And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” – Mark 9:14-29
There are at least three aspects of this encounter with which I can easily identify. Jesus, his disciples, and the father of the demon possessed boy present lessons on challenges, faith, and prayer. All of these things are simple. But none of them are easy. Therein lies the rub.
When we pray we are doing something quite simple: we are calling on the Creator of the Universe, the God who raised Jesus from the dead. We are asking God to exercise his power over against the forces of evil for our benefit and good. We may not be as consistent in prayer, or dedicated to calling on God first with the confidence that such is the true answer to our needs. Simple to say a prayer. Difficult to do so with great confidence and as a first resort.
When it comes to believing many people can identify with the father who says, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Faith is simple: looking to God for his favor and blessing; entrusting ourselves to his promises, goodness, and word. Simple, but we forget God’s promises. We take our eyes off Jesus. We ignore God’s word. Simple, but not easy.
Challenges and difficulties are common to us all. There are the stuff of life. Sometimes we become successful and well-known because we overcome difficulties and challenges. To face challenges is simple. To do so successfully is difficulty.
Jesus faces challenges, points his disciples to prayer as the means of overcoming the challenge (the demon-possessed young man), and points everyone to faith. Our calling is to take Jesus at his word, believe in his power over all forces of evil, and pray for God’s help along the way. Jesus is the champion of faithfulness. Thank God he is also our righteousness. He has done the simple but difficult thing of offering himself for our redemption, eternal blessing, and daily help in the face of every challenge we may face.