Remember the Parable of the Mustard Seed on Your Doctoral Journey

Close-up of a hand holding a single mustard seed

The mustard seed parable appears in Matthew 13:31-32 and is one of the shorter parables of Jesus. In this parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a tiny mustard seed — one of the smallest seeds found anywhere in nature. Yet despite its small size, once planted, the mustard seed grows into a mighty tree where birds can perch among its branches.  

In This Article: 

Parable of the Mustard Seed Meaning

The parable of the mustard seed teaches us that the Kingdom of Heaven may start small, but it has the potential to grow and expand immensely, providing refuge and sustenance to many, much like the mustard seed that grows into a tall, strong tree. It is often interpreted as a lesson in faith, emphasizing the idea that even a small amount of faith can lead to great things.

Faith of the Mustard Seed

The mustard seed parable is an important part of understanding how important, and how powerful, our faith in Jesus is and can be. It reminds us that we have the power of Jesus within us as long as we have even a little bit of faith in his power and might.

Jesus used the mustard seed as an analogy to illustrate the power of even the smallest amount of faith. He emphasized that faith, no matter how small it may appear, can grow and produce remarkable outcomes. The faith of a mustard seed is nonetheless a powerful faith indeed.

How To Apply the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Your Doctoral Studies

Incorporating the parable of the mustard seed into discussions with doctoral students or colleagues can serve as a teaching tool, fostering discussions about the potential for growth, the importance of faith in the learning process, and the transformative nature of education and research.

This parable encourages doctoral professors to inspire and guide their students while acknowledging the value of small beginnings in academic and research pursuits.

Here are five ways the mustard seed parable can be an encouraging lesson to those who are on their doctoral journey:

1. Starting Small

The mustard seed parable relates to our learners, showing us that even though the journey may seem overwhelming at first, it must begin with small steps. Each research question answered, literature reviewed, or data collected is like the planting of a tiny mustard seed. As instructors, we must ask ourselves: How can we support our learners in celebrating the small successes (mustard seeds)?

2. Nurturing Knowledge

Just as the mustard seed requires care, nourishment and patience to grow into a mighty tree, doctoral learners must nurture their knowledge and skills. This entails continuous learning, seeking guidance from mentors, and persistently working toward your academic goals. How do we support learners in nurturing their mustard seeds?

3. Perseverance

Doctoral programs can be filled with challenges, setbacks and moments of self-doubt. The parable encourages students to persevere in any endeavor they undertake. Just as the mustard seed overcomes adversity to grow into a tree, students should weather academic challenges with the same resilience. What does it mean to have mustard seed faith? 

4. Creating Impact

The mustard seed grows into a tree that provides shelter and sustenance, much as doctoral students aspire to make meaningful contributions to their fields through their research and scholarship. The parable reminds students of the potential impact of their work, even if it may appear insignificant at first. Have you ever been encouraged by God working in someone else’s life?

5. Faith in the Process

Doctoral studies require faith in the learning process and belief that the knowledge and expertise gained can be valuable. Just as the mustard seed requires patience to grow into a tree, doctoral students must maintain faith in their academic journey and the impact of their research. Have you ever faced a difficult situation and prayed your way through it?

Let Your Mustard Seed Faith Guide Your Path

The amazing growth and transformation of the mustard seed reflect what occurs when we plant and nurture faith in ourselves and our learners. When the mustard seed becomes a tall tree, it has big branches that provide shelter and a place of rest for the birds. In much the same way, our faith, and the more we mature in it, allows us to do good work and serve others.

The parable of the mustard seed is about the advancement of God’s kingdom and how God uses seemingly insignificant things to accomplish miraculous feats. God can take something (or someone) that seems small and insignificant, like a mustard seed (or a hardworking PhD student), and turn them into a blessing that reaches many.

In summary, the parable of the mustard seed can inspire doctoral students to start small, nurture their knowledge and persevere through challenges. They are encouraged to aim to make a meaningful impact in their field and maintain mustard seed faith in the academic journey, reminding us that great achievements can grow out of humble beginnings. What are the mustard seed moments in your life?

Apply Online at GCU to Get Started on Your Doctoral Journey

If you are looking to embark on your own doctoral journey, learn more about the degree programs offered through Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies. To contact a university counselor, complete the form on this page.

Approved by Dr. Justina Kwapy on Jan. 29, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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