The Mustard Seed 3-by-5

  • Steve Hatter
Small egg looking object on the tip of a finger

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. Matthew 13:31-32


Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Mustard Seed appears in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19). In this parable, Jesus teaches how the kingdom of heaven will grow from small and humble beginnings into something magnificent.

The mustard seed is tiny, but with the right nurturing conditions, it will grow into a large bush that can exceed ten feet in height. Our Lord’s point of the parable is that God-blessed things can—and will—grow from seemingly humble and insignificant starting points into God-glorifying outcomes—with His eternal Kingdom being the ultimate glorious outcome. Jesus, the eternal second member of the Trinity came humbly to earth as the God-man. He recruited a few insignificant and unremarkable men to join Him as His disciples. His and their ministry efforts led to persecution and temporal execution. Yet, in so doing, Jesus ushered in His kingdom and the gracious means for men to become freed from their sin and become eternally beloved subjects of the righteous King. He alone met mankind’s greatest need but in the most unexpected way possible.

I have a mustard seed story that perhaps illustrates the God-blessed small-to-big principle of the mustard seed parable. It begins with a thirty-four-year-old brand-new believing Christian Air Force Captain who was checking in to his new assignment to fly the F-15 Eagle fighter jet at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base located in North Carolina.

It was the Fall of 1991, and Cynthia and I had just arrived at the Temporary Living Facility (TLF) for inbound families at the base. We had two young boys and a new baby girl with us, and we were jet-lagged from our overseas move back to the U.S. from Germany.

The previous year had been a tumultuous one. I had been called to fight with the allied forces against Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm, while Cynthia remained in Germany where we were permanently stationed. The stress and pressure of these God-ordained circumstances proved to be His awesomely gracious means to bring us both to saving faith in Christ alone. Thus, we found ourselves baby Christians beginning not just a new Air Force assignment, but a whole new life together as freshly born-again believers.

Not long after checking into the TLF, I headed down what I remember to be a long hallway with a laundry room at the end of it. With armloads of dirty clothes, I went to work on the humble mission of “laundry dad” as one of the very first things I did on that base. As I was waiting for my laundry loads to wash and dry, I notices a great big bulletin board with one tiny three-by-five index card tacked onto its corkboard front. The card was white with simple black ink advertising a Bible Study, with little phone number strips cut into the bottom of the card. Cynthia and I were sorely in need of Christian fellowship as base newcomers and most especially in our infant faith given what God had done in bringing us to Himself in the previous year.

I, therefore, ripped off one of the phone number tags and called the number when I got back to our too-little-for-our-family-sized room (also, there were no cell phones back then, so I had to call from the room with this weird dialing device connected by a wire to the wall!).

That phone call began a lifelong friendship with an incredibly godly couple, Houstoun and Tammy Waring! Moreover, our connection to the Warings has multiplied over the past thirty years to result in countless other friendships in the body of Christ. Marc and Suzanne Luiken, also thirty years friends, and now AGC Members, are a big part of that multiplied community. “Hous,” as my friend is known in the F-15 community, proved himself a mentor and dear accountability brother that only God, in His perfect wisdom and timing, could provide to me in my moment of need.

Suffice it to say that God provided for me and Cynthia the perfect small and humble seed relationship within His kingdom family to help us grow and mature in Him. Hous and Tammy went onward to serve a full career in the USAF, and they are now in full-time ministry serving in Officer’s Christian Fellowship, which is a parachurch organization that seeks to minister to military families. God blessed them with a successful military career trajectory while adding nine amazing children along the way. God also blessed Cynthia and me with two more kids, and much good and meaningful work in the military over my career as well. We now, of course, both serve together in full-time ministry at Anchorage Grace Church and Grace Christian School.

Cynthia and I had the great privilege to reconnect with Tammy two weeks ago while she was traveling through Anchorage. Over a Moose’s Tooth Pizza dinner, we could only marvel at what God has done with our friendship that began with a small and humble three-by-five card posted in a lonely laundry room area so very many, many years ago. We caught up on all our kids and their growing faith and families while assessing how God has loved us and matured us through good times and bad. Only He could weave the beautiful tapestry of faith relationships we now enjoy.

This is how our good and gracious God works, from small to big. Please realize that the simplest kingdom-advancing thing you may do today may bear a huge harvest of God-blessed fruit thirty years from now! So, make that phone call God is prompting you to make right now!