As fathers, we can often feel drained. We get drained emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually. When we get drained spiritually, it can feel like we don’t have enough faith to face the big things of life – big problems and big dreams. But is there a way to grow our faith so we don’t hit a wall and feel as though our faith is inadequate for where we need to go?
Jesus’ disciples wondered this same thing. When they asked Jesus for more faith, Jesus essentially said: be humble and obey God completely, and with that faith, which is like a mustard seed, anything can happen. (Luke 17:1-10)
Here’s the thing: ALL faith is like a mustard seed, not just some faith.
When Jesus said “with faith as small as a mustard seed” he was describing all faith, because when we trust Him completely and obey in the small things, then they grow into amazing things.
Remember, Jesus said: “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” (Luke 16:10)
With the faith of a mustard seed, we trust God completely with little things and our ability to trust Him grows to where we can trust Him to move mountains. It’s not that we trust Him a little and doubt Him a little. After all, Jesus also said “if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” (Matthew 21:21)
There’s actually an example of a father asking Jesus this same question in the Bible. This dad was at the end of his rope spiritually because his son was suffering, so he brought his son to Jesus to be healed.
When the man arrives hoping to find Jesus, he instead finds Jesus’ disciples only to find that they couldn’t heal his son. Then Jesus said his disciples had “too little faith” because they failed to hear God’s voice and obey accordingly.
Yet Jesus said with the faith of a mustard seed they could do anything. They were trying to heal someone without trusting God completely. Maybe they were trusting their own strength in that moment because they had never trusted God for something that seemed that big to them before without Jesus being present. Maybe they were out of their league because they hadn’t yet trusted God for the little things.
So many of us want God to move in the big things. We want to see immeasurable joy in our homes and marriages. We want to see complete restoration to our relationships. We want a miracle in our careers and finances. We want our children to have incredible hearts for God. We want to see physical and emotional healing happening around us. We want to see transformational change happening. And yet, how are we doing in the little things?
Are we approaching faith as if it’s a mustard seed? Because all mustard seeds start out tiny, they all require cultivation, and they all grow over time through incremental action. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the mustard seed is just as much a mustard plant as a full-grown tree. The same power is at work in both. It’s just in a different stage, therefore it looks different.
The point is this: We have to trust God completely. Trust is all or nothing. That doesn’t mean God is limited by our unbelief. It just means that in certain situations, when God gives us the authority to exercise our faith in a situation in order to see God move, complete faith is required. There is no other kind.
Go back to the father who brought his son to Jesus and his disciples to be healed. After the disciples failed to heal him, the father tells Jesus that “if he can do anything” then please have compassion on his son. This is us as fathers. We want so badly to get the big breakthroughs from God, but we’re not sure we have the faith to back it up.
Jesus reminds the father that all things are possible to the one who believes, and the father responds by saying, “I do believe!” Then the father says, “but help my unbelief.”
Then Jesus heals his son.
It’s so interesting that this is the man Christians often point to when they imply that half-hearted faith is enough for God. It’s as if we say, “this guy had doubts, and Jesus healed him anyways. Therefore, it’s not up to us.” Yet, Jesus pointed at the disciples’ faith when they couldn’t heal the boy. So which is it?
I believe there are times when God does miracles for His own purposes, and those miracles depend absolutely zero on us. After all, Moses didn’t have faith that the bush would catch on fire and start talking to him. Paul didn’t have faith that Jesus would physically appear to him. God rarely deals in absolutes, so there are always exceptions.
But I also know that God chooses to partner with human beings to accomplish His will, and in those cases, faith is required. I think the father bringing his son was such an instance where God chose faith as a prerequisite for a miracle, and I think it was the father’s faith that made his son well.
Think about it: this was a desperate man who presumably went a long way to see Jesus. He chose to trust that his journey would not be in vain. That’s faith. Then he tells Jesus “if you can do anything” which implies that he’s trusting his son’s life to Jesus at this point. Then after Jesus tells him that everything is possible to the one who believes, the man responds with, “I do believe.” That’s a statement of complete faith. It’s only then that the man says, “help my unbelief.”
I believe this man was completely and desperately dependent on God for a miracle. I think his dedication and desperation shown in the small acts of faith up until that point show his absolute dependence on Jesus. That’s faith.
I think his request to help with his unbelief was simply a way of saying that he’s in uncharted territory, he’s desperate, and if he’s lacking anything, then he needs Jesus to help him. Oddly enough, the man’s request for Jesus to help his unbelief was actually a statement of faith. He was trusting Jesus to help him even where his faith wouldn’t go. And that’s faith.
So the man we all point to as the “guy who didn’t believe” was perhaps a picture of what it looks like to fully trust Jesus. We trust Him with what we know and we trust him for future faith to move into the unknown. That’s just a part of moving from “being faithful with a little” to moving mountains.
Go back to Jesus’ disciples asking him how they grow their faith. The essence of Jesus’ answer to them comes down to this:
Humble yourself, serve, and obey (in the little things), and in time you will have the things of God through obedience and your growing experience with Him. And as a result of that experience, you’ll be able to trust Him with more.
Therefore, faith grows whenever we’re completely dependent on God even in the smallest of things. And for flawed humans like us, that takes a process of trusting and obeying repeatedly as we walk with God, then we can grow to where we trust God to move mountains.
Trust is all or nothing, therefore faith is grown through obedience. Let’s focus on obeying and walking with God wherever he has us at the moment, and as you grow closer to Him, mountains will move.