I Have a Mustard Seed

Most of the time I feel as if I have no faith.

I look at my life and my circumstances and I feel hopeless. I don’t feel as if I ever learn anything. No matter how often I’ve seen God work, I forget within a day, usually as soon as the next crisis hits. My sense of failure and hopelessness overwhelm and I am convinced that I don’t deserve God’s help. I tell myself that he should, in fact, abandon me in reality just as I imagine he should in the fantasy that fills my head.

One day the disciples came to Jesus and asked him to increase their faith.

He didn’t.

Instead, he told them that if they had but a mustard seed’s worth, they could move a mulberry tree. (Luke 17:5-6)

What was the point of telling them that?

Perhaps that the size of one’s faith is of no real consequence. What matters is the size of God. You are not the one who moves mountains, you are not the one that created the universe, it is not you that lifts you up when you are down. It is God. Stop imagining that it’s all your fault and that if only you had more faith then great things would finally happen to you. God is not tapping his foot waiting for you to play mind games with yourself until you stop worrying and start trusting. If you think it is all up to you, if only you were a better person, if only you could perfect your faith, if only you could overcome all your doubts, if only you weren’t such a loser, if only, if only, if only…

You cannot even add an hour to your life (Matthew 6:27). Your control over your life, what you do, what happens to you, is very limited. But God is not so limited as you.

Do you feed your children regularly? Is it dependent upon them having to feel a certain way, think a certain way, do special things or refrain from them? Do you make them sleep outside with nothing but their clothes if they misbehave? Do you contemplate ways to make them suffer until they figure out what it is you want from them? Do you give them reasons to not trust you, to not believe you, to not rely on you? Do you treat your children as a delinquent might torture a fly by pulling its wings off or by shining sunlight through a magnifying glass until it bursts into flame?

God loves you. God will take care of you. It is not up to you. Remember, God also said that he sends the rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). If you’re a Christian, you’re in Christ. You’ve been justified. There’s nothing left for you to do. He feeds birds and adorns flowers and they do nothing to deserve it: they have very little faith, but he still takes care of them. (Matthew 6:26, 28-30)

God knows what you need. He knows what he is doing. Your faith is tiny. But thankfully, God is quite a bit bigger than a mustard seed.

You do not have to entertain doubts. You have no obligation to their care and feeding. You do not have to offer them tea and crumpets. You don’t have to answer their phone calls or respond to their knocking at your door. Worry does not need to be your constant companion. You could choose to walk away from it, abandon it, kick it in the teeth.

Psalm 23 concludes with “ Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” “Follow” is what you’ll find in most translations, though the Hebrew word is a bit stronger. In fact, it has a generally negative connotation. It is used mostly in the context of a hunter following his game, a predator chasing prey, an army pursuing the enemy. What this means is that because we are human, we will spend our lives chasing worry and doubt, even as God pursues us with his love and goodness.

God will never give up the chase. Sometimes he’ll catch us and keep us for a while, as he lavishes us with his love and goodness—before we squirm away and start our dogged pursuit of misery all over again. Good thing God keeps catching us.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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