Are you familiar with the parable of the mustard seed? Jesus’s disciples are questioning “why they couldn’t drive out the demon?” Jesus answers with this: “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).
All my life I grew up thinking about that little mustard seed and what could be accomplished with such little faith. I would like to share what I’ve learned about that little seed and why these words from Jesus meant so much to the disciples he was talking to, starting with something that surprised me.
The mustard plant is a weed.
Noun | \ˈwēd\
1. A valueless plant, growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury to the desired crop.
2. An undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted.
One day while driving through vast farmland in Illinois, I was admiring all these beautiful fields of yellow flowers. Because we were passing farms and I am a city girl, I naturally thought these flowers were something that was being harvested. My friend who lived in the area explained to me that these yellow plants were weeds. “A weed? It is too beautiful to be a weed!” I said.
“It is unwanted by the farmers,” he said, “But they can’t stop it. It is wild mustard plant.”
Every year the farmers plant their crops and then harvest them. In the winter the land freezes over. Come spring, everything begins to bloom, including the mustard weed. The farmer is just getting ready to plant the thawed field when the weed blooms. The beautiful mustard weed has already gone to seed by the time the farmer is ready to plant the fields.
No matter what the farmer does, there is no getting rid of this undesirable weed. He sprays the yellow plants with weed killer and begins to sow his beloved crop. Soon the weed dies, but it is only gone for a season, because safely nestled into the fertile soil lies the seed that will sprout yet another plant next spring. With that small mustard seed that has been sown, the plant spreads and ensures its existence for yet another year.
I believe we can learn a lot from this delicate plant and its tiny, minuscule seed. While faith is not valueless or undesirable like a weed, the picture Christ is painting with this little parable is powerful. When we sow one seed of faith, when we do as Jesus said and believe him, that faith, which is the size of a mustard seed, breeds more and more faith—until what was once only one small seed, becomes fields of faith!
Jesus has cultivated seeds of faith into our dreams and visions. We are currently preparing our family and team to move to Serbia. Over time, what began as a small seed of faith in our call to Serbia has grown large, becoming faith to reach a city, faith to reach a people, and faith to reach a nation.
“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). As our faith grows, so does our capacity for the vision God has for the world and for our lives. Like a wild, unstoppable mustard weed, the Kingdom of God continues to grow among us, and nothing can contain it. The fruit of one tiny seed of faith in God yields fields of growth.
“Again, he said, ‘What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like, or what parable should we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches, that the birds can perch in it’” (Mark 4:30-32).
REFLECT AND RESPOND
- When you reflect on your own life, what seeds of faith has God already planted in you?
- Where might God want to expand your faith and invite you to expect more?
- If faith is like a mustard weed, it spreads. Where is God giving you faith to expand his Kingdom?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrea Thiele and her husband, Bryan, live near Phoenix, AZ. They launched the ChurchNEXT team Kineo, which seeks to transform the impact of the Church by taking them into the trenches of experience, discipling and equipping the Church through immersion with the poor and marginalized.
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