Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Jesus replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20-21 (NIV)
What’s the difference between “little faith” and “small faith”?? One is a problem; one is powerful?? I’ve been pondering this the last week as first I celebrated the Lunar New Year, and then discussed this verse in my Bible study. With the new year comes plans—both big and small. I’ve found myself struggling with making goals and have been trying to figure out how to be intentional in living out my faith. For example, I’ve been figuring out who to invite to Alpha or to church or to my Bible study. But, I’m hesitant. A portion of my hesitancy is wondering about my faith in action.
And that reminds me of a story.
Seven years ago, Creekside helped send me on a mission. The last Sunday before I travelled, I was debating whether to give an offering. I had just quit a job I’d been at for seven years. I was gearing up to volunteer for a little under a year and starting to doubt the decision. However, in faith, I decided to give something as they were passing the basket. I knew it might tighten my budget. I said a little prayer.
What happened almost immediately after the offering has stayed with me. As I was leaving church, someone ran up to me to give me a check. I remember it clearly; it was the exact amount I had just placed in the offering basket! I was floored, and my doubts about my decision melted. God knew what I needed and built up my faith.
The context of the verse I quoted in Matthew is that Jesus was admonishing his bewildered apostles for only having a “little faith” to drive demons out of a boy (they were not successful) whose dad had then gone to Jesus for help. When I read this story in Matthew, I can’t help but wonder how the apostles felt to be told they had “little faith”, and then be told what they could do with “small faith”.
I conclude that it must have been, as always, a heart issue. In the Sermon on the Mount, time and time again, Jesus points directly to the status of our hearts. While the apostles successfully performed miracles during this ministry time, it seems at some point that they lost sight of the author of their faith. “Little faith” means to me that they somehow lost confidence in or sight of Jesus’s power and perhaps shifted to their own human strength and power. In the same verse, “small faith” can move mountains! The difference then, is where that faith comes from.
It has been a while since something so striking as my giving story has happened to me. I needed a real boost then and am glad I can go back to that story to remember how God has moved. God used my small faith for His glory, and that set a totally different trajectory for my life than I had thought. If He did it for me, He can do it for you in this new year. Just fix your eyes on Him.