A Stinging Lesson in Self-Reliance

 

An Exposition of Mark 9:14-29

Grab your Bibles this morning and turn with me to Mark 9. Mark 9:14-29. Jesus casts out a demon today. And yet as has been the case throughout Mark, the main point of the narrative is often not about the demon, but about something bigger going on.

This event actually happened of course. It is historically accurate. But the demon and the boy afflicted by the demon are side details. Mark has a reason for including this record in this Gospel account, and it is really about the disciples, and their spiritual status right now.

These disciples are godly men. Nevertheless, they have some remaining blind-spots regarding idolatry in their hearts. They are plagued by lingering unbelief. 

This is a familiar theme for us. Just a few sermons ago we were in Mark. 8:14-21, which I titled, Resisting Persisting Unbelief. We’ve seen it crop up in one form or another throughout several of the chapters so far, and it will be the enduring thread that will continue throughout the remainder of Mark.

Last week we saw three of the disciples get the special privilege of seeing a glimpse of the glory of Christ, before everyone else. What we see this week is that the nine who were left out are also learning something valuable for the future. 

This lesson won’t be quite as fun to learn. Instead of seeing the glory of Christ, this is about the seeing personal limitations and spiritual weakness. 

The main point of this passage is that, the disciples are tested, and their genuine faith is exposed as mixed with pride and unbelief. It isn’t about demons, it is about believing God over-against self-reliance, and the demon was the situation that reveals the significance.

Oh, the disciples are true believers. No doubt about it. They love Jesus. They believe in him for salvation. But they have some serious issues of pride, and self-reliance, and undealt with unbelief.

So, Jesus sets up a little test. Jesus is training the men, and he gets creative on this one.

Ken Blanchard, leadership coach and author of The One Minute Manager, has a five-step process for training: first you tell someone what to do, (you explain it); then you show someone what to do, (you demonstrate it for them); then you let them try doing it on their own; then you observe them doing it, and then you offer feedback in the form of praise or redirection. Tell, show, try, observe, feedback.

Well, interestingly enough, Jesus has taken a similar approach to training the disciples. He has been explaining things for nearly two years, and he has been demonstrating his ministry to them throughout that time. 

Now he sets up an opportunity where he leaves nine of the men unexpectedly so they have an opportunity to try things out on their own, without him. When he comes back to them he will observe how they did, and then give them feedback. 

Today the feedback will not be in the form of praise.

4 Events Unfold as the Disciples Learn an Unforgettable Lesson in Self-Reliance

  1. The Preliminary Catastrophe: a public ministry failure (14-18)
  2. The Penetrating Conversation: an obvious lesson (19-24)
  3. The Perfect Cure: a boy fully-restored (25-27)
  4. The Painful Conclusion: a reproof of self-trust (28-29)

 

(14) When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 

This is just classic. You’ve just had a mountaintop experience and now you came back to real life. You’ve just seen Jesus reveal Himself as God. You’ve just been captivated by his glory. If you are Jesus, you just had the Father audibly affirm you. 

You come down the mountain to arguing.

It is fitting of course. Most of life takes place not in mountain-top experiences of undistracted bliss. Worship takes place in the midst of a to-do lists that grow longer each day, exhaustion, physical illness, relational tension, broken things that need repaired, unreturned emails, bills to pay, dishes to wash…

It makes you realize why Peter just wanted to stay there in the presence of Jesus. When he saw Jesus in his glory, everything else around became dim periphery. 

But its times to return  to reality and back in the valley there is a debate taking place. We don’t learn the nature of the debate until later on and then we can come back and make sense of this.

The scene is of disciples surrounded by a giant group of people. They are standing in the middle and the scribes are arguing with them.

The scribes are in the wrong part of town. Normally residing in Jerusalem, we are finding them up in Gentile territory in Caesarea Philippi. They are a long way from home. They would have been sent as a delegation to work on trapping and discrediting Jesus.

An equivalent would be finding a large group of polished attorneys from Portland, working in behalf of the local and state government, coming out to run an investigation in Sweet Home. 

And they are engaged in a public debate—the same word above in v. 10 when the disciples were discussing on the way down the mountain. The difference is that in a debate, unlike a discussion, you have a winner and a loser—there is a persistence and an insistence between two opposing viewpoints. 

A discussion may include opposing views, but it doesn’t have the intensity of two sides challenging one another. So, we have a public brouhaha going down. And Jesus arrives…

(15) Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 

From the language it seems that everyone saw Jesus as once. Either he came up behind the crowd and as he was spotted they all started turning around. Whatever the case it interrupted the argument, and Jesus became the focal point.

Here you have why the scribes, in part, hated Jesus. He was wildly popular. You can almost picture the scene of a throng of folks gathered around the scribes. Maybe one of them is in the middle of a monologue in the debate, and then people start leaving, mid-sentence.

The text says they were amazed. It was an immediate, emotional, spontaneous response. It translated into exuberance and enthusiasm. People started running up to greet Him. Like the doors opening at an event that has open seating and everyone rushes to get up to the front at the same time.

I couldn’t help but remember being at the Los Angeles airport almost 20 years ago and David Hasselhoff was loading his bags into a Ford Expedition right in front of the airport. There wasn’t screaming and swooning hysteria. But people were looking, pointing, getting each other’s attention to check it out. Pre-smartphone, pre-camera phone.

Everyone is excited. Everyone is surrounding Jesus. And then publicly in the midst of everyone…

(16) And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 

You can just feel the guilty expressions. 

Hey guys, what’s was going on over here? Who wants to fill me in? The commotion was obvious, but the content was not. So, Jesus asks them to spill the beans. 

He is either addressing the scribes (what are you debating with the disciples) or the disciples (what are you debating with the scribes). But instead of the scribes or the disciples answering, we get an unexpected responder:

(17) And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. 

Mark says this guy is answering Jesus. If I’m Peter, James and John, I’m thinking—where did this guy come from, and did he even listen to the question?

Jesus wants to know what ya’ll discussing while we were gone, and this guy is interjecting about his son getting healed. I’m not against healing people, but this is an interruption. Hang tight, this will get resolved for us in a few minutes.

In the meantime, let’s understand this man’s situation. He’s had the painful experience of watching his child suffer torture for a long period of time. The child was afflicted by a demon—an unclean spirit, an evil spirit. This demon was committed to destroying his son, as demons always are.

This particular demon prevented the boy from speaking, and then would send the boy into seizures that would slam him on the ground banging his head, beating up his body, then cause foaming at the mouth and teeth grinding, ending in a stiff exhaustion. Similar in some cases to epilepsy. 

If you’ve known someone who has regular seizures, it is significantly life-altering. But this boy had it much worse due to all the other symptoms. It wasn’t a neurological issue, it was affliction by an evil spirit.

Any loving parent would be desperate for help. This man was desperate, and he came to Jesus. Look at his words: Teacher, I brought You my son. He came to Jesus with the conviction that Jesus would help him. He came to Jesus looking for help.

But unfortunately, his timing was just off. This man arrived at Caesarea Philippi just after Jesus, Peter, James and John departed up to ascend Mount Hermon. Instead of Jesus, this man got the nine. 

You can imagine the scene. The disciples say, I’m sorry, Jesus isn’t in right now, we could either take a message for you, or you could try back another time, or we could just heal your son for you right here, right now.

This is logical: at a business if you can’t talk to the owner you speak with the manager. If the manager isn’t available you speak with the supervisor and so on. You take what you can get. We understand that principle. But in the context of a rabbi, a teacher, and his followers this relationship was explicitly defined. The connection was tight. In fact, the prevailing view of discipleship was this: “the messenger of a man is as the man himself.”

In other words, getting the disciples of Jesus, would essentially be the same as getting Jesus himself. 

Except in this case, it wasn’t. The man continues…

I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 

Ugh, that is so painful. Literally you could translate this they were incapable, they were unable, they were powerless.

If you are the nine disciples, at least if it were me, I’m thinking dude, can you talk quieter… please? I mean, can we have the play-by-play dissection of our failure take place not in front the whole crowd, and the scribes, and Jesus? 

Honestly, I’d probably cut the guy off and say that I’d like to explain it myself, privately. This is where we start to get to the heart of the passage. And here is the central issue of the debate with the scribes.

We don’t know the exact talking points, but it had something to do with discrediting the disciples, and thereby discrediting Jesus by highlighting their recent failure. Remember the connection between the teacher and the students: “the messenger of a man is as the man himself”?

I bet the scribes began to connect some dots that day… like when Delilah finally discovered the secret to Samson’s strength, these religious leaders discovered that without Jesus, his closest followers were pretty weak. They spotted a vulnerability and like sharks circling blood in the water, they seized the opportunity.

Usually when the scribes got into a public altercation with Jesus they got taken to task. Here for once, it felt like they could get the upper hand. They found someone their own size to pick on, and they are milking it for what it’s worth.

The scribes then want to bring down the disciples and thereby bring down Jesus. I’m sure it was a thrill to see how weak these men were without their leader. It probably encouraged the that if they could just take out Jesus, his followers would disband. Without Jesus these were just a bunch of patsies.

That’s the viewpoint of the scribes. But what about the disciples? The man said clearly:

they could not do it.

Does that not seem peculiar to you? It should. These aren’t newbies. They’ve already had ministry experience, and even ministry success. Jesus sent them out on their first short-term missions trips back in Mark 6, and Mark tells us in v. 13…

Mark 6:13—And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

They were by themselves. They didn’t have Jesus with them then, because in v. 30…

Mark 6:30—The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.

What gives? 

We don’t just randomly lose abilities. Sure, due to an illness or some malady you might lose abilities. But it isn’t common that we would say, “well I’ve had the ability to read in the past, and then I just lost it. I used to be capable of riding a bike, but now I can’t.”

They were casting out many demons. And now they can’t. What gives? Jesus, is about to show them. It will come about as he begins to teach them.

4 Events Unfold as the Disciples Learn an Unforgettable Lesson in Self-Reliance

  1. The Preliminary Catastrophe: a public ministry failure (14-18)
  2. The Penetrating Conversation: an obvious lesson (19-24)

(19) And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?

This is not a good feeling. We have talked about Ὦ before. That is an intense word. Sounding the alarm in a cry of exclamation. Jesus is speaking to his disciples when he says unbelieving generation. And so we begin to get the picture.

I’m departing in less than 12 months and you guys are struggling to carry on ministry without me for a day or two. How much longer to have to put up with this? That’s bringing the exact expression into our vernacular. 

When will I have to stop dealing with this? 

It’s a word for endurance that is used very often to speak of bearing up and patiently tolerating the weaknesses of others. Jesus knew perfectly their hearts when he said this. We’ve seen this emotion before in conjunction with the religious leaders:

Mark 3:5—After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Mark 8:12—Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

It isn’t an eye-roll, or a personal sigh of frustration. It’s more than that. William Lane nails the issue when he says that these sighs…

express the loneliness and the anguish of the one authentic believer in a world which expresses only unbelief. 

Jesus is bone-weary of dealing with unbelief. In the most righteous attitude, he is sick and tired of it. To understand this, we must realize that the situation here isn’t isolated. Rather it is the cumulative weight of the recent events as they piled up one-on-top-of-the-other. This isn’t. Consider Mark’s record alone thus far:

The times Jesus fell asleep in the boat and then calmed the wind and the waves…

Mark 4:40—And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?”

The time Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water at night…

Mark 6:50—for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”

Two verses later Mark records that they were flabbergasted because…

Mark 6:52—for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

The disciples completely miss the point Jesus is teaching them about the leaven of the Pharisees (the influence of the Pharisees) because they are hungry and anxious because they forgot to take bread, not considering the maker of bread is with them…

Mark 8:17–21—17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 “HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they said to Him, “Seven.” 21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

When Jesus announces his mission in Mark 8:31 and tells his disciples that he will suffer, Peter opposes him to his face. These are just the instances that Mark records for us. The Gospel gives us a flavor of the ministry of Jesus, hundreds of situations and conversations are not recorded for us. But this was characteristic. So many, many more conversations like this took place.

Here is part of the suffering of Jesus. He never gave these men a reason to doubt, and yet they were continually distrusting of Him. Part of the sorrow Jesus endured on earth was unbelief from his people:

Isaiah 53:3—He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Jesus with disgust in his voice, then transitions. He commands that the boy be brought to him.

Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. 

Jesus gives the order and they oblige. The boy had to be brought, so perhaps the son is away from the argument. This shows at least a bit of restraint on the part of the scribes and the disciples.

The word for boy in v. 24 is παιδίον = child. A boy pre-puberty perhaps 10 or at the oldest 12. He has experienced such trauma he needs to be brought or carried. 

And as usual the demon anticipates what’s coming and freaks out. 

When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 

The demon recognizes Jesus. Demons always panic when they encounter God in the flesh. And so in a final hurrah, the demon goes through the normal routine of attempting to destroy this boy.

(21) And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” 

Encountering Jesus is very personal. It would leave a lasting impression on you. He would make eye contact, He would lovingly, and compassionately enter into the situation.

I was telling someone the other day I was at a conference years ago, and tracked down a conference speak with whom I wanted to speak. I had a series of questions, and one of the most impacting moments of the whole ordeal was the personal interaction and care. 

The man stopped what he was doing and undistractedly entered into the moment with me, asking me questions, taking an interest. It’s very similar to what is happening here.

And he said, “From childhood. 22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. 

From παιδιόθεν (paidiothen); ever since he was a little guy. Probably born without the demon, it doesn’t say infancy. So at some point along the way things changed, and now for years they have been this way.

It makes you feel ill to consider this description of suffering. The NASB says often, πολλάκις (pollakis)—many times, chronic issue. This was a frequent and repeated issue.

For however many years this was going on they were battling a demon that was hell-bent on killing their son. Can you imagine? Sometimes we say of children who are a handful or lack self-control, we just can’t let him out of our sight. 

That was no exaggeration for these parents.

The demon is trying to push him into fires that would have been all around. Other times, throw him down a well or into the lake to drown him. If there wasn’t a fire or water nearby, the demon would resort to slamming his head against the ground in a seizure.

And so the man exclaims…

But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 

But if you are able… same word used regarding the disciples in v. 18. They could not do it, they weren’t able, but if you are able to do anything… literally: come to our aid, and have mercy on us.

We have heard similar words given to Jesus in other contexts…

Mark 1:40–41—40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

The difference, however, is that the leper in Mark 1:40 believed Jesus was able, and his statement that Jesus could do it if he was willing was an expression of confidence. If you want to heal me, I will be healed.

But the father here is less confidence. If you are able…

Their inability appears to have shaken the father’s confidence in Jesus’ ability to do anything (cf. Ch. 9:22 “if you can”). He appealed for Jesus’ help directly only after another violent convulsion, and then with doubt and hesitation.

Jesus isn’t terribly impressed with this question.

(23) And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 

Not, “if I can?” but restates the question verbatim, “if you can?”

(24) Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

This is one of the great expressions in the New Testament. Here is humble transparency. What is your tendency when you speak about a weakness? Generally, you drop your voice, talk a little softer.

This guy is desperate. He doesn’t care. He yells it out in front of everyone. It is a sincere cry that affirms the genuineness of his faith, and the genuineness of the struggle in the moment right now to believe.

Do you see how he got here? 

Uh, Jesus… I believed you could do it. That’s why I came. I was looking for you, believing that you could heal my son. But yeah, to be honest, if you want to know the complete truth, after spending a little time with your “disciples” I’m feeling a little shaky.

Your disciples are unable to do what you claim to do. The scribes are saying that you are a fraud and this is proof positive.

But the man is still coming to Jesus. He is struggling, and yet he is also persevering. Rather than walking away, he is pleading with Jesus to help him.

Help here is, “come to my aid… Jesus, come and assist me, and bring me encouragement, and strength, and support.” The willingness is there. The conviction is there. But right now, honestly? I’m coming up short.

Jesus loved to hear this expression.

The Lord never expects perfect faith, that would be pointless, though he is worthy of it. He only expects imperfect faith because that’s all He’s ever going to get out of us and all of us are going to believe with a measure of doubt mixed in.

I find this so comforting.

Look, if you want God to help you, then be honest with yourself, and with him. Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t dodge it. I love that about this man. He came to Jesus and what did he do—he stopped fronting. He humbly brought his weakness into the light, and then he asked Jesus for help. Here I am, come to my aid!

Jesus is pleased with this man’s expression.

4 Events Unfold as the Disciples Learn an Unforgettable Lesson in Self-Reliance

  1. The Preliminary Catastrophe: a public ministry failure (14-18)
  2. The Penetrating Conversation: an obvious lesson (19-24)
  3. The Perfect Cure: a boy fully-restored (25-27)

 

(25) When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, 

Jesus saw the crowd growing, which was a problem. Remember, the public show is over now. The door is closed, the season has passed. So, Jesus cuts the conversation quick and acts immediately.

He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

In a normal voice Jesus says, leave now, and don’t you ever come back. Coming out and entering in (the vivid language used to describe being seized and controlled against your will by a demon). 

(26) After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!”

So violent! After shrieking and much throwing him around, the demon came out. This little guy had to get pulverized one more time. One last concussion, leaving him lying on the ground lifeless.

Like a corpse. Still, lifeless, unresponsive, no pulse or breathing.

(27) But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 

Same word for resurrection. Jesus raises the boy up. Again, a tenderness here that we have grown so accustomed to. Jesus could have told him to get up, but instead uses physical contact to raise him up.

And that’s all Mark gives us. The story is over. No more details about the boy or his father, or the crowd, or even the scribes. The focal point of the whole deal is the disciples, and they are the only ones present for our conclusion, which is probably a good thing, because this one was a doozy.

4 Events Unfold as the Disciples Learn an Unforgettable Lesson in Self-Reliance

  1. The Preliminary Catastrophe: a public ministry failure (14-18)
  2. The Penetrating Conversation: an obvious lesson (19-24)
  3. The Perfect Cure: a boy fully-restored (25-27)
  4. The Painful Conclusion: a reproof of self-trust (28-29)

(28) When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 

Mark doesn’t tell us what house it was, probably one they were renting. They get everyone together at the end of the day. Jesus comes back and enters in. And now that they are alone, the guys start talking.

It would appear from Mark’s expression began questioning that this was a conversation. We just get a line here because it is summarizing all that the discussed together. The fundamental issue they couldn’t resolve was this: If you could do it, then why couldn’t we.

Maybe if you couldn’t that would make sense. It was a bad kind. But we did it in the past. You did it just now. So, what gives?

Next week the disciples need to ask Jesus a question and they don’t. So, I guess it is something that they bring in their private question to Him now.

Now if you’ve been paying close attention thus far, at this point you really being to sense the degree of blindness here.

Imagine witnessing the interaction Jesus just had with this man about his struggle to believe. Furthermore, Jesus, has just said to you, “O unbelieving generation…” followed by saying “all things are possible to him who believes…”

The connection is right in front of them. The issue was unbelief.

The question they should have asked was, Lord, we do believe, but what is wrong with our belief? How is it that we do trust that you are the Messiah, and yet you are telling us our faith failed?

We’ve often talked about how eerie spiritual blindness is. Because the problem with spiritual blindness is that unlike physical blindness, spiritual blindness causes you to believe that you can spiritually see, when you can’t.

They missed the obvious. And so, Jesus points to the leading indicator of their unbelief:

(29) And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

See the disciples possess a faith that assents to the identity of Jesus on the one hand, and yet neglects to see the necessity of Jesus for spiritual enablement in every arena on the other hand. There is a functional disconnect—a compartment if you will. 

At first it almost seems like the point is that they forgot to pray before casting out the demon. Like eating without praying before your food and then choking on it or something. Like it was an immediate one-for-one connection.

I think that better way of understanding this is their broader attitude toward ministry at this time. They had been prayer-less. When Jesus and the three guys left, no one say, hey guys, we are going to be vulnerable, let’s start praying. Contextually we could assume that they were probably too busy thinking about what the other three guys were doing and why they weren’t a part of it.

Over time, these men had grown confident in their own spiritual prowess. It’s not hard to see why. As they looked at the crowds, they could identify how much better their theology and devotion to Jesus was. As they looked at the scribes and Pharisees, they could identify how they weren’t walking in hypocrisy and pride to the same degree. As they looked to their own ministries they saw fruitfulness and a faithfulness.

And they began to put confidence in their own abilities. I could help but contemplate the reality that self-reliance actually robs other people of real ministry. If Jesus hadn’t have come down the mountain that day, the boy wouldn’t have been healed.

It’s easy to console ourselves in the sovereignty of God dismissively. Oh, the Lord didn’t want him to be healed. Really? You realize that the disciple’s unbelief rendered them ineffective in serving others.

Well as we think about applying this passage, I found such comfort in thinking about how the Lord deals with us in these matters. This was a hard lesson. It was painful for these guys to see their sin. To know that their unbelief was personally against the Lord Jesus himself.

God is faithful to humble us and to expose our pride. If you are in Christ today I declare that you are a new creation in Christ. God calls you no longer a sinner, but a saint. That is your identity because your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

And as a saint you still sin. The remnant of the old-life lingers around un-mortified. In that arena, you are worse than you asses yourself. As we grow, God faithfully pulls back the curtain or takes of the mask as it were so that we can see ourselves more accurately.

I find such comfort that my Jesus knows that I love him and trust him, and while not settling for my unbelief and leaving me in, nevertheless remains faithful knowing my frailty. It is a striking picture of his marvelous grace.

We have a prayer problem. I was conflicted as I wrestled with this passage. Part of me eager to study it and deliver it to you. Part of me resistant and uncomfortable to let it penetrate my heart. It’s easy to casually admit a weakness at a superficial level, but a passage like this leaves us exposed and bare before the Lord. 

And as I was thinking about the implications for a ministry, I couldn’t get away from the fact that these men experienced less effectiveness due to self-reliance, manifested in their prayerlessness.

God has done wonderful things among us. He has been faithful in spite of our weakness, praise be to God. But is it not also possible, that in our ministry at CBC, that in our evangelism, that in our fruitful discipleship in our home, that in the needs that we have as a body, to a degree we have not because we ask not, and we ask not because we don’t believe.

Over the past six months this has been an issue that we have begun to wrestle with as a LT, and the men individually. One mark of spiritual health is a devoted prayer life. But where does that devotion come from? Seeing ourselves as not having the resources to get the job done, seeing God as having those resources and generously willing to give them to us if we ask according to his will.

Your prayer life is one indicator of your humility or lack thereof. Your pleasing faith or your self-trust.

There are passages over the years that have left an indelible imprint on my life as they have a resounding effect that goes far beyond the day or even the week in which I heard them explained. May this be one of those messages that leaves its mark on us for years to come.

Jesus could have let the disciples succeed without learning this lesson. But he loved them too much. And so, he let them taste the fruit of their self-reliance. Jesus refuses to compete on any level with human pride. Jesus loves us too much to let us continue in these paths. How unkind of the Lord to let you have everything go easily the way you want it without depending up on him. That wouldn’t be beneficial, but detrimental to your spiritual life.