To His disciples who failed to heal the lunatic boy, Jesus Christ said, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21).
Those words followed His sharp rebuke to the defeated disciples. Earlier He chided them saying, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me” (v. 17).
Like the disciples, we too will be rebuked sharply by the Lord, if we be defeated because of littleness of faith.
Littleness of Faith Leads to Failure
The disciples were already commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ – “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8). According to the Gospel of Mark, they were immensely successful in their apostolic work of preaching and performing miracles – “And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:12-13).
How could such a successful group of disciples fail so miserably in repeating their earlier feat? How did they fail to help a distressed father who could not any more bear the torment of his child who was pushed into fire and water by the demon who possessed him? When it was most needed, they miserably failed to exercise their apostolic power to deliver the boy from his lunacy.
The question is: “Why?” Jesus told them forthrightly, “Because of your unbelief”! They failed because of the littleness of their faith. Jesus even addressed them as “faithless”. It was not to say that they did not believe Jesus Christ, but that they had not fully exercised their faith to cast out the demon. They had saving faith, which they could not lose. Certainly they had trusted Christ to some degree, or they would not have attempted to heal the boy. But they did not exercise faith, as the Lord expected of them, in employing the power Jesus had given to them.
Brethren, in the service of our God to which He has called us, He expects us not to fail. What matters is not how well we begin a work, but how well we complete it. Over the past three decades, God has guided us in many aspects of the ministry of the church with great success; we are profoundly grateful to Him for all those joyful triumphs He has provided in our ministries. However, if we do not act in faith in the face of present challenges and difficulties in accomplishing the task which the Lord has called us to fulfil, irrespective of all the past triumphs, we too can be a failure. Just as His disciples were, we too will be fit for our Lord’s ire and reprimand.
Littleness of Faith is Perverse
Remember how disgustingly the Lord responded to the report of His disciples’ failure to heal the child with lunacy. The Lord’s displeasure was obvious when He addressed the father of the sick child and the crowd around Him, including the disciples – “O faithless and perverse generation”! He expressed His disgust again by saying, “how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me” (v. 17b).
The entire generation of Jews were faithless, represented on this occasion by the multitude, together with the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, the disciples, etc. Even the father’s faith was not complete for he himself confessed, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (cf. Mark 9:24).
The people were not only unbelieving, but perverse. The word “perverse” (Greek, diastréphō) has the basic idea of being twisted or bent out of shape. It is used to denote persons who turn aside from divine truths and purposes. When people fail to exercise faith in the Lord and His power, they are led away from His truth and work, and thus become perverted.
If we are to do the Lord’s work – and to do it successfully, we must have faith in Him, in His Word and in His power. We must look beyond the struggles, opposition and needs. We must remain focused on what we need to accomplish according to His commission. We must look for a present anointing by the Holy Spirit to overcome our fears and to do whatever our faith in the Lord would demand of us. We must yield daily to the Lord and refuse to turn aside.
Brethren, we have a task at hand. The Lord wants us to accomplish our building project and be adequately equipped to take this ministry with His help to a new level of effectiveness and fruitfulness. If we do not act in faith, we will turn aside from the work. If we will not yield ourselves to God in faith, we shall turn aside to look for help from forbidden places. Then we ourselves become a perverse people, whom the Lord will reprimand! God forbid that we ever fall into that sort of failure.
Littleness of Faith Must be Overcome with Prayer and Fasting
When the Lord revealed the reason for the disciples’ failure, He also advised them how to be strong in faith in order to triumph in their duties over obstacles and opposition. He said, “… for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21).
The reason for the failure of His disciples was obvious to Jesus. He told them that it was “because of your unbelief” (v. 20a). The word “unbelief” (Greek, apistía) denotes faithlessness, uncertainty and distrust. So, they failed because they did not exercise their faith in the face of the boy’s desperate need of healing and the obstacle mounted by the demonic possession. It is not that the disciples were unbelievers, but rather they did not fully exercise their faith by refusing to give up the task before them. They had saving faith, but they did not fully employ their faith to fulfil the task for which Christ has ordained them.
Though they felt powerless, they should have persevered in prayer, believing that the Lord’s power is able to grant healing and triumph over the devil. On several occasions prior to this, the Lord had chided them for not exercising their faith in the Lord (cf. Matthew 6:25-34; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). In all those instances, the Lord taught them that their faith must rise if they desire to prevail over the mountainous obstacles before them.
First and foremost, our faith must not wither. It must persevere by fasting and prayer. Only then can we overcome our sense of inability, helplessness and fear of failure. We must overcome the mountain of unbelief that leads to disengagement of ourselves from the work that the Lord has entrusted us with. When things are not going well, when the situation seems to be out of our control, we must strive forward with total trust in the Lord. Then “nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
Update on Renovation Works at GMC
We thank the Lord that the renovation work has begun at Gethsemane Media Centre (GMC). We covet your prayers that the place will be ready by the end of July/August.
First two images: demolition works on the level 4 office.
Third image: levelling of the flooring on level 3 (studio level).