"And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.' Then Jesus answered and said, 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.' And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?' So Jesus said to them, 'Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as 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)
True faith in God, although small, is enough to overcome great problems and barriers, and endure the difficult times that we are now facing, that seem like a great, insurmountable mountain.
1. HOW MUCH FAITH IS NEEDED FOR OUR SITUATION?
"I began [a] revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I [would] do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and [a] plan of action." - Fidel Castro
Often times we ask, hear, or even conclude that some things in our lives simply are not possible for us to do or to achieve. Some battle for years with certain things, barriers in their lives, or difficult circumstances and give up the fight of faith for various reasons. Yet sometimes it seems that certain problems seem to continue to follow them no matter what they do; they just seem impossible to resolve. In the end they seem to bury themselves in front of the mountain while those around them tell that that they don't have enough faith or that the simply do not believe in God.
Yet if we read a little closer we can see that Jesus' disciples had some kind of faith, because they prayed for the possessed boy, likely in the name of Jesus. The Word tells us that the father brought the boy to Jesus' disciples. (Matthew 17:16) It is also clear to us from the text that Jesus first of all turned to the Jews around Him, not to His disciples, although they were present there, and rebuked them saying, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." (Matthew 17:7) The reason for this rebuke was that despite the signs and wonders that they had seen and experienced, these same people (the Jews) did not fully believe that He was their Savior, the Messiah.
Did they need more or less faith? Did they need to confess their freedom more or less? We don't know the answer to this, but I don't believe that it is even of great importance. What is important to understand is what Jesus said. Although He rebuked the Jews because they did not believe Him, and the disciples because of their unbelief - or as the Greek word describes: too little faith - we see that because of His great love and compassion, he set the boy free from the evil spirit and let us know how much faith is needed. "For assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as 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 17:20) All that is needed is a little faith.
It is interesting that He rebuked the disciples because of their "little faith"; while at the same time He told them that they only needed little faith as small as a mustard seed. Jesus is actually saying that the amount of faith needed is very small. In other words, Jesus says that it is not how much faith we have, but the quality of faith. Actually, the faith that does the impossible is so small that Jesus compared it to one of the smallest seeds - a mustard seed.
We can say that the disciples had a certain dose of faith. Many commentators say that there was a difference between the Jews who did not believe in the Messiah for salvation, because Jesus called them, "a faithless and perverse generation" (Matthew 17:17a) and the disciples who had little faith in a great situation. The disciples were with Jesus and believed in Him for salvation. They also served Him, although we know that at the same time they grew in understanding of Jesus and His kingdom. But we can then ask ourselves why Jesus told them that they could not cast our the evil spirit because of their small faith.
Before we answer that, however, we can first conclude that the amount of faith in this situation was not as important as was the quality of faith. Only a small amount of faith was needed, as small as a mustard seed. In other words, if our faith is small and seems weak, but is sincere and real because have place our daily trust in God and in faith alone, it will grow with time as a mustard seed, and will become the kind of growing faith that can endure the most difficult of circumstances, while removing the problems we face. This is why it is important to understand the principle of seed growth that develops into something great and that describes the nature of faith that is always dynamic and depends on the Lord. Let us now move on to the core of the problem that Jesus emphasized in this event.
2. WHILE WE BELIEVE IN JESUS FOR OUR SALVATION, IT IS POSSIBLE TO DO HIS WORK WITHOUT HIM.
"Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes." Deitrich Bonhoeffer
If we return to the incident of the possessed boy, we see that there are two kinds of faith in this context. First there is the faith that places its trust in Jesus and believes Him as Savior and Messiah, the kind that the Jews and the father of the possessed son did not have. The second kind is mentioned in relation to the disciples who did His work with little faith in Jesus.
In other words, Jesus' disciples did His work without Him, in a sense. We already see the biblical problem, and that is that they tried to cast out an evil spirit more in their own strength, and less in God's strength. Perhaps they forget the very important face that strength lies even in small faith if God is with us. Or perhaps they forgot what was told them when Jesus said, "I am the vine, you [are] the branches." (John 15:5) In this story Jesus didn't place so much emphasis on rebuking or judging the disciples because of their lack of faith, as much as He wanted to show them how important it is to have daily faith and trust in Him and His ministry.
What Jesus is telling us is that if we confront problems that appear so big and insurmountable, like a mountain, we need to turn our eyes from the mountain and fix them on Jesus who is the source of our faith. When we do our problems and our service for Him become useful and we will view our surroundings differently.
The whole problem is actually this, that we have faith in God who saved us; in our conversations with one another we say that we believe Jesus and it appears that we do not doubt this, but deep inside we're discouraged and no longer have the faith to go on because we have lost our relationship with Him, we have placed our trust in our own abilities and capabilities, or we are so focused on the mountain rather than the One who can strengthen our faith, because as the Word said, He is the One who is the "author and finisher of our faith". The write of Hebrews encourages us by saying, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith". (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)
The book by Leonard Ravenhill "Revival Praying" has a very interesting part that addresses the importance of prayer. Speaking about the importance of prayer, one preacher said, "How our churches have grown well without a lot of prayer. What would happen if we would pray more?"
Today we're living in difficult times, but they still haven't led us to complete dependence on God as the Christians in Africa, India, Mexico and China who are, in some ways, driven to be dependent on the Lord and thus pray and cry out to Him for help.
The sin of the western Christian is that we can do most things for Him but without Him and this is the problem that Jesus emphasized in this story, that His disciples needed to be more dependent upon Him in order to do His work by small and yet quality faith that moves mountains.
3. HOW CAN WE HAVE THIS FAITH THAT MOVES MOUNTAINS?
"Faith dies through lack of prayer." - Author Unknown
The word says, "But without faith [it is] impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) Therefore, if we want to please Him, first of all we must believe that God exists, and then that He rewards those who seek Him.
What I wish to emphasize is not doing the first thing, believing that God exists, or that He is the Messiah, but faith that is strong enough as that from the Word, especially in Hebrews where it lists for us those ordinary people who did extraordinary works of faith and endured difficult circumstances simply because they had a relationship and faith in God, which was actually the little faith in God that Jesus was talking about.
Many, such as Able, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and others didn't leave behind one mountainous problem or difficulty because their focus was directed to God, and this was a "little faith".
Just as in the Word, there is too little time to give a detailed look at what all the heroes of the faith did, but the list in Hebrews is describes clearly enough what true faith in God can do and endure. "And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also [of] David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented--of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, [in] dens and caves of the earth." (Hebrews 11:32-38
How can we have this kind of faith? Do we need to do something to have this faith, or trust in God, in order to do such great things and endure such pressure? I am personally convinced and my personal experience is that faith must be fought for. After I was saved I rarely doubted that He existed or that He is my Savior and Redeemer, but where my battle often lies is a daily walk with Him and trust in every circumstance, problem, and trial. Without this true, "little faith" it is impossible to do those things that momentarily seem impossible, such as revival and change in Croatia.
I believe that biblical faith can do all that God wants to do. The goal of true faith was not to rejoice over a boy set free, to suppose that everything must appear interesting and how it can bring us glory, but first of all true, little faith wants to see God glorified. This "little faith" wants to overcome the powers of darkness, to see the whole world come to know the message of redeeming love, and cry out for the redemption of those who are bound by chains of darkness. There are two kinds of faith: natural and supernatural.
Many in the world have natural faith, but unfortunately many believers do not even have this kind of faith. It is a faith that believes in something that did not take place until now. Without this kind of faith Cortez could not have defeated Mexico. Without this natural faith Columbus would not have reached America, or Alexander India. If people would not have had this natural faith, today we would be without electric energy or the ability to climb pyramids or the Eiffel Tower.
But more important of all is supernatural, "little faith" that the disciples did not have in certain measure. This supernatural faith cannot be captured in our thoughts or in the four walls of our churches. This true, personal faith comes and moves forward by crying out for spiritual revival, even night and day for people to begin doing His work. True faith engages our emotions, ignites spiritual ambition, such as "le Marechale", the daughter of William and Catherine Booth, an English girl who founded the Salvation Army in Paris. It was not an easy work for her at that time, as she had to do a "man's work", but she had spiritual ambition. She wanted to destroy Satan's rule in the power of strength of the risen Christ. She succeeded with others and became "more than a conqueror". She had that "little faith" that Jesus was talking about.
How did she build this kind of faith? We could write a whole other sermon about this, but I believe that faith first of all comes from hearing the word of God. The Apostle Paul said, "So then faith [comes] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) It is interesting that it doesn't say that faith comes from reading or watching, but from hearing.
Jesus Christ said, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 2:29) In addition to many things, such as I have said that we can speak about for a long time, and that we can list in relation to faith, one important place where we build faith in God is in prayer where our soul and spirit are ignited and sanctified by the Lord.
It is the place where we can maintain the fire of the Spirit. This is why it is not strange that Satan will do everything in his power to keep us from the place where we hear, see, and are activated by the Spirit, this is the place of prayer. Endless access, endless riches - this is the place of prayer. It is the place where our Lord Jesus kept His relationship with the Father. It is the place where He often spent time receiving direction for what and how to minister, for He himself said that He does what His Father does. What would Christianity be like if we really lived this way?
This is possible, because nothing is impossible to the one who believes. There is no mountain s large, no problem or trial that it cannot be removed if we truly believe Him for this kind of "little faith"; if we believe the way He wants us to believe, not trusting in our own strength and ability, but building our belief through daily trust and relationship with Him. I personally believe that there will come a more glorious time for His church, because the world needs heroes of faith. Not all the chapters of the church have been written. This faith still needs to be revealed to many who do not have it yet, and it is the foundation of what we are in God and what we can do for Him.
Faith is a muscle with which we can lift heavy burdens; it is a resource we can use in the spiritual kingdom, it is a spiritual view of things. By faith people see that which cant be seen; they recognize a different dimension that is not revealed to those who pray only routine prayers. Doubt offends Christ and His work. E.M. Bounds once said in one of his writings, "When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live." [Paraphrase] It is also true that when faith ceases to live it ceases to pray. Faith must pray in order to live, and faith must live in order to pray.
If you are facing a problem that seems big and unmovable, like a mountain, take your eyes off of the mountain and seek Christ for more little faith. This is the only way possible that everything around us once again becomes full of life and meaning. "For assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as 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 17:20)