Summary: This sermon considers the all-too frequent reality of failure in our lives. We’ll look at disciples of Jesus who were well versed in it and how they dealt with it. There is hope!
FAILURE -- the word conjures up a bad mental taste. It is such a predominant reality among us that there is an E-magazine website – www.failure.com with a wide selection of failure paraphernalia – mugs, t-shirts, baseball caps!
Who has not tasted the bitter drink of failure – an exam; having to repeat a year in school, a failed relationship; having failed GOD?
In today’s text we see a group of disciples who were well versed in failure! They could have had a t-shirt & cap “join-our-club” membership – Any number of us would be among the first to join.
What do we do with failure? Two choices – depression or deliverance. We’ll explore the latter and look for deliverance when we fail, using Mark 9 as our basis for answers and consider how the disciples handled failure.
We see in our text the familiar miracle of healing a boy with an evil spirit. We’re not focusing so much on the miracle as the disciples faced with this task.
THE DISCIPLES DEMONSTRATE THAT WHEN WE FAIL
1. People know it
A song became popular in the 80’s Musicale years. One line of the song says, "There are people hurting in the world out there; they need you, they need me, they need Christ.” – These often look at our God through our eyes, needing an example of faith and hope. Sadly, they often conclude, “They couldn’t do it.”
The way we cope with life’s challenges is the measuring stick people use to judge us. More importantly, they decide who Jesus is by that judgment.
The time for example has never been more desperate for the Christian church. The opportunities being presented where we can show Jesus as the alternative answer to a pluralistic society searching for answers, is ripe for the picking. If we do not handle ourselves wisely and with discernment, that opportunity inappropriately used can be the result of us ostracizing ourselves from the very people we want to help.
There were spectators and curious by-standers that wished the disciples to fail, knowing it would discredit Jesus.
It pains us to know we have failed Jesus in some way and the witness proves to be a mark against our faith. It is absolutely heart-breaking though, when fellow believers wish us to fail, or smugly take pleasure in our failure. This proves to be the greatest failure of this situation. People see our failure to love; our community is looking on and knows when we are divided and says of us, “they cannot get along” both congregationally and sometimes universally.
WHEN WE FAIL
2. Jesus dislikes it
Jesus is making his way to Calvary at this point in the gospel. The end of his journey is fast approaching, the climax being his crucifixion and resurrection. He has labored for three years and needs to know that his followers finally “get it”; that they understand his message, mission and purpose. It is to them he is entrusting the future; it is through them he will reach people for his Kingdom. These hopes seem dashed when he comes down the mountain and his first evidence of where the disciples are is nowhere near where he hoped it would be. They still didn’t “get it”.
Not only does Jesus aim his frustration at the disciples, but he also takes a shot at those around them. “How much proof do you need?” This disappointing reality for me is lifted in the next point to be made.
WHEN WE FAIL WE NEED TO KNOW THAT
3. Jesus covers it
Verses 19c, 25-26
Jesus does not ’cover it up’ – as in cloak our failures like it doesn’t matter. He covers the failure with forgiveness when we do not perform as maybe we ought to. Jesus steps in when it is critical that he do so.
Take heart! When we drop the ball he’ll pick it up or have someone else pick up where we left off!
Looking at our text again for a moment, we see that in facing the crisis of the cross, Jesus made time for the crisis of the boy. More importantly, he demonstrates by example how the disciples should have handled themselves in this pressure cooker, if they wanted to be a positive example and influence on his behalf.
The small stuff is the stuff most likely to trip us up. Very often we can handle a major crisis but lack social graces with the driver in front of us or the lady who blocks our cart in the grocery isle.
WHEN WE FAIL
4. We need to face it
Failure is sometimes easily justified or explained away with a sense of “God loves me. Jesus understands.”
This sense of "it’s okay" is played down in a story of a boy being punished by his dad for swimming in a local waterfalls when he was expressly instructed not to do so. Some time after the punishment the boy’s dad offered him a chocolate bar and the boy’s “can I come out of the room now?” was met with “no”. Loving someone does not cancel out the gravity of the choices made and the disobedient behavior.