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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (no audio this week)

September 16, 2018 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Mark 9:14–9:29

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†††In the Name of Jesus†††

 

Pastor Murray Keith

Text: Mark 9:14-29

Date: September 16th, 2018; Pentecost 17; Series B

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  • “I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • These words are the cry of a very desperate and worried father.

  • From the time of his childhood, his son had an evil spirit posses him that made him mute.  

  • At times this evil spirit seized the son, threw him down, he would foam from the mouth, and grind his teeth, and become rigid.

  • While this must have been terrible for the son, it must have also been devastating for the father to see his son suffer like this.

  • It must have been difficult to feel so powerless - all he could do was watch his son experience this agony.  He couldn’t do anything, except console him.

  • I’m sure there was a glimmer of hope when the father heard that there were some men, Jesus’ apostles, who were reportedly performing miracles for the sick and possessed.

  • Maybe his son could finally be healed!  So he takes his boy to them.

  • But, even the disciples whom God had given the power to perform miraculous healings couldn’t help the son.

  • So the father begs Jesus, “…If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

  • Jesus seems to be frustrated by this request - not by the request itself, but by the words, “If you can.”

  • These are words of unbelief.  Unbelief gets in the way of our receiving God’s gifts and promises.  Unbelief is a barrier.

  • Jesus says that, “All things are possible for one who believes.” 

  • The father believes, but he’s has this nagging doubt!  

  • His son has suffered for so many years.  

  • He has tried everything to help his son, but nothing works.

  • Could this Jesus of Nazareth really do anything?  It seems unlikely.

  • The father cried out to Jesus the very vulnerable and honest words, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • Can you relate to this man?

  • Do you believe?

  • Do you believe what God has revealed to us about himself, about the world, and about his gift of salvation in the Holy Scriptures?  

  • All of this is very nicely summarized in the Apostles’ Creed.

  • In the Creed we confess that God, the Father Almighty, created everything - including you!

  • Sin and misery and death entered God’s creation when Adam and Eve disobeyed him.

  • But God did not just leave us to suffer and die. 

  • We confess that God sent us a Saviour, his only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to suffer and die, to rise from the dead, to ascend into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and promises to come judge the living and the dead at just the right time.

  • We confess that we believe that God the Holy Spirit works through the holy Christian Church to bring us (and the whole communion of saints) to believe and receive the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

  • Do you believe?

  • By the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit - you do believe!  You have received the gift of faith!

  • But you have doubts too - don’t you?

  • You have uncertainty and fears and questions and worries.  

  • You have some unbelief.

  • Everyone does.

  • It’s not easy for us to admit and we can feel a sense of shame about it.  

  • We don’t want God to know about our unbelief.  

  • We don’t want the people sitting around us in the pews to know about our unbelief.  

  • It’s tough to admit to God, to others, even to ourselves - that while at times our faith is  like a roaring fire, there are times when it seems to be more of a tiny flicker.

  • “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

  • Sometimes the things that we have done (and have left undone) cause us to struggle with our faith.

  • Those hurtful words that we wish we could take back.  

  • That thing that we did that caused so much disappointment and hurt and sadness.

  • That sin that we seem to keep struggling with and falling into.  The guilt.  The shame.

  • Could God really forgive me? “I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • In our day and age it can be a struggle to believe that there is a God at all.

  • Many say there isn’t.  

  • Many look at you a bit funny when you say you believe in God.  You get even stranger looks when you say you are a Christian.

  • You still believe those old fairy tales?

  • I remember a pastor I admire very much saying, “Martin Luther struggled to believe in a gracious and merciful God - I struggle to believe there is a God.”

  • “I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • Sometimes the circumstances of life cause us to struggle with our faith.

  • When heartache comes crashing into our lives we can question the goodness of God. 

  • Does God even care?

  • There are a lot of forces, a lot of pressure to doubt, to fall into unbelief.

  • And this isn’t new. 

  • It goes all the way back to the Garden when Satan called into question the truth of God’s Word and raised doubts in the minds of Adam and Eve.  “Did God really say?”

  • And he has been at it ever since.  He is at it in your life too.

  • “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

  • You believe.  

  • You also struggle with unbelief.  Me too.

  • No one here has a perfect faith. But you do believe.  

  • You do believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.

  • You do believe in Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us not with silver or gold, but with his holy and precious blood through his suffering and death.

  • You do believe in the Holy Spirit who has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with his gifts, sanctified and keeps in the true faith and will continue to do so for eternity.

  • God has given you the gift of faith and you believe - and that’s what matters.

  • It’s not about how strong or how weak your faith is - it’s about the object of your faith.

  • In what, or in whom, do you trust?

  • You can have all of the faith in the world that you are going to make it across a pond that has ice an inch thick - but the reality is you’re going for a very cold swim.

  • You can be filled with unbelief and very hesitantly and slowly walk across a pond with ice that is 5 feet thick - and even though you are filled with fear and doubt, you’re going to make it.

  • What is the object of your faith?  That’s what matters.

  • So get your eyes off of yourself and off of how strong your faith is - and focus on Jesus.  He is the author and the perfecter of your faith.  

  • So, if someone says that they don’t have enough faith, they are really saying that they don’t have enough Jesus.

  • And that, my brothers and sisters in Christ, can never be.

  • With Jesus there is always enough, and more.  

  • He continually gives his gifts of love, forgiveness, and life until our cup runneth over.

  • You have enough Jesus.  Or better, Jesus has you.

  • He grabs hold of you in the waters of your baptism and promises that you are his now, tomorrow, forever.

  • We have his Word of promise that is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path in this world of darkness.

  • He feeds you with his true body and true blood to nourish and strengthen your faith.  

  • Jesus gives you everything.  He gives you himself.

  • “I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • Do you believe?  Is your faith strong?  Do you have enough faith?

  • Wrong questions.

  • Do you have Jesus?  Does Jesus have you?

  • Then you have enough.  Amen.

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The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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