Mustard-Seed-Sized Faith | Matthew 17:14-22

Welcome to Real Life. What’s hidden in my soul? Every once in a while I need to take a peak at what lies beneath the surface. How confident is my faith? How pure are my motives? 

A desperate man kneels before Jesus. He pleads, “Lord, have mercy on my son.” His boy suffers from seizures which make him fall into the fire or water and injure himself. The father brought his son to Jesus’ disciples. But, they were not able to heal him. 

After hearing of his disciples’ failure, Jesus laments,

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,
how long shall I stay with you? 
How long shall I put up with you? 
Bring the boy here to me.”

Jesus rebukes the demon. The boy is healed
immediately. In private, the disciples ask, “Why couldn't we drive it out?”

Jesus responds, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, 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.”

Later, in Galilee, he reminds them (again) of his impending betrayal, death, and resurrection. The disciples are filled with grief.


Jesus’ words, “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” leave me with mixed emotions. His frustration seems out of character for an all-loving God of grace. If he lost patience with these twelve who left everything to follow him, surely he must lose patience with a simple woman like me. If those who witnessed Jesus’ power firsthand failed to believe he could work through them, how can I possibly believe he can work through me?

However, as I read on, I find a key to help me understand his rebuke. Jesus’ time is growing short. The cross is ever on his mind. These twelve would carry on Jesus’ mission after his death. After three years of intense mentoring, the disciples still struggle to believe. Frustration. 

I must also remember that I was not present when Jesus spoke. I cannot see the expression on his face. I cannot hear his tone of voice. I think he is angry and disgusted (for that is how I would be). I imagine words that bite with sarcasm. More likely, his face and words express sorrow. 

Why does Jesus call them a perverse generation? Perverse means corrupt, persisting in error or fault, stubbornly contrary. The disciples’ focus is often contrary to Christ’s. They dream of position, power, and fame. While Christ serves others in love and humility.[1]

How aptly unbelieving can describe my faith at times. With my small talent, how can God use me as a writer? Who am I that He would answer my prayers? I am too weak to overcome this sin. Are you there, Lord? I don’t feel your presence.

In addition, my focus can be perverse/contrary to Christ’s. I want to be blessed with financial freedom, little trouble, and the vitality (and beauty) of a twenty-year-old. It’s all about me. But, Jesus did not walk this earth for himself. He came for us. He did not come to be served, but to serve. His heart is focused on others.

It’s not that my faith should not benefit me personally. It should and it does
immensely. But, my faith is not solely for me. It is meant to bless others as well. To be wholly consumed with self is perverse.

Lord, increase my confidence in your ability to work through me. Correct my focus. Give me a generous, compassionate heart like yours.

Once my motives are right, I can move beyond Jesus’ lament to his encouragement:

I tell you the truth, 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.
A mustard seed is small, about the size of this period (.) After receiving the Holy Spirit, those (once unbelieving) disciples turn the world upside-down with the Gospel. If I have even mustard-seed-sized faith, I, too, can move mountainschange my world. Nothing is impossible!

I can do nothing without God; but, he can do anything through me. [2]

Lord, I believe. Love, touch, bless others through me.

Alisar (on right) reaching out to Enya in Ireland

My son Cal making a friend in Peru

Kim serving others with her dental skills in Ecuador

Ginny comforting a little one in Ecuador

Children in Ecuador waving goodbye to the mission team

Taking it further … “My Own Little World” by Matthew West.  

[1] Matthew 18:1-4 “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” and Matthew 20:20-28 
[2] See “Dare to Dream with God” post.


  1. Even when I am grieving my sin, I have to stop and remember not to be so focused on self. I think it may be the hardest thing to change even with the help of the Holy Spirit. At the risk of being repetitious, I love how you take a verse and, using yourself as an example, teach a wise and gentle Bible lesson. And I really enjoyed the pictures.

    1. Thanks, Linnea. I always appreciate your encouragement! And you made a great point that while it's important to grieve over sin, if we park there, it is another form of being consumed with self.

  2. @ Peggi Tustan - Excellent article. Where do you find all this in depth knowledge of Jesus and his ministry? Is it from Bible study or from a deeper examination of scripture?

    Thank you.

    1. Wow, Daron, thanks for your kind comments.

      The Bible is often described as a love letter from God to us. He wants to speak to us through it. Daily, I spend time in his Word and in prayer. I ask, "Lord, what do you want to teach me today through your Word?" There is some study and research involved, but it is mostly inspiration-his message to me. Some days what he shares with me in our private time together, I share with others in my blog.

      Sorry for the long explanation! Thanks for you interest. :)


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