Good morning church! If you’ve been tracking with us over the last few months, as a church we’ve been preaching through the gospel of Mark. Right now we are in Chapter 9.
As you are turning to the passage, let me remind us a little bit of where we were. Last weekend we read how Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him to the top of the mountain where he gets transfigured in front of them!
Also while this is happening, Jesus is talking to Moses and Elijah who are standing with him. This great event left a strong impact on the hearts and minds of the disciples!
In the letters that these disciples wrote many years later to the churches, they often mentioned this event because Jesus revealed His glory as the Son of God, He showed that He was the fulfillment of the Law and the prophecies and that He was the True King – defined by the words of the Father when He says “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him”. And this great event sets up the next story which we will read today:
Read Mark 9:14-29
I am an unbeliever!!! Woah! Did the elder of the church just say that? There have been many times in my Christian where I’ve either thought that or said that to myself.
I believe that what Christ has done is full and sufficient to save me. But there are times when I evaluate my fight with sin, the times when I think about the future and don’t trust in God’s promises and then think “would a believer really be like that, would a believer really respond like this?”
And so even after trusting in Jesus I know there are various pockets in my life where I am an unbeliever. I’m an unbeliever needing Jesus to rescue me from that.So today’s message is for all unbelievers.
Maybe you’re an unbeliever who’s never known Jesus or like me you’ve known the Lord but struggle to believe in other areas of your life. Let me invite you to look at this passage for encouragement. Because we are prone to unbelief, because our hearts naturally turns to unbelief:
1. We need God’s patience when we don’t believe (v16-19)
“What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 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.”
Right after Jesus comes down the mountain, he sees the scribes and the crowd arguing with the remaining disciples. And Jesus asks them why they were arguing and a man from the crowd told him about the terrible affliction that came upon his son due to an evil spirit.
He brought his son to the disciples for healing but because they couldn’t heal him and that resulted in an argument. Jesus responds by telling them that they are a faithless generation!
How long was he to bear with them? Was Jesus losing his patience? Was Jesus getting frustrated with the people? Why did Jesus say something seemingly harsh?
In order to answer this, I think we need to consider two things:
- Language: Where else did Jesus use similar language? Towards the end of chapter 8, Jesus refers to the current generation as an adulterous and sinful generation. In the OT the prophets would often term the rebellious nation of Israel as “Crooked and twisted generation, unfaithful people”. And it’s not because the prophets developed a disliking or hatred towards people. It was their own people. Their own nation. But they were merely describing the hearts of people that repeatedly and relentlessly turned away from God.
- Insult of unbelief: Sometimes we downplay the expressions of unbelief in our lives because we don’t even think of it as sin. We think “Rape, murder, Stealing”….these are all the big sins…what is unbelief in comparison to that? It seems like a thought or a feeling. But we should understand that unbelief is an insult to the goodness of God. Unbelief tells us that God isn’t good enough or isn’t loving enough or isn’t caring enough towards us. Unbelief tells us that God can’t be trusted. Unbelief tells us that God isn’t faithful so we need to find some other way apart from God. Are you seeing a theme run through all of this? Unbelief lies at the root of every sin. Unbelief is a perversion to God’s design of man and woman. Unbelief is everything that God doesn’t want in His children!
Let’s evaluate our hearts for a moment: When you don’t get what you want, does it cause you to become bitter toward God and His people? When God doesn’t answer your prayer according to your timings, does it cause you to abandon your trust in Him?
I know as we are hearing these truths, we are feeling the weight of the reality of our own unbelief. If unbelief is the root of every sin, then we end up displaying unbelief in so many areas.
God in His Holiness and Justice has every right to wipe us out due to our unbelief but instead He displays great patience through His Son Jesus.
I think as Jesus was mentioning v19 – he wasn’t losing his patience but rather like a loving parent was expressing the great deal of patience and tolerance He has towards rebellious people like you and me.
Not only do we need God’s patience, but
2) We also need God’s provision when we struggle to believe (v21-24)
You know it’s not the first time Jesus started a conversation with people before performing a miracle. Also, here Jesus starts talking to the man asking him about the condition of his son.
As the son is convulsing on the ground, the father explains how this evil spirit has caused his son to fall into fire, into water and severely wound him. Then for the for the first time you see the man ask Jesus to help him. He says “If you can do anything, please have compassion on us and help us”.
He still doesn’t fully believe. Jesus says “If you can?” “All things are possible for one who believes”. In tears this man says “I believe; help my unbelief”. In the Greek it reads it as “Lord I believe; help my unbelief”.
Do you notice the difference between the manner in which the man addressed Jesus in the starting? He called him “Teacher” but now he calls Him “Lord”. It’s wonderful to see how Jesus drew out the faith in this man.
He was part of the crowd initially that displayed unbelief and bitterness, but now he’s acknowledging his need for Jesus. Initially he just wanted a miracle, but now he’s displaying trust in Jesus. But yet he struggles to believe! In other words he’s saying “Lord, I want to believe. Help me overcome my unbelief”.
If you’re a believer in Christ, pretty soon you will come to this place where you’ll look at the struggle with sin in your life, or a difficult situation that you’re facing in your family or work or in friendships where you’ll cry out “Help me overcome my unbelief”.
You’ll feel the tension like this man where you want to believe but struggling to do the same. What is one of the means of grace that God has provided for us?
Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”Faith is in itself a gift from God!Therefore, let’s realize that it cannot be automatically generated, it needs to be provided by God.
Hearing the words of Christ: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.(Rom 10:17) If your heart is unbelieving, it doesn’t mean you need to read less of God’s Word or wait until a later time when you grow in maturity to read the Word.
No…you need the Word right now. You need to listen to Christ’s voice right now. It’s infact through your time with Scripture that God will convict your heart of sin and unbelief and give you the faith and the promises to trust Christ.
If you’re confused on which passage to read or if you’re struggling to understand make sure you call a brother or sister who can help you and speak those words of truth into your hearts.
Not only do we need God’s patience and God’s provision but
3. We also need God’s power to sustain our belief (v28-29)
After this whole episode is done, in private Jesus’ disciples ask him why they couldn’t cast out the demon out of this man. Jesus says that this kind can only be driven out by prayer!
These disciples just a few chapters back were given the authority to cast out all demons and heal all kinds of diseases. They experienced first hand what it meant to be used by God! I’m sure by this point they saw several lives being transformed through their ministry.
But I think they reached this point where they trusted more on themselves than God. They forgot that they needed their power source which came about by communing with God. They forgot that they needed to depend on God in prayer. It’s interesting how in John 15, Jesus reminds us that “apart from Him we can do nothing”.
Think about that for a minute everyone. Apart from Jesus we can do NOTHING. Sometimes we tend to rely on all the sermons that we’ve heard, all the Christian theology that we know, all the past experiences we’ve had, all the Christian conversations we’ve had more than dependence on God through prayer.
Again all these things are good but all our bible studies and theology should fuel our hearts to cry out to Jesus.Prayer is how we depend on God’s strength and power to make things happen in and through our lives.
My intention is not to bring this up to say “If you are praying for 15 minutes now, pray for 20 minutes from tomorrow”. Or to beat us all down on how we aren’t praying enough. But I do want us to question ourselves on how central prayer is to our lives.
Do we pray about everything in our lives? Are we honest before God – transparent as we talk to Him? We know that the only reason why we can have our prayers and petitions delivered to God is because of the Saving work of our Savior. Therefore we aren’t praying to earn brownie points but we pray to grow in our trust and love for Christ!