What is the faith of a mustard seed?
"Assuredly, I say to you, 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." (Matt 17:20)
Sometimes people add a few words to this verse. They say, "Faith the size of a mustard seed." They take this verse to mean that even small faith can do large things. And there may be truth in that. But Jesus didn't say anything about the size of the seed in this passage. He said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed."
So what is that? Whatever it is, it is supposed to enable me to move mountains.
On a clear day, if I walk just a little way from my home, I can see the towering, perennially snowcapped twins called Long's Peak and Meeker. Now, I am a person of growing faith, but I have no desire to "put God to the test" by ordering those giants to move (Mat 4:7). If I did decide to try it, those mountains would doubtless stay put. And it's a good thing, too. Could you imagine the chaos if people went around literally rearranging geography all the time?
Prosperity preachers and their "Name it and claim it" devotees would tell me that if I had more faith, those folks in the mountains would have reason to tremble in their shoes. But I must ask them, "Is that your definition of faith? Does faith really mean getting all of your selfish whims and desires fulfilled, without any thought to God's plans for the world, for history, for the people who would be affected by your actions? Does faith mean telling God to move over so you can sit on His throne and be in charge instead of Him?"
God forbid that I should ever have such power! Yes, my faith gives me the power to move mountains…but only the mountains that God wants me to move. Aren't you glad to know that, mountain folk?
People of true faith in the one true God do not wish to move any mountains that the Lord wants left alone. Oh, they might long for the day when those mountains move, but they are not willing to step an inch outside of God's will in order to satisfy their own desires. (Or, if they do try to sinfully move those mountains themselves, God graciously refuses to let them succeed.) People of faith trust God's plan for where things are supposed to be. They do not want to usurp God's place, or to turn their religion into a maniacal power trip.
But if God tells them to move a mountain, they speak to it with confidence.
And it moves.
God gives us faith to accomplish His will, not our own. And true faith wouldn't want it any other way. True faith sees God on the throne, and is content to have Him there.
It is mustard-seed faith.
What is the faith of a mustard seed? It's a faith that says, "Oh, I'm a mustard seed. So that means that God wants me to be a mustard plant. He gives me His rain, His sunshine, His dirt, and His air, and everything I need to grow into what He designed me to be. And that's exactly what I want to do." And it does it.
Mustard seeds do not try to be dandelions, roses, oaks, or eagles. Nor do they transplant themselves from wherever God placed them, longing for some source of provision other than His. They are content to use what God gives them in order to grow into what God designed them to be.
Some people have been planted in horrible soil. Hard, rocky, and inconveniently located (say…right next to a blast-furnace, perhaps?) Everything in them wants to be somewhere else, growing into something else.
But let me say it again. Despite the pain and tears, despite the longing for a better day, mustard seed faith is content to use what God gives it in order to grow into what God designed it to be. This is the kind of faith that our Lord commends.
God may have planned to make me a literal mountain-mover, but probably not. I doubt that the residents of Meeker have anything to worry about. So if I'm not supposed to be a mountain-mover, what did God design me to be?
At the very least, He designed me to be my husband's wife, and my children's mother…and to do so with a heart full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.
Suddenly, moving mountains looks less impossible. In fact, compared to my actual assignment, making Long's Peak tiptoe to the East might be relatively simple.
My heart is evil. The amount of wickedness I've seen in my own heart has been sufficient to make me despair of it without an outright miracle. And God tells me that my heart is a whole lot worse than even I realize (Jer 17:9). I need divine help to become anything worth being.
Am I content to use what God gives me as I grow in this life? Will I access His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control for my protection and strength? Or will I seek to transplant myself into the world's soil, drawing up its hatred and rage and deceit and selfishness as my sources of power and safety?
Am I content to be what He designed me to be, or would I rather be something else, something modeled after my flesh's desires and cut from the world's pattern? Am I content to grow into a mere mustard plant, unnoticed, on harsh ground?
Lest you accuse me of setting my sights too low, let me remind you that mustard seeds have no idea what is going to become of them. In fact, Jesus did mention the size of mustard seeds in another passage. He said that though they are very small seeds, yet they grow up and become larger than all the other plants in the garden (Mark 4:31-32).
And God's Word tells us that we, too, do not know what we're going to grow into. But it gives us a hint…and if we let it sink in, it will blow our minds.
"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2 NKJV).
We shall be like Him.
WE shall be like Him. "We" means little folks like us, wholly undeserving little bits of matter that look like nothing in the world's eyes, but who are precious in the eyes of God because of our faith in Christ.
We SHALL be like Him. "Shall" means it's going to happen. It is a promise from the mouth of God, and it will not fail.
We shall BE like Him. "Be" is a state of existence, and this particular "be" is eternal in its scope. If we're drawing our life from the Vine (John 15:5-6), then our eternal state will be more glorious than we can imagine. Heaven isn't just about what we will enjoy. It's also about who we will become!
We shall be LIKE Him. Restored to being flawless image-bearers, like Adam and Eve were, except even better…because we won't ever sin!
We shall be like HIM! Like Jesus. Like the One we are growing to love more than anyone or anything on earth. Like the one whose glories will be the joy of Heaven forever.
This is the future that God had in mind when He fashioned the DNA of the little seeds called "you," fellow believers, and "me." It is the future that He planned for when He planted us in the soil we now find ourselves rooted in…and when He planted us in yesterday's soil, and in tomorrow's too. It is the future He is preparing for us as He buffets us with every wind of adversity, tries us with every drought, and refreshes us with every Spring rain. It is the future that He provides for, when He develops His likeness ever-so-slowly in us throughout this life (See Gal 5:22-23).
God grant us mustard-seed faith, a faith that is content to use what He provides (scorning other sources), in order to become what He designed us to be (scorning other outcomes).
I don't know about you, but at the end of this day I'd rather be able to look back and see increasing love in my heart, increasing joy, increasing peace (and all the other fruits), than to look back at any feats of geographical gerrymandering.
To know that the pains and heartaches and joys and efforts of today are preparing me to be like Him for eternity…what could be more glorious?