For one who believes in God, another kind of check becomes evident. Like with the reality check, many dream of better things, a better place, and a perfect life. But then something happens, perhaps something traumatic, and we get a “faith check.” In these moments, many people turn to God in an earnestness that is lacking through much of our lives. I know this is true for me. But it is in these times that we often grow and discover what true faith is. True faith is not about realizing what God has promised, it is about living our lives knowing a promise awaits from a God who is true. Consider the title of a song many hold dear – Living for Jesus. We sing, “Living for Jesus a life that is true” not “Living with Jesus a life that is done.”
In today’s passage, we see evidence of what true faith is. We see evidence of what true faith can bring. But we begin by seeing what assumed faith cannot do.
A Short Review
Because of our three week break to review the Fall Feasts of Israel, let me begin with a quick review of Mark. Jesus has called a group of men to be His disciples. They struggle to understand much of what is happening, but hopefully are turning a corner (although not completely as we see in this post!). Jesus has healed many people, engaged in conflict with the religious leaders, fed large groups of people – which led to more conflict with the leaders and revealed the lack of understanding of His disciples. Then, Jesus heals a blind man which is followed by Peter making the Great Confession that Jesus is Messiah. But just as things seem to be getting better, Jesus tells them He must suffer and die, and that if they are to follow Him, a similar fate awaits. Finally, in my last post from this series (LINK), I also discussed the event known as the Transfiguration when Jesus was seen in all of His glory on a mountaintop with Moses and Elijah present as witnesses by Peter, James, and John. As they begin to descend the mountain, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone what has occurred. It is here that we pick up the story.
Jesus comes down and finds the other disciples (not Peter, James, and John who were with Him) arguing with the scribes while a great crowd has gathered. Jesus assesses the situation and asks about the cause of the argument. This leads us to the first point of focus.
True faith demands purpose.
Many people are represented in this story, but only two have a real purpose – the father of a boy and Jesus. The father has a purpose to be there – to get his son healed. Jesus’ purpose is to resolve whatever issue is present before Him. The others are present in the story, but not because of any real faith.
The man’s purpose was because He had a great anticipation for the healing of his boy. He brought the boy, and turned to Jesus’ disciples, when He wasn’t there, but they couldn’t heal him. His purpose didn’t change and now he has the attention of Jesus. This man has a purpose and understands a premise that James would write this many years later, “You do not have because you do not ask” with the inference being that we are to ask God (James 4.2). This man has high expectations that can only be met by God.
For us, we should not be be duped into having low expectations of God. He is a mighty God. The reality is that too many people have low expectations of God which has led to a new “faithless generation.” Let us seek God with great anticipation. But to do so, we need sincere faith.
True faith discerns properly.
In this case, the discernment is two-fold. Jesus takes time to discern and then causes the man to do the same.
In verse 20, the demonic spirit throws the boy down into convulsions when the spirit saw Jesus. Jesus asks how long the boy has experienced this. But Jesus is seeking more than facts, He is listening to the father’s heart. This lets Jesus discern the true nature of the father and the relationship with his son. I believe what Jesus hears is something like this, “I love my son and I believe you are a man of compassion and may be able to do something.”
Jesus response then causes the man to discern something about himself. The man has laid out the facts about his boy. He has revealed his heart to Jesus, and now Jesus essentially says, “If you believe, your boy will be healed.”
The man has to discern the truth of his faith. Many might try to manipulate Jesus with a response such as “Oh, yes, Lord, I believe!” But that is not what this man does. He has been forthright, and now remains so. He confesses his belief. But he also confesses that believing is hard. His statement is also very generic – as is Jesus question. It forces us to ask – believe in what or whom?
Of course the answer here is God, but we must also clarify belief. As I have said many times, belief is not just knowing (the brain), belief requires trust (the heart). The word has come to mean something we think is true, but the original wording says it this way. Faith (and thus belief) is a verb in this instance.
Jesus – Mark 9.23 “All things are possible for one who faiths.”
Father – Mark 9.24 “I faith; help my lack of faith.”
Here is the crux. This father is honest. His faith is not full and complete. But he has something. He has a start, and he can build on that, and so can Jesus. Jesus seeks faith that is obedient and expectant. He does not demand that it is full or mature. He will guide our steps by faith if we just have enough faith to trust Him.
After healing this boy before the crowd engulfs the man and Jesus, Jesus withdraws to a house where His disciples ask a question. Jesus’ response is very simple, but it is incredibly profound.
True faith dependently prays.
The passage is about faith. And the problem is that the disciples were faithless. We have seen this countless times in this study so far, but here we see what the result of this lack of faith. We need to quickly remind ourselves of two verses in Mark.
- Mark 3.15 specifically mentions that they disciples would receive authority to cast out demons.
- Mark 6.13 shows they exercised this authority successfully in the past
And I believe their previous success is the problem. I know this can be an issue for me. Perhaps you can relate as well. Has you experienced a time when God has provide what you need, and later, instead of relying on His provision and power, you believe you can handle the situation yourself?
In our passage today, the disciples obviously could not cast out the demon from the boy (9.18). Jesus could (9.25-26). Is this because Jesus is Jesus and the disciples are not? In part, yes. But that is not the reason that Jesus gives. He says prayer is needed for this kind of demon. The implication – the disciples were trying to cast out this demon/heal this boy on their own – not with the power of God.
A colleague of mine says “Prayer = Power.” He says it not because it is a cute saying, but because the Bible reveals such a statement to be true. The disciples did not have the necessary power because they had not spent the necessary time with God. And to continually experience (if not invoke) God’s power our prayers must be persistent. The disciples had seen Jesus pray and witnessed the effects of His praying. Because of this, they asked Him to teach them to pray. But knowing how to do something and doing it are two different things. Praying not only shows we have faith, but when we pray to God we are honoring the very source of our faith. We are showing that we desire to talk to Him!
One more thought. I am making an inference here, but if it has any truth to it, then it is more than a little scary. Remember, the man came seeking Jesus to heal His boy (9.17). Jesus was still on the mountain so the man calculated that Jesus the disciples would be able to cast out the demon. Yet, as we know, they were unable to do so. So, here is my question of inference?
Was this man’s faith stronger before he went to the disciples? The man said, “I believe; help my unbelief” after the disciples failed. Was his lack of faith in part because of the disciples lack of prayer? Did the very disciples of Jesus almost prevent this man from having faith in God? (Again, this question is inferred; the Bible does not declare this is so.) However, if it was true for the disciples then, it can certainly be true for His disciples now? May it not be true of us!
I believe; help my unbelief! Those words are so honest; and probably represent a part of each of us. What do you need help believing?
Do you need help believing:
- God can guide you through some challenge?
- God can take away the pain (physically, emotionally, spiritually)?
- God could love you or that He still does love you?
- God cares for you?
- God died for you?
Or maybe it is something else like believing:
- This country could still have a bright future?
- This country could be better off 50 years from now than it was 50 years ago?
- God is still in control regardless of the upcoming election?
Or what about believing:
- God desires to use you to make a difference in someone’s life?
- God desires to use you to make a difference in this world?
The JOURNEY letter for today is: R – Revere.
We revere God because of His immeasurable greatness and power. I encourage you to read Ephesians 1.15-23, paying careful attention to verses 19-20.
This week, our opportunity is two fold:
- An opportunity to show our faith to others through our lives.
- An opportunity to show our faith to God through our prayers.
How much different would most lives be if they had the faith of this man? So how can we develop this kind of faith and share it with others.
Learn what your expectations are – from God, from yourself, and from others. Then determine what you need that can only be met by God? Read Psalm 37.4. God will give us the desires of our heart, but only if we delight ourselves in Him. God wants to give to us, but what He will give is ultimately for His glory not ours.
Live purposefully. We can do many things on purpose (sit down to watch tv), but what do we do that is done with purpose? It is only what is done in faith which will please God (Heb 11.6), and as we have discovered, true faith requires purpose.
Love properly. Trust God completely, but be discerning in how He wants you to participate in His work. We are all called to serve, but not everyone is called to serve in the same way. Loving God and loving others is best done when we each serve (properly) from our strengths.
Lead prayerfully. As you succeed (or are learning to) in the areas of Learn, Live, and Love, ask God to show you His power in leading others to follow Jesus by learning from you.