T. Pierce Brown

In Luke 17:5, the apostles said, “Lord, increase our faith.” They felt a lot like most of us. “If I had more faith, I could do greater things.” At that point, it is my judgment that most commentaries do not do justice to the lesson Jesus is trying to teach. The ones I remember say something like this, “The grain of mustard seed is small. If you just had a small amount of faith you could do great things.”

No doubt this is true, provided some other conditions were met, but it appears to me that his statement is concerned with the other conditions, rather than with the “size” of their faith. Why?

He already admits they had a little faith (Mt.8:26, Mt.14:31; Mt.17:20). So, if just having a little faith would allow them to do the “impossible” tasks, then they could already be doing them. It is not the SIZE of the faith that he is emphasizing, but the NATURE or QUALITY of the faith!

That is, I do not think he is saying, “If your faith was as BIG as even a grain of mustard seed you could do great things”, but “Though you know your faith is small, for you asked for it to be increased, if it were AS (not as BIG AS, but had the qualities of) a grain of mustard seed, you could do tasks which seem impossible.” Now, how IS a grain of mustard seed? Well, it is small, but that is not the important point, for they ALREADY had THAT kind of faith! The important things are: it has in it a germ of life; it has power to grow; it has power to, and does, appropriate God’s gifts in according to his laws, etc.

The point is, they did not need an INCREASE in faith as much as they needed an ACTIVE, OPERATIONAL faith. If a grain of mustard seed is dead, it does not matter whether it is small or large, it will produce nothing. But if a grain of mustard seed is alive, active, and appropriating the gifts of rain, sunshine and earth then it will produce greatly. So it is with YOUR faith!

The real truth is, you do not need to pray for an INCREASE in faith. It does not come that way! If you will have a faith AS the mustard seed and DO WHAT YOU CAN, WHERE YOU ARE, WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, it does not matter whether it is big or little, it will grow, and with its increase, it will produce “exceedingly abundantly above all that you are able to ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

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