Text: Mark 9:14-29
Title: Power Failure
Theme: Our spirituality must be an integral part of our daily living.
(Once a city with endless night life, New Orleans is now in darkness. Once a nation proud of its immediate response to disasters anywhere in the world, an envy of other nations, we now have experienced major communication and coordination breakdown in the aftermath of Katrina, resulting in some needless chaos and deaths. Once we saw images of death and destruction in other countries, but now, it is only a few hours of driving from our city. An entire city is now empty. We've witnessed a major Power Failure in our nation, in our very own backyard.) See Video
However, don't we also experience such power failures in our personal lives? We may have entered into a relationship or marriage with full confidence that it will turn out good. But several weeks or months into it, we find ourselves so inadequate, helpless and desperate. We are so confident in our parenting style; that we know for sure our children will turn out good. But the moment they leave home for college, we realized that they had rebelled against us and our principles. How disappointed we were. Or we started a new career, job, business or ministry with such confidence, but several months later, realizing it is not working out as we have imagined and planned. Or we see some of our ministries floundering before our eyes.
These are moments of power failures in our lives. The story we just read is about another power failure. Jesus' disciples failed to heal a boy that was sick and demon possessed.
Three disciples went up the mountain with Jesus. They saw his glory temporarily revealed. It was an experience of a life time. When they came down from this mountain top experience, they saw a great crowd and the other disciples arguing with the religious leaders. A father had brought his sick boy to Jesus. This boy appeared to have epilepsy, and also possessed by a demon. Since Jesus had not yet returned, the father turned to the 9 disciples for help but they could not heal him. Then Jesus came and after some questions and answers, he healed the boy and cast out the demon.
Let us take a closer look at this incident and see what it means to us in the 21 st century. In this passage, we'll see a simple truth: Our spirituality must be an integral part of our daily living.
I. Mountain top experiences are balanced by daily challenges in life.
We all enjoy those mountain top experiences. A very special and delicious banquet, a special praise and worship gathering, a Bible conference and a wonderful retreat. Then we come down the mountain, and face all kinds of problems, difficulties and challenges in life. We want to go back. But wait a minute, isn't it true that it is the daily, plain and seemingly boring home cooked meals that give us a balanced diet and health? It is the daily, weekly Bible studies, weekly seemingly plain worship service and sermons that keep us nourished and growing in the Lord. Real life is always difficult and challenging.
II. Challenges in life must not become obstacles to others.
The father brought his son to Jesus and the disciples for healing and they failed. Not only this, the father also saw an argument erupt between the disciples and the religious leaders. It almost sounds like what is occurring in the aftermath of Katrina. While people are waiting for help, some are busy blaming everyone else about what happened.
Many have come to churches to seek spiritual solace, healing, comfort and encouragement. Instead, they see arguments, disharmony, and unresolved conflicts among church members, among leaders. Some of them have become so disappointed that they left and vowed never to enter another church again. Challenges, difficulties and problems in life do not have to cause us to turn against one another. Challenges only expose our weaknesses.
Now, what do we do in times of challenge and problems?
III. Challenges in life will cause us to be dependent upon God.
After some questions and answers between the father and Jesus, Jesus healed the boy. Later, the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, vs.28-29, “ …….. “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, "“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Here, Jesus is not referring to any particular prayers, for he did not offer a prayer before he healed the boy.
You see, in the 1 st century world there were many miracle workers. They focused on certain technique s or memorizing and reciting certain mantra s in their healing and casting out of demons. Now, look at the disciples. Just a couple days ago, they were sent out and given the authority to proclaim the kingdom of God , to heal the sick and cast out demons. They came back and reported to Jesus that they had taught with authority, healed the sick and even the demons listened to them. So when this father brought his son to them, they must have thought it was an easy task. They had the power and they should have no problem whatsoever. And to their surprise, they failed. It was a power failure. They were able to do this, but not anymore. What happened?
Jesus is saying that you have been dependent on what you have: your skills, your know how's and your previous experiences. In order to heal such sickness es , and cast out demons, you have to be dependent upon me. You must depend on me when you face the challenges and difficulties in ministry and life. If you try to do it on your own, you'll fail, there will be power failure. D ependence up on God springs out of our realization that we cannot do anything on our own. Our desperation and helplessness lead us to prayer . Our dependence on God is a reflection of our relationship with God, a reflection of our spirituality.
From time to time I have been asked to speak at different churches or retreats. Usually I am quite familiar with the topic that they want me to talk about. So I put together the ppt, and the manuscripts. There are times, as I am on my way to the airport; I realized that I haven't been praying about this. I have been depending on my past experience and whatever expertise I may have. I think I know the subject well. What a rude awakening. I quickly ask God to forgive my pride, arrogance and the sense of know it all. I desperately ask God to help me as I minister to the people there.
I have not been to a Chinese church where I have not heard these words, “this church has great potential.” What happened? Many of our Chinese churches, including ours , have great talents and gifts. Yet, too often we trust in our financial strengths, our ability to organize and administ er but fail to trust in God. For this reason, no matter how great the potential is, it is difficult to accomplish anything.
You remember the first time you taught Sunday school, led a Bible study, gave a testimony or preached a sermon . You were so nervous, you prayed hard and asked people to pray for you. Then you found out that you were quite good at it. Several years later, teaching, sharing or preaching bec a me a piece of cake for you. You don't ask people to pray for you anymore, you are depending more and more on your own experience, strengths and gifts. You have become an expert; a professional, and a religious technocrat. We do your ministry, but little change ha s occurred in your students or congregation's lives. Why? You are no longer dependent on God.
We all need to be reminded that apart from him, we can do nothing. It is this desperate need for God that will drive us to prayer, to show our dependence upon him. When we face challenges in life, we learn to depend on God and draw our resources from Him . We depend on his power to work through us, to flow from us. We are vessels to be used by the creator God.
IV. Facing challenges in life, we learn to have faith in Jesus.
We've seen Jesus'' interaction with his disciples. Now, let's take a look at Jesus'' interaction with the father. After explaining to Jesus what happened and the nature of his boy's sickness, he said, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can. All things are possible for one who believes.”
This passage has caused great confusion among the Christians. We focus on ‘all things are possible for one who believes…” If I have faith, then it will be done. If I have faith that you will get well, then you will be healed. . If I have faith that I will get this job , then God will give it to me . If we have faith that we'll get this land , then God will give it to us .
I think of a situation that happened sometime ago. A young mother was several months into her pregnancy. She was very distraught when the doctor told her that there was no more heartbeat. One well meaning friend said to her, “I believe that this baby is yours, you need to have faith and claim that she is alive, and it will be done.” Later, after the dead baby was taken out of her body, she felt very guilty that she did not have enough faith to believe. With this thinking, w hat is done depends on the extent/quantity of our faith. Faith can control God, telling God what to do. If I believe enough, then God will do this or that. This is rather man-centered, right? Because of this, we try to find ways to increase our faith, so things can be done and our desires will be granted.
However, Jesus says, “If you can. All things are possible for one who believes.” This means everything is possible if you believe in what I will and can do. Everything that Jesus has promised, he will fulfill. To the 1 st century people, he proclaimed that he is the son of God. He had come to set them free from Satan's captive and to heal their sick. His miracles and power are to demonstrate that he is indeed the son of God, the promised Messiah. To us, He has already revealed his promises in the scripture. Therefore the key is , do we believe that he will and can fulfill his promise no matter what situation we are in ?
He promised that he will be with us in the dark valleys of life, in the fire and waters of life. He promised that he will ne ither forsake nor leave us alon e , but provid e us with what we need. He promised that he will give us not only a new life, but a life that is full and fulfilling. He promised that he is our refuge and shelter in times of storm. Now, when we are in those dark moments, when we lost everything we have, when we see our loved ones at the verge of death, do we still believe that he will keep his promise? Our faith is not in the future that things will turn out better and greater. Our faith is not that my next job, or my next house will be better and bigger than the one I have. Our faith is in Jesus who will keep his promise, no matter where we are.
When someone is sick, we pray for God's healing. We pray very hard that God will in his own sovereignty heal this person. Sometimes God heals, other times he doesn't. Why? We don't know. However, what we have seen over and over again, is that as we pray, the person became a Christian, but later died. God listened to our prayers by bringing the ultimate healing into this person's life. The greatest healing in life is our relationship with God. We believe in the Lord who can do what he has promised us in the scriptures.
I think of George Muller, who operated an orphanage in London in the 19 th century. He operated this by faith, meaning he would never solicit monetary help from anyone. He trusted that God will provide him with what wa s needed, that God will not leave him and the children alone. There was this particular day, when the children were about to have lunch, but George Muller was informed by the cook that there was no more food in the kitchen. Muller insisted on hav ing the children all sit around the table, and started to say grace , thanking God for the food . Just as they finished the grace, the door bell rang, and someone brought food to them. Such incidents happened over and over again in this orphanage. He d id not dictate how and what God will provide, but he had the strong faith that his God will not desert him and the children; God would provide for them. When we are in such difficult situations, it will be very difficult to believe He is a loving and faithful God. And like the father we say, Yes, I believe, but help my unbelief. Our faith is not in the circumstances that they will turn better. Our faith is in the lord, who is in control of all. Our faith is like that small mustard see and we need God to help this faith to grow.
This past week, I had the opportunity of having a good moment of sharing with a couple. During the conversation, one of them said, “We realize ministry in the church cannot be separated from our relationship with God.” How true it is. Ministry cannot be separated from our spirituality. When this happens, we are just a group of religious workers, religious professionals, and technocrats. Our ministry to people must be an outflow of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
This means that we walk closely with God every day. When we face the ups and downs of life, we have faith in the God who will keep his promise. We believe that he can and will do what he considers as the best for us. To walk closely with God also means that we recognize our need for Him every moment in our life. We need him to help us overcome the difficulties and challenges in life. We know that apart from him, we cannot do anything. It is a way of life. It is this kind of spirituality, relationship with God, dependence on him, faith in him, that will keep us connected to the source of our power, the creator God.
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