I stayed in Charleston for 10 days straight this summer, working from a hotel, exploring the town in the evenings and weekends. At the hotel, I made a friend named Greg. We ran into each other over a continental breakfast of muffins, granola bars, and microwavable waffles. We’d see each other in passing – the elevators dinging open to a chance greeting and bringing a sense of community in a new place.
Greg was being treated at the hospital around the corner for cancer. He just finished a bone marrow transplant, and the staff was monitoring its success. This was his third bout with cancer – it hit him in his early twenties, and then again a few years ago, and now again in his fifties. His family lives several hours away, so he’d been at the hotel alone for three weeks – isolated and with an uncertain future. Greg mentioned his church community and asked me for prayer, so I asked him about his faith. I wanted to know, “How is it holding up?” From even his initial words, his faith seemed steady and sure, even in this season. I want that. I want a sure and steady faith, but I find my own to be wavering and fragile more often than not.
Greg responded to my question, “You know, I really just try to have faith the size of a mustard seed, that’s all. That’s all we need. God hasn’t left me.”
I cry when I think about his words, “God hasn’t left me” – because it’s what I want more than anything. I want a God, a Person, who is constant and unwavering, steady and near. Greg reminds me: if we have the Creator on our side, nothing can be against us. If the Most Powerful, Most Loving, Most Sovereign, Most Kind, and Most Tender Being hasn’t left us, what can come against us? If God has not left us, we are not alone, not abandoned, not hopeless. As my pastor said recently, “If you’re still breathing, God’s still working.”
“God hasn’t left me,” Greg shared with me.
“I will never leave you or forsake you,” God reminds us all.
When Greg alluded to having a “faith the size of a mustard seed,” he was referring to these two passages of Jesus’ words:
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith like a grain of 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
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all 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 lodge in its branches”.Matthew 13:31-32
It’s not the size of the mustard seed that dictates its growth – it’s the seed’s chemical properties, the “stuff” of the seed. It’s the seed’s base, its foundation, its core substance that really counts.
It’s not the amount of our faith that dictates what God can do – after all, it’s God himself “who works in you to will and to act for His good purpose.” Instead, it’s God’s character, His being, His core substance that really counts.
God takes a mustard seed and allows it to grow into a tree that provides shelter for the birds above and shade for the creatures around.
Could it be that our faith – small though it may be – could also provide encouragement to others and shade for those around us?
I think so. I saw this firsthand in Greg, as his faith encouraged mine. As my faith might encourage yours. As your faith might encourage countless others.
Maybe another reason a mustard seed faith can be so powerful is because it is something that can be shared – and anything that is shared can be multiplied. “In community, we divide our burdens and multiply our joys,” my friend Jamie frequently says. Maybe I’ll add to the statement, “We multiply both our joys and our faith.”
We worship a God who will never leave us. We walk with a Comforter who is “near to the brokenhearted.” We live surrounded by countless believers who have “kept the faith,” as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7.
Today, whether your faith feels certain or unsteady, may you believe you are not alone. May you find others who offer encouragement. May you have faith just like that of a mustard seed – small, but enough – fragile, but rooted in a God who is unshakeable.