What Does "Faith Like a Mustard Seed" Mean in Matthew 17:20?

Your faith is meant to grow and go! Just like a mustard seed! As we come into a new year and a new decade, I pray that you would see your faith would grow like a mustard seed and that you would be encouraged with fruit from your tiniest labors of love and faith!

Crosswalk.com Contributor
Updated Jul 12, 2023
What Does "Faith Like a Mustard Seed" Mean in Matthew 17:20?

And He said to them…. “for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you (Matthew 17:20 NAS).

This verse found in Matthew 17:20 brings us so much encouragement! A mustard seed is about one to two millimeters in size. Yet, the brush can grow upwards of 20 to 30 feet tall and wide. The picture the Lord painted for the disciples was one of hope! Our faith doesn’t need to be outwardly large to have a large impact. The tiny mustard seed holds the potential of a 30-foot bush! A seemingly inconsequential speck of faith can move mountains!

What Is Faith of a Mustard Seed?

So often our perspectives are shaped by magazine gloss and social media’s highlight reel. We can lose touch with the great gifts small acts can be in our life or someone else’s.  

Regardless of your station in life, your faith matters greatly in this life and eternity. You don’t have to be Billy Graham to be a great witness. You don’t have to be wealthy to give greatly (remember George Meuller? If you don’t, treat yourself to a Sunday afternoon movie/book and catch up on his inspirational life!) A seemingly small act of kindness, saying a faith-filled prayer for someone, or whatever faith-motivated act we take, no matter how small, can have an eternal and mountain-moving impact on another’s life.

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).

Jesus’ teaching regularly highlighted small acts of great value. From the widow’s mite to the woman washing His feet (Mark 14:6-9), small gifts in the gospel pages are highlighted as having significant and eternal value.

How to Have Faith of a Mustard Seed

As a mom, my days are filled with lots of small acts that I do with faith. Faith that God has entrusted this family to me to nurture, pray over, serve, etc. Faith that the growth that happens in our family is of eternal value. Faith that the witness of our family is part of a larger tapestry of testimony to God’s love and grace. Small acts done with the hope that these seed-planting works will grow for the Lord’s glory.

When I wash my mind with the truth of mustard-seed thinking, I immediately find my heart invigorated for the tasks at hand! When I listen to the lady in the grocery store line who freely offers her non-mustard-seed-thinking advice about what I ought to be doing with my life, it’s like someone pulled the plug on my energy and I am weary in this work.

So, when we consider our life and our faith, are we using what we have to the fullest or have we decided that it is for someone else with bigger or better faith to do the witnessing, or the praying, or the giving? Have we figured that our contribution could never be enough to make a difference, so we hold back? Have we considered that what God has entrusted to us is meant to grow large and wide, like a mustard bush? Do we tend our faith with that sort of expectation?

Your faith is meant to grow and go! Just like a mustard seed! As we come into a new year and a new decade, I pray that you would see your faith would grow like a mustard seed and that you would be encouraged with fruit from your tiniest labors of love and faith!

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Bible Commentary on Matthew 17:20

"And he saith unto them, Because of your little faith1: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed2, ye shall say unto this mountain3, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you."

  1. Because of your little faith. The failure of the disciples was not because of any insufficiency of power in Jesus but was due to their own failure to appropriate that power by faith. The relation of belief and unbelief to miraculous power is fully illustrated in Peter's attempt to walk upon the waters (see Matthew 14:30). For comparison, see Mark 9:29.
  2. If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed. The mustard seed was the proverbial type for the infinitely little. See Mark 4:32. Faith has such power with God that even little faith becomes well-nigh omnipotent in an age of miracles.
  3. This mountain. Mount Hermon. (Commentary from the Fourfold Gospel)

Additional Bible Verses about Faith

"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” ~ Matthew 21:22

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." ~ Hebrews 11:6

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." ~ Romans 10:17

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." ~ Hebrews 11:1

"And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." ~ Mark 11:22-24

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

"You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" ~ James 2:19

"For nothing will be impossible with God.” ~ Luke 1:37

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7

A Prayer for Mustard Seed Faith

I come before you with a grateful heart, acknowledging that nothing is impossible in my life as I place my unwavering trust in you. Thank you for being the source of hope and strength in every area of my life. 

In the midst of the challenges and trials, I seek the gift of mustard seed faith. Lord, just as Jesus taught that even faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, I ask that you ignite within me a faith that surpasses all doubts and fears. Enable me to trust again, to find the strength to forgive those who have caused me pain, and to extend care and love to all, regardless of their actions towards me. Help me to understand that through the power of faith, I can transcend the hurts and wounds that have burdened my heart.

I also pray for the faith to persevere in doing what is right both at work and at home. Grant me the courage and conviction to make choices that align with your will, even in the face of adversity. Strengthen my resolve to act with integrity, kindness, and compassion in all my interactions. 

Lord, I surrender all my worries and concerns to you today. I place my faith in you, knowing that you are able to accomplish the impossible. Increase my faith, Lord. Deepen my trust in you so that I may lean on your promises and find solace in your unfailing love. 

Father God, thank you for your unending faithfulness and the privilege to come before you in prayer. I surrender my weaknesses and limitations to you, knowing that you can transform them into strengths through the power of faith. May my mustard seed faith blossom into a vibrant and unwavering trust in you.

In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.

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April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist-deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here


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