Skip to Content

What a Mustard Seed of Faith Means (And How to Have it)

What does a mustard seed of faith mean?

A mustard seed of faith is small faith that has the potential to become great faith that will be able to move mountains. When Jesus told the disciples to have a mustard seed of faith, He was communicating to them that just because their faith was currently small that didn’t mean it couldn’t grow to become great.

Many people believe that when Jesus was referring to a mustard seed of faith He was referring to a faith that is small. They believe this because there are translations out there that say, “faith the size of a mustard seed” or “as small as a mustard seed.”

But in the original greek, Jesus never mentioned the size of the mustard seed. He simply said, “if you have faith as a mustard seed” you will be able to speak to the mountain “move” and it will move (Matthew 17:20).

Another reason we know that Jesus didn’t tell them to have faith the size of a mustard seed is because a mustard seed is small and Jesus consistently rebuked them for having small faith.

“But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?” (Matthew 16:8) 

“But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

“And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

Why would Jesus rebuke them for small faith but then tell them that they should have small faith? The answer is He wouldn’t. That belief is inconsistent with God’s desire for us and what Jesus has revealed to us about faith. In fact, Jesus rebuked His disciples for having small faith three times before He ever mentioned a mustard seed of faith.

From these two reasons we can know for certain that Jesus was not encouraging His believers to have faith the size of a mustard seed, but rather He was encouraging us to make our faith like a mustard seed.

So what does it mean to have faith like a mustard seed?

To answer this we have to first find how Jesus viewed a mustard seed. If we can discover what Jesus thought of a mustard seed then it will reveal what He meant by this statement.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

In Matthew 13, Jesus is giving the disciples a series of parables about the Word of God and He compares the Word to a seed. In the above scripture, Jesus says that even though a mustard seed is small, when it grows up it becomes the greatest tree in the field.

So if we take this view, Jesus’ view, and apply it to Matthew 17 where Jesus explains to them how to move mountains and work miracles and why their prayer didn’t work, we see that Jesus is encouraging and comforting them.

He is essentially saying, “Guys I know that when you prayed the little boy wasn’t healed. The reason this happened is because of your unbelief. But truly I tell you, even though your faith is small now if you learn to let it grow to the full term you’ll be able to say to mountains “move” and they will have to move, and I promise nothing will be impossible for you.”

That is powerful! Let’s be a people who grow their faith so when miracles need to take place we are able to pray and see that mountain move. (Related article: How to grow in Faith).

How to have a mustard seed of faith

To have a mustard seed of faith we have to first receive the Word of God into our hearts, and then learn to remove all the other thorns in our field so that the seed is able to grow to full term and does not get choked out.

There are a couple of principles that I must first establish before I can explain how to have a mustard seed of faith.

First, the Word of God is a seed and the first time a mustard seed is mentioned by the Lord Jesus He uses it as an illustration for the Word of God.

Second, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” The only way faith comes is by first planting the seed of faith, which is the Word of God. (Related article: Measure of Faith: What it is & How much is it).

Third, when the seed is planted and watered it grows automatically. The problem of little faith is not found in the lack of growth of faith in our lives, but the ground in which it is growing in.

Now that I have established these truths I can now share with you how to have faith that grows like a mustard seed.

Step one: Receive the Word of God about any subject you want to grow your faith in.

As mentioned previously, the Bible says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Notice, that verse only reveals how faith comes, it never reveals how faith grows. This is because the Word of God is the seed of faith and this is referring to planting that seed in our lives.

So, if you want to have faith for trusting God in the areas of finances, healing, righteosness, holiness, or rejoicing in persecution you need to first pant the seed of faith before you can have faith in those areas.

It does not matter what you want to grow your faith in, the first step is to plant the seed of the Word of God in your heart about that subject.

Get Our Weekly Devotional

Subscribe to our devotional and receive ministry updates. Each week we look at scripture, we observe what it says, we take actionable steps to apply it to our lives, and we always end the email with prayer. Enter your email to join us!

Step two: Study these passages until you understand them.

In Mark chapter 4 and in Matthew 13, Jesus explains how the Word of God functions as a seed. As He explains how this works and how the seed grows, He warns of three hindrances to this seed reaching full term.

Over the next three steps we are going to be addressing each one.

The first hindrance to this seed growing is understanding.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.” (Matthew 13:19)

Notice Jesus said that if we don’t understand the Word that we hear the devil has free reign to come and snatch it away from us.

We all have kind of experienced this in one way or another. We’ve all had a Bible reading time where as we read we are just going through the motions. Then when we stop reading we can’t even remember what we’ve read.

I know that I’m not the only one who has experienced this.

So if this is a common problem for you, what can you do about it?

Well, first I think it is important to get in the right attitude before you read. I think it is critical to get your eyes on Jesus before you ever read one chapter.

The truth is, the Bible is the only book where the author needs to be present for us to understand it.

So before you read, get into prayer and worship Him and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal things to you as you read. And as He does it might be helpful to write down the things He shows you.

This is an antidote that has helped me tremendously. [Related article: How to Start Reading the Bible (Beginners Guide)].

Step three: Establish commitment toward to the Word of God and Act on it

The second hindrance that Jesus reveals to the seed of faith growing in our lives is our lack of commitment to the Word and our lack of being rooted and grounded in love.

“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

Notice a couple of things. Jesus said “when persecution and trials come” He did not say “if trials come.”

This is significant because trials will come to those who receive the Word of God and who start to walk in it. The promise of persecution and trials is just as sure as the promise that the Word of God will bear fruit in your life but we have to first endure past these trials.

Another thing to notice is Jesus says that these trials and persecutions come “because of the Word.”

Listen, Satan does not care about you. You are not a threat to him. However, the Word of God bearing fruit in your life is a threat to him and he will do everything in his power to get you to stumble.

Finally, Jesus says that the problem is there is “no root in yourself so you onle endure for a while.” You’ll know that you are in this category if whenever things get tough you get shaken and falter.

So what can we do about this?

That is a good question and it is one that I have personally studied out extensively.

Obviously, the key is to have “root in yourself” but what exactly does that mean? How can I have root in myself?

As I began to ask this question I found that there is only one other main place in scripture that tells us to be rooted and that scripture is found in Ephesians 3.

“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love.(Ephesians 3:16-17)  

To be able to endure persecution and trials we need to be grounded in love. Love is the only thing that can endure trials.

I know this because the Bible literally says that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).

When we have a strong and sincere love for God that desires nothing but to please Him and to fulfill His will and what He has spoken to us, what does it matter if trials come my way?

If I truly love people as myself, and even as Christ loved me, then what does it matter if they persecute me out of their lack of understanding? If we are truly walking in love this should make us pray for those that persecute us and not get emotional and draw back.

The only reason why trials and persecutions shake us is cause we are thinking for ourselves. We turn inward, we get insecure, we get worried, we get fearful, we get stressed, etc. None of those things can possibly be love because all of those things have root in selfishness.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that love does not seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5).

So if we want to endure past trials and perecutions then love for God needs to be absolute first place in our lives, and love for people needs to be an expression that we are constantly seeking to demonstrate. [Related article: How to Walk in Love According to the Bible].

Step four: Keep your mind stayed on the things of God so that the cares of this world do not choke your faith.

The fourth hidrance that Jesus mentioned is the thorns that choke the seed as it grows.

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22)

You cannot receive the Word of God and have your mind set on the cares of this life and expect the seed to bear fruit for you.

It. Will. Not. Happen.

If we want to bear fruit then the Word of God needs to be first place in our lives. It needs to be the primary thought of our life. [Related article: How to Walk/Live in the Spirit (Complete Guide) and 4 Simple Step on How to Renew Your Mind].

Jesus told us not to worry about the cares of this world but that we should seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all the things that we need will be added to us (Matthew 6:33).

The apostle Paul said that we should “take care for nothing in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).

After Jesus mentioned these three hindrances to the Word of God growing in our lives, He promises that if we can endure past these things then the Word of God will grow fruit automatically.

“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)

Notice Jesus said that only the one who received the word of God on the good ground will be the one who bears fruit.

So if we can understand the Word of God, have commitment to it through love, and keep our eyes fixed on the things of God and not let the cares of this world to get in the way, then our ground will be good and the seed of faith, which is the Word of God, will grow to produce a mighty mustard seed of faith that can move mountains.

Another great article I wrote on faith is The Faith of the Centurion and How to Have it. It is a step by step article on how to attain to the faith that Jesus said was the greatest that He has ever seen.

I hope this article assisted you in your walk with the Lord. If you enjoyed this article, please consider giving a donation of any amount by clicking the button below. The support we receive from you enables The Biblical Foundation to keep all of the resources free and to reach more people with the teachings of the Word of God.

    Weekly devotional you can read in 2 minutes 

    No spam. Nothing annoying or unexpected. Just actionable steps to apply the Word of God.