Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
—Matthew 17:17-21 (NKJV)
In Matthew 17 (and also in Mark 9), Jesus had just returned from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John to a father who begged him to cast a demon out of his son. The father told Jesus that the disciples had been unable to cast out the demon.
Jesus was exasperated with His disciples, and He called them faithless and perverse. He had already given them the power to cast out all unclean spirits (Matthew 10:1, 8). He expected His disciples to be able to cast the demon out of this boy. But when faced with the opposition of evil, the disciples just didn’t believe. How about us? When we are faced with evil, do we believe in Christ’s authority in us?
Jesus immediately cast the demon out of the boy. The disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast it out.
“Because of your unbelief!” Jesus said. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you have enough faith to move mountains. Nothing will be impossible to you. However, this kind of unbelief does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:20-21, Mark 9:28-29).
Jesus wasn’t saying in Matthew 17:21 that there are certain demons that only come out by prayer and fasting. There never was or ever will be a demon that the name of Jesus or faith in the name of Jesus won’t cast out. Jesus said in Matthew 17:21 that prayer and fasting cast out this kind of unbelief the disciples had.
Unbelief kept the disciples from casting out the boy’s demon. Unbelief will also keep us from overcoming the enemy. What kind of unbelief did the disciples have?
There are three kinds of unbelief: unbelief from ignorance, unbelief from wrong information, and unbelief that rises from what we feel or what makes sense to the natural mind. Unbelief that is the result of ignorance or erroneous teaching can be eliminated by receiving the truth of God’s Word. However, the unbelief that hindered the disciples in casting the demon out of this boy was a “natural” type of unbelief. It came from what they felt—not from what Jesus had told them was true.
Just like us, life had taught the disciples to rely on what they experienced—what they could see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. They were simply dominated by the natural senses more than by the truth of what Jesus had told them—that He had given them the power over evil. The Holy Spirit tells us, just as Jesus told the disciples, that the way we deal with this kind of “natural” or “feeling” unbelief is by prayer and fasting. But it is not the acts of prayer and fasting that wipe out unbelief. It is the truth accomplished in our hearts as a result. If we focus on the acts of prayer and fasting instead of trusting in the truths they give us, then we trust in our own ability over God’s ability.
Prayer and fasting change the way we receive the Word from the Holy Spirit. They change what we believe and give us spiritual insight into what is really true in God’s realm. The callousness of our natural mind to things of the Spirit—our ability to understand what we haven’t experienced—is affected by prayer and fasting. Knowledge is the solution to not knowing the Word and also the solution to erroneous teaching. But knowledge by itself will not rid us of the “natural” unbelief that comes from what we feel and sense.
The natural man does not receive the things of God. They are foolish to him (1 Corinthians 2:14). We connect with God spirit to Spirit—not by what we feel—not by the “natural” mind. We commune and worship with God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). A heart change from unbelieving to believing comes as a result of receiving the revealed truth of the Word by the Holy Spirit.
God’s Word is truth and it is life. The flesh—what our “natural” mind understands—accomplishes nothing (John 6:63). We don’t “earn” the power that Jesus has given us through prayer or fasting or any act that we perform. Jesus earned everything. We can’t receive the truth of who we are in Christ or the authority He has given us through our senses—through our “natural” understanding or through what we do. We receive God’s truth spirit to Spirit. We can’t change the unbelief of our “natural” emotions from what we feel to the peace of spiritual truth by just wishing it to be so. We receive an understanding of God’s truth and conform to that truth when our minds are renewed spirit to Spirit (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23).
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13).
Jesus Christ has revealed Himself in us. The Holy Spirit continually reveals this new life Christ has given us.
“To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NKJV)
We have the mind of Christ to understand (1 Corinthians 2:16). Let’s receive His spiritual understanding of who we are and what is ours. Let’s believe and walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
© 2022 Lynn Lacher
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