This story about the boy and the evil spirit was important enough to be in three of the four New Testament accounts by the disciples. Matthew, Mark and Luke all give slightly different takes on this event, but the main thought rang true throughout all three…the disciples couldn’t heal the boy on their own. But instead of admitting defeat, giving up, or walking away, they came to Jesus searching for answers. In Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied to their inquiry by telling them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt…” Doubt is being double-minded or having a divided mind. So when we doubt, we sway back and forth between faith and fear…never achieving full confidence and trust in what God can do. But just like the disciples, if we will go to Jesus admitting our shortcomings, He will speak truth in order to dispel our doubt. And if, like the boy’s father we ask Jesus to, ” Help me overcome my unbelief!” He will show us the way.
Jesus was spending time here teaching His disciples about priorities. He started out, by encouraging them not to be worried because they didn’t possess the “things” that the world viewed as valuable. Jesus instead told them to, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” In other words, when our priorities are in the right place…God first, Family next, the World last… God will bless and take care of us.
Earlier in Genesis, God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child. ” I will make you into a great nation.” (Genesis 12:2) But like most of us…they allowed fear and doubt to overshadow their hope and expectations. For in this verse, God led Abraham out into the cloudless night sky to observe the stars, (they estimate there are 1 Billion Trillion stars in our universe), and then reassured him that his offspring would be as numerous. God does this for us also. He can cause a Bible verse to suddenly become alive and take on new meaning…banishing doubt and bolstering our faith in Him. He can strip away fear and strengthen our trust by bringing into remembrance all the things He’s done for us in the past. And just like Abraham, we too can look up into that starry sky and see God’s wonder, power, and majesty…and be assured of His love and faithfulness for us.
When Jesus came to earth He made the greatest sacrifice of self-abnegation and self-denial possible. He humbled Himself and renounced His Divinity. In other words, Jesus went out of Himself in order to enter into fellowship with us. So why are we so against doing the work to enter into relationship with Him? We’d like Jesus to just save, change, and sanctify us without lifting a finger in the process. Or we’d rather bargain with Him first – (“You do this for me first God, and maybe then I’ll start working on myself.”) The bottom line is that we also must go out of ourselves in order to enter into a right relationship with God…and waiting around until He does all the work in our lives (that we need to be doing) will never happen.
This verse implies… it’s not about us…and it’s not at all about our “righteous acts”. That’s because God’s infinite mercy and kindness towards us isn’t based on our works. It’s actually quite the opposite…for in Isaiah 64:6 it says, “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags to God.” And if you think about it, we can’t even take any credit for the relationship we have with God…for without the Cross spanning that chasm between God and man, we’d be lost. No, all honor needs to go to God, the Creator and source of everything. All glory needs to be ascribed to Him… for He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Exodus 34:6)
To paraphrase Acts 26:18…We are to turn from spiritual darkness to the light of Jesus Christ… from the limited power of Satan to the infinite power of God, so that we may receive forgiveness of our sins and a place among fellow Believers who are sanctified by faith in Jesus. The Lord has snatched us from danger and set us free…the chains have been broken off and we are no longer a slave to sin and the jurisdiction of darkness…for the Kingdom of God is now residing within our hearts. (Luke 17:21)
These verses remind me of the old Hymn, “What a Friend I have in Jesus.” When our burdens are too heavy to bear…our friend Jesus is there, ready to take those burdens and offer support and comfort. When pain and sorrow fills our body…our friend Jesus is there at the right hand of God interceding, and pleading on our behalf. Yes, if we think about it, there really is no better friend than Jesus.