5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Increase our faith!” the disciples asked of Jesus. How many times have we prayed to God to increase our faith? Probably more times than we can count over our lifetimes. But Jesus’ response to the disciples is to talk about mulberry trees and mustard seeds. His disciples would have understood these agricultural allegories, whereas we need some background. It also help to understand that the disciples’ request was made right after Jesus told them they needed to forgive others seventy times seven and before he tells them that servants should do their duty, not expecting praise.
The mulberry tree was known to have a dense, deep invasive root system that could undermine the soil of a building’s foundation, causing it to collapse. Mustard seeds are tiny, yet when planted in fertile soil they grow rapidly into a tall tree. So Jesus is talking about God using our faith, that is tiny like a mustard seed, to do the impossible, like pulling a mustard tree out by the roots. Jesus is talking about the things that are deeply rooted in us, like anger, bitterness, greed, resentment, not forgiving others, all those things that prevent us from truly loving others. These are the things we hold onto that prevent us from growing in Christ, or asking for forgiveness, or serving God. They undermine our faith foundation and prevent us from bearing fruit.
When we ask God to increase our faith, it’s not because we want to do big things, it’s because we need God’s help through the Spirit to pull out by the roots the things that undermine out faith. This is a life long process, but with God’s help our tiny seed of faith will grow and flourish into a life of discipleship and service to others that will transform us, and the world.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
What are the things undermining our faith that we need God to pull out by the roots in our lives? When we feel we have only a ‘tiny faith’ it helps to remember how much God loves us and we can trust God to use our mustard seed sized faith to transform us, and the world.
Prayer: Holy and Loving God, pull out the things in us that are deeply rooted that keep us form loving and serving others. Use our ‘tiny faith’ the size of a mustard seed to love and serve others for your glory. Amen.