He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. – Luke 17:6 NIV
It is the part of a wise teacher to endeavour both to elevate and to humble his disciples. He will not discharge his whole duty nor realize his full opportunity unless he imparts elevating aspirations and unless he promotes a deep humility of heart; he will thank God and congratulate himself when he knows that his hearers are happily sensible of progress, and also when he learns that they are profoundly dissatisfied with their attainments. Both these results ensued from the teaching of our Lord.
I. THE DISCIPLES ‘ DISSATISFACTION WITH THEMSELVES . Evidently the apostles of our Lord felt that there was something lacking in their souls which they would gladly possess. The doctrine of the great Teacher, perhaps, was not so clear to them as they could have wished; or perhaps they felt themselves a painfully long distance behind their Leader in their spirit and bearing; or it may be that they found themselves unable to do such works as they judged they ought to be able to do, in and through the Name of the great Healer. But whencesoever their source of dissatisfaction, they agreed that they were in spiritual want.
II. THEIR CONCLUSION AS TO THE REMEDY THEY NEEDED . They agreed that what was wanted was an increase of faith. And they were perfectly right in their judgment.
1 . They wanted to believe in Christ in a way not then open to them. They became “greater in the kingdom of heaven” afterwards, more enlightened, more spiritual, more devoted, more useful, because afterwards they had a deep and a firm faith in Jesus Christ as their almighty Saviour, as their Divine Lord. But they did not know him yet as such; for as such he had only begun to reveal himself to them.
2 . But they needed a fuller faith in him as they did then know him. A more complete and implicit confidence in him
III. THE TRUTH CONTAINED IN OUR LORD ‘S REPLY . “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed,” etc. This truth is surely not that the possession of a faith as slight as the mustard seed is small will suffice, but that the faith which is full as is the mustard seed of life and power of appropriation will avail for all occasions. For it is not true that a slight and feeble faith does suffice. It failed the apostles on one memorable day ( Luke 9:40 ). It has been failing ever since. Only a faith which is a living and a growing power, like the mustard seed in the soil, will triumph over the difficulties to be met and mastered. The fact is that:
1 . A formal faith is worth nothing at all; indeed, less than nothing, for it deludes and misleads.
2 . A feeble faith will accomplish little. It sinks in the hour of trial ( Matthew 14:30 ); it shrinks from open avowal, and makes feeble fight in the hour of battle ( John 3:1 ; John 7:50 ; John 19:38 ); it enters upon, but abandons, the goodly enterprise ( Acts 13:13 ).
3 . A living, appropriating faith is the only effective power. A faith that, like the mustard seed in the soil, puts forth the power of life, and appropriates to itself the riches that are around it in order that, further on, it may bear fruit—this is a power that will be felt. It will accomplish great and even wonderful things; it will surprise the unbelieving as much as if it actually did the very thing which the Master speaks of in his illustrative language.
(1) It will uproot great evils in God’s Name and strength.
1. Is there anything seriously lacking in our spirit, character, life, work?
2 . May it not be traced to the absence or to the feebleness of our faith? If we believed more truly in Jesus Christ, if we realized more thoroughly what we accept, should we not be more to God and do more for him?
3 . Shall we not come to our Saviour, unhesitatingly, earnestly, perseveringly, with this prayer of the apostles?