Little faith – Matthew 17:14-20

Coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, this was the scene for Jesus and his disciples (from the ESV).

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Let’s admit right from the start that rebuking a demon and getting immediate, happy results is no small thing, unless you are Jesus.  He did this kind of thing all the time.  Most of us, let’s also admit, probably fall into the category of the disciples.  They failed.

Sometimes failure just happens.  Maybe what we tried was a bad idea.  Maybe it wasn’t God’s will.  Maybe the failure was in our approach, so we need to go back and try again with a lesson learned.  Sometimes we fail due to lack of faith.  That was the case here.

Jesus doesn’t attribute all problems to demons nor all failure to too little faith, so neither should we.  Sometimes, however, the battle is purely spiritual.  The gates of hell are busy in their futile efforts to prevail against the church.  Their failure is assured in the long run.  Jesus will see to that.  In the short run, we have to take a little responsibility.

Let’s willingly engage in the work of spiritual warfare, remembering that we serve a big God who promises victory.  And let’s not be hindered by our all-too-usual lack of faith.  The strength of the church, the souls of the lost and the advancement of God’s will in the world are dependent, to some extent, on our faithful engagement.