mountains in our lives. Let us know if it is Your will for us to fast and pray on a specific matter. But above all else, we praise You and give You Glory for all things that work for Your ultimate purpose. We ask and pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.