That’s the context of Jesus’ exchange with his disciples in Matthew 17, but we need to cross-reference it with Luke 9 to get the bigger picture. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels because their accounts often overlap, filling in blanks here and there in the related accounts.
So Luke 9:1 informs us that Jesus had recently “called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.” He then sent them out to heal the sick and preach the good news. In both Matthew 17 and Luke 9, we learn that shortly after, a man with a son tormented by an evil spirit approaches Jesus and tells him his disciples were unable to heal the boy. That’s where we then encounter the famous quote in Matthew 17:20.
The disciples ask Jesus privately why they were unable to heal the boy.
He tells them: “You don’t have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
God Gives Us Everything We Need
Jesus isn’t asking for much — just a wee bit of faith. Faith that God is who He says He is. That God loves you and is working things out in your favor (not necessarily based on what you imagine or desire). That you are capable of doing what He’s called you to do, because He Himself empowers you. That He is with you in good and bad times, during times of contentment and during times of great pain.
Remember, Jesus had just gathered his disciples and “gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.” Did you catch that? He gave them the power and the authority to do miracles — specifically, cast out all demons. Yet, they failed to help this man’s son, who was tormented by an evil spirit or demon. The disciples had everything they needed handed to them. But they lacked the one thing they needed to supply themselves — faith.
This reminds us that God supplies everything we need to live an abundant life (which isn’t about financial wealth). But sometimes faith is required to take hold of His provisions and walk in His blessings. And He isn’t asking for much faith, just enough that you will step out and show you trust Him.
Nurture Your Mustard-Seed Faith
But how do we cultivate this mustard-seed faith? Here are a few ways:
- Focus on the object of your faith: Instead of dwelling on your doubts, turn your attention to God’s promises, character, and love. Anchor yourself in the unwavering truth that He is with you, always.
- Nurture your faith through action: Faith isn’t just a feeling; it’s expressed in our actions (“faith without works is dead”). Take small steps of obedience, even when they seem daunting. Every act of trust, every prayer offered, strengthens the muscle of your faith.
- Connect with a supportive community: Surround yourself with people who share your faith and will encourage you on your journey. This can be friends at church, in a small group, or even with Christian co-workers or neighbors. Their faith can ignite and amplify your own, just as a single flame can spark a roaring bonfire.
Faith isn’t about having all the answers or feeling perfectly confident. It’s about trusting in Someone bigger than yourself, even when you can’t see the path ahead. It’s about taking that leap of faith and allowing God to help it grow and deepen.
So, the next time doubt creeps in, and your faith takes a hit, remember the mustard seed. Let its tiny size be a reminder that even the smallest spark can ignite a fire of faith, capable of moving mountains and allowing you to overcome obstacles and achieve good things in life.
Embrace the power of a mustard-seed faith. Start small, nurture it with trust in God and steps of action, and watch it grow to a point where your first instinct will be to knock back every and any doubtful thought with confidence in God and your relationship with Him.
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