Posted by: New in Every Way | May 29, 2013

Mustard Seeds and Mountains

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bush in the picture is a mustard plant. Our Israeli tour guide casually pointed it out to us–and, as you can see, several of us whipped out our cameras. After that, I noticed this yellow-flowered plant everywhere.

The reason I mention this shrub is because of what Jesus said about its seeds:

“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” (Matthew 17:20). 

The mystifying thing about this statement is that Jesus, at another time, said the mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds. How can a tiny bit of faith produce enormous results?

What Jesus said right before this gives one clue. He had just chided his disciples for their unbelief. Unbelief neutralizes faith. Perhaps if their faith had been been small, but pure–with no trace of unbelief–it would have succeeded in “moving the mountain” before them.*

However, there’s another clue, which is also very helpful. It is in one of Jesus’ parables.

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32). 

Faith is a key ingredient of living in the kingdom of God. It is one of the things that grows as the kingdom becomes larger and larger in our lives. So, when Jesus said that faith like a mustard seed could move a mountain, I believe he meant that

  • small faith can do amazing things–whenever you have no doubt at all
  • small faith can grow into great faith*–which works all the time, because doubt has been replaced by complete confidence

Years ago, my neighbor and I were talking about a mutual friend, “Jane,” who was scheduled for surgery–again. My neighbor told me that she was planning to go the hospital with her because her husband never did. That night, when I tucked my kindergarten-age son into bed, we both prayed for successful surgery for Jane. Mentally, I asked, “And, Lord, let her husband accompany her.” I can’t say I asked with much faith–just much compassion.

A couple days later, I talked with my neighbor again. She told me, “Jane’s surgery went well. And guess who sat with me in the waiting room? Jane’s husband.”

I was awed. Not only had the Lord listened to my one small request, but he had seen to it that I knew about his answer. Through this incident I began to realize that God cares about the small stuff and that he encourages his children to come to him with their concerns. My faith began to grow. You know, you can’t believe God when you don’t know “he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).

Years later, when my son was a sophomore in high school, his leg was injured in a Monday night JV football game. All day Tuesday, he struggled to walk from one classroom to another. Wednesday morning I joined my prayer buddies for our weekly 5:00 AM meeting. We prayed for Mark’s healing. When I arrived home at 7:00, he was in the kitchen fixing himself a bowl of cereal.

“How’s your leg?” I asked him. Mark looked at me, dumbfounded. He was so totally restored that he had awakened, dressed, come downstairs, and walked all around the kitchen without even remembering his injury.

I no longer doubted God would intervene. I was making bigger requests. My faith had grown.

Here’s my point: Start small. Get to know God’s kindness and care for you by asking for simple things. You will begin approaching him with more and more confidence.

Yes, your faith can move a mountain. If not today, then eventually–if you let it grow. You have Jesus‘ word on it.


*I first heard these two ideas on faith from my pastor, Ronald Callahan, in a recent sermon.

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