A few weeks ago, the Lord had us pitch camp in John chapter 15 where Jesus taught His disciples that He is the True Vine, that we are the branches, and how we can bear much fruit for the glory of God the Father. So, let’s quickly go back and review some of the things we learned:
We have spent the first three parts of this series essentially talking about the kingdom principle. No, not a kingdom principle; the kingdom principle. That’s right—we have learned that just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is one way, truth, and life of the kingdom—and that is seedtime & harvest. Everything operates according to this principle. Amen.
Now when you bring up this principle of seedtime & harvest and you start talking about that we will reap what we sow, there seems to be negative connotation to it. For example, when someone says, “You reap what you sow,” everyone seems to only think how this works negatively. But how many of you know that the same principle that can certainly work against you can also work for you? Yes, we should get excited when we hear this because we are learning how to get good seed planted in our ground so that we can reap the harvest we desire. Amen?
So, up to this point, we have spent time studying this very thing: We have been looking at other parables that Jesus taught, where He illustrated what the kingdom of God is like and how it works: We’ve looked at His Parable of the Growing Seed from Mark 4:26-29, and we saw from this the process of the kingdom. Then we looked over at His Parable of the Sower and saw the basic building blocks of the kingdom by studying both what the seed and the soil is. So, from all of this, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the soil is the ground of our hearts. Therefore, we learned that if we will just take the seed of God’s Word—the specific seed for the fruit we desire to see—and plant it in the good ground of our hearts, we will see the fruit we desire. Yes, we indeed can count on this because it is a law in God’s kingdom. This is how we get a harvest every time!
You see, saints, this is why we can count on verses like John 15:7. It is because the Lord has taught us how to receive our desires that are in accordance with His will. But herein lies the mistake of most believers: they never learn the process, they don’t know what the seed is, and they don’t discover where the ground is much less how to cultivate it. My point is—if we want to receive from God, then we’d best find out how He has set things up because it is not good enough to hope and pray that God comes through for us just because He has the power and ability to do it. No, just like we must learn how to function on this earth—respecting its laws like gravity, seedtime & harvest, etc.—we must also respect the laws (i.e. principles) of the kingdom of heaven. That is the only way we are going to live in the fullness of His blessing and bear much fruit.
So, now that we have looked at two of the parables that Jesus gave us that describe how the kingdom operates, let’s look at a third parable today because I feel it answers the next important question that needs to be asked concerning this kingdom principle: If the process is seedtime & harvest, the seed is the Word of God, and the soil is our hearts, then how do we sow the seed into our hearts? That’s a great question, and the answer is found in this right here—a mustard seed.
Today, I want to talk to you about this very little, seemingly insignificant seed, which in Jesus’ day was considered to be one of the smallest seeds on the earth. You see, the mustard seed was an object lesson that Jesus used three different times during His ministry. And what I want us to do today is look at all three of these references in order for us to answer this question: How do we sow the seed of God’s Word? So, let’s begin answering this question by looking at two of the three different references that He made to the mustard seed—two references that echo each other.
FAITH AS A MUSTARD SEED
We see Jesus twice using the analogy of a mustard seed in teaching His disciples how faith works, saying that if they just had faith like this mustard seed, they could see supernatural results:
In the first instance I am referring to (see Luke 17:5-6), Jesus’ disciples heard Jesus teach on the importance of forgiveness. So, His disciples immediately responded to the call for unlimited forgiveness by saying, “Increase our faith!”
On a side note, why did they respond this way? What was it about Jesus’ statements on forgiveness that prompted them to think they needed more faith? It was because Jesus’ disciples understood something that most in the church today do not, and that is that we forgive by faith. We don’t forgive just because the ill feelings for the other person have left. Forgiveness is a choice—a choice to not hold the other person accountable for their offense any longer. Jesus described it like erasing a debt. If you forgive somebody of some money they owe you, what does that have to do with how you feel about them? It has nothing to do with it because you have already released them of the debt. Likewise, when we forgive others, it is simply a conscious decision that we are loosing that person from what they did to us, and any time feelings try to come back up when we see them, we respond to those feelings and say, “No, they are forgiven. I have forgiven them and I’ve asked God to forgive them. Now I will just love them. And flesh, if you keep it up, I will do even more good to them.” Now that doesn’t mean that you place them back in a position in your life and put your trust back in them immediately; but it does mean that you move on and don’t continue to stroke those feelings of resentment.
Then Jesus goes on to explain to His disciples how faith works, which I see as Him countering their plea for more faith with— “Guys, you don’t need more faith! You just need to know how to put your faith to work.” He said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6).
You see, most people believe that the reason Jesus used the mustard seed was only because of the size of it. In other words, He would use the mustard seed to describe how we only need a little faith to get the fruit we desire. And while there is some truth to that (we will see more of that shortly), I believe Jesus was teaching us how faith works—it must be planted like a mustard seed and then it will grow and produce the fruit of the thing we desire. We will get more into that in a moment.
In the other instance where Jesus used the mustard seed as His object lesson, He was referring to the casting out of the demon from the epileptic boy, and when His disciples asked him why they could not cast it out, Jesus responded— “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you had faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing shall be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20).
So, when Jesus’ disciples asked Him why they didn’t get the same results with this boy that they had come to expect when praying for people, Jesus bluntly told them— “Guys, it is because of your unbelief.” And this unbelief is not simply the absence of faith; it is the polar opposite of faith that counterbalances the effectiveness of our faith. If we have a ton of unbelief it can outweigh our faith. That’s a whole other message. But along this line, we need to understand a few opposing truths: carnal people act on what they feel, whereas spiritual people act on what they believe; faith is spiritual while unbelief is carnal; and prayer increases our sensitivity to God, while fasting decreases our sensitivity to our flesh.
But what Jesus was saying here was— “Guys, the reason you didn’t get the fruit you desired here is because of the unbelief that’s in you. However, I’m telling you the truth, if you just had faith like a mustard seed…” Again, not necessarily a reference to the size of their faith, but to the way in which faith works—like planting a mustard seed and getting a mustard tree harvest.
So, in both of these instances, faith is the subject and it is likened to a mustard seed. Again, the obvious point that Jesus was making in these Scriptures is that we do not need great faith to see great results; all we need is faith as a mustard seed—which while widely-viewed in their days to be the smallest of all seeds, had the capability to grow and become a great herb bearing tree.
But allow me to reiterate this point: Many Christians err today regarding this, believing that they just need “more faith” in order to see “more fruit.” But this is exactly what Jesus was countering in both of these passages. No, friends, we do not need more faith; all we need is to use a little of the faith that we already have. But someone will invariably respond to this, “But Trey, I do believe! I do have faith! Yet I am not seeing those results.” But this is when we need to consider what else Jesus was saying in these verses.
Concerning this, it is noteworthy that Jesus said in Matthew chapter 17 that if you had faith as a mustard seed you will say, and in Luke chapter 17, He said that if you had faith as a mustard seed you can say. This teaches me that if I have this faith and understand how it operates, then I both can and will say something—teaching us that our faith is voice-activated. Yes, we have the ability to speak faith-filled words, but we also must speak these faith-filled words if we want to see results. Amen.
You see, a little mustard seed does you no good if it is not planted and allowed the opportunity to grow and produce, does it? And as we are about to learn in this Parable of the Mustard Seed, this particular seed has a supernatural ability to produce and grow to become greater than all other herb bearing trees. To me, this is the point Jesus was making: It is not about having more faith; it is simple about learning to plant the faith we have and allowing it the opportunity to grow and produce its supernatural results.
So, then the obvious question is: How do you plant those mustard seeds of faith? And the answer to this question is found in both of these passages of Scripture: Again, Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “…if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’” And also, in Luke 17:6, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea.’”
What is the common thread that you see here? It is that the way we plant our faith into the situations and circumstances that are currently in our lives to see them removed is by speaking to them. Yes, we sow little mustard seeds of faith by speaking faith-filled words!
This is how we sow, church—by saying! Never forget this right here, saints: Saying is sowing and sowing is saying. We plant God’s Word by speaking God’s Word! Let me say it this way: When you say the seed of God’s Word, you are sowing the seed of God’s Word.
This is how faith produces wonder-working results! It must be planted, and then allowed the time to germinate under the ground until it springs up in the natural and changes those situations and circumstances! Hallelujah!
But where you see this kingdom principle fail in so many believers’ lives is in that time between when the mustard seed is sown and when it begins to bear fruit in the natural. And sometimes that is a long period of time, saints. But this is how the kingdom generally works: First seed, then time, and then, after what generally is a longer period of time than our flesh would like, the harvest! In other words, His kingdom does not usually manifest when we want it to. This is why we must say it, and keep saying it until we see the fruit. I liken this to planting the seed, then watering the seed we’ve sown with the Word itself (Ephesians 5:26). As Paul said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (see First Corinthians 3:6).
And this is exactly what Jesus was teaching in this parable that we are about to look at in Matthew chapter 13—that the kingdom of God is progressive and it is growing with the increase that comes from God. But the key in understanding seedtime & harvest is in knowing that it grows underneath the ground first. In other words, its progress is usually unseen. And that is when we must believe that God is working—not when we see it, but when we know He said it. This is faith, and this is kingdom living.
So, finally, let’s look at Jesus’ last reference to the mustard seed—the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew’s gospel (it is actually located in all three accounts of Jesus’ “Sermon by the Sea”).
THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED
In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus said— “Another parable He put forth to them, saying, ‘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 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.”
Now, again, the key item in this parable is the mustard seed. Notice that this is what Jesus was comparing the kingdom of God to when He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.”
Now it is important to note that in both Mark & Luke’s account of this parable, they both quote Jesus as saying, “What is the kingdom of God like? And with what parable shall we picture it?” This shows us that Jesus was drawing on the best natural example He could to paint the picture of what the kingdom of God is like. In other words, this parable is the specific illustration Jesus chose to use to describe to us what the kingdom of God looks like.
Well, notice the next statement here in Matthew 13:31— “which a man took and sowed in his field.”
Now we know, in its purest interpretation, the man here in this parable is Almighty God. He took He Whom was from the beginning, the Logos (i.e. the Word), and sowed Him to the earth. And we understand that from the time Jesus was born in a stable to the time of His death on the Cross, He had “no form or comeliness” (i.e. no majestic form or splendor) and there was “no beauty that we should desire Him.” As the prophet Isaiah also stated- “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.” (see Isaiah 53:2).
Yes, saints, Jesus was that mustard seed—that tender plant that grew up out of dry ground! He was the Word sown by the Father into this world which is His field. Indeed, our Heavenly Father said, “Light be,” and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (Compare John 1:1-14).
GOD SAID TOO
But sticking with this biblical account, aren’t you glad that when God stood over the earth that was without form and void and beheld the darkness that was over the face of the deep, He didn’t say, “Man, its dark in here! What a mess! I wish this darkness would go. Me, I beg and plead with you to bring Me some light.” No, what did God do? Genesis 1:3 says, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” He spoke of what fruit He wanted to see, and not the lack of fruit that He currently saw. (This becomes more literal on the third day).
And, church, this is the way God operates—He says what He desires to see, not what He sees in the natural. We see this also in Mark 11:22-24 when Jesus taught His disciples more about how faith works:
We know the story: how Jesus cursed the fig tree on the way to Jerusalem, and then when they passed back the next day, they saw it dried up from the roots. So, when Peter said, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away,” Jesus answered with— “Don’t try this at home, guys, because I am the Son of God, and you are not…” No, that’s not what Jesus said! He answered with— “Have faith in God!” Now the literal rendering in the Greek language says, “Have God’s faith.” So, while it is certainly important for us to put our faith in the Lord, and that absolutely has its place, Jesus was telling us here to have faith like God has it. In other words, have His very own faith and practice it like He does. Amen!
Then, Jesus goes on to further explain how we have the faith of God by saying in verse 23, “For assuredly (Now that means that you can be confident in this. It’s a sure thang!), I say to you, whosoever (Now we made this point during this series about how it doesn’t matter who the sower is. You can be the poop of a bird that swallowed a seed that simply carries the seed to the ground, and that seed will bring forth its fruit) says to this mountain (So, we see here that we are not talking to God about the mountain; this is us talking to the mountain itself), ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” Notice that in this verse, the word “says” is mentioned three times, and the believing aspect is only mentioned one.
So, I believe that all of this means that the saying part is super significant, mainly because God Himself operates this way. Amen?
THE LEAST OF ALL SEEDS
And as I was making the point of earlier, God did this very thing with His Word, the Lord Jesus! Yes, Jesus was sown into this earth just like a seed is sown. But, again, how was the Word sown? By God saying…! Yes, His Word was spoken and it was made flesh!
But although Jesus came to be the Light of the world and to shine in the darkness of this dark and perverse world, the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:5). As the Parable of the Mustard Seed went on to say, “which indeed is the least of all the seeds.”
Sticking with the interpretation of Jesus being the mustard seed spoken of in this parable, the kingdom of God and its Christ did not come in a grand and glorious fashion. Jesus and His kingdom came as the least, humbly to be a servant of all. From His own mouth, He said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).
And, herein lies another great principle of the kingdom of God: It is that the first will be last and the last will be first. As this same passage in Matthew chapter 20 states— “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.” (Matthew 28:26-27). This is how God’s kingdom operates, beloved. We see this by how the Christ and His kingdom came in an unassuming way. And it will operate the same in our lives as we lay down our lives and learn to become “the least of all seeds” ourselves. May it be so in all of us, Lord! Amen.
But I want us to look at this from a different perspective: Since Jesus was (and obviously still is) the Word of God, then let’s look at this parable from that standpoint. God spoke the Word, saying, “Let there be the Light of the World,” and the Light Himself was made manifest. So, God sowed His Son—His Word—to the earth, and as Jesus went on to describe in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, “but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree…” We certainly see this in the life of Jesus, Who was sown and now has become highly exalted, being given the name which is above every other name! Yes, as Jesus went on to describe in this parable that when this little mustard seed grows to become this great tree, even “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Saints, Jesus has received a more excellent name through His death, burial, and resurrection! And now that He has been seated at the right hand of His Father and has been given the name above every name, He is far above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name that is named! (Ephesians 1:20-21). Hallelujah!
MUSTARD IN YOUR MOUTH
But, again, He did not start this way when He was sown to the earth. He had no form or comeliness that we should desire Him. This means that He seemed all too natural and didn’t seem to be significant according to the flesh—likewise our words seem like there’s nothing to them.
In other words, since Jesus is the Word of God, but came in a package that didn’t necessarily convey how powerful He truly was, many discounted His power and glory. Likewise, the words of Robert, the words of Minton, the words of Shannon, the word of Trey, etc. might not give us the impression that they hold any weight. But, bless God, if we would just sow those words, they have the capability to grow into a great fruit bearing tree! Amen!
You see, people will hear messages like this on the power of our words and say in their hearts, “Yeah, well, I just can’t see how our words hold that kind of power. What difference does it make what I say?” Well, that’s the problem right there. We are seeing our words like a mustard seed, and not in what the mustard seed has the power of producing! So I have to learn to have faith in MY words. But in order to do this, I must be a person of my word. If I make a habit of not doing what I say (like telling someone I’ll be there in 10 minutes and always showing up much later than that), my heart will not believe what I say when I try to speak words of faith.
We have even seen recently from the Book of Proverbs just how many Scriptures there are on the power of our tongue. And I’ll tell you—if both the second wisest man (i.e. Solomon) and the wisest (i.e. Jesus) had this much to say about our words, then we must be convinced that there is absolute wisdom in words and power in our tongues.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” So, the ability to speak both death and life is in our mouth! Then he goes on to say, “…and those that love it shall eat its fruit.” So, now we have come full circle back to how to be fruitful because this verse describes to us that the power our mouth possesses is to eat the fruit that we desire. Yes, the way to partake of the fruit begins with the tongue. So, why does the fruit come this way? It is because our words are the way the seed is sown. We sow by saying, the words are made flesh, and then we partake of their fruit! Amen!
Moses said, in the 91st Psalm, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.’ ” He was making a confession that he was going to make a confession. In other words, he was premeditating that he would always say this.
This is the power of the mustard seed, church! So, can somebody say, “Pass the mustard, please.”