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Friday, February 6, 2015

Matthew 17:21-the Illusive Verse

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. [21]But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21, ESV).

I find it interesting that several versions of the Bible do not include verse 21 in Matthew 17, because it is a verse that jumps off the page to me, and explains how I can discover abundant faith. In this chapter Jesus has just come down off the mountain where he has been with Peter, James, and John. These three disciples have witnessed the incredible sight of Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses. Now Jesus is suddenly approached by a man whose son has been tormented by a demon since he was a child. The other disciples have been unable to help this man’s son, and have just asked Jesus why they were unable to rid the son of his demon. Jesus answers that it is because of their little faith. In that illusive verse 21, Jesus explains that faith—strong enough to cast out the son’s demon—is discovered through prayer and fasting. This is clear instruction how we can find a strong enough faith to rid ourselves of our own “personal demons”. Do we suffer from fear and a lack of trust in God? Are we tormented by feelings of failure and inadequacy? Do we drive ourselves crazy by analyzing the reason behind everything in our lives? Is there personal sin with which we struggle and can't seem to conquer? Whatever our demons, they can be conquered. As it says in verse 21, prayer and fasting are the two disciplines which will make a difference.

Prayer isn’t just telling God what you desire, but is about listening and understanding what He desires. Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes you. When you enter into holy communication with God, the Spirit of the Lord within you prays to the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8:26, NLT). When you get to this depth in prayer, you have surrendered control. When you release your heart and mind to the Holy Spirit praying for you, you are able to receive faith without the analytical perspective the mind always attempts to interject. The shield of faith grows stronger in your life.

Fasting focuses the mind on God instead of circumstance. “You will keep in perfect peace him, whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). You can know supernatural peace at the moment the mind surrenders its struggle for control. (Philippians 4:6-7). When the human mind is bypassed, the need for reassurance is gone. Jesus spoke of this spiritual plane when he said to Satan in the desert, "Man doesn’t live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). In another instance, the disciples insisted that Jesus eat, and he said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about”. The disciples didn’t see any food. “My food,” Jesus explained, “is to do the will of him who sent me to finish His purpose" (John 4:32-34). Fasting draws you closer to God. It gives spiritual sustenance which produces greater faith.

When we surrender control to God—whether in prayer or by fasting—we receive more of the Lord’s strength to handle life’s uncertainty. As we grow in these disciplines, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit increases, revealing our own inadequacy, and teaching us how to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). On the mountain, Peter, James, and John witnessed an amazing sight. It created emotional fervor in these three disciples, and then later, when they came down off the mountain, the other disciples were unable to cast out a demon. Jesus called them an unbelieving generation. Feelings on the mountain don’t inspire greater faith, but spiritual training through disciplines like prayer and fasting do! Jesus Christ reveals clearly by word and deed that He is all that is necessary to have great enough faith to cast out the demon.

Whatever your “personal demon”, greater faith is the only way to end its ability to control your life. Prayer and fasting are two disciplines which inspire greater faith. I don't want the things that I have allowed to define who I am to have the ability to always define me. I want a strong enough faith to believe God over my feelings. I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:7). And I want to be new in every way.

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