God’s power can indeed move mountains. But He uses it for so much more! As you listen to this podcast, ask God to speak to your heart, and then rest in submission as He guides you deeper into His presence – in His power. (Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43)
Welcome to Walking in the Word, the biblical teaching arm of the Women World Leaders’ podcast. I’m your host, Julie Jenkins, and I’m so glad you have taken time out to spend with God in His Word today.
This past week, members of my household have been struck with covid for the first time. Thankfully, no one’s symptoms are life-threatening, but it has changed the structure of our days. I have been living and sleeping in my office and sharing my daughter’s bathroom, while my husband and son – both infected – are staying in their parts of the house.
But life has gone on – I continue to work via the internet, as does my husband – and I have been struck by just how much just the existence of covid in the world has changed how we live over the last couple of years. In Deuteronomy 11:11-12, God promises the Israelites that the land they will enter will be full of hills and valleys, and there will be plenty of rain, but God will care and watch over us in every season of the year.
Doesn’t that hold so true for us today? Our lives are full of hills and valleys, and there IS plenty of rain – meant to keep us from being parched but sometimes causing distress. But most importantly, it is certain that God DOES watch over us in EVERY season of every year.
I hope that you have experienced God’s care over the recent years. We at Women World Leaders continue to see God work through the hills and the valleys, opening for us doors of opportunities to serve others and shout His name even as the world continues to be attacked by illness, violence, and hate.
In today’s Scripture reading, we see the disciples experience the hills and valleys of life, too, and we see Jesus’ constant care as He leads and instructs them. Today we will study Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, and Luke 9:37-43. Before we begin, let’s pray…
Father God, We thank you for always being with us through the hills and the valleys – and for caring for and teaching us along the way. We give you this time as we open your Word and learn from you. Help us be teachable, willing to listen, and excited to walk even closer to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Last week, we saw Peter, John, and James marvel at seeing the transfigured Jesus in His glory on the mountain top. They were awestruck and didn’t know how to react. God then covered them in a cloud, commanding them to listen to Jesus.
They then descended to the valley to meet back up with the other nine disciples. As they did, Jesus instructed the trio not to share what they had seen until after His resurrection. Their thoughts of glory and awe were abruptly interrupted when they came upon a large crowd in chaos, including a man begging for help, a child in torment, and the teachers of the religious law arguing with the nine disciples.
Mark 9:14, from the New Living Translation begins…
14 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.
16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked.
17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.[a] So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”
The other gospels give us some additional details that we shouldn’t miss.
Matthew tells us that that the man came to Jesus, kneeled before Him, and then begged Jesus to have mercy on his son.
What a beautiful picture of humility. We can learn so much from this man who, simply put, was desperate for help. He sought out Jesus. He kneeled before Him. And He begged Jesus for mercy.
We serve a merciful God who WANTS us to come to Him – when we are in the valley AND when we are on the mountaintop. No single act is more powerful than our own submission to Jesus.
Jesus, remember, had just been talking with Elijah and Moses about what was to come – Jesus’ “exodus” as they called it – His upcoming death on a cross followed by the glory of His resurrection. Jesus knew that He was entering into very precarious times, and He knew that the disciples would soon become responsible for spreading the gospel and serving in His name…so we can understand His frustration that their attempts at overcoming the evil in this boy had failed.
Mark 9:19 continues…
19 Jesus said to them,[b] “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.
Can you picture the scene? Jesus then asked the boy’s father..
21 “How long has this been happening?” to which he replies
“Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him.
Luke records that the father said that the spirit hardly ever left the boy alone.
Can you imagine the heartbreak of this man? His son, Luke tells us his ONLY son, has been demon possessed since birth. The father has spent this boys’ WHOLE life caring for him and trying to keep him alive.
He must’ve been exhausted – mentally, physically, and emotionally. Maybe you can relate. Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you are beating your head against a wall and nothing helps? The man, obviously, was able to deal with the repercussions of the issue – he was able to muster the strength he needed to keep the boy alive. But he knew he was powerless against the source of the problem.
And I do wonder where the mother was. Had she thrown in the towel? Perhaps you’ve been through something horribly trying in your life and can kinda, sorta understand if she had indeed given up.
Recognizing the extent of the father’s torment helps us understand his next words to Jesus… Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”
Then Jesus used this distraught man’s words to teach us all something that we can hold in our hearts forever. Mark 19:23…
23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
Our God can do ANYTHING! His power is limitless! His reach unending! God, who spoke the world into existence and who knit us together out of nothing can do anything. And He will – if we believe.
24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
Can I be honest and say that, personally, this is my most often prayed prayer? That’s a bit embarrassing to admit. But I breathe this prayer several times a week if not more.
You see, I study the Bible regularly. I go to church. I watch and am marveled by the signs of God. I thank Him nearly continuously as He works in my life. But deep within, I recognize that God is SO MUCH BIGGER than the picture of Him I have in my head.
I had loving parents who spoke the Word of God to me. My children are growing up strong in the Lord. My husband is faithful both to me and to God. And I live in a sweet little house in a beautiful community.
But, still. God is so much bigger than I can imagine!
My own view is tainted by the world. I see evil. I see sickness. I see death. I see jealousy and greed and pain. And if I let them, those things can begin to diminish my view of our great big God.
So I pray – Help my unbelief! Help me to remember, God, that you are for me and not against me. Help me see your glory in the mundane. Help me feel your power as I serve you.
And what I’ve learned, is that when I pray this prayer, Jesus will NEVER let me down! He opens my heart a little wider, He helps me to see a little clearer, and He puts a spring in my step that can only come from Him. Jesus has always answered that prayer, and He always will. Beginning with the first time it was prayed.
25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil[c] spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”
26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him.
After YEARS of striving to help his son, the father learned that he didn’t need to know the right words to say or the right thing to do, he only needed to know the right place to go. To our Lord and Savior.
And then, with the demon released, we see the devastating effects of the boy who had never lived his life as a boy…verse 26…
The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 BUT JESUS took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.
It can look like we have lost, like we are dead – BUT JESUS. Jesus WILL, if you let Him, take you by the hand and give you a new life. No matter how down and out you are. If you ask Him…Help my unbelief.
As always, Jesus’ power impacted far more people than the recipient of the miracle, more than the boy and his father that day. Luke 9:43 says…
43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.
When was the last time you allowed the majestic display of God’s power to grip you in awe? If that hasn’t happened recently, ask God to help your unbelief, and He might just take you from your valley to His mountaintop!
Mark 9:28 continues…
28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”
29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.[d]”
In other words…it wasn’t about saying the right words or doing the right thing, it was about being connected to the right source. No matter what credentials or experience or background we have, our power is limited. But God’s power is endless. This is tricky, even for Christians. After a series of “wins” based in prayer and obedience to God, it can be tempting to start believing in ourselves rather than in God. We must always keep ourselves grounded in Christ. One of my favorite word pictures comes from Psalm 1 – we flourish and grow when we depend on God, just like a tree planted by a river bank.
Matthew 17:20 gives a deeper explanation of why the disciples were powerless against the demon…
20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.[a]”
For God – NOTHING is impossible. And our God is the same LOVING Father who wants to nurture you, protect you, and bring you and every single one of His children into His Kingdom forever. EVERYTHING He does is with that single purpose in mind. We can trust His goodness, His love, and His power.
God’s power CAN move mountains, but He has a much better use for His resources. God will always use His power to bring each of us closer to Him. Indeed, helping our unbelief.
Dear God…I love you even more at this moment than I did this morning. Thank you for opening our eyes to your care, protection, and power. Thank you for always using your power for our good. Thank you for helping our unbelief. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.