On Sabbath our lesson came from Matthew 17 where we encountered a scene of spiritual failure far deeper and more devastating than the power failure we experienced earlier this year.
Rewind to Matt. 17:14-17. Jesus was just coming from being transfigured on the mountain, while nine of the twelve disciples were being humiliated by the enemy in the valley. But into the darkness came the Light of the world. Jesus stepped down from the mountain of God and entered the valley of the shadow of death to restore the connection and get the power of love back on. And that’s our mission, too. See 2 Cor. 5:17-20.
The new birth comes with a new mission. Our mission, as Christ gave it to the church, is not withdrawal but engagement. Shutting the world out to feel close to God is escapism, not Christianity. “Real religion,” writes William Barclay, “means taking our own needs to God, not that we may have peace and quiet and undisturbed comfort, but that we may be enabled to graciously, effectively and powerfully meet the needs of others.” All things are possible for those who engage in Christ’s mission to engage the world.
When the power goes out around here, we lose heat, light, and patience. When the power was out among the disciples that day, they caused the crowd to lose control, a father to lose hope, a boy to nearly lose his life, and themselves to lose face. And when the power is out in the church of God the same thing happens—society loses control, the family is in disarray and loses hope, the next generation is lost, and the church loses its voice of influence and moral authority. (See Matt. 17:16.)
What caused the power failure? Jesus tells the disciples, “Because you have so little faith” (Verse 20). In this case “little faith” means misdirected faith. Their earlier success caused them to have faith in their own abilities—as if they themselves had power over the enemy. They forgot that they were only outlets not the Generator! We must not make this mistake! Not arrogance, but dependence, is how you access the power to defeat the devil.
While we sing the songs of Zion, the devil is convulsing society and thrashing our children and families. What have we to boast about? It had better be the faith of Jesus, which is total dependence on God, or we will fail as miserably as the disciples. Nothing is impossible to those who are totally dependent on God.
It doesn’t take a lot of faith, but it does take a living faith. The mustard seed is not only tiny in size, but “it contains that same mysterious life principle which produces growth in the loftiest tree.” (DA, 431) It’s a faith that is alive, and the Bible tells us faith without works is dead. What kind of works, the works of the Kingdom; the works of Jesus. His casting out the demon from the boy represented His works on the earth—to undo the works of the enemy and set captives free. If we’re to be a church with living faith, we must be totally dependent on God to partner with Christ in overthrowing the demonic systems that keep people in bondage and establishing His Kingdom that sets people free.
Being a Christ-follower is not just about carrying around a long list of don’ts. It’s a call to have a living faith that works the works of God expressed in radical love. It is the intentional engagement with, and overthrow of, the failed, unworkable, archaic, evil systems of the kingdom of darkness. And you better believe that the kind of faith we need to move those kinds of mountains will require mountain-moving prayer! (See Matt. 17:21, Mark 9:29 and compare with Acts 6:4.)
“Now the day of God is nearer than when we first believed, and we should be more earnest, more zealous, and fervent than in those early days. Our perils are greater now than then. Souls are more hardened. We need now to be imbued with the spirit of Christ, and we should not rest until we receive it.” (5T, 161,162)
There’s a valley out there. And the devil is having his way. Why are we here? Can we make a difference? Nothing will be impossible for that ministry that is built upon both faith and sincere prayer. By God’s grace, we will be a church that demonstrates to each other, to the world, and to the demons of hell that God is real. Is He real to you?–Pastor Randy