A Mustard Seed of Faith

By Mary Wenzl

I have a vision, a reoccurring memory, of a time when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I am standing on the concrete steps that led to the lower playground at Randolph Elementary School, looking down at the pendent on my necklace. It is round, about the size of a marble, and is made of clear Lucite. In the center of the orb is a small seed, very tiny and light tan in color. It is a mustard seed. 

That necklace meant a lot to me. I do not remember where or why I got it, but I do remember that I valued it. I also remember the pain and anxiety I felt when I lost it. The necklace fell off somewhere on that play ground, and I looked for it repeatedly over the next few years. I never found it. I tried to replace it, but never found the same type of Lucite orb containing a mustard seed, though at the time, I believe it was a fairly common type of necklace.

The mustard seed necklace was important to me because of what it represented. Since childhood, I have remembered the Bible verse that must have sparked its creation, though my memory has not been precise. The verse is one of my “go to” verses I have relied on when faced with a challenge. The seed symbolizes one of Jesus’ promises to us, that if we have faith, even as small as a mustard seed, we can accomplish great things

Matthew 17:20 states: And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”  (NASB)

I do not normally remember the exact phrasing of a Bible verse, as I am not gifted in that way, but the words I have remembered and repeated to myself in times of distress were “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.”  I have taken this to mean that, as long as I have faith, even if my faith is as tiny as a mustard seed, God will hear my prayers and answer them.

When studying scriptures, I try to look at different versions of the same verse. Sometimes, another Bible version will lead me to a different interpretation than I initially gave the verse. This study tool also has been helpful in clarifying my understanding of a word or phrase. I found the NLT version of this verse to be helpful:

Matthew 17: 20  He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (NIV).

The disciples had been trying, unsuccessfully, to heal a boy who was possessed by a demon that caused him to harm himself by falling into the fire or water. The child’s father brought him to Jesus, and He healed him. Later the disciples asked Jesus, in private, why they had not been able to remove the demon from the boy, and Jesus responded with these words:

Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move.  There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (MSG)

Another version of this Bible verse helped me fine tune my understanding: 

He answered, “Because of your little faith [your lack of trust and confidence in the power of God]; for I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have [living] faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and [if it is God’s will] it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (AMP)

Jesus used parables and figurative language when instructing his disciples, and I love the way His visual pictures enhance His teachings. At a later time in His journey with the disciples, he again used the metaphor of a mustard seed, only this time Jesus was moving a Mulberry tree instead of a mountain: 

Luke 17:6  The Lord answered, “If you have faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea’ and it would obey you!” (NLT)

The apostles had been asking Jesus to show them how to increase their faith in order to do the work He required of them. The MSG version is particularly helpful in fully understanding the text (although it uses a different type of small seed and tree LOL):

But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.” (MSG)

Over the years, I have grown in my understanding of scripture, and with that growth has come an increase in my ability to put my unconditional trust in God. This Bible verse has helped me NOT lose heart when attempting to do a task that seems insurmountable, or when presenting a petition to God through prayer. I have grown more consistent in my ability to trust God, and to turn all my concerns over to Him as Jesus instructed us to do, by relying upon the Holy Spirit. I have peace of mind knowing that, if my prayers are not answered, it is NOT because of the size or amount of my faith. My request was, most likely, not within His will for me or the timing is not in God’s time. THAT concept I can live with! My life is no longer governed by my own works and actions; I can rely upon the promises of God found in the scriptures. Faith, even as small as the size of a mustard seed, is all that is required.

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