When Mustard Outgrows Itself

mustard plant in a fieldYou probably know the story.

There were the disciples, ministering as usual – miraculous healings here, astounding deliverances there (just the normal stuff, you know). Then this guy pushes his kid up front. The disciples reach out their hands, speak the word and . . . Wait. Is that foam coming from the boy’s mouth?

No problem. They rebuke the demon and . . . the kid’s eyes glaze over, spittle drips from his mouth. And what, pray tell, is that strange croaking noise coming from his throat?

At this point Dad grabs his boy by the collar and hauls him off to Jesus who, of course, heals him instantly.

“Your problem, boys,” Jesus explains, “is the size of your faith. If it was even the size of a mustard seed you would be moving mountains.” (Matthew 17:14-20)

Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute!

A Seed Too Small

How was it they had been working all those miracles before? Did their faith suddenly shrivel? Does the measure of a mustard seed vary with the job?

Jesus described mustard as the smallest of crop seeds, “but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Mark 4:30-32 NKJV). A remarkable statement, because mustard is usually classified as an herb. Full grown it might qualify as a bush, but there simply isn’t enough DNA in that seed for it to become a tree.

Nevertheless, even seed-sized faith is hard to come by. I don’t know what happened with the disciples that day. One minute, miracles were popping up like a game of Bubble Mania. The next minute, everything came to a grinding halt.

Maybe they had a Peter moment (water-walking just fine until the waves got big). Perhaps the condition of that last patient in the healing line so startled them that fear plucked faith right out of their hearts. Jesus warned this might happen in another parable, where seeds were snatched away or withered up before they had time to grow roots. (Mark13:3-9)

Believing is Work!

Jesus called believing the “work” of God in John 6:29. There’s nothing “rote” about trusting God, in other words. No special techniques. No magic words. Securing small faith in our hearts long enough for it to drive roots down deep is nothing short of labor in my book.

Here’s an amazing thing about Jesus’s analogy. He likened faith to a seed – a living thing with the ability to grow. It’s not that a tiny bit of faith is enough to do the job, it’s that the longer we hold onto it, the more it will grow.

In fact, in the Father’s hands, trust that starts as bird seed can actually grow beyond its normal potential – it can stretch up into a tree-sized bird sanctuary.

How about you? What do you do to keep your faith strong? Scroll down and leave a comment.

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