Title: O’ Faithless Generation!
Text: Mark 9.14-29
Introduction: In today’s message, Jesus and 3 of his disciples have descended the mountain and find… – or should I say, what they don’t find, is today’s topic! We will see this as we make our way through the passage… But, before we even dig in, I’m just going to give you the answer: Faith
- Faith is what they don’t see.
- Faithlessness is what they find.
Let that ring and echo in your head for a moment. Faith. What is it? How is it measured out, so that you can track it, see it, feel it, hear it, experience it? Boy, that’s a hard one. Let me stop right here and clarify my intention this morning:
My goal isn’t to lead you on some guilt trip. That’s not what we’re doing here. I’m not going to go through this message with the objective before me to make you feel weak and wimpy. Listen, as I started researching and preparing this message I was overcome with a sense of guilt. For many of you, you’re with me on this, I know. But please don’t let guilt be what drives your listening and your responding. Now, that doesn’t let you off the hook before God. You’ve gotta deal with God and faith on your own. Do as the Lord leads, but understand, the goal isn’t guilt this morning.
Here’s the deal, this is just where we are in the text. I feel this is the message God would have me to preach this morning. I’m standing here telling you about faith, when I sometimes am the wimpiest believer, my faith is lacking and I just sit crying before the Lord. I’m there – and that isn’t where I want you to be.
Yes, make an honest assessment; study, pray, do what the Lord leads you to do – but not out of guilt. Let your drive be energized from your passion to faith. Want, more than anything else, to do this thing called “Christianity” right. Not because people are watching – though that is a good motivator.
So, back to the story: they’re coming down the mountain, discussing eschatological issues; dreaming about what the future will look like and boom: what do they not find? They don’t find faith in the disciples.
Transition: This leads me to a question. Technically, a few questions, but it starts with this one.
I. How do people act or what do people do when they are faithless? (14-16)
exp.: We see the answer in v 14; Rd v 14; Answer: they argue. The disciples are followers of Christ. They’ve been given the ability to cast out demons and have done so in the past. Mark 3.13-15 – 13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. That was intended from the beginning. In 6.7 Mark tells us: 7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. And in 6.13 we see that this is exactly what they did: 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
ill.: But now, they find they’re unable to accomplish what they did before! You ever been there? What worked before isn’t working now? God? What are you doing? Where are you in this? Why can’t I just do what I did before?
Exp.: Can I add to this? There is a lot of pressure with an audience. Man, I’m a rock at 4.30 in the morning, on the couch, under a lamp; just me, my Bible and a cup of coffee and I’m visiting with the Lord. But, put me in front of an audience who is watching me pray – now I’m feeling a little pressure. What if God says no? I’m going to look foolish in front of the skeptics, in front of the unbelievers.
app.: Why arguing? I’m sure they were caught off guard when they couldn’t cast out the demon like they had before. People are watching and all. I can just see them trying to step up and be the man. Peter, who is traditionally the leader isn’t there. Neither is James or John. So maybe Andrew is first. Flop! Let me try… Flop! Come on guys, step aside. This is how Judas and I did it… Flop! Arguing ensues…
exp.: But the real man and the other three disciples come walking up; rd 15; that’s what I’d do; I just read that verse and I’m so moved. Oh, dear Jesus, show up and interrupt my messes. I gladly bow out. Steal my show! My dog and pony routine only takes me so far! I see him and I’m amazed, too!
I wonder if this amazement has anything to do with the Transformation that just took place up on the mountain? I think of Moses and the Exodus story where Moses descended from the Mountain, having been in the presence of the Glory of God and the glory stayed with him. He needed a veil to hide his face from the people.
Exodus 34.29-35 describes in detail how that worked as Moses would remove the veil before the Father as he spoke with God – and then he would cover his face with the veil as he would return to the people.
Is this why they were amazed? I don’t know, but it fits with the Exodus parallel we saw last week.
Jesus then asks them: rd v 16-17; So, they’re all arguing about this casting out of a demon. I wonder how these ‘discussions’ get started. I wonder if the religious leaders were there to investigate Jesus, to trip him up. Well, he wasn’t, but his disciples were and what an auspicious occasion for them as they witnessed their failure.
Funny thing about these religious leaders: we don’t see them anymore in this passage. They cause trouble and then disappear. That is so like troublemakers! I wonder if religious leaders today are like that – not worried about the people and their needs. They just want to maintain their power and position. So, they do their best to stir up trouble and dissention among those who are doing their best for God – even if it is failing, they’re doing their best.
So this father identifies the reason for the arguing going on: the disciples failure and then, Jesus speaks: rd v 19
t.s.: O’ faithless generation. Who is he talking to?
II. Who is this ‘faithless generation? (19-25)
exp.: Did people look at the disciples? Did they, the crowd, think he was talking to them, too? Did they just lower their heads? How would you respond if that was said to you by Jesus: O’ faithless generation. I don’t want Jesus to feel that way about me. When the son returns, will he find faith here? Please, Lord, let me be found faithful. Let us be found faithful. So, who is Christ speaking to? Answer: I don’t know.
- The Disciples: some folks think he’s just talking to the disciples. They’ve been taught and trained and have done this before. Make some sense. They’ve failed here – was it their lack of faith that caused this failure. If you don’t understand how faith works, you just might be thinking that he’s talking to the disciples. If they just had the faith, they could have accomplished this.
Listen, Beloved, don’t buy into that lie! Faith doesn’t work like that. When someone tells you that all you need is a little more faith – that’s a cop out. Faith isn’t dispensed like water or gas or soda. There is something super cool about knowing that God can do something and being totally at peace if he chooses not to do that.
Maybe he was talking about:
- The Father: rd 20-24; is there a more powerful, poignant dialogue between two people in this gospel? Boom – What do you mean: if you can?!?! Years ago, there was a lady in our church, (Copperas Cove), who had been attending a ‘health & wealth; name it, claim it church; she was sharing with me of how the pastor’s message was: when you “can God?”, you “can” God! Like canning vegetables or fruit. Doubting God’s ability makes it where he can’t do something. That’s another lie I’m begging you not to fall for. Yes, it preaches well and makes the preacher sound really witty. But it ain’t true! There is no power on earth that will ever limit the power of our God. Your lack of faith doesn’t weaken him one bit. God isn’t up there crying to himself because he has become inefficient and ineffective at the faith of the people here on earth! There is no faith meter registering the faith of the church at Calvary or in the home of a member.
Ill.: using a meter, demonstrate weakness; Well, there just aren’t enough members putting their faith in me, so, I feel weak. If just a couple of more would believe!
That’s non-sense and it just isn’t Biblical. Look at what Jesus says: All things are possible for the one who believes. Lit.: All things are possible to the one who believes. The ESV, the NIV – I think their translation is weak. The NASB, The Holman – they do a better job of translating from the Gk: to the one, not – for the one. That is slightly different in form – tremendously different in meaning. When you use the word for, you think reason or cause. When you use the word to, you think direction. For would imply that nothing is impossible for him or her, placing the emphasis on faith or even you. But, when you use the word to, which is what the original language uses, that means that nothing is impossible toward you – that work lies outside of you. The idea isn’t that faith does the work, but rather placing faith in an object, which does the work.
Ill.: present the GOSPEL; Romans 3.23; 2 Cor 5.21; Isaiah 53.6 – So faith is not in what you can do just because you believe – but rather, faith is placing your trust in an something else that can accomplish the task. Faith in a chair isn’t faith until you sit in it. Faith in a plane is faith until you get on it and fly. Faith in Christ isn’t faith until you surrender all of who you are to Christ. And trust that what He did – the work of dying on the cross, being buried in a tomb, and rising three days later – trusting that what he did is what saves you.
Ill. #2: There is a story of three men who refused to bow down to a king. The King ordered that they be thrown into the fire – to be killed as punishment for their rebellion. They said they couldn’t bow down, because God had ordered them not to. The King was furious! And in a rage ordered their death. The Bible reads in Daniel: 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
He can, but that doesn’t mean he will! That’s faith – trusting Him to do what He has chosen to do to bring Him Glory and Honor.
Ill. #3: David, fasting, praying, laying on the floor, begging God to save his baby boy. The Baby dies. David gets up, cleans up and goes into the Temple to worship. Then, he comes back and asks for some food. The servants are like, what, you were fasting and praying and beginning God before. Now, the baby is gone and you’re eating? David said: I will go to him someday, but he will never return to me.
That is a picture of FAITH. Trusting, begging God to work, but knowing that He will do what is best for His Glory.
Transition: The 3rd, group some folks believe Jesus is referring to is the…
- The Crowd: rd v 25; some say, their unbelief would hinder his ability to do this miracle – he’s got to get it done before this non-believing pagans interfere. No. That isn’t what this verse is saying. I simply understand this to say that more people were coming, running to see what was going on. Maybe the disappearing religious leaders have gone back into the town and were overheard talking. We don’t really know. What we do know is that it isn’t just the growing crowd. And, it isn’t just #4…
- The Religious Leaders: We know they don’t believe.
I think it is all of them. The only one not included in that statement is Jesus. He is different; He is set a part from them – above them.
Now some might argue with me and say look at Mark 6 and Matthew 13 where Jesus was in Nazareth, his hometown, but he couldn’t do any miracles there because of their lack of faith. Let’s clear this up. That isn’t what the Scripture says at all.
Mark 6.1-6a; that doesn’t say he couldn’t because of their unbelief. I don’t think it is even implied. Matthew clears it up a bit. But we will stay with Mark. Mark isn’t saying a lack of faith on the part of the people of Nazareth limited Christ in anyway – only that he marveled at their unbelief. The only reason you and I think this is because we’ve heard it taught incorrectly. Matthew even words it differently than Mark and clarifies it for us that Jesus didn’t do any mighty works there because of their unbelief. Not that he couldn’t because the faith meter was too low limiting his power.
Some might ask, that if it isn’t faith, then what was it? Why ‘couldn’t’ he? My answer is I don’t know. Don’t read in to Scripture something that isn’t there. Jesus was sent by his Father and led by the Spirit.
Ill.: I have a rule with my staff – it is simply this (Diana, write this down): if you ever make plans to do something, and after I’ve prayed about it, feel you shouldn’t do it, I simply ask that you cancel those plans. I may not have a reason, except that I have a check in my spirit – that I just don’t feel good about it when I lay it before the Lord. It may work, it may not, but for unity and respect for my position as pastor – please, just don’t do it.
I can’t explain it. I don’t have a valid reason. It isn’t because I lack the faith. And, when asked why your not doing that ministry, you would simply answer as here: I just couldn’t do it.
app.: Maybe the Father told Jesus not to. Maybe, miracles among unbelievers is like casting your pearls before swine. I don’t know.
III. What causes a lack of faith? (26-29)
- The Father: his experience; repeated attempts to find relief and nothing; each attempt thwarted; no one has been able to help; repeated failure brings frustration; But God had other plans: Our heavenly Father wanted this father and his son to meet Jesus, His Son.
- The Disciples: their eyes; what they saw; failure and then, doubt creeps in; hopelessness builds; (describe the boy’s response); foaming at the mouth; that is why we walk by faith and not by sight.
- The Religious Leaders: their knowledge – or should I say, what they thought they knew for sure or to be true.
- The Crowd: Secular; wrapped up in the world; mostly curious; onlookers – wanting to see a show or something spectacular;
- Jesus – he gives us the answer in v 29; rd v 29: a lack of prayer; Prayer and Faith go hand in hand. Al Mohler teaches: prayer doesn’t change God – and get him to align with our will, but rather, prayer changes me – prayer changes the individual – and aligns our will to His. That is nowhere clearer than when one prays to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. The change that takes place is in the repentant sinner.
I’d love to just camp out on this for a while – this idea of prayer and faith. Maybe I will next week. It is amazing to me how prayer and faith go hand in hand. Lyle read it last week in James 5.15: And the prayer of faith will save the sick one, and the Lord will raise him up.
Conclusion: O’ faithless generation… I don’t want that to be said of me – I don’t want that to be said of us. I want to hear: O’ Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your salvation!
Application: So, what are we to make of this or, what are we to take from this?
- Understanding faith is hard – especially with all of the strange teaching out there. So let me offer a few steps to make it a little easier:
a. Follow: Let your faith in Christ lead you to a place where you trust that God is in control. No matter the circumstance. I don’t care who dies, who is elected president, what hurricanes or tornadoes do, if the sun rises tomorrow – God is still sovereign!
b. Then, Surrender to His leadership. That may be the hardest part of exercising your faith. Too often my selfish desires get mixed into the equation. But I don’t want to let go of him, her, it, whatever! Don’t let that happen – surrender.
c. Pray: Ask Him to do, accomplish, save – whatever it might be – Just ask, let your requests be made known to God. Pray Psalm 20:
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
3 May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
Note: This is a good practice – to align your heart with God’s heart: Weave Scripture into the mosaic your prayers.
d. And then Rest in the power he has to accomplish anything you can think or even imagine.