And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 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.” 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.”
In Mark 9, we have an interesting lesson in complacency. While Peter, James, and John were experiencing the glory of God on the mountain of Transfiguration, the other nine disciples were involved in a faith crisis. A desperate father brought his demon-possessed son for the disciples to heal, but they could not cast out the demon. Jesus had not left them without the ability to perform this miracle, but they had taken their eyes off the prize. In Mark 3:15 Jesus had given them this power. “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.“
They could not deliver the boy from his demonic entrapment. You can imagine the religious leaders were having a good time arguing with the disciples and used this public failure to discredit them before the people.
We often missed the point of why the disciples failed. The answer often lands on the closing words of our Lord, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”But the disciples failed because of their unbelief. Matthew 17:20 makes this clear,“Why could we not cast it out?” 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.”Due to their lack of prayer and discipline, in the Lord’s absence, the men had grown careless in their spiritual walk.
The Lesson for us
Complacency can be deadly for our walk of faith. A Chaplain shares this memory of his service in Iraq, “One of the most sorrow-filled times as a chaplain in Iraq was seeing how soldiers who’d become complacent weren’t checking their weapons as they should, weren’t keeping things where they ought to be kept, were not paying attention to warnings and precautions, would get injured, and some, in fact, more were killed by complacency than the bad guys.”
We come to God with the words of the distressed father. “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.” In the Formula of Concord, the church fathers wrote this, “Worthiness does not depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of faith. Instead, it depends on Christ’s merit, which the distressed father of little faith (Mark 9:24) enjoyed as well Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.” (FC SD VII 71). When confronted with this complacency in our walk with God, like the disciples we turn to the work and sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we pray as the Father prayed, “I have faith, Lord help my unbelief, help my lack of commitment, help me appreciate the gifts you have given me to strengthen that faith and forgive me when I have strayed.”
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