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The question, "How do I get more faith?" has been posted here. When I read it, my mind went to the time the disciples and Jesus had a similar dialogue:

Luke 17:5-6

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

It sounds like the disciples are asking Jesus "How do I get more faith?" (or perhaps they are demanding?) but Jesus' answer sounds to me like He is saying, "Yes, it would be great if you had more faith." But His answer doesn't help people with little faith.

So, how should I interpret His answer?

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Well, even though my posted answer on the other question christianity.stackexchange.com/a/5070/1075 received a down-vote, I think it applies to this question as well, especially since the symbolism of faith and a seed is similar. –  HTG Dec 23 '11 at 23:18
Related: How do I get more faith? –  Caleb Dec 24 '11 at 10:43
@Caleb, indeed, that is in the question! :) –  Wikis Dec 24 '11 at 15:04
Jesus was saying to the apostles that they didn't need more faith. –  Robert Harvey Dec 27 '11 at 22:30
@RobertHarvey - I agree that this should be posted as an answer. Short, sweet, to the point. I think that it seems like Jesus is turning their notion of "faith" on its ear. It is not a quantifiable object like knowledge, or widgets. –  swasheck Jan 13 '12 at 15:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Jesus was saying to the apostles that they didn't need more faith.

Faith is not an act, although it can be demonstrated by the way you act. Rather, faith is an attitude, an understanding that things will work out as they should, under God's plan.

There are many places in the Bible that basically say not to try and do things all by yourself. "Rely not on your own understanding," but on God's. Faith doesn't require effort; it requires surrender. Surrender is hard, not because it is something we must "do," but because it is something we do not always allow.

Faith is not something you can "measure." In a very real sense, there is no such thing as "more faith." You can not surrender "more," you can only surrender completely.

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Thanks, but please expand on this, rather than just copy / paste the comment. –  Wikis Jan 13 '12 at 16:17
I knew you were going to say that. :) My original comment is neither authoritative, nor absolute; it is simply the way I read the Biblical passage. I see faith, not as an act, but as an attitude, an understanding and acceptance that things will work out as they should. –  Robert Harvey Jan 13 '12 at 16:27
OK, with that additional comment I will accept your answer. Even though it is one sentence, it is profound! But I'd still like you to add some more thoughts... :) Thanks! –  Wikis Jan 13 '12 at 16:32
Brilliant update! Again (third time!), my thanks. –  Wikis Jan 13 '12 at 16:41

Think back to the other time he mentions a mustard seed. What he focuses on in the example is the way it grows from a very small seed to a very large plant.

So if a disciple's faith is as this seed, vital and active, and capable of great growth even though it may be small at the moment, then it can enable them to do great things when the need arises.

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To go along with that a seed needs nutrients and water to grow. Reading the bible and prayer are vital to nurturing that seed. –  Andrew Dec 23 '11 at 15:56
With all due respect, I don't think we can conclude that intent. That is adding more than is actually there. In the context, is seems purely used to denote "something small". –  Marc Gravell Dec 23 '11 at 17:03
Even if we assume (quite unrealistically) a word perfect recording of events (after the fact, mostly not first hand) - there is still no reason to assume that there is hidden symbolism in every word. Sometime a word just means what it says. –  Marc Gravell Dec 23 '11 at 18:32
@Marc: The words "as small as" appear to be an interpolation of the NIV's translators. Most other translations simply say "faith like" or "faith as" a mustard seed. –  Mason Wheeler Dec 23 '11 at 18:59

Jesus intentionally does not tell how one can "get more faith," for the purpose of reminding people that God can do amazing things with even an incredibly small amount of faith. There are many of us of faith who ask pious, but nonetheless, the wrong question. Often we ask, "how can I increase my faith?" Instead of simply trusting that God can make miracles happen with even the smallest materials. It is almost as if Jesus is saying, "Don't focus on getting more faith, focus on what God can do with your small faith."

I hope this helps all who read this in their faith walk.

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I think Robert Harvey's answer (above, in the comments) was the best:

"Jesus was saying to the apostles that they didn't need more faith."

I found this very profound as it totally changed my attitude to what Jesus was saying. Like I wrote above, I thought He was saying something similar to, "Shame you don't have more faith" but what He is actually saying, according to Robert, is that they already have all the faith they need!

This makes complete sense to me. Rather than thinking, "I don't have enough faith" I should just assume I do and keep persistently praying.

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@RobertHarvey - if you choose to answer this question yourself, in the manner of the comments you wrote above, then I will happily accept it. –  Wikis Jan 13 '12 at 15:52

Faith is something one can have in a very small amount (mustard seed) it's how one chooses to express that faith that matters. Expressing faith through actions, not just words is, I think, paramount. I agree that faith is something that you can not measure, just like air, gotta have that air, so in some ways, gotta have faith, no matter how small it is.

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