I hope all are well and warm. What a windstorm this week! The storm snapped off the top of my neighbor’s “junk” tree taking off the top of my spruce tree. Both came crashing down and lay over electrical lines meant to feed my house with power. With trees to lift before my lines are fixed, I have no idea if I will be first or last on their list. There are many uprooted trees, many snapped like toothpicks!
God makes the winds his messengers, Psalm 104:4a.
Maybe I am reading into it too much, but I have been pondering the wind and considering tree roots over the last month (see this blog and this blog).
Forgetting this week’s 80+ mile an hour winds, in Luke 17, Jesus mentions that mustard seed faith can uproot a Sycamore-mulberry tree.
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.
Did you know that the Sycamore-mulberry tree has a damaging and invasive root system? The root system spreads far and deep. It grows quickly; with roots that densely DOMINATE the surrounding soil areas. These roots can cause foundation problems to whatever is planted nearby. Apparently, it does not penetrate foundations; but it so affects the surrounding soil of the foundation, that the foundation will warp and buckle.
There is a lot to ponder in that picture. In my mind’s eye, it hard to “see” a mustard seed uprooting a massive and invasive underground root system.
If we don’t understand the context of Jesus’ words, we might start beating ourselves up. We see deeply entrenched root systems in our lives that don’t budge. We question if our faith is smaller than the mustard seed! This might lead to discouragement! If our faith was larger, certainly “this addiction”, “this relationship”, “this problem” wouldn’t be such a problem! That type of thinking can deter people from persevering in prayer and steal joy from the conversational and intimate relationship God intends. He desires his “house” (your body indwelt by His Spirit) to be a house of prayer!
In context, prior to his comment about the mustard seed uprooting the mulberry tree, Jesus had given warning to his disciples to not put a stumbling block in the way of “little” ones. He also gave instruction to continually forgive the brother, who repeatedly offends, yet who repeatedly asks for forgiveness. To this instruction, the disciples say, “Increase our faith!” That prayer request for increased faith is what prompted Jesus to declare mustard seed faith could uproot the entrenched roots of mulberry trees.
But was the size of faith the focus or was simple obedience by faith the focus? If Jesus strictly warns us to not trip up or tempt his children (our brothers and sisters) to sin or lose faith; and if he tells us to forgive those who asks us to forgive them, why wouldn’t disciples just say “ok”? Why ask for more faith?
Maybe I am wrong; but it seems like the disciples were skirting the issue of obedience. I say this because right after Jesus talks about mustard seed faith uprooting the mulberry tree, he tells a story of a servant working in a field all day and the master expecting that same servant to come in and serve the master supper and doing what is expected, continuing to humbly serve. And then Jesus says as application to his disciples, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” - Luke 17:10
I think the hyperbole of the mustard seed uprooting the mulberry tree is more about simple obedience BY faith. It’s not about the size, because faith either exists or it doesn’t, i.e. unbelief (Matthew 17:20). Mustard seed faith will grow after being planted by obedience and surrender. Simple obedience by faith is powerful. It reveals us as disciples.
There are 57 “one another” scriptures that encourage us to love one another deeply. When we love one another, the whole world will know we are Christ's disciples. This is love that “moves” mountains of unbelief. Our simple obedience by faith (the size of a mustard seed) will move mountains of unbelief in ourselves and others! Invasive and destructive root systems that damage faith foundations shall be removed and thrown into the sea!
Here are some ideas on mustard seed prayer to root out the “mulberry” tree. Take one question a day or just take one question that hits a nerve. Take it slow. Let the Holy Spirit do His patient work in you.
· You’ve offended (Luke 17:1-2)- Ask God to bring to mind any words or actions that may have negatively affected the faith walk of one of God’s “little ones”. Do you need to go to your children, a newer believer, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker etc. and admit your behavior, words, or thoughts have not represented Christ and ask them for forgiveness?
· Someone else offended (Luke 17:3-4)- Ask God to show you if there is an offense bothering you? Has someone else's "mulberry roots" negatively impacted your faith foundation? Or are you holding a grudge against someone who has asked you for forgiveness? Do you need to let go of an offense? Do you need to grieve? Ask God for wisdom in whatever situation needs forgiveness or to be let go.
· Lack of faith (Matthew 17:20)- Is there no mustard seed (belief) at all? Need a deeper level of trust in Him? Ask Jesus to show you the root of unbelief or lack of surrender. What feelings and thoughts come up in you when you consider God wants obedience as proof of your faith and love? Negative or positive? Resentment or relief? A vision that sets you up for failure or a path to leads freedom? A weight of torment or a yoke of ease? A religious prison or a field of friendship with Jesus? He will help you get to the root of your wrong judgment of God as good. Give it time; but stick with Jesus because He is faithful to show you the real issue of unbelief. Ask for roots that go down more deeply into Him!
Blessings as you talk to Jesus! Favor be upon you as you humble yourself and confess weakness!
Colossians 2:7- Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
Hebrews 12:14-15- 14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 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.
4/8/2020 12:00:25 pm
Just stumbled across this piece after reading Luke 17 and being a little confused as to why Jesus would use the imagery of a mulberry tree. This was super helpful and full of wisdom. I love the power of simple obedience rooted in faith to destroy any root system and throw it into the sea where they is no chance for the roots to dig deep. Thanks for writing and being so clearly in love with Jesus! He is using you. Thank you for being sensitive to His Spirit.
Gina- Into the Waters
4/8/2020 01:12:33 pm
Thank you so much Trent! Really appreciate you taking time to comment! Yes I do love Jesus, honored to serve Him! His Word is so rich with truth! Blessings of his favor to you! And check out our new podcast if you like that way of engaging!
1/25/2021 02:51:09 pm
Your blog prompted a wonderful time with Jesus. Like Trent said in his comment, I found your post after reading Luke 17 and I wondered if the mulberry tree had any significance. This has truly blessed me. Blessings to you
1/25/2021 03:07:13 pm
Thank you Tamsin. You made my day! So thankful for your feedback! God’s word is so rich with treasure for our soul! Blessings!
5/25/2022 12:06:58 pm
Maybe His parable means you either have it or you don't. About faith of course. Peace...
Hi Omur, yes perhaps, but goes deeper, so thank you for your comment. The prior scriptures about offenses and His instructing repeated forgiveness give us clues to what Jesus was saying. The disciples asked for more faith to forgive that often, verse 5. So Jesus tells a story abut mustard seed faith and emphasizing servants doing what they were commanded. In my experience, if there is a repetitive whisper from the Spirit on what is blocking people's prayers and life of faith, it is that they are holding on to unforgiveness. Despite the unbelievable lengths Jesus went to that we might have forgiveness, when He asks us to forgive others, too often we withhold, instead justifying unforgiveness. And then unforgiveness becomes a bitter root that defiles many, Hebrews 12:15. So, in Luke 17:5-10, Jesus was not just referring to having faith, He was referring to simple obedience that comes by faith. Ask God if you are carrying any unforgiveness... Blessings!
10/2/2022 07:16:58 am
Thank you! Your words about faith and the roots are so helpful.
10/7/2022 07:57:48 pm
Thank you so much Jeffrey! Means a lot to me! Blessings!
1/7/2023 10:14:01 am
I just read Luke 17 and did a word search on mulberry trees. When I was in Israel, I went to a kibbutz that had a yard full of them. The fruit itself was delicious and I wondered what Jesus had against these mulberry trees. That’s when I came across your article. Thank you! I love this: “It grows quickly; with roots that densely DOMINATE the surrounding soil areas. These roots can cause foundation problems to whatever is planted nearby. Apparently, it does not penetrate foundations; but it so affects the surrounding soil of the foundation, that the foundation will warp and buckle.”
1/9/2023 03:02:46 pm
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Hi my name is Gina; and I'm the founder of the ministry. My 25 year journey with God has been centered on immersing myself in the safe relationship God offers, learning about the power of surrender, and praying for His life in greater measure!