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The Key of Faith

Mark 9:19-24
'You unbelieving generation,' Jesus replied, 'how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.' So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy's father, 'How long has he been like this?' 'From childhood,' he answered. 'It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.' '"If you can"?’ said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for one who believes.' Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!' (NIVUK)

Working with Jesus is good; working without Jesus is futile and stupid.  His impatience with the disciples was not because they had forgotten an 'exorcism formula', but because they had arrogantly trusted themselves instead of trusting and obeying Jesus. The threefold rebuke may seem harsh but was an essential lesson for their next job as church leaders.  Even Satan seemed to revel in their impotent faithlessness (as the child was dramatically thrown into another fit).  It seemed that the only person with faith was the father.  But his faith was in Jesus – not in the disciples or the movement that surrounded the travelling group.

Jesus took command and ordered the boy to stand in front of him.  Satan had his final fling as the child was taken over for one last time.  Jesus questioned the father, not because He did not know the information, but to get him talking to the point of expressing his cry for mercy.  However, the failure of the disciples may have shaken his confidence in the Lord and so his faith was muted.  But although it was only small faith, it was placed in an awesomely powerful Saviour.

What is true faith?  The disciples had not understood even after two years of being with Jesus, so He used the distressed parent to teach them.  His, "if you can do anything", was challenged by, "If you can?".  Of course, Jesus could do anything, but He chose to act in response to faith.  Hence, "everything is possible to him who believes".  The man did believe - that was why he came to Jesus in the first place.  But he knew that his faith was far from rock solid.  Although he may not have realised it, his next plea revealed that he had more understanding of faith than the disciples. "Help me to overcome my unbelief", shows that true faith is not a matter of human confidence, but a willingness to allow the Lord to change our belief system.  Faith does not come by need or desire, but by revelation from God (Romans 10:17).

We are surrounded by unbelievers of different flavours.  But they all have one thing in common: an unwillingness to allow the Word of God (and thereby, the God of the Word) to be in command of them and their circumstances, and to shape their faith.  They will substitute anything (philosophy, secular values, legalism, false religion, sentimentalism, natural logic, and sheer self-centredness) in place of allowing God's Spirit to help them to believe in Jesus. The willingness to be changed inside by Jesus is the mark of genuine faith.  Let's practice it ourselves and encourage it in others - it is the only way to work with Jesus.


Dear Lord. I know that You can do anything. Forgive me for my failure to allow You to be in command. Please help me to believe that You will honour the promises of Your Word in my life. Please work this change in me; and in my friends as I explain Your truth to them. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams