“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibilities, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen , child. Anything can be.” ~ Shel Silverstein
Mark 9:14-29 recounts the story of a boy who had been plagued his whole life by a deaf and mute spirit. The history this boy knew was of seizures, convulsions and living under the influence of evil which desired to kill him. His father told Jesus that “From childhood, it has thrown him into fire or water to kill him.” Imagine! Just think of being a loving parent and defenseless to protect your child from evil influence!
Sometimes the evil one is obvious. Sometimes the devil is subtle. This was a case of obvious evil. Murder, rape, child abuse, beatings, verbal torment and berating… obvious evil. Less obvious are the ways the evil one captures our attention through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the heart, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. Much more insidious are the ways of subtle neglect and inattention to things of God. We can set ourselves up for the enemy of our soul to creep in, steal our joy and get us side tracked.
Whether through an over-played hand or sneaking through the door, the devil has just one plan…”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) BUT, Jesus said “I have come that they may have life and life more abundantly.” God’s plan is always life promoting. He is the author of life.
So, when the father of this tormented child brought his son for help, he tried to seek help from the disciples first, but to no avail. “They could not.” (Mk.9:18) So, he went to Jesus, Himself and asked Jesus “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mk. 9:22) Jesus responded by saying, “If you can?” “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
How many of us can relate to this father’s response? “I do believe ( but, I thought I’ve believed before and nothing changed. I do believe but I’m nobody. I do believe but I’ve asked for things before and didn’t get them. I do believe, but they still died. I do believe, but I recognize how impossible this is. I do believe, but this is all I’ve ever seen and all I’ve ever known… fill in your own history here). “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
I believe, Lord! Help me when my situation looks impossible. Help me when I see my failures as being bigger than Your victories. Help me when my past looms larger than the future You have planned for me. Help me when the trap is more comfortable than Your freedom. Help me when my desires are stronger than Yours in me. Help me when I focus on my lack instead of Your riches. Help me!
The rebuked spirit was obviously no match for Jesus and the boy left free. As awesome as this account is, it’s almost a side note in the story (though Jesus delights to set people free!) The focus is in trusting God for the impossible.
The disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t drive the spirit out themselves. They had learned from Jesus, seen this kind of thing happen before and evidently met with some success in ministry… so why not this time. Jesus response is simply, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
WHAT? The disciples didn’t pray? They tried to cast out an evil spirit without praying? Really? It seems crazy doesn’t it?!
Yet, how often do you and I go about our day in our own strength? How many opportunities have I missed for God because I was not in tune to God’s Spirit enough to be directed by His still small voice? How often do I try to apply the world’s band-aid to a situation which will only be changed through prayer.
Father, I believe. Please help my unbelief. Please help me to pray more meaningful and less perfunctory prayers. Help me to incline my ear to Your voice rather than my own, or the voices around me. Please help my unbelief when I see my limitations looming large. Help me to always see You greater than whatever the need is around me. Help my unbelief. I love You and want to be a vessel You can use to do the impossible. It is for Your glory that I pray this, in Jesus name. Amen.