Mathew 17:14-20 “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
This powerful story of Jesus healing a boy with a demon gives us a glimpse into Him showing mercy when he heals the boy, rebuking the disciples and it leads Jesus to talk about the kind of faith He wants us to have.
We get to know a few more details of this story from the parallel account in Mark. In Mark 9:29, in response to the disciples asking Jesus why they could not drive the demon out, Jesus says “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Reading both instances of the story detailed out, we notice that Jesus’s response to why they could not drive the demon out was that their faith was little (Mathew 17:20) and that more prayer was needed (Mark 9:29).
Jesus then goes onto give the example of having faith as a big as a mustard seed to be able to do anything (Mathew 17:20). With the mustard seed being the smallest of all seeds, Jesus shows us that when he says little, he is not talking about little in terms of size but in terms of power.
In Mark 3:15 and Luke 9:1, we read that Jesus gave His disciples the authority to drive out demons. In Luke 9:6 we read “So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.” And when they returned, they told Jesus everything that they had done (Luke 9:10). Dealing with demons was probably not a new thing for the disciples but they were unsuccessful in this instance.
Did the disciples eventually take for granted the power given to them or assumed that it was inherent in them from then on? Was an insufficiency in prayer instrumental in their faith lacking power in this instance?
A lack of prayer can fog one’s perspective of the dependence on Christ for anything and everything. He is the source and sustainer of all that is good within us. He enables and empowers us, not because we are capable, but because He graciously allows us to be part of His big picture. We have to remember to stay connected to our source (God) through prayer and be filled regularly.
Like an Iron is useful in doing what it is meant to do only when plugged to electricity, so are we. Prayer is like that wire that connects us to God. As long as we stay connected to Him through prayer, our desires are more aligned with His, we have clarity in our purpose, we are able to be used more by Him and for Him, it helps us stand strong against temptation and it enables us to be hot enough with the power of the spirit for Satan to be ineffectual in getting a grip on us.
Prayer strengthens us, it helps keep our perspective right, our eyes focused on Jesus and our heart filled with His peace.
Let’s just turn our attention to the disciples approaching Jesus and asking Him why they could not drive the demon out.
This was a very humbling experience for them. After dealing with demons before, this probably stumbled them, but the disciples were willing to learn from Jesus and grow. They did not run from this allowing their wounded pride to win, but by humbling themselves and seeking Jesus, they received a lesson in learning the ‘why’ of their struggle.
Hearing Jesus say ‘because you have little faith’ was probably not easy. It would have stung a bit, but often lessons of correction are.
In our own faith Journey, we may hear a sermon and be quick to apply it to someone else, read something and think that a certain person definitely needs to read this. But the Lord brought it in our path for us to hear it, so maybe it is more for us than anyone else.
We can so easily lean towards seeing the spec of dust in someone else eye and miss out on the log in our own, which the Lord is calling our attention to. But by doing so, do we hinder our own spiritual growth in the process? Like the disciples, may we remember that even though moments of learning may sting they are given for spiritual growth from God with love.
Jesus wants us to grow in faith and for it to be strengthened. He does not want us to cruise through life with little faith. Instead He wants to build our faith such that it is filled with the spirit’s power, a great faith in us is what He wants.
Great faith holds fast to God in all circumstances. Great faith is one that is marked with prayer, worship and is immersed in His word. Great faith is not built in a day, it takes a surrendered heart, consistent and continuous commitment of spending time with God that allows HIM to increase in us.
Take a moment and reflect on your faith, does it need to be refreshed with more of the Lord’s power, does it need to be more marked with prayer?
May we call on the name of Jesus to help us grow and strengthen our faith so that when we face some demons that may seem resistant to be driven out, the power and presence of God with us will enable and empower us to overcome them.