I started a new series called Trials of A Pastor. One of the trials of being a pastor I haven’t written about yet is facing perpetual singleness. Many think pastors would find someone right away since they’re mostly godly men—the type of godly men Christian women want, but they’re wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told, “Since you’re going to be a pastor, I feel that I won’t be good enough for you and have as much faith as you.” This is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard, and no matter how many times I told them it’s not the amount of faith that matters, they wouldn’t listen, which got me thinking about faith. Eventually my mind came across this “mustard seed faith” Jesus talks about. It’s a faith to “move mountains.” How can a faith so small be so powerful?
The text comes from Luke 17:5-6, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.'” And Matthew 17:20, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, Jesus wasn’t being literal in that your faith can actually move mountains and force a plant to grow, but He was painting an important image with these words. At the beginning of Luke 17, Jesus was talking about the effect sin has on our lives. He was talking about the severity of causing someone to sin—that one would be better off being cast into the sea with a millstone around his neck than to cause another to sin. This is what it would look like:
Imagine being cast into the sea with that thing around your neck. So obviously, Jesus takes sin very seriously, and the disciples were worried about this, and rightly so. Who hasn’t caused another person to sin? I’m certainly guilty of this. Jesus goes on to say in verses 3 & 4, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” It’s difficult to rebuke someone whose lifestyle does not reflect their position as a child of God, especially when their initial reaction is to defend themselves and rationalise their sinful decisions. And it goes against human nature to freely forgive someone, even when they apologise, because our pride doesn’t want us to forgive, but Jesus makes no exceptions. He says, “Forgive him,” not, “Try to forgive him.”
In Mark 11:22-23 Jesus says to the disciples, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” The disciples recognised their guilt, so they asked Jesus for greater faith so they’d be able to do the things Jesus asked of them. They had a mountain to move, and they thought an increase in their faith would enable them to move this mountain of sin and doubt. So, what does Jesus do? Does He lay His hands on them and give them “mountain moving faith”? No, He doesn’t. Instead, He says even faith as small as a mustard seed is enough. The size of faith doesn’t matter because God is the one doing the work through faith. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “but [if he] believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Faith is never something we do; it is always God in action.
Think of faith as a key to opening a door that brings God into our lives. God gives us that key of faith; it is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Does it matter if you have a bigger key ring? No, it doesn’t; all you need is that one small key, and God gave it to us. He opens the door to faith for us with that one small key we can always use, and He’s the one who moves the mountains for us. We think the bigger the problem, or the bigger the sin, or the bigger the illness, the more faith we need. No, that’s not how faith works. Why do you think Jesus stressed so much to have the faith of a child (Matthew 18:3)? Because their faith is so simple. In spite of their inexperience and lack of worldly knowledge, they don’t use their questions as an excuse to doubt; they simply believe without question. It is not until we acquire worldly knowledge when we begin to question God. Perhaps that is why childlike faith is so pure, because with our worldly knowledge it competes with our faith, attempting to nullify it. But children have no worldly knowledge; all they have is faith. Jesus didn’t increase the faith of the disciples because faith in itself is all we need, no matter how small.