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Matthew 17:14-21 NKJV And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, (15) “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. (16) So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” (17) 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.” (18) And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. (19) Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” (20) 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. (21) However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
The disciples could not cast out the devil because of their unbelief.
Notice Jesus did not say because they did not have enough faith. That seems to be the answer that we give or get sometimes these days. We think that the answer to everything is that we need more faith.
We need to grow our faith and grow in our faith but I believe that in our day, that perhaps the issue is not that we don’t have enough faith but rather dealing with the issue of unbelief.
Matthew 10:5-8 NKJV These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. (6) But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (7) And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Jesus gave the Disciples the authority and power to cast out demons here when they were called and sent out.
They had been successful up until this time.
Luke 10:17 NKJV Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”
Again, Jesus did not say that they could not cast out the demon was because of their lack of faith. It was because of their unbelief.
Jesus pointed out that if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, that it was sufficient to get the job done.
Matthew 13:31-32 NKJV Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, (32) which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
The mountain represents problems or challenges in your life that just seem to be huge like a mountain. What Jesus is saying is that it does not take a mountain of faith to move a mountain of problems.
That is due to the power of God that is resident in speaking by faith to the mountain.
Think about it, something as “small” as a faith-filled word can wither a fig tree or move a mountain.
Faith filled words go out into the realm of the spirit where the root of your problems really are and works on the situation at the root.
It is not a ton of faith but a small mustard seed size of faith that will get the job done.
But remember, Jesus did not say that it was because your faith was so small but because of your unbelief.
Somewhere since Jesus anointed, called, and sent them to go out and this incident in Matthew 17, their faith was being hindered.
We have thought the way to address unbelief is to gather more and more faith like a tug-of-war to see who can move the mountain.
The life of faith is not a tug-of-war. The life of faith is not a struggle between faith and unbelief.
Mark 9:14-29 NKJV And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. (15) Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. (16) And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” (17) Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. (18) And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” (19) He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” (20) Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. (21) So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. (22) And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (23) Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (24) Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (25) When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” (26) Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” (27) But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. (28) And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” (29) So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
So the Disciples had been successful in casting out demons before but Mark points some things out that contributed the unbelief of the Disciples and kept them from being able to cast this demon out.
- They were trying to cast the demon out in front of a large group of people.
- Their critics were standing right there disputing with them while they were trying to do this.
- When the child came to them, the spirit probably responded to them by throwing the boy down in front of them just like it did with Jesus.
The unbelief came when they had the report of their eyes, the report of their fears, and the report of their critics.
They felt the pressure and it allowed the unbelief to surpass the power and anointing that was on their lives that Jesus had put on them to do the work.
Jesus shows up on the scene and Jesus did not care what the people thought, He did not care what the scribes thought, and He was not moved by the report of His own eyes looking at what was happening to the boy. He was only concerned about pleasing His Heavenly Father and doing the Word of God.
Jesus had schooled Himself in not being moved by the emotions of the people when ministering to someone. Smith Wigglesworth had done the same thing.
Just like faith is fed, unbelief is fed. The way unbelief comes and grows is by listening to the reports of people, the reports of circumstances, and the reports of what you can see with your own eyes.
The tug-of-war started in the Disciples and the unbelief overcame their faith.
Scriptures pertaining to unbelief:
Matthew 13:58 NKJV Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (not lack of faith)
Mark 6:6 NKJV And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
Mark 16:14 NKJV Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
Hebrews 3:19 NKJV So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
This is where unbelief comes from:
2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
You cannot stop unbelief from coming at you but you refuse to accept it.
Mark 11:23 NKJV For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Keep doubt from ever getting rooted in your thinking and then it will never become unbelief.
The way you stop unbelief is to starve it to death and not feed it. You can have food all around you yet starve to death if you refuse to eat any of it.
Jesus explained how he was able to overcome unbelief this way:
Matthew 17:19-21 NKJV Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” (20) 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. (21) However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Prayer and fasting does not drive out demons.
Prayer and fasting has to do only with your relationship with God NOT driving out unbelief. In other words, it causes your relationship with God to go deeper thus not permitting unbelief to be able to prevail over you because your confidence is totally in God.