Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed
When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not heal a little boy who was demon possessed, Jesus answered: “Because of your lack of faith, for assuredly, I say to you, if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to a mountain, ‘Move, from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
A mustard seed is a little seed, so Jesus seemed to be saying that just a little faith was all it would take to move mountains of evil and sicknesses and problems in God’s Name. The disciples’ faith must not have been as big as a little mustard seed since they couldn’t heal the boy!
Must we have enough faith for our prayers to be answered and people be healed? If we must have enough faith for our prayers to be answered, then how much faith is enough faith? These questions and other similar ones have gone round and round Christian circles for ages.
Some Christians insist that if a person isn’t healed when we pray that either the sick person or the persons praying did not have enough faith. And other Christians insist that we can’t blame the person praying for not having enough faith when the person they are praying for isn’t healed. Someone usually brings up the many instances when loved ones died even though faithful Christians were diligently praying for them believing that God would heal them.
First let’s read the story in the Bible about the boy the disciples couldn’t heal “…A man came up to Jesus and knelt before Him and said: ’Lord have mercy on my son, for he is demon possessed and suffers severely, for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.’
Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Oh faithless and perverse generation. How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring the boy here to Me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and the child was cured from that hour.
Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Why could we not cast the demon out of the boy?’ And Jesus answered, ‘Because of your lack of faith: for assuredly I say to you, if you have faith the size of 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. However, this kind of demonic illness does not go out or leave except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:14-17)
Jesus was disappointed with his disciples in this story. He had recently given his disciples the power to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1,8) and yet they failed. Later they were successful in healing and casting out demons. (Luke 10:17) It would seem that both the disciples and the people Jesus was ministering to both were still unbelieving and lacked faith.
When they couldn’t heal the little boy, Jesus not only rebuked the disciples but He also rebuked the people of that day and perhaps their religious leaders when He said: “Oh faithless and perverse generation!” (Matthew 17:17) Bible scholars believe that Christ was saying that fewer healings can take place in an environment of general faithlessness and unbelief. Scripture tells us that even Jesus could not do many miracles or healings in his hometown of Nazareth since the religious leaders and the townspeople of Nazareth were unbelieving. (Matthew 13:58 and Mark 6:5,6) Scripture teaches us that unbelief stops God’s power.
Jesus asks the father to bring his sick boy to Him. When all other helps fail, we are always welcome to come to Christ. Jesus takes the little boy and “rebukes the devil.” (Matthew 17:18) Jesus Christ is the authority that breaks the power of Satan. Satan cannot stand before the rebukes of Christ. The little boy was cured from that moment on. It was an immediate cure, and a perfect one.
And we who belong to Jesus Christ can rebuke Satan in the Name of Jesus Christ. His Spirit lives in us and through His Spirit we can pray for the sick. Jesus takes this occasion when He healed the little boy to teach us more about the power of faith. He said: “If you have the faith as big as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall do wonders.” (Matthew 17:20) He did mention however that the demon possessed child was a tough case that would require fasting along with believing prayer.
Is this Bible story teaching us that if someone isn’t healed from their illness or problem when we pray, that either we or the person in need of prayer doesn’t have enough faith? Many Christians believe that this is true. We all know of dedicated Christians who have fasted and prayed for long periods of time with faith in Christ and still the person they are praying for has not been healed or the problem has not gone away. We know that many prayers are not answered the way we think they will be answered. Why does it seem like we sometimes do not move mountains when we pray with faith like Jesus said that we would? I don’t have all of the answers. But Scripture has a lot to say about the subjects of answered prayer and faith. The simple answer is that if we pray believing (having faith in God) for something good that is in God’s will, we will receive it. The Bible says this about prideful unanswered prayer: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
But still we know of many who have prayed for years with humility and faith for loved ones to be healed and it would seem that their prayers were not answered. We want our answers right now but humility teaches us that the answer may be “yes” but we may have to wait. Or the “yes” may come in a different form than we expect. God asks us to trust Him and to humble ourselves to wait for Him. Jesus’ promises stand and they are true in our lives when we believe, even if they are not answered until we get to heaven.
God promised Abraham and Sarah a son and they had faith in God that He would give them their promised son. But they had to wait many long years for their son and Sarah passed her time to be able to bear a child. Abraham was around one hundred years old and Sarah nearly ninety when Sarah finally gave birth to their son, Isaac. Nothing is impossible with God! No wonder when their baby was finally born they named him “Isaac” which means “laughter”. All they could do was laugh after their very long wait. If we believe God’s promises, we will be laughing too when our prayers are answered!
Jesus had given his disciples the gift to cast out demons, but He may not have given you and me that gift. All Christian believers are given gifts from the Holy Spirit to do jobs here on earth and fit in to the body of believers. Scripture says: “There are different gifts but the same Spirit. There are different ministries but the same Lord. … The gifts of the Spirit are given to each believer for the profit of all. For to one is given the word of wisdom, through the Spirit, and to the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith, by the same Spirit, and to another the gifts of healing,…, to another the gift of miracles,..., to another the gift of prophecy,… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-12)
We may not have been given the gift of healing but we have all been told to pray and our Father in heaven will answer. Jesus’ words are for all of us who believe when He promised: “If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, ‘Move and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” All we need is faith the size of a mustard seed!