“With faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain move, and it will move. But men of little faith will fear the storm despite God’s presence.”
Small is defined as lacking in position or influence or status and something small can easily be disregarded by others.
Using a demonstration of flour, 200g of flour in a packet makes a small bag of flour, but the same 200g scattered on a tabletop can only be described with uncertainty as little flour (using the words small & little). This would pursue a flow of thought that the word ‘small’ denotes a completeness in terms of a measure which is known and thus useful portion, ‘little’ on the other hand seems to be of no particular use, it seems to have no value in its form.
Whereas ‘little’ and ‘small’ seem to be the same thing, there comes a big difference when we look at the two more closely. While both signify a sort of inadequacy, the word little, shows a completeness of proceeding, wholeness in itself that seems to suggest there is no more room for growth. Small on the other hand portrays a stage of tenderness, infancy, a young-ling that has potential for growth. It denotes an early stage of development which given the right atmosphere, will grow to maturity.
The Bible refers to faith in these two ways. Luke 17:6” 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.”
The word ‘little’ is used in Matthew 17:20, together with the word ‘small’, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, 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.”
Note that Jesus does not say “If you have faith as ‘little’ as a mustard seed”, he says ‘small’”.
The disciples were privileged to have the source of faith, and looking from the multitudes’ point of view, they would be expected to be of great faith and indeed a man with a demon possessed son brought him unto the disciples who couldn’t heal him (Mark 9). They later ask Jesus in private why they couldn’t.
The disciples had a problem. This problem was highlighted in Matt 8:23-27 when the disciples wake Jesus crying “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!” This shows a belief that Jesus is able to save but at the same time, a disbelief that at a time when they needed him most, the creator of heaven and earth and sea was peacefully asleep despite the storm. Jesus first words, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Little faith is a faith of fear, it can create a feeling of false security as felt the disciples, but when the storm comes our fear will take over. Small faith in the other hand, is a faith of action. The Centurion of Mark 9 had a sick servant and insisted that Jesus didn’t have to go to his house. He believed that all Jesus had to do was say the word. Whom others might have regarded as a faithless person, considering he was a Roman Centurion, was actually a man of “great faith”. The faith he had was brave and believed in the power of the spoken word of God.
(Mark 5:25-34) This lady had a flow of blood for 12 years, and after trying everything, her faith desired to simply touch the hem of Jesus clothing. The faith she had, however small brought forth healing.
Matt 13:32 completes the image of the mustard seed by showing a transformation into a big tree on whose branches birds will perch. Our faith might be small, but like the seed, it must grow. “We are living in an important and interesting period of this earth’s history. We need more faith than we have yet had; we need a firmer hold from above. Satan is working with all power to obtain the victory over us, for he knows that he has but a short time in which to work.” Signs of the Times June 16, 1890, par. 5
– Vernon A. Eliamani