And Jesus said to him, “If you are able to believe, all things are possible to those believing.” And immediately crying out, the father of the child said with tears, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 (The Interlinear Bible)
What I believe is always a choice. People make different choices about what they believe every day. And what we believe, what I believe effects my actions that follow. I mean, I even have to make choices about what I believe when I read different translations of the Bible. And it’s not that I can’t glean something from each of them, but some I can glean more from. Like today’s Scripture. Today’s Scripture gave me the choice to dwell on these interpretations: “As far as possibilities go, everything is possible for the person who believes,” (GW) or “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes,” (ESV) and the verse I shared above that most closely matches the Greek. (I know that because I used a Greek/English interlinear Bible, not because of my “vast” Greek knowledge.) So I have to sit down with You, Lord, and think “What are You really trying to tell me and get me to understand?” And I have to make a choice in what I believe.
But let’s go back to the story for now. You, Jesus, were walking back to your disciples. They were surrounded by a throng of people. I don’t think at this point it was a happy throng. I think the scribes there were arguing loudly with the disciples. I think the common people were worked up. Everyone was pressing in on the disciples. I get this sense of oppression and have a feeling that at this moment, the disciples were feeling rather overwhelmed and at their wits end. But isn’t it always like You to enter when we are finally coming to the end of ourselves.
Why all the ruckus? A father has brought his son to the disciples. His son has a real major problem. It’s more than your ordinary problem. He’s possessed by a demon. It’s a violent demon that is intent on harming the boy. The Greek word used for “tearing” him carries these meanings :” break, wreck, crack, to sunder, shatter, disrupt, lacerate, and convulse.” So imagine this boy convulsing that violently and foaming at the mouth. And the father says it’s wasting him away. The Greek here means to dessicate. It was like he was being dried up and totally drained of anything that represented himself- no emotion, no intellect, maybe no more self. This father was loosing his son. This demon was taking him over. And he wanted his son back.
But the disciples couldn’t help. Even though they had been anointed to cast out demons and heal people, they were insufficient here. And Jesus, You show up at just the right divine moment. Funny thing is, the people are probably fearful at this boy with his demon and then You show up. And Scripture says they were immediately amazed when You show up. Ekthambeo, “great amazement” actually means to be thrown into great terror or amazement. And this is the people’s response to just seeing You. So maybe the question is being posed, “Who do I fear?”
So, why couldn’t the disciples cast out this demon? Was there a problem with what they feared? Well, here You step in and You put Your finger on the problem. “How unbelieving you people are! How long must I stay with you? How long do I have to put up with you?” Well thank goodness that one of Your eternal characteristics is longsuffering, patience, because You certainly need it with us! The problem was that they were “apistos.” They were without faith. They didn’t believe. They didn’t know what to believe. They didn’t know who they believed. And they didn’t have the power to believe. And it wasn’t that the disciples hadn’t been given the power, but they didn’t know how to use that power. They didn’t recognize the function and enormity of the power they had from You.
You command them to bring the boy to You. Even the demon recognized You. He started to tear the boy more violently. And this has been going on for a long time. Because I don’t believe he’s a child any more. I believe this is a young man or youth who has been tormented since his childhood. This demon has been throwing him into the water and fire to try to destroy him. And now this father has heard of You, Jesus. And he’s come to Your disciples. And in that crowd, amongst all the “legal” arguing and panic, he cries out to You. In a riotous crowd, this father gets your attention.
“If you have any power, have compassion on us, and help us!” That’s his plea. And that’s important. Because, just now, the disciples and everyone else were powerless. This is the word “dunamai” which stems off of the word “dunamis” which is the awesome miracle working power that is inherent in You. This man is looking for someone with the real power. And You are It.
Your answer is really important too. “If you are able to believe…” There’s that word again, “dunamai.” If you have the power to believe… Well, where does one get the power to believe? Where does that power come from? The father knew right away where the power came from. “As soon as he heard that, he cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Jesus, You alone are the source of our power, of power itself.
“If you are able to believe, all things are possible to those believing.” It’s not even believing that my son will be healed. It’s not believing that my friend will be healed or my provisions met the way I think they need to be met. It all starts with believing that You have the power to do whatever needs to be done. It’s all about believing that You are the source of all power, that You are the Answer, that You are the Only One with the power to get the job, every necessary job done. It’s about knowing that Your power is greater than the demon’s. Your power is greater than that of the disciples. Your power is above every power. If I believe that, then there is no end to the opportunities You will have to show Yourself powerful in my life. Why?
Because it doesn’t matter how much the demons yell and flare around me. I’m watching You lay Your hand on the situation and lift it up. In the midst of mayhem, my eyes are on You and how You are touching the situation and the demons are drowned out and become insignificant as I watch You raise my son in newness of life.
I can’t help but think about when the disciples asked You why they couldn’t cast the demon out. And You answered, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” And I’m wondering if that has nothing to do with what kind of demon but everything to do with what kind of power comes forth from us. What if it means, “This kind of power can come forth only by prayer and fasting.” So what’s so important about prayer and fasting?
Prayer isn’t just talking to You. It’s listening. It’s taking what I’ve learned and sharing it back with You and working it out. Sure, it’s asking You to intercede, but it’s also where we come to grips with what we really believe about You. And fasting is when we become desperate for You more than for the physical. It’s when You become our food and water. It’s when we individually step aside and into You to eat of the bread and drink of the wine that is You. This is when our relationship becomes the most personal with You. And that’s where the power is found. In You. When our source of power is You, You come forth and show Yourself.
I want to say, “You wouldn’t believe how personal this is today and how well orchestrated this message is today, even about prayer and fasting and power and fear.” But the truth of the matter is that You would believe, because You orchestrated it. And I pray that I would learn the lesson to seek You as though my life and power depended on it. That I would live a life characterized by time spent with You in prayer and fasting. That I would live a life characterized by fearing You above everything. That I would live a life characterized by Your power flowing through me. I want that kind of power because I want that kind of closeness with You. I want to know You that well. I want You to be that close with me. I don’t want to be faithless. I don’t want to be powerless. Because You live inside of me so how can I be powerless? That would be an oxymoron. So let me live, I mean really live in You. This kind of faith, this kind of power can’t help but flow from You. And You live in me. So, really, if I’m living out what I believe, this kind of power can’t help but flow out from me. I believe.