Faith Journey: Matthew 17: 14-21
“14) When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15) “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16) I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” 17) And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18) And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.” Matthew 17:14-18
When Jesus and His three disciples returned from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were met by a desperate father whose son was demon possessed. It is reminiscent of Moses coming down from the mountain with the Law only to discover the golden calf in the camp of Israel. A mountain top encounter with God is often countered by an attack from the evil one.
The father began begging Jesus to heal His son. The demon was mercilessly trying to destroy him. Demon possession is real and tragically happens to people today. John 10:10 paints an amazing contrast between Satan’s intent for people and what Jesus wants to do for people; “10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Notice the father had asked the disciples to cast out the unclean spirit and they could not. Jesus responded in verse 17 by lamenting their lack of faith. The same holds true for many pastors and religious leaders today. Many even deny the existence of demons and hand tormented people over to medical doctors or secular psychiatrists for care. Pastors who embrace naturalism are tragically unprepared to confront the kingdom of darkness and seldom see miracles in their ministries.
Fortunately, Jesus rebuked the spirit and it came out of him. The boy was cured at once. According to the Bible, some physical health problems can have demonic origins. The root cause may be spiritual and not physical.
In the next three verses the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked; “Why could we not cast it out?” In verse 20 He pointed to their small faith. He then said that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.
The Bible has three cures for small faith. First, Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Embrace the Word of God and make it your standard for truth as you build a biblical world view under your life.
It does not say that faith comes from studying the theologians. Many of them wrongfully conclude that God does not do miracles today. They destroy faith. It has taken me years in the Word of God to sort out truth versus theological deception. If you want to become mighty in faith, devote yourself to spend hours in God’s Word listening to the Holy Spirit.
Second, in Matthew 17:21, Jesus said, “… this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” If you want your faith to grow, deepen your relationship with God through prayer and fasting. Prayer is not about prayer, it’s about intimacy and communion with God! Set aside time daily to seek God in prayer and carve out seasons for extended fasting and communion with God.
Finally, 1 Peter 1:6-9 teaches that faith is refined through times of trials and testing. If you want your faith to grow, forsake living in your comfort zone and step up and step out to the front lines where things are really tough. Go on a mission trip to a third world country. Visit a slum or ghetto. Serve in a homeless shelter. Become the hands and feet of Jesus in a war torn region delivering food and help. Volunteer for a disaster site to deliver hope where everything looks hopeless. Start praying for the sick on a cancer ward or in hospice care.
But you say, “What difference can I make in those situations?” The answer is “absolutely none!” These are situations where you quickly come to the end of yourself and have no choice but to cry out to God! That’s what makes the difference show up.
I am learning that faith starts when and where I come to the end of myself. Living a sheltered, comfortable and self-reliant life kills faith. It’s true, faith doesn’t thrive in a vacuum.
That’s why Jesus sent His disciples out to preach the gospel with limited provisions to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons… and then to freely give what little they had. (Matthew 10:7-8) He wanted them to come face to face with personal inadequacy as quickly as possible to force them to cry out to God.
When you stand face to face with a tragically demon possessed person that is desperate for help, you plant your mustard seed of faith really fast. You quickly turn to the Word of God for answers and to prayer for Divine help. Soon faith begins to grow and mountains begin to move.
These disciples may have failed the test in Matthew 17, but the gates of hell could not prevail against them after the day of Pentecost. They discovered mountain shaking prayer in the face of opposition. Take time and read Acts 4:29-31. Faith grows on the front lines.
I graduated from Bible College smart in theology but weak in faith. Much of my faith was painfully developed on the front lines of ministry. Like the disciples in Matthew 17, I have failed many tests, but over time mountains began to shake as I came to the end of myself and desperately began crying out to God for help! (Acts 4:29-31) Courageous prayer doesn’t sound like poetry. It is much more like a plea of desperation.
So what can be learned from this text in Matthew 17:14-21? Let me fire off a few points. Don’t run and hide from the demons in life. Faith grows best on the front lines. When you come up short, turn to Gods Word for your answers. Jesus is more than a match for any trial. Prayer is not about prayer, it’s about developing intimacy with God. Faith starts the moment you come to the end of yourself. Failure is not fatal, rather it’s the necessary motivation to push you deeper with God! Mountains shake through prayer, but they move when you stand in faith and speak to them through your authority “in Christ.” (That one might take some biblical reflection.) Growing in faith is a journey that must be walked by every believer over time. Be patient with yourself, God is not finished with you yet!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Co-Founder of GoServ Global