Summary: Explores questions: Why doesn’t Jesus answer all our prayers? What does He mean by "faith as a grain of mustard seed?"
Mustard Seed Faith Matthew 17:14-20
INTRO.: the seventeenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel records the story of a man who came to Jesus seeking help for his son. Mark 9:14-29 reveals some details of the same story that Luke elects to omit. Mark tells of a dispute between the disciples of Jesus and the Jewish teachers. This father had already pleaded with the disciples of Jesus who were unable to help.
Jesus has some harsh words for the unbelieving Jewish teachers in Matt. 17:17. He calls for the man to bring his son and questions the man about how long he has been possessed and what are his symptoms.
The man’s plea, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us," is answered with "If you can? All things are possible for those who believe." the supplicant responds, "Lord, I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief." Then He heals the man.
When the disciples got Jesus alone they asked why they couldn’t cast the demon out of the man. Jesus told them it was because they had so little faith. Then He makes the most amazing statement in Matt 17:20. "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
This raises difficult questions. Let’s consider some of them:
I. Why doesn’t Jesus answer all our prayers?
A. The standard answer: He does. Sometimes He says no.
1. A response giving little comfort. I want to know why He doesn’t give me what I ask for in light of the promise of John 15:16
2. If a child for whom we prayed dies and someone says "God said no" to us, it may be true but we want better understanding.
3. "All things work together for good" is no more comforting, either, even though it is true.
B. Is it possible Jesus isn’t speaking literally? Is He using hyperbole?
1. Of course. How often do we need a mountain moved?
2. There is no doubt God is capable of such, but how can we believe it will happen?
3. Obviously, Jesus is speaking of helping us meet the everyday needs of our lives. The mountains are illness, financial reverse, bereavement, etc.
C. We may not understand why He doesn’t always give us what we ask for, but we can know and understand some things:
1. God loves us and wants to meet our needs. He has the power and resources to do so.
2. He knows what we truly need better than we can ever know it.
3. He wants us to come to Him in faith with our needs.
II. What message is Jesus trying to convey with His "mustard seed" comment?
A. By the way, there is another example in Luke 17:6. Tell the story briefly.
1. He means nothing is impossible if we have faith in God:
2. He can help you handle the problems of this life if you will just believe in Him.
3. Phil. 4:12, 13 God didn’t deliver Paul from all want, but helped him triumph in all circumstances.
B. He responds to our faith, and acts in proportion to our faith.
1. Blind men healed. First Jesus asked if they believed He could do it. Matt. 9:27-30
2. Matt. 13:57, 58. No miracles in His hometown because they lacked faith.
3. Sometimes it really is hard to believe. We know God can give us our desires, but doubt He will.
III. How much faith is Jesus talking about?
A. A mustard seed is not very large.
1. In another place, it is called smallest of seeds. Matthew 13:32
2. It seems almost anyone in this audience would have at least that much faith in God or you wouldn’t be here.
3. However, it is one thing to believe God can and another to believe He will give us what we want.
B. He wants us to exercise enough faith to motivate us to obey Him. ILLUS.: 10 lepers in Luke 17:12ff
1. They were healed on their way to the priest. It wasn’t even necessary to complete the assignment Jesus gave.
2. They only needed enough faith to be willing to obey. They needed to get started.
C. Prayer must be coupled with surrender to God’s will. There are times recorded in the Bible when God didn’t give the answer people sought:
1. Surely Christians were praying for Stephen’s safety, yet he was stoned to death.
2. Others prayed for the release of James, the Lord’s brother, yet he was beheaded.
3. Some must have prayed for Paul’s release from prison.
4. How about, "Father, if it is possible,, let this cup be taken from me." Matthew 26:39