Saturday, February 15, 2020 -
“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it shall move, and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting’” (Matthew 17:19-21).
We discussed this passage at length in context today during our weekly Bible study. Today and last week we’ve met in my unit with far fewer men as it has been very cold outside, and any other men who are not in our unit cannot come.
Jesus clearly indicates that the disciples could not cast out the demon because of the “littleness of their faith.” We also know from the next incident that takes place (see Luke 9:46 and Matthew 18:1-4) that the disciples were struggling with pride in their lives. Jesus also, back in verse 17 of Matthew 17, equated unbelief with perversion. Perhaps the disciples’ pride contributed to their lack of belief, perverting their attitudes? However, clearly, no one can deny that a mustard seed is little in size, just as Jesus claimed their faith was.
But does this passage mean anything we ask God in faith will happen? Jesus says nothing is impossible. Later He says, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Indeed, all things are possible of God, especially when we ask in faith, but not all things are probable, as my dad would say. God is the one who moves the mountains, not us. God is sovereign, not us. This means that there must be a sovereign, divine purpose for that mountain to be moved. The purpose of miracles is solely for God’s purpose and His glory – clearly not ours! Jesus doesn’t say we will be able to do anything we want, but rather “nothing shall be impossible to you.” In other words, all things are possible, but not all things are certain. For what is our motive in asking? Indeed, God’s sovereign purpose may not match our motive. “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not is regard to one another” (Galatians 6:3-4). “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
So whether we are humble, God indeed seeks to bless us, but for His glory, not for our own. We must then ask for His glory and His purposes, not for our own benefit. When we ask in pride, not in humility, we are asking with the wrong motive. Thus we must be careful in what we ask or demand of God.
Finally, when obstacles that face us seem insurmountable, such as casting out this demon, not only must we examine our motives, but at times prayer and fasting is required. Only two Scriptures reveal the purpose of fasting besides this one. One is Esther 4:16 and the other is Isaiah 58:1-5. Clearly, we see that in fasting we are demonstrating our hopelessness and recognizing God’s sovereignty. When we fast we are signifying our complete dependence on God. It is a means of humbling ourselves before God and recognizing that only through His power will we see deliverance! What does Jesus tell His disciples in Matthew 18:2-3? That they must become like a child. They must humble themselves as a child. A child is totally dependent on his father and mother, and we must be totally dependent on our heavenly Father. Just as our earthly father, who loves his child and therefore only provides what is best, God will only provide what He knows is best for His children. Often what we think is best for us may not actually be the best, for it is impossible for us to know the mind of God and His ultimate purpose in us having to go through certain circumstances. In my case, it has been incarceration when I broke no laws! But I know God has a purpose, and I am totally dependent on Him to move that mountain and vindicate me if, when, and how it suits His divine purpose, and only for His glory.