This chapter, I believe, gives us two ways to live out our Christian lives. On the surface, these two ways may look very similar. But below the surface, they couldn’t be any more different. These two ways are worlds apart. One way is treating Jesus like a light switch. You turn him on and off. You turn Jesus on at church. Then, turn him off Monday morning. You turn Jesus on when you open the Bible and you turn him off the moment you close the Bible. You turn Jesus on when you are being equipped and trained and commissioned. Then, you turn him off and YOU do the work. Whether your work involves going to lab or doing problem sets or going to work. It’s on you. Or, you can be alone even in the midst of doing spiritual work–whether feeding the sheep, or discipling others, or leading a small group, it’s on you, everything is on your shoulders. Occasionally, you report back to headquarters the same way you send weekly status reports to your boss. But essentially, you are on your own and working for Jesus. He’s your employer.
This is essentially what the disciples did. They treated the demon possessed boy like he is someone they can handle. If they knew that every ministry situation, every obstacle, every gift and blessing is an opportunity to place our faith in Jesus, then their eyes of faith would have remained on Jesus. But instead of seeing this boy as an impossible situation, it was doable. And so their eyes turned from Jesus to themselves. Faith in Christ changed to faith in themselves. They treated Jesus like a trainer. Give me the tools I need to do my job and I’ll take it from there. That’s one approach.
The other approach, which I believe is the correct approach, is treating Jesus like a lifeline. Isn’t that the point of this chapter? The disciples lack faith. They are treating Jesus like he is their spiritual professor. He leads classes like “Demon Possession 101: How to Exorcise Evil Spirits.” They attend those classes and learn some great tips. When casting out demons, say this, in the name of Jesus, I cast thee out. Now it was their turn to put what they learned in the classroom into practice in the real world.
Isn’t this how we often approach Christian life? Whatever lack you have, there must be a class I can sign up for. You lack direction? There is a class on purpose. You are not sure which path to take. Don’t worry, there is a Bible study on God’s will. Are you lonely and you need friends? Sign up for membership class. Join a LIFEgroup. You want to get married? Listen to a sermon about God’s design for marriage and how it mirrors Christ’s love for the church. We listen, we get trained, we gain some wisdom, learn some tips, get what we need and then we move on with our lives without Jesus.
Is this how we are to live out our Christian lives? Where there is a separation between the sacred and the secular? Sunday service, that’s sacred. Monday through Saturday is secular. And those worlds hardly intersect. I don’t believe Jesus wanted us to live this way. Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus says, abide in me, stay connected to me, apart from me you can DO NOTHING. Do you believe this? That unless you abide, stay connected to Jesus, otherwise, we can’t do anything. Do you believe this? Jesus is your lifeline.
Or, come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart that they are to pull. What a beautiful picture. As you go through life, Jesus wants to stay connected to you literally. Jesus is your lifeline.
The thread that connects the two accounts in this chapter is faith. They had great faith on the mountaintop. Then, they came down the mountain and proceeded to try to minister to this demon possessed boy without faith.
They stopped seeing their need to keep their focus on Jesus. They let go of their spiritual lifeline. Everything that you encounter in this life is an opportunity to put your faith in Jesus. Notice I didn’t say to increase your faith. I said, to put your faith in Jesus because you don’t need a whole lot of faith. v20 – even a small amount of faith, faith the size of a tiny mustard seed, will do. It’s enough.
If you are walking toward someone and they are a block away, they look tiny. But as you move closer and closer, the person gets bigger in your eyes. The size of your faith doesn’t matters. What matters is whether or not you are on the right path. Are you walking toward Jesus? Faith IN Jesus. In all we do, Jesus has to be the focus of our faith.
How do we stay connected to Jesus? The best way to describe what putting your faith in Jesus looks like is prayer. Prayer is turning your heart toward Christ. So the deeper question is, why is it hard to stay motivated to pray? There are many possible reasons, but I have one reason that I’d like to share with you today. The reason why we lose faith in Christ and stop praying is because our view of Jesus and God is too low.
I don’t mean to put down any professions so allow me to say something purely as an example. If you think God is a trash man, or a farmer, or a grocer at the local supermarket, then you might not be able to sustain your enthusiasm to pray to him. Hope I am not offending anyone. I love food so I am very thankful for farmers and grocers. And if that is your career goal, more power to you. I will be happy for you. But if your view of God is low, it’s going to be tough to maintain a desire to pray.
Why do spouses drift apart in marriage? It’s because over time, your view of your spouse has become too low. While you are dating, you have a high view of the other person. Every quirk, every story, every joke, you find everything about them so interesting. But what happens over time? The other person’s stock drops. Because we are all sinful. Their value dips. Your view of the other person becomes lower and lower. And so you stop investing in the relationship. No more dates. No more surprise gifts. No more saying to the other person, honey, I love you. You stop investing in your relationship with your spouse because you know the person well enough and what you see doesn’t motivate you to keep on pressing in to know the other person more.
On top of that, if you are a guy and you are a hunter, you think, well, she’s mine. I fooled her into marrying me. That area of my life called marriage is taken care of. I can move on. There are bigger fish to fry now. Bigger buffalo to hunt down. Not as in getting a new spouse, but since this area of your life is covered, you want to tackle something else. Something more interesting. Like your career. Or your hobbies like golfing. Hanging out with friends who don’t nag you. Or your kids. I want to suggest that marriages drift apart because our view of our spouse is way too low.
How do we elevate our view of God? Instead of encouraging daily prayer, I want to change the term to daily worship. Daily worship is critical.
Turn with me to 1 Timothy 6:11-16. This is an awesome passage. This is Paul writing to his dearest Timothy as he charges him with the task of being a pastor.
1 Timothy 6
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Paul starts by telling Timothy to flee this, and “this” refers to the preceding verses about fleeing the evil that springs from a love of money. Flee the love of money and instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Those things that we are to pursue are not ideas. They are a Person. Jesus is righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. He embodies all of them.
Paul continues in v12–
1 Timothy 6
12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
It’s interesting that Paul uses the phrase, the fight of faith. We need to fight to keep our faith in Jesus. It’s doesn’t come naturally. We can’t rely on the faith we had yesterday or even this morning. We need to fight moment by moment to keep our faith fixed on Jesus.
1 Timothy 6
13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything [He’s our lifeline], and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, [faith waits for Christ’s appearing] 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
I love that. God is not a grocer or a farmer. He is the only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He lives in unapproachable light. Recall the mount of Transfiguration where heaven was opened up. And Jesus, who is the Son of God, was glowing. And I bet the disciples had to turn away and shield their eyes. When we see Christ, we have seen the Father. If Jesus who lives with his heavenly Father in unapproachable light didn’t veil and cover His glory, none of us could have gotten close enough to learn to put our faith in him. Even the mere sound of God’s voice when he said, this is my Son whom I love caused Peter, James and John to fall on their faces. This is worship.
We need to learn how to worship. Prayer is not a duty. Making disciples is not an obligation. When you and I have been in the glorious presence of God in true worship, we will not settle for other pursuits or other people. Only Jesus. He is the only person worthy of our faith.