Sunday Morning • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 40:22
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14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “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.” 20 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. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 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.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 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.” 26 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.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
I once heard the story of an organist who was getting ready to play as the church service began. When he put his hands on the keys there was no sound. Everyone knew something was wrong, so the preacher quickly got up and led in prayer. The janitor was aware of the fact that they hadn’t plugged in the organ. So he went during the prayer, plugged in the organ, wrote a note and handed it to the organist. The note said, “After the prayer, the power will be on.”
That is so true isn’t it? After the prayer, the power will be on. We know what power can do for us in this life. It operates a majority of the things we enjoy daily. Lights, fans, a/c, heat, hot water heater, computers, televisions, and the list can go on and on. We also know what it is like when we lose power. We almost go crazy realizing we have none of the comforts of life.
In most cases, we take power for granted; never realizing the true impact of power, until we need it and do not have it.
Can’t we find those same attributes in us as Christians? We never realize the true power of THE power, until we need it and realize we do not have it.
What makes a Christian powerless?
First, it may be easier to define what it means to be powerless. Powerless according to the Merriam Webster dictionary means “devoid of strength or resources; lacking the power or authority to act”.
Lack of strength?
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Lack of resources?
Abraham called God Jehovah Jireh - the Lord provides.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Lack of power?
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Lack of authority?
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So back to the original question. What can make a Christian powerless? The better question is where does a Christian receive their power?
Our power, as Christians, comes directly from Christ through the act of prayer by and through faith. So if power comes through prayer and faith, then powerlessness comes from a lack of prayer and faith.
Many of life’s challenges can cause us to question our faith, can cause us to slack in our prayer life, and can cause us to feel farther away from God. A sense that Christ is far away and out of reach makes one ineffective. The indwelling presence and power of Christ are just not felt—not to the extent that they need to be available. In the above situation Christ was absent, but His power was still available. The disciples were just not all that aware of His power.
Christ has just taken Peter, James, and John up on the mount to witness His transfiguration - His transformation - where they were able to see His glory in a from no man had seen before. They witnessed Elijah and Moses appear, speaking to Jesus, encouraging Jesus, strengthening Jesus. Why would Jesus need encouragement and strength? He was about to face the cross. The pressure of God’s judgment for all the world’s sin was beginning to weigh on Him. He needed this strength, encouragement, and assurance from God. Church, if Christ Himself needed to get away and get alone with God to face upcoming challenges and trials, then how much more important is it for us - forgiven, but still sinful humans - to stay in constant contact with God as our own source of strength, encouragement, and assurance? THIS is how we get our strength in and through the Lord. The other nine disciples were still in the village when Christ and the other three return. What Christ finds is a true problem that is presented to Him, in which He addresses the problem and then defines the true meaning behind the problem.
14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “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.”
Could you imagine having a life-altering experience that Christ and the three disciples had just experienced, and coming back into the village to have a crowd of people surrounding the other nine disciples and the scribes arguing with them.
What had happened? We find out that the disciples had tried to cure a sick boy, described as having epileptic fits exacerbated by demonic possession, and failed.
Now the scribes had latched onto their failure. They were ridiculing and shaming the disciples - of course with the end result of discrediting Jesus and His and His disciples authority.
When Christ got closer and the crowd recognized Him, scripture says they were “greatly amazed” and ran to meet him. Maybe Christ was still showing the glory of the transfiguration, glowing with a magnificent countenance. Whatever the reason, He was easily recognized and there was something different about Him that caused the crowd to be drawn to Him. When asked what the arguments were about, Matthew says a man came forward, telling Him of his son’s ailments. Not only his ailments, but the lack of ability of the disciples to cast out the demons afflicting him.
Here we find a sick child, (the account in Luke tells us an only son) with a worried father, that has epilepsy and self-harm as a result of demon-possession. It seems throughout the Gospels, we see this trend of evil spirits heightening and aggravating existing conditions. The greatest tragedy of this event was the unbelief - of both the father and the disciples, leading to no power to heal this child.
Why did the disciples have no power? Possibly because they didn’t ask, or didn’t know how or what to ask for.
2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
They had not invested their time nor recognized the importance in prayer. They had not truly relied on God.
I am sure they prayed over the boy, I am sure they uttered words of encouragement, but in the end they stood over him, still convulsing possibly, and were helpless, hopeless, and a failure. They had been with Christ. They knew what Christ had said in the past. They knew the miracles that had been performed. But they overlooked the fact that Christ spent much of His time away in a still place with His Father - praying. They hadn’t truly humbled themselves and hit their knees asking God to deliver this child from the illness and demons. No doubt they had seen Christ perform many miracles, yet they were unable to do the same. Just like the organ, they had not been plugged into the power. Even though Christ was not present it did not mean His power was not available to the disciples, they just didn’t recognize it was available to them, and hadn’t plugged into it.
Didn’t even realize they needed it…until they didn’t have it.
They didn’t have it, because they didn’t ask for it, and they were left powerless. Christ, though, addresses the powerlessness of His disciples and heals the child.
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.” 20 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. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 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.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 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.” 26 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.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
Christ rebuked the lack of power.
A person with no power saddens and brings sorrow to His heart. What can He do to stir faith and power? He does all He can: He warns, yet He offers hope.
a. He warns that His presence will not always be available
b. He warns that His patience is limited
c. He assures that His power breaks the power of Satan. Note that it is the Word of Christ that breaks the devil’s power. Satan cannot stand before God’s Word.
The man lacked personal knowledge and faith in Jesus’ power, but He cried for the compassion of Jesus—if Jesus really did have the power to help. There was no way Jesus would turn away from the man’s cry for mercy.
The disciples did not receive the blessing they could have received and cannot do the works they might have done if they had faith. The longer we are in a state of faithlessness and powerlessness, the more displeased Christ is with us. Why? Because the longer we are this state of unbelief, the weaker we get spiritually. What can bring us to a state of unbelief? Doubting Christ Himself, questioning the power of Christ, doubting His power within ourselves, doubting our faith, and doubting if God will follow through and answer our prayer. So, how do we overcome these doubts? Spend as much time as possible with God.
Jesus recognized this problem and addressed it. Spiritual immaturity must be acknowledged by faith. The father’s faith was immature. Jesus threw the father’s words back to him: “It is not a question, If I can, but ‘If you can. All things are possible for one who believes.’ ”
Spiritual immaturity must be acknowledged by humility and crying for help. The man was weak, but his need was desperate.
The man responded in humility and cried out with tears, “I believe; help my unbelief”. Note that he cried out for Jesus to help him even in his faith.
He needed help even in believing; but he did the one essential, he cried out with all his heart and being, confessing that he needed help.
When we face trials in life, it is not surprising that we have unbelief also. It is not so much our faith as it is our cry for mercy and compassion that arouses God to help us, and when we finally realize and cry out for God to strengthen our faith and help our unbelief.
28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Immaturity can be conquered by seeking spiritual power through prayer.
The disciples wanted to know why they failed; the root cause.
Jesus had already given them power over evil spirits, and they had already exercised such power. They could not understand why they had failed when they had been successful before.
Immaturity can be conquered by prayer and fasting.
Jesus pointed to one thing: the disciples were not living close enough to God. They were not praying and fasting enough, not seeking Him enough, not putting Him before food and other things. They were taking time for other things, taking time to eat, but not taking time for God.
If we are to ever expect God to hear and answer our prayers, we must take time to be with and close to God.
The problem in this case was a sharp contrast to the glory that occurred at the transfiguration. While Peter, Paul, and John were able to see the true power and glory of Christ, this brings us back to the reality of living in a world without Jesus. When we try to solve all our problems on our own, we are just like the disciples - powerless.
When we try to keep Christ out of the solution, we are powerless. When we try to avoid Christ all together, we are powerless. You see, the problem with powerlessness is we lack faith - we truly do not believe in the power of Jesus Christ. Oh, but preacher I believe! Many of us can stand this morning and fully confess we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I don’t doubt that one bit. But how many of us can find peace in tragedy through prayer and peace? In Matthew, Christ further explains to the disciples
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 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.”
Some versions include verse 21 which says “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
We have not because we ask not. We ask not because we believe not. We believe not because we pray not. We pray not because we lack faith. We lack faith and find ourselves powerless.
Do you see our pattern? Our first line of power comes through prayer. If we EVER expect to be a powerful Christian, able to pray down God’s blessings from above, then we have to commit ourselves to prayer - even to the point we go without food. We are so focused on Jesus that we forget even our worldly needs and have a time of fasting… For many of us, fasting definitely won’t hurt us - but it would be a tremendous sacrifice.
19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
The disciples left every worldly possession they had behind. Their families, their jobs, their comfort, even their safety. How many of us today are willing to make that type of commitment? How many of us are willing to sacrifice time and maybe even some food to spend time talking to God? How many of us are willing to PLUG INTO THE POWER available to us through prayer?
Can I be real with you for a moment? Anyone who has ever been shocked by electricity will know it’s power. You learn to either respect it, or be afraid of it. Can I tell you, many Christians sitting in churches today have that same experience with prayer! They may have had an experience with the power of prayer and it scared them. They grew afraid of it, instead of respecting it. Why? Maybe we prayed for God’s will to be done - and it was, but just not the way we wanted. Maybe we are afraid to have the power offered us through Jesus Christ - feeling like we are not worthy or able. Maybe we just are lazy and don’t care. Whatever the case, we are missing out on a great opportunity - the opportunity to see the power of Christ fulfilled when we follow Him, when we grow close to Him, and when we pray to Him. “If we only have faith like a grain of mustard seed, we could move mountains and nothing would be impossible for us.” God has given us a powerful and mighty gift, but it is up to us to learn to respect it, or be afraid of it.
My prayer for you today is to not leave this church powerless. To have faith, follow Jesus, and learn to respect the power we have through prayer. Then, just maybe then, our lives would begin to be more content, we would be more comfortable, and we would recognize the power God has in us - through prayer.