Jesus asked the scribes, “What are you arguing about with them?” A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son. He is possessed by a spirit that won’t let him talk. Whenever the spirit brings on a seizure, it throws him to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes exhausted. I asked your disciples to force the spirit out, but they didn’t have the power to do it.” Jesus said to them, “You unbelieving generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me!” They brought the boy to him. As soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it threw the boy into convulsions. He fell on the ground, rolled around, and foamed at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, “How long has he been like this?” The father replied, “He has been this way since he was a child. The demon has often thrown him into fire or into water to destroy him. If it’s possible for you, put yourself in our place, and help us!” Jesus said to him, “As far as possibilities go, everything is possible for the person who believes.” The child’s father cried out at once, “I believe! Help my lack of faith.” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he gave an order to the evil spirit. He said, “You spirit that won’t let him talk, I command you to come out of him and never enter him again.” The evil spirit screamed, shook the child violently, and came out. The boy looked as if he were dead, and everyone said, “He’s dead!” Jesus took his hand and helped him to stand up. When Jesus went into a house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we force the spirit out of the boy?” He told them, “This kind of spirit can be forced out only by prayer.” Mark 9:16-29 GWT
Some situations just seem hopeless. They engender fear, we cringe and think, “How can I overcome this great obstacle?” This is probably how the disciples viewed the boy. They tried to heal him, but in their hearts, it was too daunting.
The changes that need to happen for our church to grow are daunting to me. Can it really happen? Can we somehow break through the barrier to the religious people who seem so satisfied with their own lives? It seems like this island that’s so far away that I don’t know how to reach it.
Jesus had done so many miracles at this point. Yet the disciples still didn’t have enough faith to do the hard stuff. The same is true for me. God has done so much with our church. But does this give me the faith to go forward boldly, believing God is going to multiply us? Like the disciples, I go through the motions, but do I have that deep down gut level solid faith?
So Jesus says, “You unbelieving generation! How long must I be with you?” We had a great house church last night about truly appreciating the gifts God has given us. We talked about how we so often don’t see HOW MUCH God has given us, how much He puts his heart into what He gives us. It was convicting. It made me want to see God more, be more humble, thank Him more.
In the same way, I need to really SEE how much God has done, so I can have greater faith. I need to cry out, “I believe! Help my lack of faith.”
Here is a picture I want to keep in my mind.
It’s a picture of Marge and Grace last night at a small house church in an outlying town that’s a part of the North River Congregation in Atlanta. Looking at the faces, it reminds me that there are people JUST LIKE THESE WOMEN, who want to know Christ more, be in a more wholehearted relationship with him.
Yesterday I read this great statement by a woman in her early thirties who writes about what she tells people her generation is looking for in a church —
“I told them we’re tired of culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled in party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion, or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff – Biblical interpretation, religious plurality, sexuality, racial reconciliation and social justice – but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.. . . And I told them that, contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back by hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops or pastors who wear skinny jeans. We millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, so we can smell b.s. from a mile away. The church is the last place we want to be sold another product, the last place we want to be entertained. Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus . . . ” Rachel Held Evans, “Searching for Sunday.”
There are scads of people like Rachel looking for Jesus and not finding him in their local churches. They ARE out there.
So maybe my problem isn’t that there aren’t people who are seeking. Maybe my problem is ME, that I am too daunted, that I can’t see past the barrier, that I don’t have the gut level faith.
“This kind of spirit can only be forced out by prayer,” Jesus said. This can be true on many levels, but right now, for me, it means that my heart can only be changed through prayer to have faith against the daunting situations. It’s only through concerted focused time of wrestling with God and listening to Him that I will get the kind of faith where I march joyfully forward, confident that God is working.