This particular passage can be confusing unless one knows what the Lord is driving at. The apostles initially asked the Lord Jesus: "Increase our faith!" Jesus explains to them that they don't lack faith but only the wisdom and the understanding to apply it. The Lord uses an extreme, unbelievable example of commanding a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. What He is really getting at is His desire to show us how to listen and obey what the Heavenly Father is speaking so that we will be able to discern the most simple commands as well as what might be the most seemingly outlandish commands which He would give us.
At first glance, it would appear that Jesus has launched into a whole new topic when he begins relating the analogy of the servant and his master. However, understand that the Lord is detailing a particular way to relate to His Father, in order for the disciples to "increase their faith". One might say that there is no mention of faith in this passage except in the apostles plea to Jesus. What IS mentioned is the relationship between a servant and his master and how they interact. Jesus points out that a servant does not look out for his own interests first, but those of his master. The master does not say to the servant, "Come immediately and sit down and eat". Instead, the servant is taught day in and out that his purpose on this earth is first to satisfy the needs and desires of his master. Jesus' example gives explicit directions from the master to first "Prepare something for me to eat, and then properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink". Finally, after the needs of the master are fulfilled, then the servant can satisfy his own needs. Day after day the servant hears his master's commands. He listens for his voice and learns more and more about his master as the months and years go by. The servant learns the small nuances in his meal preparation that please his master. He learns how to serve his master in just the way that his master would desire. Within time, there is an unspoken fellowship of love and respect between the servant and his master. This only comes through time -- by listening and then obeying. The master in turn does not need to thank his servant. However, the servant knows the joy of his master and merely comments, "We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we have ought to have done".
Jesus knew that His apostles didn't need more faith. What they needed was to continue to listen and to obey what Jesus was teaching them about His Father. They needed ears to hear and hearts to believe when Jesus gave them a command. Whether it was their unquestioning trudging along after Jesus as He went from city to city, or His direction when feeding the multitudes, or even simple commands such as how to prepare for the Passover, his disciples were learning how to HEAR and to OBEY. They didn't need more faith -- they were learning that faith is the offspring of its mother obedience. What they were lacking was the assurance that they were incubating rich veins of faith in the deep caverns of their hearts through their habitual walking and talking with their Lord through loving obedience.
The dilemma for many of us when we feel that we have no faith is that we have not been walking with our Lord in an attitude of obedient surrender. If we had been walking in obedience to His still, small voice than we would hear and obey when He spoke. The situation might call for a laying on of hands and prayer for the healing of a loved one, or to offer a word of encouragement and love to one that is at the end of their rope. Or, possibly to even to do something as outlandish as to tell a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. The opportunity the Lord offers and the response to His voice will not matter because we have been following Him both explicitly and intimately. Only with this kind of relationship, will true faith be manifest through obedient love.
Father, give us hearts of obedience so that we might grow in faith. Help us to know that we can move mountains only if we have truly known the Mountain Mover of men's souls. Teach us to hear and obey, that Your faith would abound to those whom You desire to touch. In Jesus Christ's precious name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,