Devotional thoughts on Mark 9:14-29
By Jonathan Underwood
Faith is a critical issue for the Christian. We are “justified by faith”; we “live by faith, not by sight.” And yet faith can be elusive—something both the disciples of Jesus and the father of a demon-possessed boy demonstrate in our text.
Failure of Faith
While Jesus was up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John, a father brought his son to the nine disciples at the base of the mountain. The disciples had been empowered to cast out demons (Matthew 10:8), so they attempted to help the boy. But they failed.
Likely we’ve all been there too. Perhaps we took on a ministry, confident we were gifted to do well at it—but nothing happened.
Jesus told the disciples they had failed to drive out the demon because that kind came out only by prayer. Apparently that means spending time in prayer on a regular basis. There is no record that Jesus uttered any prayer as he drove out the demon, but we know he often spent time in prayer—even all night. Perhaps faith has more to do with cultivating a relationship with God than merely calling on him to accomplish certain goals.
Are we cultivating a relationship with God?
When Jesus arrived, the father took his son to him. “If you can do anything, . . . help us.”
Haven’t we prayed like that? It’s not so much we think God can’t do something; we just don’t believe he will. We have prayed for certain people in the past, yet those people have not recovered. What are we to think about our faith?
On a different occasion another father asked Jesus to heal his son. Jesus’ initial response was, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, . . . you will never believe” (John 4:48). Could that have been a parallel to Jesus’ rebuke of the “unbelieving generation” here? Perhaps the greatest faith is the faith that does not need to see miraculous healings or mountains moved. Rather it is the faith that trusts in God’s sufficient grace (see 2 Corinthians 12:9) even when the miracle does not come.
Is our relationship with God filled with enough faith to trust his grace?
Jonathan Underwood is a chaplain at a Christian continuing care retirement community in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a former editor of the Standard Lesson Commentary. He and his wife, Kathy, also serve missionaries through their Spanish publishing ministry, La Palabra de Cristo.