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"True Mustard Seed Faith."| July 7, 2024

Updated: 4 days ago


Scripture:  Matthew 17:20-21; First Samuel 15:1-9; 19-22; Luke 5:1-11  


Good morning, Strangers Rest! This morning, the title of my message today is “True Mustard Seed Faith.” But before I talk about mustard seed faith, I want to remind you of what the Bible says about faith in general.


Let us start with Hebrews 11:1 which says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.”  This verse tells us that our faith brings those things that we are hoping for into reality because we choose to believe what God has said. Because we know what we are hoping for will come, we begin to prepare and make plans to receive it. Our faith is our conviction – our unwavering, you can’t talk me out of it belief – that we have received from God what we have asked for, even though we may not have it in our hands.


Next Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  There is no way possible for us to please God without having faith. Now I want you to hear and understand what I am about to say Strangers Rest. Giving our tithes and offerings out of fear of reprisal does not please God. Singing songs of worship because no one else will does not please God. Preaching does not please God. Our tithes and offering; our singing; and our preaching please God when we do them in faith – when we do them in reverence to Him as our Creator and as our Father.


And Strangers Rest, God loves us so much that He has given all of us a measure of faith to start with. Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” I want to give you an example to help you understand the “measure of faith” that God has given to each of us. Years ago, my brother and I were talking about suits. He always bought suits off the rack and they never fit properly so I suggested that he go to a tailor and have a suit “tailor-made” or “measured” to fit him. Strangers Rest, God has “tailor-made” for us the faith He knew we would need to accomplish His will. He looked at Sis. Long and said she will need this measure of faith to work with My choirs. He looked at Dea. Jones and said he will need this measure of faith to get a key and pray for My people. What I want you to understand is this: God has given us, individually, the means to please Him – the faith we need to get started doing what He wants us to do for Him.  


Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our faith begins to grow as we hear and process and implant the Word of God within us. I want to pause here for just a minute. It says faith comes by hearing the word of God. If you are entering into a new relationship with someone, how do you get to know them? You get to know them by spending time talking to them – understanding who they are and how they think. With this information you are able to determine if this is someone you want to spend more time with or cut bait and run. The more time you spend with them and talking to them you begin to understand how they respond to different situations based on what you have learned about them. Now stay with me and listen closely, the same applies to our relationship with God. Many people claim to have a relationship with God but they do not know how He thinks. Why? Because they do not spend time in His word! Many people pray to God and then wonder if He is going to answer their prayer. Why? Because they do not know Him well enough to understand how He answers prayers and the promises that He has made to His children. Many people claim to have a relationship with God and still walk around with an attitude of unforgiveness because they truly do not know how God feels about this. It’s in His word but they are not reading and studying it to find out.


My brother’s pastor told this story recently: “A pastor friend of mine was at the hospital bedside of a lady who had but a short time remaining in this life. Though this lady absolutely professed Jesus as Savior, she had for a long time been holding unforgiveness toward someone who had wronged her. The pastor pleaded, begged and implored her to forgive, but the lady refused and said, “No, I will not forgive (that person).” Moments later, the lady’s eyes suddenly opened wide, her face contorted with sheer terror, she sat up and began screaming in horror, “NO! NO! NO!” then fell back dead. Believe what you will, but that is definitely NOT the way a person passes from this life into eternity with Jesus.” If you claim to be in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ and you are still refusing to forgive, your faith is dead and you could be the one crying out “No! No! No!” when you take your last breath. Faith comes through God’s word and without His word your faith cannot grow!


Finally we have Second Corinthians 5:7 which tell us, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Too many times we take our eyes off Christ and focus on what is going on around us. When we do that, our faith comes under attack because we are looking at everything from a worldly point of view. We cannot walk by what we see which goes back to what we read in Hebrews 11:1 about faith being “…. the evidence of things not seen.”


I wanted to refresh your memory of these few verses about faith so that as I talk about the mustard seed you will be able to understand why it is so important that we apply that Scripture correctly. Now I am sure most of the adults have heard someone say that you only need faith the size of a mustard seed to receive from God. People have brought small vials containing a mustard seed to wear as jewelry as a reminder of how little faith they need to do something for the Lord. What I am going to show you from the Bible this morning is that if you believe all you need is a little faith to do great things for the Lord then you do not understand the point Jesus is making with the mustard seed example.


This morning, I will show you why Jesus used the grain of mustard seed as a teaching about faith to His disciples. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds compared to other seeds. But when it is planted, it changes. You see, if the mustard seed remains a seed it offers no additional benefit to anyone or any animal. But, when it is planted and becomes what God intends it to be, it provides a benefit.  We need to understand this because the Bible speaks of our faith growing. So, while our “measure of faith” might start out small because we are newborn babes, it is not supposed to remain that way. Paul wrote in Second Thessalonians 1:3, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.” Our faith is expected to be growing!


Let me give you an example. I started out as a child - I was not born grown or the size that I am. I started off as a small baby and grew into what I am today. I came into this world with some things already planted within me, things that may have given my parents many headaches. For example, when I was a baby, no one taught me to cry when I was hungry or when I needed to be changed – it was something already within me. When I did it, I learned without understanding it, that I would receive something when I screamed at the top of my lungs (some adults still think this way). Life was good back then. I went places without having to walk or drive because there were always people willing to carry me if I smiled and drooled enough. I was fed whenever I cried, so I cried a lot and was fed. Do you know how wonderful it is to be fed as a child? Think about it, someone prepares your meal and then holds you and stuff the food in your mouth repeatedly? I mean come on it doesn’t get much better than that when you are a baby.


Now here is my point; all the things I just mentioned needed to be done for me because, as a baby, I could not do them for myself. However, as I began to grow and mature, more was expected of me. When I was able to feed myself, I was expected to do that. The older I got I was expected to handle my own business. This is why it can be a struggle for some as they get older to give up some of their independence – it is not easy to be dependent on others as we were when we were a child. But imagine if you will, if I could take care of myself but I wanted the life I had as a baby. Imagine me refusing to eat or clean myself because I just loved being taken care of. Imagine me lying on the couch at 30 years old crying because I was hungry and needed to be changed. Again, I am not talking about someone who is disabled and is unable do these things for themselves. I am talking about someone who is capable, but who refuses to do them. Can you see how frustrating that would be for my parents? So take that to the spiritual. God has given us a measure of faith and we take it and do absolutely nothing with it. And that is why we need to understand the mustard seed story. Many people are proud that they have “mustard seed” size faith and doing nothing with it.    


Matthew chapter seventeen records the story about Jesus’ disciples unsuccessfully attempting to cast out a demon out of a man’s son. When the man brought his son to Jesus, Jesus cast the demon out. Later, His disciples asked Him why they could not do it. When Jesus answered their question, this is what He told them according to Matthew 17:20-21. “(20) So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for 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. (21) However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Jesus told them that they did not have enough faith and He used the comparison to a mustard seed. Before I go further, please understand that the disciples had some faith as they already had experience casting out devils and healing the sick. However, this devil was more difficult, and they did not have “enough” faith to cast it out. The faith they were walking in was not developed enough for them to handle this problem and they failed.


If you consider a mustard seed, it is a very small seed. It is so small that one could be placed in a person’s hand, and it would almost be invisible and yet when it is planted it grows into a very large shrub. The rabbis used a “grain of mustard” to characterize something as very minute. The mustard plant, however, can be described as a tree putting out great branches. Even though it was the smallest of seeds, it germinated and grew quickly. So Jesus told His disciples if they had faith “as a mustard seed” nothing would be impossible to them. Notice that Jesus did not say they needed just a “small or minute” amount of faith because they had that already. But He said they needed faith similar to that of the essence of a mustard seed. In order words, their faith should be like the mustard seed when it is planted, not when it is dormant as a seed. Many well-meaning preachers of the gospel have taught that Jesus was comparing faith to the size of the mustard seed, meaning just a little. What Jesus was telling them was their faith needed to be like the nature of a mustard seed when it is planted, germinates and then begins to grow quickly into what it is meant to be. I am basing this on what Jesus told His disciples earlier about the mustard seed. Now if He explained it to the disciples earlier, then His mentioning it again in chapter seventeen would not have confused them and they would have understood what Jesus meant. Our confusion happens because we read the second time Jesus mentions the mustard seed and rarely are we pointed back to how He explained it the first time. Let us see what Jesus said about the mustard seed the first time in chapter thirteen.


In Matthew 13:31-32 the following is recorded, “(31) Another parable put He forth to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: (32) which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32) When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we entered the kingdom of heaven as children with mustard seed faith, with faith that needed to be developed. That’s why Jesus emphasizes, not the mustard seed, but what happens when it is planted and nourished. The mustard seed is the starting point for faith. And Jesus tells us how to build our mustard seed faith into a tree of faith with the parable of the Sower in verses 3-9 and in verses18-23 of this chapter. So, God’s expectation is that our faith will be “as a” mustard seed and when it is planted it will grow and produce something.


As our faith grows, and it’s a continuous process, it makes the impossible possible, the unbelievable believable and the insurmountable surmountable. This will not happen if our faith remains the size of a simple mustard seed. Remember, when the disciples first started walking with Jesus He began to teach them. Then He sent them out to heal the sick and cast our devils and we see this in Matthew 10:1. The verse says, “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” (Matthew 10:1) They were walking in faith at this moment in time, but their faith had not grown to the level where they could cast out a stubborn devil. Do you see the difference? Our faith must grow for us to do the difficult things.


In my message last week, I told you that all of us are running in a race. We have our individual sprints, and we are running together in a relay. How we run in those relays are dependent upon how we are running in our own personal sprint race. Faith – growing faith – is required for us to run in our race. We cannot run our race without faith. Remember what Paul told Timothy when he was preparing to depart this earthly life? He said in Second Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul said he had fought the good fight, finished his race and kept the faith. Through everything he was dealing with Paul kept his faith in Christ – he never surrendered! This is an example of true mustard seed faith that has grown and matured – it will sustain you in the best and in the worst of times!  


Strangers Rest let me get on our streets. Like I said last week, some of us are running in races while some of us are on the sidelines trying to decide which race, if any, we want to join. But I want to speak to the race runners right now. While you are running you cannot doubt where you are going. You see, you must be focused on crossing that finished line. You cannot take your eyes off the prize. You cannot allow your faith to get distracted. This happens when we doubt. James said the following in James 1:5-8, “(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” 


James said if we needed wisdom we should ask God, but we must ask in faith and no doubt. If you are running in your race, you must run with faith and no doubt. What does this look like you ask? Well, you’re running hard, but then your mind starts to wonder. First, you start thinking about where you can finish your race. Then you start wondering should you finish your race. As these questions begin to circulate in your mind your pace begins to slow. People start passing you, but you don’t notice because you’re trying to figure out if you’re running in the right race and can you actually finish it. Your legs start getting tired until you finally slow to a walk still trying to figure out if you can finish the race. This is what doubt does when it tries to attack our faith. We are believing God for an outcome when everything and everyone around us says it cannot be. We have gone to God in faith and now we must stand alone because no one else is willing to stand with us. True mustard seed faith that has grown and matured allows us to stand. Even if we have a moment when we might get close to doubting, our faith kicks into overdrive and we refocus. We rest our faith on the promise Paul mentioned to the Church in Philippi, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 1:6) 


Before I close, I want to speak to those of you who might be still on the sidelines, possibly making suggestion, but definitely not running in a race. You claim your mustard seed faith and you might even have a trinket containing a mustard seed as a reminder of your faith. You cherish your faith in Christ but you’re still on the sidelines. You’re waiting to see what will happen. You’re waiting to see which side will win before you join a cause. If that is you, let me tell you something about your mustard seed faith – IT IS DEAD! James wrote the following in James 2:14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” Then he gives an example of what faith in action looks like. He said, “(15) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? (17) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  (James 2:15-17) 


If you are sitting on the sidelines when the work is being done your faith is dead! And James gives a perfect example of what this looks like. We have talked about this a little in Bible study. James gives the example of someone in need, and you know the person is in need because they told you. But instead of helping them, you suggest that they seek out help from one of the nonprofit organizations. Or maybe you tell them that you will be praying for them. But what you do not do is treat them like your spiritual brother or sister and try to meet their needs. This is part of the work we do as evident of our faith. If you are sitting on the sidelines just giving advice and not working, this is you. If you know someone is in need and you offer to pray for them while not giving them the help they need, then this is you! Your faith is dead because it has no works. And what is so terribly bad is that this happens as a Church – not just individually – as a Church. You can tell the health of a Church when that Church assists its members in a time of need. But many Churches, instead of being proactive, wait for the member to come and ask for help. Then we judge whether or not the person is worthy of being helped – you know, if their situation was of their own making. Then once we decide that they are worthy, then we help them begrudgingly – really ensuring they will never come back again for help. Finally, once we have begrudgingly helped them, we let it leak out that we did so others in the Church now know who the needy people are. So Strangers Rest, if this is this Church, then a change is needed. As I told the Bible study class, if you have a benevolence budget that is never utilized because the people in need would rather be in need than ask for help because of how they are made to feel when they do – THAT IS A PROBLEM! You all can review this during your quarterly business meetings and see if that line item ever changes. All I am saying is that the people who faithfully attend and support their Church should feel confident that they will be supported in their time of need.


We talk a lot about sins of commission – things that we do that we know we should not be doing. But I want to warn you this morning about the sins of omission – when we know we should do something and we don’t do it. James tells us in James 4:17, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” I believe this applies to the individual and to the Church as a whole – yes a Church as a corporate body can sin, we talked about that last week. If you are sitting on the sidelines and you know you should be doing something and you are choosing not to, then for you that is sin. If someone comes to you for help and you have the ability to do it and you don’t, understand, for you, that is sin. If you have the opportunity to speak to someone, but you do everything in your power to avoid them for whatever reason, for you, that is sin. If you know to do good and you choose not to do it that is sin and we must remember that sins of omission will come into judgment just as sins of commissions. When we do not the good that we know we should do, as well as the evil we do that we know should not be done, both will be condemned. If you are walking with God as you confess, then your conscience will always direct you to what is good – you cannot get away from it. So if you have the opportunity to put your faith at work by doing good, in whatever situation that might be, and you choose not to, that is sin and it carries the same penalty as all the other “grave” sins that we talk about and repent from. Walking with God in faith requires a commitment to do it right – every single hour of every single day.  


James said, “(21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? (22) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? (23) And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS." And he was called the friend of God. (24) You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:21-24) James mentions Abraham. He said that Abraham’s faith was made evident in his work – in this case, his obedience. James said that we are not justified by faith alone – we must do something. We can’t sit on the sidelines and throw out suggestions without getting in the race. Finally, James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26) We cannot walk in faith without doing something.


True mustard seed faith is faith that continues to grow and mature until it removes all doubt about the truthfulness of God’s Word from our lives. Jesus said of the mustard seed, “(32) which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:32) If you have faith as a mustard seed, your faith is growing because you are working. The more you work the more you must believe God for the outcome. If you are not doing anything, what outcome are you believing God for? If your mustard seed faith still exists as the seed, you must put it to work. For a seed to produce anything, the seed itself must go into the dirt and die. Upon its death the seed produces life. We have a measure of faith, but for it to grow we must implant the Word of God within us and then put it to work. Remember, Romans 10:17 say, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) Once you hear it, you must do something with it. Jesus said in His teaching on the Sower, “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23) When we hear the word, believe the word and understand the word, we can then produce fruit. That fruit is produced because our faith is being put to work. If your mustard seed faith is the same as when you received it, it’s time to put it to work.


Until next time, “The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

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