Tag Archives: definition of faith

05. Does faith ever doubt? Finding your mustard seed

Faith requires doubt in order to be faith. Apply the faith you have, and God will give you more. God doesn’t expect mountain-size faith. A mustard seed will do!

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV).

How can I believe what I cannot see?

“Sure” and “certain” in the above Scripture indicate lack of doubt. “Hope for” and “do not see” indicate doubt. How can these two opposites be compatible in the Biblical definition of “faith”? Can I believe and have unbelief at the same time? Can I be sure of something and hope for it at the same time. Can I be certain of something, having never seen it?

One of the most profound statements in God’s Word is, “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” (Mark 9:24). We tend to think of faith as being 100% sure. But being 100% sure is having it in our hands. Faith requires doubt in order to be faith.

I don’t have faith that I have a computer. I know I do. I’m typing this on it right now. If I do not doubt that I have a computer, I cannot call my knowledge of my computer faith.

However, I do have faith that if the Lord doesn’t come back tonight I will be able to turn on my computer tomorrow. I don’t know with 100% knowledge that my computer will come on tomorrow. I’m 98% sure. But there is a margin of doubt, because I know things can happen to computers

Yet how many times have I told someone, “I’ll email that to you tomorrow”? I live as if my computer is going to come on tomorrow because I believe so strongly that it will.

I have good reason to believe my computer will come on tomorrow. It has come on every day for the past two years since I purchased it. The person I went through to purchase it said it should last me several years and that person is a trusted friend.

Applying this same example to God’s Word: I don’t have faith that I have a Bible. I know I do. I’m looking at it right now as I quote verses from it to you. However I do have faith that God will provide for me everything I need tomorrow. I don’t know with 100% knowledge that God will provide every need. I am 99.9% sure (A bit more sure of God’s provision than that my computer will come on!). But being human I cannot be totally 100% sure of something I have not yet seen. I have not seen tomorrow.

Yet how many times have I told someone, “God will take care of me tomorrow”? I live as if God is going to take care of me tomorrow because I believe so strongly that he will. I have good reason to believe he will take care of me. He has cared for me daily ever since I trusted him as Savior and Lord, and even before. He is the one who taught me I needed him before I ever knew him. His Word says he will never leave me nor forsake me and his Word has become a trusted friend.

Can opposites co-exist? They can if you have a mustard seed!

God does not expect his children to have 100% faith, or even 99.5% or 98% or 75%. He is not measuring how much faith we have.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. 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. (Matthew 17:19-20).

Jesus said they had little faith, but only needed as much as a mustard seed. Yet a mustard seed is tiny. What did Jesus mean?

Could it be that the disciples were looking at the impossibility of driving out the demon. It is impossible. Could you drive out a demon? They looked at the impossible and Jesus wanted them to look at the possible.

If they had just a tiny glimmer of hope inside them that they could drive out the demon in the power and authority of Jesus’ name that he had given them, and applied that glimmer of hope; if they trusted with all the little faith they had and surrendered to God, God would act on the little faith they had and drive out the demon.

Faith is not, yet faith is

  • Faith is not something we call up by positive self-talk.
  • Faith is not wishing for something badly enough we convince ourselves it will happen.
  • Faith is not saying with our intellect God will do something for us just because it is something we want him to do.
  • Faith is learned from God’s Word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)
  • Faith is knowing from God’s Word and from his working in our lives in the past that he has always been faithful to us and promises he always will be. It is placing our hopes in him that he will be true in the future to what we have experienced of him in the past, and what his Word promises will come to pass.
  • Faith is a process of growth. God does not expect us to be “there.” He only expects us to be on the way.

“Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).


Whatever amount of faith you have is enough. If you apply that faith, God will respond to it and he will give you more faith in the process. How do you apply faith? It is simple. You determine to keep your mind off of the problem and on the promises. You determine to keep your mind off of the past failures and off of the future worries, and on the present.

Is God sufficient for you just now? Are you fulfilling his will for you this minute? Does he have something to say to you in his Word this minute? Can you survive the present circumstances for just this moment? Can you trust God to be with you in the next moment as he is now? Great! That is faith.

Study questions

Read Mark 9:14-35 and Matthew 17:19-20 to answer these questions for extra study or discussion:

1) What were the teachers of the law were arguing about? (verse 14-16, 33).
2) Why do you think the father of the demon-possessed boy was so quick to answer?
3) Why did none of the teachers answer Jesus?
4) Why were the disciples unable to deliver the boy from the evil spirit?
5) What was Jesus’ attitude toward the disciples unbelief?
6) What do you think was Jesus’ attitude toward the father’s unbelief?
7) Was there a difference in Jesus’ attitude toward the unbelief in the disciples and the unbelief in the boy’s father?

Does God ever give a ‘word of knowledge’? That’s next.

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted