Summary: 1. Christ’s work of deliverance can only be done out of an abiding relationship with him. 2. Whenever Christ comes to do his work, he is never in a hurry. 3. Whenever Christ comes to us, he expects to find faith.
The story we have read in the ninth chapter of Mark is a fascinating account of a young man being delivered from the forces of evil. He has suffered from this since childhood. When his father brought him to the disciples, they prayed over him, expecting that he would be delivered. After all, Jesus had given them authority to drive out demons (3:15), and they had been successful in doing this at other times (6:13). They had invoked the name of Jesus, and people had been healed and delivered. But this time they are in over their heads. Nothing happens. They prayed; they laid on hands; they spoke the Name, and the boy’s condition remained the same. We are not sure why they were unable to help the boy. Maybe they had lost confidence in themselves since Jesus was not with them, and neither was Peter and John. Jesus had taken Peter and John with him to pray on the mountain and left these other disciples among the people. Perhaps they thought that since Jesus had given them authority to heal and cast out demons that the power was theirs permanently, without remaining spiritually connected. It is possible that they began to see the power as coming from them and not from God. For whatever reason, they did not have what it took to tackle this demon.
As Jesus approached the scene, he noticed his disciples arguing with a crowd of people. The argument probably arose over their inability to do the work of God, and therefore it cast doubt on Christ himself. If Jesus was who he claimed to be, and the disciples were not able to cast the demon out in his name, then there were those who were ready to doubt not only the disciple’s ability, but the reliability of Jesus himself. This is usually the case. And here is the first point: Christ’s work of deliverance can only be done out of an abiding relationship with him. The father of this boy was seeking to bring his son to Christ, but since Jesus could not be found he asked his disciples to cure the boy. They gave it an honest try, but they failed completely. Their failure led to many questions which they cannot answer. People surrounded them and attacked them verbally. They question them, and what was worse, they questioned their Master. Their failure had cast doubt on their Lord.
Jesus is likewise disturbed at the failure of his disciples. He spoke his frustration out loud: “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Mark 9:19). He is not talking about the crowd or the father of the boy here; he is talking about his disciples. Keep in mind that these are the ones he has selected to be in the inner circle from all those who wished to follow him. They were supposed to be the cream of the crop. They were to be the leaders. He had taught them to pray. He had given them authority and the power to accomplish the work he had given them to do. He had shown them by example, and as soon as he left them alone for a short while they fell to pieces. When they asked him later why they were not able to cast the demon out, he said to them: “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29).
His disciples made the same mistake that Christ’s disciples make today: they assume that they can do the work of God in their own power. They were trying to follow a formula, instead of maintaining their relationship with God. They were using the name of Jesus like it was magic. They were using the same words as they had used before, but the words fell from their lips to the ground. They placed their hands on the boy the same way they had placed their hands on so many others. They followed the example of Jesus. But something was missing. They had not maintained their relationship with God through prayer. And since they had not maintained contact with the Source of power, there was no power in their lives. Same words. Same actions. But no results. No prayer; no power. No abiding; no deliverance.
Here is the lesson for us: If there is not an ongoing relationship with God through prayer, there will be no deliverance from the things that bind us. We can follow the formula, but there will be no filling. We can go through the ritual, but there will be no renewal. We can say the words, but we will still be waiting for an answer. It is impossible to experience the power of God without faith. It is impossible to have faith without spending time in the presence of God. Do you need more faith? Spend more time in the presence of God. It is impossible to spend time in the presence of an all-powerful God and not be moved to a higher place of faith. The more you know God, the more you understand the things of which he is capable. The more time you spend with God the more of his power you carry with you. The more this takes place in your life, the more you realize that it is not about you. You are merely a channel for his power and grace. The more of that power you absorb in his presence, the more you have to share. It does not belong to you, and it does not come from you; it comes from God, and belongs to him. You learn to live leaning on God. You hear the Scripture ringing in your head which says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).