Measuring Faith

Faith is an intangible tricky business– hard to measure and to muster. If faith is the currency of the spiritual realms, then we consumers want enough to live comfortably.  But there is no clear formula on how to make it all work, and sometimes it feels like a mysterious puzzle to solve. Apparently, faith the size of a mustard seed is sufficient, which is good news, but how do we go about using it to move mountains?

And the size of the seed isn’t even really the point of Jesus’ metaphor. When He told His followers that their unbelief was hindering them from casting out demons, the word means “want of confidence in Christ’s power.” All they needed was a sliver of reliance on Him, a tender shoot of hope, a reaching up in anticipation for what He might do. Because here’s the thing: when we reach out to Him with the little we have, in trust that He can do enough for the situation, amazing things tend to happen.  Thousands have a picnic on the grass from one little boy’s lunch. When a woman offers God’s prophet the very last of what she has, her little jar of oil has enough to make daily bread for two years. And Jesus said that “Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20) in our lives if we offer up our small faith for Him to use as He sees fit. It’s our humble dependence on His sufficiency, and the active willing obedience in the little seed that Jesus is pointing at.

Jesus talked about a mustard seed in another setting as well, and again, we would not want to stop at the observation of the seed’s size. He says, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32) Jesus’ kingdom may have started in one believing heart, but it has grown to every corner of the earth and will continue to increase until His return, because “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11) When God’s overarching plans are at work, our small bit of faith is just one cog in the wheel– our vote of confidence that says count me in.

And that kind of faith is what works, though not at all the way we expected when we first started hunting for answers. It has little to do with getting the things we desire. More accurately, it is desiring God and His glory more than anything else– so that what we get is sufficient, if He is there. It’s trust in Who God is: that He is good, that He loves me, that He is enough for me. It’s trust that can hand over whatever we have, and know He will bless it and make good use of it to benefit others. It’s trust that steps out in obedience to whatever God is asking of me today. And no thing is too small and ordinary, or too big and difficult for this kind of faith, though all it be is the size of a mustard seed.


“Dear friends….Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (Philippians 2:12-13)


“For it is not true that a slight and feeble faith does suffice….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….It will uproot great evil in God’s Name and strength….It will upraise noble structures of good, when inspired at the same source.” (W. Clarkson)