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Encouragement for Those with Weak Faith This sermon is an encouragement for those of us whose faith is weak compared

to what is required. The way to build stronger faith is to use the weak faith that we have, not the strong faith we don¶t have. If you have just a little bit, but act on it in obedience and trust God to fill up what is lacking, then there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes we think that having faith means never having any doubts. That¶s not true. Real faith is making a decision to trust God. All of the godly people in the Bible faced situations that stretched their faith, but they made a decision to trust God. We may have our faith stretched in different ways: y y y Some of us must have faith for a loved one who is suffering Some of us must have faith to obey God when we feel that we cannot Some people here must exercise faith to take that very first step to believe in a God that they cannot see

Mark tells us about a father who had to make a decision to trust God in Mark 9:14-29. v. 14-15 14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. Jesus was descending from a high mountain with Peter, James, and John. His other disciples had stayed below and were now arguing with some religious leaders. There was also a tremendous crowd, very likely many thousands of people. People came to see Jesus for many reasons. y The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus as their teacher and master. y The teachers of the law and Pharisees came because they were jealous of Jesus and sought to discredit Him. y There were also a lot of people who followed Jesus because of the excitement of the miraculous. They wanted to see what Jesus was going to do next. y Finally, there were many thousands of desperate people who, for one reason or another, had come to see Jesus because they had heard that He healed the sick and cast out demons. Earlier, Mark says that these people came from throughout the entire region, from Edom, Syria, and Phoenicia, carrying their sick on mats to wherever they heard that Jesus was. (Mark 6:55) Mark 6:34 says that Jesus had compassion on the crowd that followed Him because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

v. 16-19 16 ³What are you arguing with them about?´ he asked. 17 A man in the crowd answered, ³Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.´ 19 ³O unbelieving generation,´ Jesus replied, ³how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.´ There was one father who was one of these desperate people. He brought his son to be freed from an evil spirit, and the disciples tried to cast it out, but could not. Previously, the disciples had cast out demons when Jesus sent them out to minister. This time, however, they were disappointed. The teachers of the law took this opportunity to criticize the disciples. It¶s so easy to criticize those who we disagree with when they fail. The father himself couldn¶t care less about their argument. He was exasperated. His son was precious to him and he was deeply pained to see his loved one suffering. Jesus rebuked all of them for their unbelief: the disciples, the scribes, and the father. We cannot criticize these people because we also doubt in the face of troubles. Jesus will never leave us, but He does want us to have faith in Him. He asked for the disciples to bring the boy to Him. v. 20 20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. The evil spirit is obviously not happy about the situation. It shows the full extent of its malice toward the boy. Sometimes we don¶t recognize evil for what it is. We make excuses for why its not so bad. We say, ³Just a little bit of this evil is OK.´ We don¶t acknowledge the true nature of sin, a slow destruction that ultimately leads to complete physical and spiritual death. In the Garden of Eden, Satan knew what it meant to be separated from God. He knew the torment and misery that would result from Adam and Eve eating the fruit, but that¶s not what he said to convince them. Instead, he appeared to have their best interests in mind. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan masquerades as an ³angel of light.´ He appears to have your interests in mind, but in reality he wants to see you destroyed. Here, the true nature of evil is revealed. The demon is merciless with the boy. v. 21-22 21 Jesus asked the boy¶s father, ³How long has he been like this?´ ³From childhood,´ he answered. 22 ³It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.´

Jesus cares for the boy and his father. ³How long have you suffered like this?´ Look at how the father begs Jesus to do something. How many of us have prayed this type of prayer? It¶s the prayer that we use when the world is crashing down around us. v. 23-24 23 ³µIf you can¶?´ said Jesus. ³Everything is possible for him who believes.´ 24 Immediately the boy¶s father exclaimed, ³I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!´ Jesus did not ask ³Why should I?´ or demand anything from the father, but rather encouraged the man to believe. For His part, Jesus was willing, but the contingency lay with the father. God offers us all good things if we put our trust in Him. Here, I would like to pause and talk about the nature of belief. The Greek word translated as ³believe´ is pisteuo, which is the verb form of pistis, the Greek word translated as ³faith.´ Sometimes, when we use the word ³believe,´ we mean agreeing in our minds that some set of facts is true. I could ask, ³Do you believe the Earth revolves around the Sun?´ You could answer, ³Yes, of course I believe.´ What you mean is that you agree with those facts. However, this is never the biblical sense of the word ³believe.´ When the authors of the books in the Bible use this word, they are talking about placing your trust in something completely²all of you, not just your mind. Your will and your actions need to be part of belief, according to the biblical authors. That¶s why James writes, ³You believe there is one God? Good! But even demons believe in that sense. Your mental belief needs to have corresponding actions.´ That¶s why only mentally agreeing with a set of religious doctrines is not going to save anyone. We could mentally agree with everything in the Bible and say, ³Yes, that¶s true,´ but if we don¶t trust, commit, act on, and surrender ourselves to that, then it¶s of no use to us. On the other hand, what we see here with this father is the opposite case. In the case of this father, he desperately grabs hold of this hope that is offered to him, placing all his trust in God, without understanding how it could possibly happen. He makes a decision and willingly puts his hope in something he does not see. My message today, what I want to tell you, is that this second part of believing, putting our trust in God and surrendering to Him even though we don¶t see or understand fully, is the more important part of believing. It¶s good to have correct doctrine and knowledge of God, but let¶s trust Him with our lives as well. Some of you may be here because a friend invited you. For whatever reason, you¶re here listening to this message today. Don¶t be afraid to trust in God. I remember one of my good friends in college telling me, ³Tyson, I would

love to believe in your God. If what you say is true, it would be incredible! But I just can¶t do it.´ There are many good reasons to believe Christianity is true. Personally, I love to study history and theology, but in the end, I must make a decision to cross that threshold of faith and put my trust in God as a person, not an abstract idea. God is a person you can have a relationship with; He¶s not an idea. You may have wandered through life to this point wondering, ³Is this all there is? Is there any God?´ Yes! There is a God! And He¶s good, perfectly good, and He cares about you. He knows you. He¶s known you all your life. He has wonderful plans for you if you¶ll let Him show you. You can know Him, but it requires a decision on your part. You need to pray like that father with the demon-possessed son, ³I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.´ It¶s a decision that you make to trust in Him. It¶s a simple act of faith to cross that threshold but I can assure you that you will not regret it. Will you believe today? If anyone wants to put their trust in Jesus as a person and not as an idea, please raise your hand. This message applies to those of us who already know Jesus as well. Many times, we are challenged to believe in things that we cannot see or understand. We may have a loved one who is suffering. Or, God has asked us to do something that we feel is impossible. In these cases, we must make a decision to trust Him. Everything is fine until it touches that part of our lives where we start to doubt God. Then we put it on God, ³If you can «´ But Jesus answers, ³Everything is possible for those who believe.´ Everything is possible! But, will you put your trust in Him? Here, we can cry out, ³Lord, I believe! Help me overcome my unbelief! These are the prayers that God loves to answer. When we admit our own weakness but hold onto Him, He will not turn away. But you have to first make that decision to trust even though you don¶t see or understand fully²then you will see God¶s salvation. Conclusion: Believing is not just agreeing mentally with a set of facts, but is making a decision to trust in God. v. 25-27 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil[a] spirit. ³You deaf and mute spirit,´ he said, ³I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.´ 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ³He¶s dead.´ 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ³Why couldn¶t we drive it out?´ 29 He replied, ³This kind can come out only by prayer.´