“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.” - Luke 17:5-6
As happens so often in the gospels, Jesus’ disciples ask him a question that demonstrates their lack of understanding. The disciples see faith as if it were a measuring cup that can be filled up to varying levels.
Jesus replies in a cryptic way. He does not directly answer their request but instead reframes it in such a way as to reveal to them the folly of their thinking.
He tells them that it doesn’t matter how much faith they have, but instead what matters is simply that they actually have faith. He asks them to truly believe. Belief in a proposition is always of a binary nature. You either believe something or you don’t. It’s that simple.
Jesus revealed to the disciples that it takes just the smallest amount of faith to do the most miraculous works. Instead of trying to increase their faith, the disciples should have swallowed their pride and admitted that they did not have any of the type of faith they were looking for. Of course they had faith in Jesus, as they witnessed his miracles first hand, but they did not yet posses faith that they too could preform miracles. Only after coming to terms with the reality of the situation could they then begin to move forward to acquire the faith they sought (they succeeded).
Faith can not be had by sheer effort of will the way a heavy weight is lifted in the gym. Faith must come of its own accord. It must be planted like a seed and patiently given time to germinate. In due time the seed will sprout, but never before it is planted by the gardener. In other words, faith is available to all who seek it.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. - Psalm 130:7