When they came to the crowd, a man came to Him, knelt before Him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him. Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:14-20, NRSV)
- - - - -
“Little faith” is a destructive habit.
It effects our obedience. It limits our potential. It burdens us with doubt. And it allows lies to remain hidden within.
Even the eldest of Christians can still feed these habits of little faith. Though saved by the power of faith, we are then called to cultivate it more and more. We are given the Spirit as a promise of the growth and glory that is to come.
As a follower of Jesus, we now live every day pursuing His character, joining in with His Spirit, and allowing Him to prune away everything but His image.
By now, Jesus’ disciples had an eye-witness account of dozens of healings, exorcisms, and transformative miracles of all kinds, and today’s passage was their opportunity to mirror the miraculous work of their leader. It was their opportunity to shine His image.
Yet one by one, they were met with an unforeseen obstacle.
For months, they had watched Jesus, learned from Jesus, and even taught with Jesus. Every town offered them new stories and memories to add to their testimonies. But despite it all, something was missing.
They needed a greater faith.
Three of the four gospel records dictate this story. Matthew, Mark, and Luke write of this broken father, searching for an answer to his son’s condition.
Mark’s gospel tells us that this possession has been present since birth. Yet as he grew and grew, the spirit seems to have become more and more destructive with the boy’s body. In complete desperation, this father speaks of how it causes his son to fall into fire and water - seeking to kill him.
I cannot even imagine the depths of pain that this men felt. He couldn’t protect his own child, leaving him feeling powerless, weak, helpless, and hopeless.
But then he learned of Jesus’ ministry and all of the healings that had already taken place. Surely His followers could do the same work of their master.
...But we know that this was not the case. As Jesus would soon display, these disciples needed a lesson on what it takes for the work of God to be accomplished.
In fact, as we go about our day, I fully believe that we need this same lesson. Much like the disciples, we feed habits of little faith all the time.
So, in looking at this passage, let’s uncover three different sin beliefs that constrain our faith with tight boarders.
1. Fear will always bind faith.
What stood in front of each of the twelve that day was not just a young boy, but a boy housing a supernatural and very evil power.
He flared around everywhere, overtaking the boy’s motor-skills and spreading fear to all of those watching. In their humanity, I cannot help but think that these disciples were dealing with ranging levels of horror.
And whenever fear enters a heart, you can expect doubt to quickly set in. And like you can imagine, doubt takes a soul and binds it with concern after concern.
Do we really have what it takes to control that? Can we really defeat it? What if it overtakes us? What if we die? It seems so big, so strong, so daunting, and so extraordinarily powerful.
And the second these fears fill our minds, they hinder and bind us from faithful action.
2. Pride will always overshadow faith.
“Andrew couldn’t do it, but I can.” “I know that I will be the one.”“Wait until Jesus hears that I did it...”
Whether or not pride played a role in overshadowing the disciples faith in this story, you better believe that it has blind-sided great and godly people all throughout history.
Pride says, “I can.”Faith says, “He can.”Pride says, “Look at me.”Faith says, “Look at God.”
A heart that seeks recognition for their “works of faith” will never truly discover the powerful work of great faith.
3. Little love will always endanger faith.
And beyond fear and pride, much of our little faith comes from a small perspective and practice of love.
When we do not seek to grow in love, we lack the burden of compassion. When compassion is missing, so is the dire urgency for change. And in the absence of urgency, a mountain will always remain put.
What cripples our faith - my faith - is often this last sin struggle. When we do not seek to develop and deepen our love for God and His people, we actually begin to limit our capacity to bring about change.
To the disciples, this boy could have been just a boy. But as we discover in the gospels, people are never just people to Jesus. They are beloved ones, beautiful creations who are completely worth dying for. To love like this would bring an urgent compassion within, compelling any mountain to move.
Today, may we live without this fear, pride, and little love.
Thank you so much for joining us. If you enjoyed today's devotion, please share it with others! The tabs below make that easy! You can also purchase the complete Miracles Study in our online store! This week, 1/3 of the cost of each book will go straight to Preemptive Love and their work with refugees.
Greg, Declare Glory