FAITH FOR THE FAITHFUL
THEME: THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL MUST ADMIT A FAITH WEAKNESS.
TEXT: MARK 9:14-29
It seems that in the church those in a leadership position are strong in the faith. The elders, deacons, preachers, and teachers are those who are solid with the faith. This seems to be the perception that most people have of these individuals within the church. It was certainly the mindset that I had when I first came to the church. The elders were the ones with the strongest faith. It was the preachers who demonstrated a solid faith in God and Christ. It was those people who knew the most, who experienced the most, those who had the longest tenure in Christianity. I believed that the people in leadership were the spiritual foundation for numerous congregations. It seemed this way for so long. But I started to notice with my time in the church that this was not the case. It was not always the apparently strong that were the bedrocks of the church. It was not always the elders and the preachers. It was not always the older members or the deacons. It was people that seemed to be the most unlikely who had the strongest faith. There are exceptions to the rule that those who should be the strong ones in faith are in the end the weakest in the faith. The perception is not always the reality. Man sees the world in one way but God sees a different picture.
The picture that the leaders are not always the strongest in the faith started to become clearer to me. I remember my friend James from Texas. James was one of the spiritual pillars of the school. He was highly talented and motivated to serve the Lord. He left a career in nuclear engineering to become a minister. This seems so strong of his faith. He started preaching after school and seemed to have a successful ministry. He was raising a family and helping a great congregation to grow. This was why I was so shocked that his wife left him. What woman would want to leave a man who was a strong spiritual leader in the home and church? She had a good reason though. He met a woman over the internet which ended up becoming an affair with her. His wife discovered this affair through email. She packed her bags and was gone. James is no longer preaching or attending a congregation. What happened?
An elder friend of mine, named Ray also went through a spiritual crisis. He was a strong elder in a congregation for 20 years. Most people in the church considered him to be the pillar in the congregation. He gave millions of dollars to the church. It seemed that he loved the Lord and his church. But he had a major shaking of his faith when he had a heart attack. He told me that he lay on his bed crying because he was afraid of going to hell. He knew he was a Christian, he lived a wonderful life, but when it counted. When it was time to have peace, he was afraid. He had no faith in the gift of Jesus Christ. He had no hope for heaven. He said that he realized that his faith was weak. When he needed his faith, he had none. This man that everyone would have thought to be so strong, in the face of death was quivering in fear. Where was his faith?
You could probably list a few of these accounts too. People who appeared to have a strong faith ended up being weak in the faith. Most of you can recall the falling away from the faith by numerous people. It is a common problem. The faithful are in need of more faith. The leaders need more faith. It is the classic problem that is witnessed throughout the church. In fact, this present day situation is an ancient problem as well. Much has not changed in 2000 years. This is why I want to direct our minds over a Mark passage. It is Mark 9:14-29. Most of us know this story well. It is the story of a father who has a son with a evil spirit in him. The father brings the son to Jesus. And Jesus mentions that if one has faith, then it is possible to cast this demon out of the boy. Most of us know the popular phrase, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Typically, we look on this man as being weak in faith. This poor man, he just wants to believe in Jesus so that his son can be healed. We focus on the weak faith of the father, but really this story is not about the weak faith of the father, but the weak faith of the leaders. It is the leaders that Jesus is upset with and proving a point to. He is pleased with the father, the father shows the right attitude, the perceived weak father, is really the one who has faith right. Because of the father’s faith, Jesus will heal this boy and the evil spirit will come out of him. The problem of faith is not the Dad, but the disciples. It is the leaders who are weak, not the common people.
The first few verses really orient us to what is happening in this story. Mark 9:14-19 states “And when they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. And immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed, and began running up to greet Him. And He asked them, "What are you discussing with them?" And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and stiffens out. And I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." And He answered^ them and said^, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!"
These verses highlight the inability of the disciples to heal this boy. There is an argument taking place between Jesus’ disciples and the scribes. Probably, the scribes are giving the disciples a difficult time because of their inability to heal this boy. The scribes are questioning the power of Jesus and the faith of the disciples. Imagine the embarrassment of the disciples. It is like trying to hit a golf shot when everyone is watching. The disciples are trying to heal this boy but do not have enough faith. The scribes are mocking the disciples and there is a huge argument. Jesus now gets involved and discovers what is happening. The boy has a demon and the disciples cannot heal him or drive the demon out. Look at Jesus’ response in verse 19, Jesus is upset and annoyed by the religious leaders. The “them” could be directed at the scribes and disciples. It is not the boy or the father that Jesus is annoyed with. Jesus cannot believe the lack of faith in the disciples and the religious leaders. The disciples, those who are to take off the ministry of Christ when he is gone, seem to lack a strong faith. It is the leaders that are letting the Lord down. It is the perceived spiritual giants that have a mouse size faith.
This spiritual weakness in leadership is one of the present problems in the church today. A lot of the people in the pews are looking for the leadership to guide a congregation into the future. People are looking to the ministers, the elders, the older saints to lead the charge into Satan’s camp. The problem is that the leadership in some congregations lack faith. The leadership are not the ones who have the most faith, it is the new coverts, it is the common people in the pew. These are the ones with the strong faith, but will not move because they are waiting, they believe that the leadership is stronger in faith than they are. There is this waiting in the church today. Everyone is waiting on leadership but the people in the pews have the strong faith. The leadership are not the strong ones. You see this in congregation where the minister tries to maintain the status quo or when he tries to be safe in everything he does. He has no faith to push a congregation out of the comfort zone into the uncertain territory of faith. You see this when there is a eldership that says “no” all the time. A member comes with a good program but the elders say no because they are not sure it will work. These are cases where the eldership lack faith. The people think the strong faith is in the leadership, but they are weak.
I remember doing a paper on the missionary J.C. Bailey. He was originally from Canada and was working in the USA. Ira North from the Madison church of Christ wrote him a letter to encourage him to travel to India as a missionary. At this time, USA citizens could not enter into this country, but since J.C. Bailey was from Canada, he could go over. J.C. Bailey elected to go to spread the gospel in this foreign country. J.C. Bailey traveled over most of the USA looking to raise support for this mission work in India. He mentions that all most all of the congregation rejected his idea. The leadership in most congregations told him this was a pointless task, that it could not be done, those heathens in India would never believe in the gospel. In the end, J.C. Bailey sold everything he had. He carried very little with him, and he had very little support. He went over to India and established the church in those foreign lands. Now today, in India there are over 1,000,000 millions New Testament Christians. The leadership in most congregations did not have strong enough faith to support this work. Jesus is still disgusted today will weak faith in the leadership.
The leaders have failed, but once again Jesus will succeed. As the text continues you see the contrast between the attitude of the leaders and the attitude of the common man. The man’s background is not given, his faith is not given, but his attitude towards his faith is demonstrated. Mark 9:20-24 “And they brought the boy to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling about and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. "And it has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" And Jesus said to him, "’If You can!’ All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, "I do believe; help my unbelief." The boy is in terrible condition. He has lost control of his body, he is foaming at the mouth. Jesus taking a concern in this boy asks the father how long he was in this condition. This poor boy has been suffering with this problem since childhood. This is why the father must have brought the boy to the religious leaders. He took them to the disciples, hoping that they could heal him. But once again, the religious leaders failed this boy and this man. But there is one that never fails. You have to take the boy to Jesus. And all this father wants is some relief for his boy. He needs some pity, not religious pomp but pure pity from the Lord.
Notice the reaction of Jesus to the father. Jesus states that he can, Jesus says, “If you can.” Jesus is saying that if you can belief in me, than your boy can be healed. Jesus performs this miracle because of the faith of the father. It is the father’s faith that heals this boy. It is not the leaders, or the scribes or the disciples, it is because of the simple faith of the father. The father shows the attitude of faith, in contrast to the disciples. The father cries out, “"I do believe; help my unbelief.". This is the plea of faith. Real faith always cries this phrase. The problem is that too many people who believe they have strong faith are truly the weak in faith. It might not have always been this way. It could have started out with this simple prayer, but with time the strong became the weak. It is those people who attend services every week but never read the Bible at home. It is the elders who meet every week about the church but have not prayed sincerely in their own homes. It is the ministers who preach, but do not read the word for spiritual growth. The problem is that once people feel that they have become the strong in the faith. It is the people who become the deacons, the ministers, the elders, this is the beginning of the end. Because some of these people will start making the plea of “I do believe, help my unbelief.” People become secure in their faith, and Satan begins to destroy the faith in the leadership. The leadership stops growing in faith. The natural result is a lost of faith. This can happen to tons of Christians. It happens to the most secure and faithful Christians. It happens to the Sunday Bible study, Wednesday night and Sunday night people. These are the people who fall into this trap. It is the ones who are strong that will become the ones who are weak.
Unless, we fellow this advice from the Lord. Jesus tells us how to solve this problem in the church. Mark 9:25-29 “And when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." And 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!" But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. And when He had come into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer." Jesus heals this boy. Picks the boy up and gives him a new life. But when the disciples come into the house, they want to know why they could not heal this boy. Jesus replies and states that this is only through the power of prayer. The power of prayer is the solution. Prayer will keep a person strong in the faith.
This is why this week I want you to write about a difficulty in your life. I want you to write about something on your heart that is brothering you, causing pain in your life. I want you to write about this. And then I want you to write a prayer to God over this problem or difficulty. In fact, start journaling these difficult times. Start specifically praying about these difficult times. And through this your faith will remain strong.
The elders at a congregation in Franklin, I was talking with one of the elder’s wives. I asked about how they function in this over 1000 member congregation. I asked her how they oversee all the work. She told me that the elders meet four times a month. She said the first week they pray for the entire congregation by name. The second week they look at some of the future directions of the congregation, the third week they prayer for every work, ministry, and minister in the congregation. The fourth week they meet with various people in the congregation. The eldership of over 1000 people who would be so busy with work that they realize that they must pray first and foremost of all. Spiritual leaders cannot guide a flock, members cannot have strong faith, and ministers cannot preach, if there is not prayer.