J. Paterson Smyth
The Power of Faith
St. Mark IX., vv. 14-33.
"All things are possible to him that believeth."
HE importance of faith is the main lesson here. With
senior classes be careful not to let them confuse
faith, which is praiseworthy, with credulity, which is
blameworthy. Faith in Christ is not the believing
certain facts about Him without sufficient evidence.
Faith in Christ means faith in a person—faith in a
character—faith in an infinite justice, and power, and
love, and nobleness, and generosity. Try to teach this
well. In those days of foolish talk about
"believing," it is of the deepest importance. It is
easy to see how faith thus understood leads to a noble
Recapitulate last Lesson. Now mark the contrast. On the
on the plain, confusion, and anger, and unbelief, and
the agony of a poor boy under the power of the devil.
Such is the contrast between heaven and earth.
Picture the scene that met our Lord. A poor boy crying
out, and foaming at the mouth; the miserable father
blaming the disciples; the disciples worried, vexed,
disappointed, with an excited crowd about them, and the
Scribes jeering and questioning. "Ah! you have
failed. Why don't you cast out the devil? You have not
power. Your Master has not power," etc. What a wretched
change after the glory of the transfiguration! Like
Moses coming down from mount (Exodus xxxii.).
Suddenly they see the Lord. They are amazed. Why?
Probably the majesty and dignity of the transfiguration
remain. Perhaps the heavenly glory not yet faded away,
like Moses (Exodus xxxiv. 29). Running to Him, they
salute Him. Evidently people glad to see Him always.
Disciples glad to get relieved from difficulty. Like a
victorious leader, He turns the tide of victory. He
sharply asks Scribes—what? Takes disciples under His
protection. Did they answer? Why not? Who did? Tell me
his pitiful account of his boy. What does he say of
Repeat Christ's rebuke. To whom? To all—scribes, people,
disciples. How long shall I be with you before you
profit by my teaching and presence?
(See John xiv. 9.)
What does He direct to do with boy?
No fear as to His
success—He is the Lord of all power and might. What
happened next? This is a strange fact in our Lord's
casting out of devils. The kingdom of Satan is stirred
into fierceness by the nearness of Christ. Missionaries
tell of similar experiences in India and China
to-day—exhibitions of Satanic possession and terrible
violence when pleading with souls for Christ. What an
awful thing to see the poor boy writhing, wallowing,
foaming. Evidently the father can't stand it, as he
interrupts his account with an eager cry—what?
"If thou canst!" Why did he doubt? Because of
disciples' failure. Anything like this
and dishonour of Christ
because of disciples' failure? People say—We don't
believe much in Christianity—it does not seem to have
much power in lives of religious people. Sunday
scholars, and Church-goers, and communicants do not
seem to differ much from others in
ill-temper—peevishness—selfishness, etc. What a shame to
bring dishonour thus on Christ's power! Why do they
not differ from others? Because not real faith, and
effort, and prayer. Because not in deep earnest to win
the power and strength from Christ. Try to remember
that all your failures are counted against Christ by
careless people, and so they bring dishonour on Him.
What does Lord say to this doubt?
(v. 23). What a
wonderful fact—that Christ so wanted to be trusted.
His power is hindered by doubt and distrust. To be
trusted is such a help to Him. (Note meaning of "faith"
in Introductory Note.) See the Syrophenician
woman, and His delight in her faith
(Matthew xiii. 58).
Could do no mighty works because of
unbelief. So He wanted this man to trust Him. Could he?
Was it wicked of him? No! he could not help it—so
discouraged by disciples' failure. A man has not it
always in his power to believe or disbelieve. In such
case should he be blamed? Does God blame him? What,
then, does God want? The will to trust Him.
The will only is in our own power.
Had this man the will? Yes
(v. 24). It was a
poor weak, little faith. But he
wanted it made stronger. People sometimes have doubts
now about religion. Is doubt always sinful? Certainly
not; often they can't help it. When are doubt and unbelief
sinful? When they are wilful. When they come
from carelessness or an evil life. Many a poor doubter
has had to cry out eagerly like this man: "Lord, I
believe; I want to believe, help my unbelief!" And
this is real faith, and God accepts it and strengthens
it. If one says, "I can't believe in God," the
answer should be: "Have you prayed in deep earnest—as
for dear life—for light and faith?" If not, the doubt is
your own fault.
See how Christ accepts the poor man's weak faith. See
how he utters His masterly command. What?
(v. 25). Was
He obeyed? Devil departs, leaving him. How?
"Like an outgoing tenant not caring what mischief he
does." (Fuller). No power
in Heaven, or earth, or hell
can resist Christ; and we have permission to come and ask Him
to use His Almighty power. Surely we could get far more
blessing of every kind if we only came to Him oftener
and more earnestly. That is the secret of all power for
Has Satan power over people now? Over men and women?
boys and girls? How shown? Ever see poor drunkard
falling into the fire and into the water? Who is making
him do that? Ever see boy or girl in fierce rage, or
using evil words, or doing dishonest deed? It is Satan
makes him do it. He has not troubled to resist Satan,
and so Satan got strong. Who can save him? Parents, and
teachers, and clergy can advise him, but can't cast out
Satan. Who can? (v. 28).
"Bring him unto Me." No case
too hard for Christ. He has all power in Heaven and
can make every one of us live such brave, noble,
pure, beautiful lives, that it will be a very delight
to live. Let us keep earnestly desiring it, and
earnestly asking it, and it will be certainly done.
"This kind can come out by nothing save by prayer."
(v. 29, R.V.)