It is a case of spiritual failure. Mark includes it in the Gospel record just for our benefit. It is likely that we have been
where the nine found themselves—with shame all over our face.
I have felt an identity with each of the main characters in this incident. As a parent I have felt the desperation of this
troubled father a few times. His son was in a desperate situation—under the control of a demon spirit. The demons
were threatening the very life of the child. The father was ready to try anything to get help for his son.
I identify with the nine disciples in their failure. I have surely been there on more than one occasion—faced with an
opportunity to help someone, but powerless to make a difference. Have you ever felt that way? There may be help for
you in this passage!
The central figure in this incident is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is here as an example of the man of faith. He
demonstrates the life we can live and the ministry that we can know.
There are three significant lessons for us to learn about Spiritual Failure in this incident.
I. SPIRITUAL FAILURE HAS A COST.
1. It has a cost to those we serve.
We are in the midst of a broken and demonized world to bring healing and liberty to those in bondage. We are like the
nine frustrated disciples of our Lord. Do you realize what their spiritual failure meant to the father and his son?
The father was deeply disappointed, and the son was still in bondage. How many people are there out there who have
been hurt by our spiritual failure, our failure to really be the body of Christ in the world? We would be overwhelmed if
we could see what might have been if we had been what God wanted us to be!
2. It has a cost to the name of the Lord.
The failure of the nine was a reflection on the Lord Jesus. Without doubt they used His name in their attempts to
deliver the boy. Their powerlessness was a reflection on the One whose name they used.
The world measures Christ still by the ineffectiveness of His people. They have concluded that Christ is a fraud
because we have failed.
3. It has a cost to us personally.
You can only imagine the depth of the disappointment felt by the nine. They must have felt utterly defeated. The
failure must have raised all kinds of questions in their minds.
It is so fulfilling when we are useful in God’s work and so disappointing when we fail.
II. SPIRITUAL FAILURE HAS A CAUSE.
When Jesus discovered the nature of the failure, He exposed the cause of the failure at once.
1. Explanation of the cause.
“O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me!”
To whom were these words addressed?
Probably to all, but especially to the disciples! Lack of faith was the root cause of their failure. They could not because
they were not trusting, or relying upon the power of the Lord to work through them.
The exclamation of Jesus indicates that being with Him should have developed faith in them, but instead they were still
disbelieving. It was surely what He expected of them. Yet they had only been with Him for a couple of years—how long
have you been a follower of Jesus. To my shame I must admit that I have been following Him more than sixty years! I
have been involved in His ministry for years plus. Surely we are like them—without excuse!
2. Illustration of the cause.
Jesus demonstrated this was the cause by a statement and an act. Jesus confronted the father and the disciples, “If
you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The Lord cast the words of the father back at him. The
father had said, “but if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” “If you can!” He is addressing
these words to the mighty Son of God himself.
Then Jesus proceeds to demonstrate how a man of faith acts. He proceeds to demonstrate the effectiveness of a
person of faith. He confronted the demon in the boy and gave the liberating command, “You deaf and dumb spirit, I
command you, come out of him, and enter him no more.” The demon spirit created a scene, but obeyed the voice of
the Man of faith at once. His departure left the boy appearing to be a corpse.
How did Jesus do this? He acted as the Man of faith. He did not use his heavenly authority as the Prince of glory, but
rather acted under the authority of His heavenly Father, and in the power of the Spirit. This was the very thing that the
disciples were not able to do.
What a helpful reminder for all of us! Our effectiveness in ministry is going to be directly related to the strength of our
faith. Your church is no stronger in ministry than the faith of its leaders and people. All of the work of God is done in
the world by faith.
III. SPIRITUAL FAILURE HAS A CURE.
Why were they weak in power? They were weak in power because they were weak in faith? But why were they weak in
faith? The answer may surprise you. Jesus did not leave any doubt about the cure for weak faith.
1. Explanation of the cure.
When they had a private moment with him later, the disciples wanted to know why they failed. They wanted to know
how to prevent future failure. Jesus gave them a clear answer, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and
fasting.” Prayer is the key.
Faith is strengthened in the heart of the disciples by time spent in communion with God in prayer. Evidently the
disciples had become so busy in ministry that they had missed prayer time. The absence of prayer meant the loss of
power. The loss of power produced failure. The only cure for failure is a more intentional and consistent practice of
2. Illustration of the cure.
Do you wonder about the success of Jesus in His confrontation with the demon? There is more involved here than
Jesus simply being the incarnate Son of God. In His ministry He worked as a man of faith and in the Spirit of God just
like us. Do you remember where Jesus has been? He has just returned from the mountain where He has been in
extended communion with the Father. He has spent some encouraging time with Moses and Elijah. Luke emphasized
that the whole transfiguration experience began with prayer. Jesus is the man of faith in the valley because He was
the man of prayer on the mountain. His faith had been strengthened, so He is ready for any demon that may stand in
Are you disappointed at the cure? Don’t be! This means that the cure is right at hand. You do not need to fail any
more. Arrange your life-schedule so there will be much time spent in the presence of God, and success will begin to
attend everything you do in the name of the Lord. Actually to keep it in balance, it is prayer and the Word of God.
Faith does come by hearing and hearing by the word of God. But the word of God by itself will not fill the heart with
faith. The word must be energized in your heart as you spend time in the presence of the Lord in prayer.
So what should we learn from this?
First, we should learn that our failures are expensive. Our impotence is a serious liability to the work of the Lord.
Second, we should learn that our impotence is directly related to the weakness of our faith.
Third, we should learn that our faith will grow only as we spend time with God in His word and in prayer.
This is true for the church. If you are serious about making an impact on this city, you must become a people of
This is true for you as a follower of Jesus, a minister in the body of Christ. Prayer and the word must be a priority in