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Increase Our Faith

By Ryan Bridgeo

Avery CountyPastor Ryan Bridgeo Plumtree Church Avery County, NC


In Luke 17:3-6, Jesus said to his disciples: … “If your brother or

sister [fellow disciple] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent,

forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven

times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” 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” [bracketed words added].

The context here is forgiveness. The Old Testament taught “an eye

for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” The Rabbis and Pharisees of their day

taught that people were required to forgive a person three times, and

after that, they could have nothing to do with them. But the Lord had

instructed the disciples to forgive someone even if they sinned against

them seven times in the same day. The thought of forgiving someone

seven times in the same day stretched the disciples so severely that

they cried out, “Lord, increase our faith,” or “Give us more faith.” They

did not believe they could do this without help.

Notice Jesus’ response to their request for more faith from verse 6. 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.” After they requested more faith, Jesus instructed them to speak to a tree.

This is a strange request. Jesus told them to speak specifically to a

mulberry tree. Most likely, He was standing right beside one of these

trees to illustrate what He was trying to teach. Now remember, He was

teaching them how to strengthen their measure of faith in the area of

forgiveness. Interestingly, mulberry trees are fast-growing trees

with an aggressive root system, just like bitterness and unforgiveness

can be in our lives.

Hebrews 12:15 (NIV) says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace

of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Jesus was telling His disciples to speak to the tree of bitterness and un-

forgiveness to come up by the roots, and it would obey. By doing so,

their faith would be strengthened to forgive those who hurt them.

It is hard to forgive sometimes, especially when the same person

hurts us over and over again. I suspect that is why the disciples asked

the Lord to increase their faith. They did not believe they could do it. I

find it hard to even imagine being hurt by the same individual seven

times on the same day and forgiving them all seven times. But that is

exactly what Jesus asks us to do. If you are finding it hard to forgive

someone, speak to the mulberry tree, the tree of bitterness and unfor-

giveness, to come up by the roots and be thrown into the sea. You will

see that it will obey you, and then you will be able to forgive from your

heart much easier.

Another thing I want to highlight is from Luke 17: He

replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed …” In the original

Greek language, the word “small” is not there. The King James

Version says, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed …” The point of

the verse is not about the size of the seed. It is about having faith like a

mustard seed. There are characteristics of a mustard seed that Jesus is

comparing to faith. When Jesus spoke these words, He was speaking

to an agricultural society that would be familiar with seeds. The

mustard seed comes from the weed family. They are very tenacious

and will grow almost anywhere. They will grow where most seeds

cannot survive. If they are sown among rocks, they will still grow.

They will push and push until the rocks are moved out of the way to

let the sunlight in.

This is a picture of faith that Jesus wants us to see. It has nothing to

do with the size of the seed or the size of our faith because He has

already given us the measure of faith that is needed for anything. It

has to do with us being tenacious with the faith He has given us. We

need to push and push until those rocks are moved out of our way.

This is not a passive faith but an active faith. We already have enough

faith. We just need to exercise our faith by speaking to the tree until it

submits. Everything we need is in the seed that has been planted!

Is His speaking to an object, like a tree, a one-time teaching by

Jesus? No, it is not. Matthew 17:14-20 states: “And when they had come to

the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord,

have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So, I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the child was cured from that very hour.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it

will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Think about this for a moment. What were the disciples asking?

They were saying, “Why couldn’t we cast out the demon? Why could

we not heal the boy? What is wrong with our faith? We tried, but it

didn’t work?” They probably thought that they needed more faith to

get the job done. But that is not what Jesus said to them. He said the

reason the boy was not healed had nothing to do with the will of God,

or their faith. It was because of their unbelief. This is the only time the

word “unbelief ” is used in the New Testament, and it means “littleness

of faith.” They had faith, but it was not strong yet. It was still small.

They needed to exercise their faith to make it grow strong.

Jesus continued to teach the disciples how to exercise their faith, in

verse 18. Jesus instructed the disciples to speak to the mountain to

move from here to there, and it would obey. The reason for their

failure to heal the boy was not the demon. Jesus did not say the demon

was too powerful. The obstacle was their personal unbelief. Their

unbelief was stronger than their faith. Jesus told them to speak to that

mountain of unbelief, with mustard seed-like faith, and to command it

to be cast into the sea, and it would obey. This is something I think we

can all practice.

Another example is found in Mark 11. Verses 12-14 say, “Now the

next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.” Skip ahead to verses 20-24, “Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘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. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

In this story, Jesus was hungry, and he went looking for fruit on a

tree that was not in season. The time for figs had not yet come. I’m

sure Jesus would have known what season figs grow, but He looked

anyway. He then cursed the fig tree because it did not have fruit, even

though it was not the right season. Why would Jesus do this? Some

have suggested in fun that He was still upset with the fig tree from the

time of the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid behind it after

the fall. This is funny but unlikely. I believe it was to teach the

disciples this same lesson once again.

They asked Jesus how the fig tree withered so quickly. Jesus

responded, “Have faith in God.” Other translations say, “Have faith of

God.” Then He told them that if they had faith and no doubt, they

could speak to the mountain, and it would move into the sea. These are three different occasions, three different stories with the

same teaching. First, the forgiveness of sins, the healing of the epileptic

boy, and the cursing of the fig tree that did not produce fruit. Three

different times they asked Jesus about faith, and three different times

He told them to speak to the circumstance. Speak to the tree of unfor-

giveness. Speak to the mountain of unbelief. Speak to the mountains

in your life, the areas in your life that are not producing fruit. He told

them to speak to them, and they would be uprooted and cast into the

sea. By doing so, their faith would grow. And our faith will grow as

well if we do the same.

You, like the disciples, may feel like you don’t have enough faith.

The truth is that the Lord has given us everything we need for life and

godliness, including all the faith we need. We just need to acknowledge

what we already have and speak to the mountains in our lives.

I believe the Lord would like to encourage you today by saying that you already have enough faith; you just need to exercise what you have. Why not start today by speaking to the mountains in your life in Jesus’ name?

Blessings, Pastor Ryan


Ryan Bridgeo is the Pastor of Plumtree Church in Avery County, NC. If you would like to know more or how you might become involved in this ministry please reach out to Pastor Ryan at or call 828-765-6919.

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