Faithlife Sermons

Finding Faith For A New Year

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MARK 9:14-29


                      A PRIORITY AS WE ENTER THE NEW YEAR.

                      THROUGH PRAYER AND SERVICE.

This passage of scripture is always a challenge to my heart. As I read through the gospels three or four times a year, I
always read this passage with anticipation. It speaks to me with freshness every time I read it.

It may be that it speaks to me because I can so easily identify with the parties in the passage. Most of us have had the
experience of standing beside that broken hearted father and feeling so helpless before an impossible situation. This
father had a son, who had severe spiritual and physical problems, and the problems had been a part of his life from
his earliest childhood and all of his attempts to help his son had failed. In a somewhat desperate move, he had
brought his child to Jesus, only to find Jesus was not present, and to have the sad experience of the disciples of
Jesus not being able to help his boy. He was at his wits end. Haven't you been there? He was in a condition described
by one poet as having “his wings of faith broken”. Whatever faith he had in the past, it is now utterly shattered.

It is also easy for me to identify with the disciples. They had experienced a severe, public, embarrassing failure. They
had known the excitement of exorcising demons on numerous occasions, but on this day, they failed. The bitter taste
of failure and the sense of shame were heavy upon them. How many times in life I have walked away from some
situation with that bitter taste of failure in my mouth and the burden of failure upon my shoulders! Haven't you been

However, the thing that really makes the passage a challenge is seeing the central figure in the incident. The central
figure is not the boy, nor his dad, nor the failing disciples, but the Lord Jesus who has just descended from the Mount
of Transfiguration. There may be failure all around, but Jesus is no failure. He is standing in the passage to become
the friend and helper of all of those who have failed.

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, I feel the need for my faith to be strengthened. I know that my successes
and failures in 2001 will be determined more by my faith in God than anything else in my life. I want to learn what I can
learn about finding faith for a New Year.  Let us look at this passage together, open our hearts to the one that stands
in the center of the passage, and allow God to move us up to a new plateau of faith as we move in to a treacherous
New Year.

Failure is the first thing that stands out in the passage. When Jesus approaches the crowd at the foot of the Mount of
Transfiguration, He sees the crowd. It is obvious that an intense discussion, even a debate, is going on between his
disciples and some of the religious leaders. There can be seen standing off to the side, while this intense debate is
going on, a stooped shoulder, brokenhearted man, with a troubled youngster standing at his side. Every thing in the
passage has the smell of failure. I know that smell. You know that smell.

1. Failure is painful.
Can you imagine the pain experienced by that group of disciples, when they were not able to help this father with his
troubled child? They had known on many occasions the joy of seeing faces lit up with hope and freedom through their
exorcisms. They had gone through the same forms that they had used before, but this time they did not work. This
had prompted some accusatory words from their critics who stood by. So, they were enduring the pain of failure.

And the father knows the same kind of pain. In fact, failure is all he has known as it relates to his troubled child. Even
though it is not indicated in the text, knowing what we know about parents and life, I'm confident he had exhausted
every possibility of finding help for his child. Bringing his child to the disciples of Jesus was a last desperate act on the
part of this man. And then he was shattered when these disciples of Jesus were not able to deliver his child. This
leaves the man without any hope for his troubled son, he thinks.

However, such pain does not have to be wasted! It may be the pain that we have experienced in our failure can lead
us to another level of faith in our lives. It did in the lives of those who were involved in this story.

2. Failure is revealing.
Why was the boy not delivered? Why was the demonic power in the boy superior to the religious exercises of the
disciples? Fortunately, we are not left to speculation at this point. When Jesus heard the details of the situation, His
response was immediate: "Oh unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring the boy to me." To whom did Jesus address these stern words? They were addressed at least in part to the
father. The father was approaching him as though he was as helpless to do anything as anyone else. Jesus identified
the father as being a part of a generation that was characterized not by its faith in God, but by its convictions what
God could not do. It is an unbelieving generation. An unbelieving generation is a generation that has refused to
believe what God has revealed. An unbelieving generation is responsible for its unbelief. An unbelieving generation
has chosen to walk in the shadows of doubt rather in the light of God’s revealed Word.

However, we ought not to exclude the disciples from these accusatory words! They, too, were acting like they were a
part of the unbelieving generation. Had He not been with them? Had they not heard Him? Have they not learned the
secrets of faith from Him? Evidently not! Actually, in Matthew's account of this same incident Jesus tells the disciples
that they were powerless at this situation because of their "unbelief." (Matthew 17:20) They, too, were a part of the
unbelieving generation.
So, at least something good came out of the failure. The failure caused the father and the disciples to recognize the
fact that they were short on the vital ingredient of faith. Would we dare admit that many of our failures might be traced
to our insufficient, weak faith? If we will allow the failures to open our eyes to the reality of our situation, some good
can come out of our failures.

Jesus thrust Himself in to the situation and made Himself the center of attention. He gives an urgent command to the
father saying, "Bring the child to me." Then, he gives that word to this unbelieving father that always challenged my
heart: "Everything is possible for Him who believes."

We need to be clear about the content of these words. These are not words that encourage us to have faith in our
faith! There is no miracle working power in faith itself. The miracle working power is in the object of faith - - even the
Lord Jesus Himself. If you mistakenly place your faith in one that is weak and impotent, your faith will do you no good.
It is only when faith has as its object the all-sufficient Lord God who is revealed in Jesus His Son that faith is able to do
the impossible. Think with me about this for a moment.

1. His sufficiency is without limits.
The problems of the boy were real. In modern day medical language he would probably described as an epileptic. He
would be seen as a victim of that brain disorder that brings about epileptic seizures. And there may well have been
the physical phenomena of epileptic seizures on the part of the boy. Modern medication has done wonders in
controlling epileptic seizures, but still has not come up with permanent cures for it. However, if that was the physical
condition of the boy, it had been made even worse by the demonic power taking advantage of the situation. There
was in the child a demon that caused the child to be dumb, unable to speak. There could be no communication
between the father and the child in a normal manner. There were no medical cures available. It was a desperate

However, in our Lord's response to this troubled father, He makes this bold assertion, "Every thing is possible for him
who believes." The father had said to him earlier, "But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." Jesus had
rejected the "if" of the man. He takes the statement and says to him, "If you can?" Jesus then says to the man,
"Everything is possible for him who believes.” There is no place for "ifs" when you are dealing with the power and
omnipotence of God. His power is without limits.

I think we ought to take the word "everything" and understand it in its broadest sense. It means everything that is
good and needful. What ever needs to be done, can be done to the one that believes.

As I was reading this passage some weeks ago, it occurred to me that Jesus is the supreme example of such a person
of faith. He stands in the midst of this passage as the embodiment of the faith that the father needs and the disciples
need. He was and is the Son of Man, which means that His humanity is real. He stood there as a person of faith. It is
of Himself that He is making the claim that everything is possible to Him because he believes. Helping the child will be
no problem since he has faith in God. But he is going beyond that to say that you, too, can stand in this situation as a
person of faith.

Do we really believe that there are no limits? Or have we placed limits on what God can do? In this scientific age, our
tendency is to reduce God down to man's level and lift man up to God's level.  We have a lot of confidence in science
and modern technology, but not much in God's personal intervention and ability.

2. His sufficiency is available to faith.
This is the bottom line in this assertion: "When you believe all things are possible!" Faith receives into the situation of
need what only God can do.

This was precisely what happened on that day. The man of faith, the Lord Jesus, confronted this broken, bound lad in
the name of the living and eternal God and restored him to wholeness. He confronted the demonic spirit saying, "You
deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." The response of the demon was
so severe that as he came out with a shriek the crowd thought the boy had died. He lay at the feet of Jesus like a
corpse. In fact, some of them said, "He is dead." But instead Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet and
he stood up. The boy was made whole. The power of God in delivering and restoring was demonstrated in that
specific historical situation through faith.

If God has providentially allowed you to come into a situation in which you are facing the impossible, could it be that
God is simple giving you an opportunity to experience His power, His sufficiency? You can know for sure that the only
way into the divine sufficiency is by faith. God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

We have observed what Jesus did for the boy, so let us focus for a moment on what He did for the father and the

He did more than heal the lad that day.

1. He leads us to confess our lack of faith.
We read about the interaction of Jesus and the Father. We know that it finally brought the father to the place that the
father said to Him, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" The father had come to an appropriate
understanding of what his situation really was. He was not without some faith, or he would not have been there. It was
a shallow, superstitious kind of faith that had caused him to bring his son to the disciples. But there still mingled in his
heart a lot of unbelief. Now, he felt the weight and the danger of that unbelief. This promoted him to pray this
appropriate prayer to the Lord Jesus for help in overcoming the unbelief that is in his heart.

Our Lord brought the disciples to the same place even though he did not pray the same prayer. They did ask, "Why
couldn't we drive it out?" They were brought to the place that they were aware of the deficiency of their faith. It was
then that Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief."

Are we ready to admit to God the weakness of our faith? Are we really to accept responsibility for things that we
blamed on Him? Would we dare admit that we have not been sufficient in our trust in Him? It would be a big step
toward finding the faith that you need for the New Year if you will confess that you do not have it.

2. He leads us to exercise our little faith.
This is what he did with the father. He led the father to take the little faith that he had and to translate it into a simple
petition. The petition became simply a desperate cry for help. This was all that the father was capable of at this
moment in time. He was not up to singing some anthem of praise in anticipation of what God was going to do. He only
had enough faith to cry out desperately, "Help me and my son!"

What are you doing with the little faith you have? Are you using that little faith that you have? In another context
where the disciples ask for their faith to be increased, Jesus taught them that even faith the size of a mustard seed is
capable of seeing the impossible done. It is not the size of our faith that makes a difference; it is the exercising of our
faith. The strength is not in our faith it is in the object of our faith. So, whatever faith you have, no matter how weak or
small it may be, use it! Act on it! Do what you can!

3. He instructs us on how to grow in faith.
After indicating to the disciples that their problem was unbelief, He gave them some further insight into the source of
their unbelief. He said to them simply, "This kind comes out only with prayer." As you are aware, some older versions
include the words "and fasting." However the three oldest and best manuscripts of the New Testament we have do not
include those words. This would not mean that fasting might not be helpful, but there is no spiritual merit in fasting.
Fasting is ultimately only an intensified approach to prayer. It is prayer that nurtures and develops faith.

You cannot help but wonder what had been going on in the life of the disciples. They had been very involved in their
ministry. Could they have been so involved in their ministry that they had neglected prayer? Had their success in
ministry taken a toll on the effectiveness of their ministry?

Jesus stands in contrast of the disciples at this point. He stands in this situation as the man of faith because He has
just come from the mountain, from that unforgettable experience of communion with His Holy Father in prayer. You will
remember that the transfiguration took place while Jesus was praying. If we are to stand in the valley and minister to
people as persons of faith, we must frequent the heights of the mountain of prayer often. We must spend quality time
alone in the presence of God. It is as we nurture ourselves in the presence of God through prayer that we have the
faith we need to respond to the needs we confront in the valley.

If I could leave you only one thing to carry home with you today, it would be this: ---make 2001 a year of faithful,
concerted, earnest, regular, believing, effectual prayer. Indeed, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
availeth much!" If you want to be a person of strong and effective faith, then heed the counsel of Jesus! Pray!

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