“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’
He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” – Luke 17:5-6
The answer Jesus gives to the apostles’ request seems interesting. They ask Him to increase their faith and He responds by telling them that if they have faith even as “small as a mustard seed”–a very small seed–they can tell a tree to “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”.
There are instances in which Jesus tells the disciples that they lacked the faith to perform certain miracles. When Peter walked on water for a moment and then looked at the sea and waves around him and began to sink because of His doubts, Jesus reached out to save him and said,
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:31
Then in Matthew 17 they were unable to drive out a demon from a boy. When they asked Jesus why they were unable to, He responded by saying,
“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.” – Matthew 17:20
At times the disciples didn’t have very much faith, but Jesus also says that it doesn’t take very much. Peter’s faith was small, but he did have enough to walk on the water momentarily, until he took his eyes off Jesus. When he did start to sink, He had faith that Jesus could save him, crying out,
“Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:29
Which Jesus did “immediately”. Peter wasn’t punished for his lack of faith, Jesus rescued him as soon as he cried out and began to sink.
At times we may not have much faith, but take heart! Jesus says it only takes a little faith–the size of a mustard seed–for God to do incredible things. Our faith might feel weak, but even just a little can move mountains.
In Mark 9, a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. He has faith, but it’s only a sliver.
“Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?”
‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’
‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ – Mark 9:21-23
The father has brought the boy to Jesus, but he still has doubts. Just before this conversation with Jesus the father had brought the boy to the disciples and they failed to heal his son, which may have shaken his faith even more. After Jesus responds to his half-hearted faith,
“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.” – Mark 9:24-27
The disciples implored Jesus saying “Increase our faith!”. The boy’s father exclaimed “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus tells them that with just a little faith, miracles are possible, in fact nothing is impossible, and He works a miracle of healing that no one else had been able to do.
Our cries to Jesus should be the same, knowing that it only takes a little faith because it is all for the Lord’s glory. God is glorified in our small seeds of faith. Our small faith points even more so to God’s great works.