by Mike Ratliff
14 And having come to the crowd, a man came to him kneeling down before him 15 saying, “Lord have mercy on my son for he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples and they were not able to heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered saying, “O faithless and depraved generation, how long with you will I be? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out from him and the child was healed that hour. 19 Then the disciples approaching Jesus privately asked, “Why were we not able to cast it out?” 20 And he said to them, “On account of your little faith. Amen I say to you, ‘If you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain move from there and it will be moved and nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:14-20 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
We have reached that part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7-11) that has been used by the Word of Faith preachers and the Health, Wealth and Prosperity hucksters as a “proof-text” of sorts for their agenda. In fact, in some Study Bibles with outline headers, this section is often labeled with something like “Ask and it will be given…” All through this sermon we have seen how our Lord has drawn the distinction between those truly in his Kingdom from those who are not. Some of those who are not may very well believe they are and may even look like it to most of us, but these distinctives do indeed mark the genuine one who is of the Kingdom of heaven from those who are not.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone asking receives and the one seeking finds and to the one knocking it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks him for bread, will he give to him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish he will not give to him snake will he? 11 If, therefore, you being evil know to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to the ones asking him!” (Matthew 7:7-11 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
Compare Matthew 17:14-20 and Matthew 7:7-11. Why did the disciples fail in healing the child? Jesus said it was because of their “little faith,” which, in the Greek, is one word, the noun ὀλιγοπιστίαν (oligopistian), “littleness or imperfectness of faith,” which is the Accusative Singular of ὀλιγοπιστία (oligopistia). The disciples were not devoid of faith. Their faith was not functioning properly because of their lack of spiritual maturity. As our Lord indicates here, faith can be stronger or weaker. Was he really trying to get the disciples to move that mountain? This was a common Jewish metaphor for doing what was seemingly impossible like casting out that demon. However, notice that most of the people gathered around Jesus in this passage were faithless and depraved. Our Lord was not referring to the disciples when he uttered that statement.
Okay, so what was wrong with the disciples’ faith? Why was it ‘small’ or ‘imperfect?’ Why were they spiritually immature? Carefully read Matthew 7:7-11 (above). What is the theme in these verses? Those who are of the Kingdom of Heaven are to ask, to seek and to knock. The Greek verbs here are all present imperatives indicating constant asking, seeking, and knocking. This is describing persistent prayer as a way of life. What happens when we pray in light of Matthew 6:9-13?
9 “You, therefore, pray in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, let your name be hallowed, 10 let your kingdom come, let your will be done as in heaven also on earth. 11 Give to us our daily bread today. 12 And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.’ (Matthew 6:9-13 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
If we use this as our model prayer, what happens to our will? We actually pray here for God’s will to be done, not our will. We pray in recognition that all we have comes from God and that he forgive us as we forgive others. We pray fro him to keep us from temptation and deliver us from the evil one. However, primarily we pray for our lives to bring glory to him that because of our strong faith that his name be hallowed.
How do we have this strong faith rather than weak and imperfect faith? It certainly isn’t by seeking our own glory while shooting arrows in the backs of our Lord’s servants who happen to hold to doctrines that may make us bit uncomfortable because, if true, it puts us into our place as slaves who are nothing more than sinners saved by grace.
If we are the slaves of our Lord Jesus Christ with a growing faith, we will also be humble and not hypocritical. That is the point of most of this Sermon as we have seen so far my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!