GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 27
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|Which is more important: How much faith you have, or what (whom) you have faith in?|
So many times I’ve questioned certain circumstances or things I could not understand. Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision and my frustration gets so out of hand. Its then I am reminded I’ve never been forsaken. I’ve never had to stand the test alone. As I look at all the victories, the spirit rises up in me and its through the fire my weakness is made strong. Chorus:He never promised that the cross would not get heavy, and the hill would not be hard to climb. He never offered victories without fighting,but He said help would always come in time. Just remember when you’re standing in the valley of decision, and the adversary says “give in”. Just hold on, our Lord will show up and He will take you through the fire again. Bridge:Now, I know within myself that I would surely perish. But if I trust the hand of God, He’ll shield the flames again, again.
Chorus:He never promised that the cross would not get heavy, and the hill would not be hard to climb. He never offered victories without fighting, but He said help would always come in time. Just remember when you’re standing in the valley of decision,and the adversary says “give in”. Just hold on, our Lord will show up and He will take you through the fire again. Yes, remember when you’re standing in the valley of decision, and the adversary says “give in”. Just hold on, our Lord will show up, and He will take you through the fire again.
So hold on, our Lord will show up, and He will take you through the fire again.
Again and again, again and again. He’ll take you again! Through the fire,through the fire again!
[David Foster, Tom Keane, Cynthia Weil, Through the Fire, © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.]
Good morning. We’re systematically, expositionally walking through the book of Mark and the title of the message this morning is this: Faithless Belief. This morning I want to show you two situations of faith and I want to teach you about your own personal belief in Christ. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 9:14. We knew last week, Jesus just came off of a mountaintop experiences. He was transfigured before the disciples. They came down from this high, if you will, and they’re confronted the harshest words we ever hear Jesus speak to the disciples. This is a situation where Jesus is indignant over the disciples for something. I want you to see what that is. Verse 14:
“And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him [that’s Jesus] were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ And someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked [underline this] your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’ And he answered them, ‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.’ And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘“If you can!” All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ And he said to them, ‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.’”
Three progressions in the text; let me give you the first one. Write this down. We see the faithless disciples. It’s not that they don’t have faith in Jesus. They do. It’s that they haven’t appropriated the faith that has been given to them by the Lord. The first problem is this: they have no power. Write it down: They have no power. In the beginning of chapter 9 of the book Luke, which is the same account of this, Jesus sends the disciples out to cast out demons. He anoints them with the Spirit, he fills them with power, they preach the Word of God, they heal, they cast out demons, they have the power of God. But they come to this situation and this is a case where they cannot do anything about it. It’s the first time, if you will, they fail in the ministry.
Now Jesus just moments ago came down from the mountain and he’s met by this mob, if you will. And Jesus is asking, “What’s going on here?” And they said, “Your disciples tried to heal this boy but they couldn’t.” What happened is, the scribes started heckling them. They started to attack them. In the text, we almost get the sense that they’re only attacking the disciples, but I want to make a point to you. To attack the disciples is to attack Christ. One commentator said this, “The man commissioned is always the representation of the man who gives the commission.” So for the crowd to attack the disciples or the church, if you will, they’re actually attacking the Lord Jesus Christ.
They come up to Jesus. They see him and they’re amazed. And Jesus said, “What’s the problem?” They say, “Well, we have a boy. The boy is filled with a demonic spirit or an evil spirit.” Luke says that the boy screams through the night. Mark says that it seizes him and grabs him. Matthew says that it throws him in the fire and it casts him into the water. You can only imagine how desperate the parents are for their son to be healed. You can only imagine how many sleepless nights they’ve gone through wondering if it’s ever going to stop. Every day, every night this tormented spirit controls the crowd. Will it ever stop? You can imagine they went to every doctor, every physician, every medicine man in town trying to find help. Can you sense the anguish of the parents this morning? Can you feel the pain?
Maybe that’s what you’re going through today. You’re wanting answers. You want God to work in your life. There’s a tough case in your life and you’re saying, “Is God working? I don’t see.” But they came to the disciples. They brought this child to the disciples and they said, “Can YOU do anything for me? We’ve seen everybody in town. Can you help me?” And although the disciples have been given the power of God, they’ve come across a case which they can do nothing about.
What could possible cause Jesus Christ to say these words? Look at the words in the text: “You faithless generation.” Matthew inserts the word twisted. “You twisted and faithless generation.” Who’s Jesus talking to here? The disciples. He’s explicitly calling out the disciples. “You faithless generation. How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear this with you? Bring him to me.”
Why is Jesus so upset? Write this down. Powerless disciples. Disciples who have been given all the power in the world from God, all the power of heaven but yet they have not appropriated their faith. Why is Jesus so upset? Because he’s trying to show the disciples, with the power of God you can find the hopeless, helpless, darkest situation in life and, with his power, you can be used as an instrument of grace.
See, the problem wasn’t because they didn’t try, because they did. The problem wasn’t with God or his ability. See, there was a greater problem here. Jesus is just moments away from going to heaven to be with the Father. Less than six months, if you will. Jesus has spent the last two years his life investing in these men and he’s about to leave. He’s about to die. He’s about to be raised from the dead and ascend into heaven and he’s about to turn over the ministry to them. And here he is at the end of the ministry wondering, “You guys still don’t get it! Have I not shown you? Have I not taught you? Have I not empowered you to do the ministry?” What was the problem?
The problem was these disciples were relying on themselves. They thought that the reason in the past that they were able to cast out demons and heal the sick was, for some reason, THEY had the power. They had appropriated their own faith to rely on their own strength and they started to rely on themselves. What’s interesting is it’s an indictment on the church today. How many times in your life have you done ministry in your own power? See the problem was not with the faith. God had given them all the faith. The problem was with appropriating the faith. Have you ever heard that word before—appropriation? See, appropriation is the idea that God has already blessed us with everything in Christ and now it’s important for you and I to appropriate that faith in our life. That means you don’t need more of God. God needs more of who? You.
Miles Stanford in The Green Letter says this, “There is a deposit in the believer which, in itself needs no addition so far as quality is concerned. So far as it’s victory, it’s power, it’s glory, it’s potentiality is concerned, nothing can be added to this faith. But the course of the spiritual experience is to discover this faith, to appropriate the faith, and to live by it in this life and all that it represents.”
Robby, what hinders appropriation of faith in my life as a believer? I’m glad you asked. Guess what it is. Pride. See, the disciples had no power but guess what else they had. They had all pride. Write that down. You would think that the disciples, after this experience, would be humbled, right? I mean, Jesus, we blew it. We had a shortcoming. We’ve been brought to a place of brokenness. We can’t figure out what happened. Can you help us, Lord, because we’ve failed.
But notice what the next conversation is about in the text. Verse 3: “And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.” “Jesus, we want to know who’s the best. We just blew it but that’s in the past. Who’s the greatest?”
Just to make matters worse, go to chapter 10 of Mark, verse 35. If they hadn’t learned then, they’re discussing it again. “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’”
“Jesus, we want to pin ribbons on us,” right? “We want nametags. We want titles. We want people to honor us for the things that we have done.” See what comes out of the heart or what comes out of the mouth is a direct result of the heart. What was in their heart was pride. See, friends, what they were doing was relying on past experiences. They were talking about the past.
Let me tell you something to write down. Selfish pride cannot share the stage with divine power. Let me say it again. Selfish pride and divine power cannot share the same stage. So many churches would see the power of God more if they would stop looking at the past, right? You hear a lot of churches say, “We talk about the glory days,” right? “We want to talk about all the things God did in the past.” Past success does not predict future power from God. See, sometimes we talk about the glory days and we forget that we’re relying on our human strength and we haven’t surrendered to the power of God.
Notice what the dad says to Jesus. “I brought my son to YOUR disciples but they could do nothing. I brought my son to the church but they could do nothing.” I wonder how many people in the community would say the same thing about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. “My son was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I came to your church for help. I went to everyone else but I decided to come to you but you didn’t help me. In fact, your students stayed away from my son. You shunned him. Yeah, you said a prayer with him but that’s all you did.” In essence, “I brought my son to your disciples but, God, you could do nothing for me. I have a daughter who is wanting to commit suicide. I brought her to your group and no one prayed with her. No one led her to Christ. No one showed her that Jesus was the answer.” In essence, “I brought my daughter to YOUR disciples but they could do nothing. My husband’s addicted to internet pornography. I came to God’s house for help but no one helped me.” In essence, “God, I brought my husband to your disciples, but you could do nothing.” What an incredible indictment against the people of God.
Acts 1:8, Jesus says, “But you will receive [what?] power,” dunamis, dynamite. You will receive power “when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” Now, as believers, when we repent of our sins and put our faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us. That power indwells us, right? You receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” I bet if you were choosing a word to describe the church of the Lord Jesus Christ today, you wouldn’t choose the word power, would you? If you were thinking of a word to describe the church, the people of God, believers of the Lord Jesus Christ in America, the first word that comes to mind would not be powerful. Why? Because of us have been relying on ourselves. It’s amazing how much ministry you and I can do in our own power.
You know, in China right now, our brothers and sisters in China have to be forced to meet in underground churches for fear of persecution and death. They’re relying upon the Lord just to make it another day. One Chinese Christian came over to America to see what was happening in the states and they asked him this question, “What impressed you most about Americans?” Here’s what he said, “The great things Americans can accomplish without God.” The great things that Americans can accomplish without God. Have we gotten so good at church, playing church that we don’t need the assistance of the Lord anymore?
They had all pride and they had no power. Faithless disciples. But then we see a shift in the text. Look at the father. We see a faithful father in the text and I want you to see the humility of the father. “Where do you get that, Robby?” He comes to Jesus and asks for help. He humbles himself and comes before the Lord. The disciples had given up on the boy and the reason I know that is they resorted to arguing. They had stopped praying and they started arguing. “Jesus, you just can’t heal everyone! That boy’s a tough case. You know, some marriages just can’t be restored. Some health issues just never get healed, Jesus. That’s a tough case. You just can’t help everyone.” What are some of the ways we give up, just stop praying, just stop putting faith in God? You stop thinking that God can do anything about a situation. You know, if anyone should not give up praying, it should be the people of God. When the world has stopped praying, God’s people should be praying for people, amen?
My mom, when I came into the addiction of drugs and alcohol, was one of my prayer warriors. In fact, in the Catholic church, when you pray you light candles. In fact, when you leave the church, there’s a big wall of candles and you pray by lighting candles. The joke was after I came to the Lord, my mom had prayed for three straight years. Every Sunday she lit a candle. The joke was she just about burned the church down praying for me. But aren’t you glad that people don’t give up on you? I’m thankful for my mom. She never gave up on me. The dad never gave up on his son. If everyone else had given up, this father said, “I’m not going to give up on my son.”
We see the humility of the father. But secondly, we see the honesty of the father. Thank God he didn’t give up. “Jesus, I heard your disciples can heal people, but obviously they couldn’t do anything for me. Can you do anything?” Jesus said, “Can I do anything? Is that a joke? What do you mean can I do anything? Let me ask you. Can you? For the one who believes, all things are possible.” It’s interesting, the man puts the tension on Jesus. Jesus flips the tables and puts it back on him. “The problem’s not with me. The problem is with you. Do you believe? The problem’s not with God. God can do all things.” You know, it’s the same statement he makes to the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5:24. And it’s the same statement he makes to the synagogue ruler in Mark 5:36. It’s all about faith. Do YOU believe?
Now, before you get too excited, this verse is probably one of the most abused verses in all the Bible, and the reason is this: people take this verse out of context and make it say or believe whatever they want it to believe. “If you just have enough faith, God will work,” right? “If you just believe, you can move God and make him do whatever you want to do.” That’s not what this verse is saying. In fact, in the context, Jesus never says, “If you believe, I’ll heal your son.” He never says that. Look what he says. He says, “‘If you can?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.”
See, there is a balance in the New Testament, in the scriptures, between our responsibility to pray and believe. We’re commanded to pray and believe in God’s sovereign hand to heal and to save according to his plan and purpose. So the challenge for us is to believe. You have to admit, if Jesus was in the church today and he did this, people would have gotten on to him. “Jesus, why are you being so hard on the guy? Why are you calling the guy out? If anybody believes, it’s this guy. I mean, look at him. He’s been praying for his son. Jesus, why are you pointing the finger at him?”
But see, what Jesus was doing is he was literally getting to the heart of the matter. And the man responds to Jesus. He said, “Jesus, I do believe.” Come in real close. “But help my unbelief.” I wonder how many of us would have said the same thing. I wonder how many of us would have been brutally honest with the situation and said, “Jesus, you know what? I have a little bit of faith, but I don’t have a lot.” Many of us have this façade, “Oh, yeah! I believe God’s going to work,” but secretly in our own hearts we don’t have a lot of belief. It was because of the honesty of the father, I believe, was the working of the Lord.
This passage begins, if you notice, with the disciples pridefully arguing, but it ends with them humbly asking. Look at verse 28: “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’”
We see a faithless disciple or faithless disciples; we see a faithful father; notice finally, we see radical dependence. See, this is the key to the text. The disciples have been humbled. They come to the Lord. They said, “Jesus, we want to know what went wrong. We want to know why we couldn’t heal this man.” Jesus said, “This kind only comes out by” what? Prayer. Now some of your translations say prayer and fasting. The ESV leaves out fasting because as we’ve gone back to some of the earliest manuscripts, it’s not included in the text. But regardless, prayer and fasting is a place of dependence. It’s where things of the normal routine of life don’t work and so you put aside food and you put aside time and you go to the Lord and you pray.
Write down the first thing: Prayer. Prayer is humility. Prayer is realizing that you can’t do it by yourself. The disciples experienced a difficult case. They tried and tried and tried and nothing happened. They started to believe that the power that Christ had given them was somehow their own. You know, so often families have lack of prayer. When people come to me for counseling, they’ll say, “My son is on drugs or alcohol” or “we’re coming because we have a marital problem. We don’t know what happened,” or “we’re coming to you because we have a situation at work that has gotten out of hand,” or “we’re coming to you because our family is separated.”
I don’t mean to put more on them. I don’t want to burden people but my question always is this, “Have you been praying together? For your wayward son, have you been persistently, consistently praying for this situation?” And I have to be honest; consistently across the board, most of the answers to that question is what? No. “My marriage is falling apart. I don’t what happened to it.” Let me ask you. Are you praying together? “No, we haven’t.” “My son is on drugs and alcohol. My daughter is wayward. We don’t know what happened.” Let me ask you. Have you been praying for them?
You know, we’ve gotten to the place where we’re so busy, we don’t pray anymore. Prayer has taken a backseat in our Christian life if it has any seat at all. Someone said this, “We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality.” We’ve separated service from prayer. We say we’re too busy to pray. We have too many needs to attend to. We have too many people to respond to. Too many wounds to heal. We think that prayer is a luxury, something we do during a free hour. Maybe we take a day off of work or we go on a retreat to prayer.
Where are the men who spend all day in prayer for their families? Where are the mothers who wake up early in the morning and pray on behalf of their family? Where are the men who put aside time and say I’m going to pray an hour today with the Lord. The disciples, by Jesus asking them or by Jesus saying this one only comes out by prayer and fasting, you know what he’s saying? They’re not what? Praying and fasting. This one only comes out by prayer, assuming that the disciples were not praying. They had fallen into arguing.
We see, first of all, prayer. Secondly, write down the process. It’s dependence. In Matthew, we get a different account of this. Jesus gives an interesting ending that Mark does not have. Matthew includes it. Look at Matthew 17:19-20: “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.’”
See, faith is the starting point for the working of God in your life. Now, this is what this text means. The text doesn’t mean that if you have a just a little bit of faith, you can do all things. The point of the story of the mustard seed is that the seed of the mustard seed is the smallest seed. And it grows into one of the largest trees in the garden. And the point of the faith is not to have small faith. The point of the story is that you’re faith will grow. As a believer, in the trials and tribulations, through the ups and downs, through the good times and bad times, your faith will be tested and it will grow. And over time there should be this process of faith growing in your life.
As you keep serving the Lord, it’s God who develops your faith, not you. What God wills in your life—let me say to you—is hindered only by what you allow him to do through submission and prayer and obedience. When the father goes to Jesus, think of it, he says, “Jesus, can YOU do anything?” Who does Jesus point the finger at? The father. The father says, “Jesus, can you do anything in my son’s life?” Jesus said, “Can I do anything? Do you believe?” He points the finger at the father. When the disciples called Jesus in private prayer and they say, “Jesus, why did we go wrong?” Who does Jesus point the finger at? “YOU guys have to pray and fast.”
And friends, when you go to the Lord Jesus Christ and say, “God, why are you not mightily working in my life?” Guess who God points the finger at? You. “What do you believe that I can do in your life? What have you surrendered to me to believe? What are you obeying in your life so I can work?” See, the problem is never with God. The problem is always with us. Who would say, “My prayer life this morning is not where it needs to be?” Friends, your family needs you to pray for them. This church needs you to pray for them. Your co-workers need you to be diligent in prayer. Who have you given up on this morning? Who’s the tough case in your life that through the years you prayed for but for some reason now you’ve forgotten about them? What is it that God wants you to step out in faith and serve Him with this morning? What’s the tough case in your life? Maybe you need to say, “Father forgive me for my lack of faith. Father, forgive me for the business of life that I’ve gotten caught up in—temporal issues. I’ve lost sight of the eternal.”