When I was in high school, I had a teacher that taught us that if she told us something important, we would know it was important because she would say it multiple times, that was our cue to listen and take note because this statement was going to be on a test. Since her class, anytime I have seen multiples of something it piques my curiosity, especially when I find it in scripture. When finding an instance it sends me into a search for the why? Why, is it mentioned so often?
I recently went through this when studying faith as a grain of mustard seed, and what I found was pretty awe-inspiring.
Let’s jump into God’s Word and read Matthew 17:20. It is important to understand prior to reading, that at this point Jesus is talking to his disciples about facing what seems impossible in life, and overcoming barriers.
Matthew 17:20 states:
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
NOTHING shall be impossible unto you. Think of your barriers for a moment, whatever it is family issues, money issues, addiction issues, health issues whatever it is, God tells us right here, that within us we have the power to remove it from our lives.
These words are true and good, yet still we have mountains in our lives…
Let’s read on to Luke 17:6,
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
In comparison to the mountain, in my mind the mountain wins every time. Who has seen a mountain moved? No one! Trees on the other hand seem almost common place. We see them uprooted by a storm, we see their destruction around us from time to time and it doesn’t seem as monumental as that mountain being moved…so why, why does Jesus talk about the sycamine tree, and what is the significance of that mustard seed in both instances?
Before we look at the relevance of the sycamine tree, it is important to know that in this parable specifically, Jesus is talking to his disciples about bitterness and un-forgiveness. Keep that in your mind as we walk through these things.
Researching the sycamine tree I found the following:
• This tree has a deep and intricate root system.
• Its fruit is extremely bitter
• It is not naturally pollinated
• Its wood was preferred for making caskets.
Let’s take a moment and process these things.
Again, Jesus is discussing bitterness and un-forgiveness. These two things have a way of entering our lives and spreading very intricately throughout different areas, it takes root, we become angry, and it changes our outlook on life and causes us to be physically and emotionally drained.
The fruit of the tree itself is extremely bitter…A person eating this fruit has to take little bites and it is consumed slowly due to its bitterness. To this point, I ask how are we when we are bitter and un-forgiving? Maybe that’s a question for our families, and friends. Do people really want to be around us when we are demonstrating these characteristics? They don’t.
This tree is not naturally pollinated. It happens when a wasp stings the flesh of the fruit to the heart. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Someone stings us and bitterness takes root, and the spreading begins. Just like that wasp sting, it isn’t natural or planned yet it happens just the same.
The sycamine tree’s wood was preferred for making caskets. It was used to carry someone to their grave. We already mentioned the toll bitterness and un-forgiveness takes on our physical and emotional health, and let us also be reminded of what God has to say about forgiveness. We cannot be forgiven by Him until we forgive those who have hurt us first. We cannot receive the gift of eternal life with un-forgiveness in our heart.
These are two beautiful parables. One discussing overcoming the barriers and impossibilities we face, and the other removing bitterness and un-forgiveness from our lives. Both different scenarios, yet possessing the same mustard seed. Let’s now draw our attention to that mustard seed. Jesus said in both instances ‘IF we have faith as a grain of mustard seed.’
The mustard seed ranks among one of the world’s tiniest seeds. A seed that to the naked eye looks like a mere speck of dirt, yet within itself contains everything it needs to develop into a mighty tree that can grow to stand up to 12 -20 feet tall and stretch up to 6-20 feet wide IF it is planted in the right conditions. Amazing to think about and try to wrap our brain around really, how on earth can something that small ever transform into something that large?
Yet that is exactly how God works. We read consistently throughout His word of instances when He has taken the insignificant and made it significant, the weakest and made it the strongest, the worthless and deemed it worthy.
The list goes on and on.
The fact that He takes this itty bitty little seed and transforms it to something so large and so solid is really no surprise, yet when he compares it to our faith it seems so shocking and perplexing…how am I ever going to get that mountain to move. God, do you know how hard this is? Do you know that I am not qualified for this? Do you know the problems I have faced in my life? Do you know how I feel inside? Do you know???
God, you don’t know the evil that resides in this person. They are hateful, and mean, I just can’t forgive them. They have hurt my family, they have done the unthinkable to me. These things according to our finite minds are impossible, yet when God steps in our human pretenses are shattered and the impossible becomes possible,
David slays Goliath
Rahab hides the spies
Saul – becomes Paul a Christ hater becomes a Christ lover spreading the gospel everywhere he could to the point of death.
The limited becomes limitless,
Leah. Scripture tells us she was ugly. Her husband didn’t even want her, yet God didn’t see her for her outward beauty, he saw her inner-makings, and what he saw he called worthy and placed her in the lineage of Jesus Christ!
Just like these situations, God desires to do the same work in us, and all he asks of us is to muster up the courage…just the slightest amount of faith in Jesus, and that is all it takes to remove that situation of impossibility, and the bitterness and un-forgiveness in our hearts which activates that seed to grow even more.
There is another place in scripture that Jesus discusses the mustard seed
Jesus told the crowd another story. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Someone took the seed and planted it in a field. It is the smallest of all your seeds. But when it grows, it is the largest of all garden plants. It becomes a tree. Birds come and rest in its branches.”
A Word is planted, and the kingdom of God advances, and begins to grow.
At the age of 20 my mustard seed was activated as I sat in silence on a pew of a little church in a small town during communion service. At that moment I stood at a crossroad in my life. Desperate for something I looked up to the ceiling at a beautiful light with a cross on it, and prayed to God if he was really real, that I needed to know, and I needed him to rock my world. It wasn’t a beautiful prayer, it wasn’t long, and according to some it probably wasn’t proper, yet those were the words I spoke, and that was the prayer I prayed that sent my mustard seed into growth. You see within a week of uttering that prayer, God did what I asked Him to do. He rocked my world when my brother and sister-in-law invited me to a bible study. It was during that study that God opened my eyes to His reality, and the fact that I could live my life experiencing Him, he blew my mind at that moment, and it didn’t stop there. Just as the mustard seed needs nourishment to continue its growth into that mighty tree, God realizes that our faith needs nourishment, and as long as we keep mustering up that courage to put our faith in Him, he keeps revealing himself which serves as our nourishment to continue growing, and day by day we grow just a little bit more until we are standing just like that tree 12 – 20 feet tall, and 6-20 feet wide, and we are unshakeable, unmovable in our faith and trust in the one who has never failed us.
But all of this requires something of us. God doesn’t force himself on anyone. If we want this faith, if we want to overcome the impossibilities, bitterness, and un-forgiveness in our lives, We must CHOOSE Him, and choosing him requires us to spend time reading His word, and praying.
Scripture tells us:
when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 John 5:14
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Just a few of the MANY scriptures discussing prayer… Prayer a simple act, which leads to incredible results. A simple act that the devil fights us tooth and nail to keep us from it. Have you ever noticed how when we pray sometimes we struggle with honest and transparent prayers before God (why is this the case? He knows all and sees all, but we do it, we have to force ourselves to say honest things to him) or our 5-minute prayer feels like running a marathon, or we remember all the things on our to-do-list, and actually have a desire at that point to do the laundry we haven’t done all week or mop the floors that haven’t been mopped in 3 months.
These are all purposeful distractions used by the devil who wants to steal your focus, because he knows the power that lies in our communication with our Savior, and he wants nothing but to put a stop to it, in order to steal your focus so your mustard seed faith doesn’t get the opportunity to grow, that barrier remains, and that bitterness and un-forgiveness spread devastatingly throughout your body and you never fully realize the power of God in your life.
It is our job to acknowledge that this is a device used by our enemy, it is our decision to rise up and take a stand against it. It is our responsibility to Choose Him, and when we do, that mustard seed is activated, and those mountains start to move, and those sycamine trees are uprooted, and cast into the sea, and the kingdom of God advances. Today, as you see those mountains of impossibility and you feel the bitterness and unforgiveness of that sycamine tree, remember all that is required of you is that little speck of faith…Choose Him.