Summary: How to have the kind of faith that will enable you to serve God.
(Message #10 in the Series: View From God’s Mountaintops)
Matthew 17.14-21 September 24, 2000
14And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Sixteenth Century artist, Raphael’s rendering of The Transfiguration shows the complete focus of Matthew 17; in the heavens is depicted the celestial glory of the Lord Jesus - below, the demented son which the disciples could not heal.
In this one picture we see the answer to the mountains which need to be moved in ministry. While you are on the mountaintop with Jesus in worship, the valley of difficult ministry is preparing the test.
James, Peter and John went up with Jesus to pray on the mount of transfiguration. Down below a lunatic child was brought to the disciples of Jesus for them to heal. They were powerless.
Such is the experience of many churches, ministries and christians today. Mountains block our service. Finances are low. We, like Moses, can’t do public speaking. We don’t know how to heal the hurts, our training is stunted. We cannot see a clear opportunity. Like the disciples, we want to…but we often blow it!
As we look at this text this morning, there are a number of touchstones about serving God which we should examine. I am convinced that much more ministry would be accomplished (without the frustration the disciples encountered) if it was our practice to put the horse of preparation for ministry in front of the cart called pursuit of activity.
Here’s what I mean: Notice verses 19-21 - Jesus is questioned after the incident - Why couldn’t WE do that? Jesus gave three touchstones -
1. Their unbelief
2. Their lack of fasting
3. Their lack of prayer
The bottom line - there is no lack of power on the part of the Father. There is no lack of willingness on the part of the Father to work through us. There is only our lack of readiness to receive, because of the spiritual vacuum created by our own unbelief, lack of fasting and prayer.
I asked my pastor, L.B. Thomason, years ago about whether seminary was necessary. His response was, Well, I’ll give you the same answer my grandmother gave to me. If you want to chop wood, you can use a dull axe - but you’ll chop a whole lot more, and easier if you use a sharp one. Preparing to serve God at any level is just good common sense, and is borne-out by this text.
The question before the house, then, becomes:
How can I be spiritually ready to serve god?
There are at least three answers to that question that flow from the text:
The boy’s father came to Jesus
In the account, the demented boy’s father came to Jesus. This is an act of simple trust. It is also an activity we are prone to overlook in our sophisticated era of solve anything technology. My children trusted Elizabeth and me simply and tacitly, especially when there was a boo boo. When they got hurt, their first order of business was to come running to Dad or Mom, finger raised high. They may have been wailing like a banshee, but they knew where to get help. It wasn’t on their mind to search the net, consult a surgeon or cast a spell - they came to the Dad!
He came worshiping
Lord, was the first word we hear from this man. The man knew what kind of mountain he was facing. His son was sore vexed, according to the KJV. Literally, the father was informing Jesus his son was experiencing such torment that he was worthless. He had no hope. He brought him to the disciples, but even that proved fruitless.
This loving father had no doubt many years of helplessly watching his child destroy himself. The word lunatic means moonstruck, or crazy. He would put his body in flames when he saw them, or deliberately fall into the water to drown. This passage describes the classic symptoms associated with demon possession.