Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament dispel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found beginning with verse twenty-one of the seventeenth chapter and continuing through to the tenth verse of the eighteenth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find Jesus’ finally words concerning the father who brought unto His disciples his son who was lunatick because of a demon that was both possessing and oppressing him. In the previous set of verses you will find Jesus and His disciples not only coming down from the mountain, but also coming unto the multitude. When coming unto the multitude, Jesus—together with Peter, James and his brother John—were met by a distressed and panicked father who sought deliverance and freedom for and on behalf of his son. The apostle Matthew records this father as coming unto Jesus greatly distressed and asking Him to show mercy on Him because of his son. Scripture is unclear whether or not this young boy was the only child of this father, or perhaps the only son of this father. Scripture doesn’t reveal whether or not this young boy meant so much to the father because he happened to be his one and only child. Regardless of whether or not this young boy was the only child of this father actually isn’t all that important, for the father was greatly distressed because his son was unable to deliver himself from this terrible and tragic possession. I have to admit that each and every time I read the accounts of those who are oppressed and possessed by devils and evil spirits, I often wonder what their back story was. I often wonder how they came in contact with the spiritual and supernatural realm in the first place and how they came to experience possession and oppression by demonic forces and evil spirits. Was it that their parents were to blame for their exposure to the forces of darkness, or was it perhaps their own making and their own doing as they engaged themselves in occultic practices that would have exposed them to demonic forces and evil spirits? Scripture isn’t clear as to what the back story begins these individual’s lives are, and we are left to wonder what in fact happened to such individuals that opened them up and exposed them to such oppression and possession.
What is so interesting about the preceding passage of scripture is that this father came unto Jesus because he originally intended on bringing his son unto the disciples. This father originally brought his son unto what could have been classified as the church of that day, as he brought him unto the disciples which weren’t atop the mountain with Jesus the Christ. When Jesus came down from the mountain He was immediately greeted by a panicked and distressed father who was frantically trying to get help for his son who was greatly oppressed and possessed by demonic forces and an evil spirit. What’s more, is Matthew goes on to record how this young boy was so oppressed and so tormented by this evil spirit which oppressed him that he was often times thrown into the water, and oftentimes thrown into the fire. It is quite clear from the Father’s description of his son’s experience with this evil spirit that the evil spirit sought to kill and to destroy him. There is not a doubt in my mind that this evil spirit which so violently tormented and oppressed this young boy sought to destroy him—first by the fire, and second by water. It’s actually quite astounding that this young boy was so violently tormented by this evil spirit that he was completely helpless to resist or stand against it. The fact that this evil spirit cast this boy into the fire and into the water actually reminds me of when Jesus encountered the legion of demons that were present in a certain region and gave them permission to enter unto a herd of pigs. The apostle Matthew records that as this herd of pigs experienced possession of the evil spirits, they ran violently down the hill and into the sea where they drowned. We dare not miss or lose sight of this particular reality, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous reality that demonic oppression and possession is completely and utterly real and will not only seek to torment and oppress us, but it will also seek to utterly and completely destroy us.
When Jesus gave permission for this legion of demons to enter into their herd of swine, the legion of demons immediately obeyed and entered into the swine. So violent was this possession that the entire herd of swine ran violently down the hill and into the sea where they drowned in the midst of the sea. There is not a doubt in my mind that when the entire herd ran violently into the sea the entire herd drowned and perished there in the midst of the sea. This is incredibly important, for it brings us face to face with an incredible reality that the forces of darkness are in fact real, and the forces of darkness do in fact want to kill and destroy us. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that the evil spirits and forces of darkness truly do hate and utterly despise us as we are made in the image of God, and as a direct result of their hatred, they seek to utterly and to completely destroy us. What happened to the whole herd of pigs reveals the tremendous reality that evil spirits and demonic forces do in fact seek to utterly and completely destroy us and do in fact seek to drown us in the midst of the sea. Consider if you will the written account of this father and his young boy who He first brought unto the disciples of Jesus in hopes that they would be able to cast the evil spirit out of his son. Beginning with the fourteenth verse of the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the following words concerning this father and his son who was violently oppressed by this evil spirit:
“And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could we not cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of you unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbiet this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:14-20).
It’s incredibly interesting that this father brought his young boy unto the disciples of Jesus hoping and expecting them to be able to rebuke the devil and cast him out of his son. What is incredibly tragic when reading this particular passage of Scripture is that this father brought his young son unto the disciples of Jesus to do what they were commanded and instructed by Jesus to do within and upon the earth. If you recall earlier on in the life and ministry of Jesus—immediately after Jesus finished declaring that the harvest was truly plenteous but the laborers were few—He called His twelve disciples unto Himself and gave them authority and power to go out into the earth and to partner together with Him in the ministry. Immediately after He finished instructing the disciples to pray unto the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth laborers into the field, we find Jesus calling His own disciples unto Himself and preparing them to be such laborers int the field which would go out as an extension and partnership of the ministry which He Himself was sent to fulfill and accomplish. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which we find in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew which bring us face to face with Jesus calling His twelve disciples unto Himself in order that He might send them out as laborers in the harvest, and partners together in the ministry. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the following words which were recorded concerning Jesus’ calling unto Himself His twelve disciples:
“And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaues, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go father to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses s, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Matthew 10:1-15).
It’s worth noting that when you come to this particular passage in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you find Jesus giving His twelve disciples power against unclean spirits to cast them out, and only a few short verses later we find Jesus instructing the disciples to in fact cast out devil. Not only do we find within this passage Jesus giving them power and authority against unclean spirits to cast them out, but we also find Jesus instructing and commanding them to cast out demons and evil spirits. This is actually worth noting and paying attention to, for the first opportunity we find for the disciples to cast out an evil spirit on their own, they were unable to do so. There is no record in chapters ten through seventeen of the disciples being engaged in any types of ministry as was recorded in the tenth chapter, and in fact—it isn’t until the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew that we find the disciples being confronted with their first opportunity to cast out an evil spirit which so violently tormented and oppressed this young boy. This father brought his young boy unto the disciples of Jesus—those which remained down at the base of the mountain while Jesus, together with Peter, James and John went up unto a mountain where He was transfigured before their faces—and these disciples were completely unable to cast this evil spirit out of the young boy, and were utterly and completely helpless to provide any help, comfort and encouragement for this distressed father. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for this father as he tried watching the disciples cast this evil spirit out of his young son, and being completely and total incapable of doing so. I can’t help but think about and imagine the sheer horror and utter shock this father experienced as he had hoped the disciples of Jesus would be able to cast this evil spirit out of his young son, only to find that they were completely incapable of doing so. I would imagine the father had himself become utterly and completely helpless at that moment, for if the disciples of Jesus could not cast out the evil spirit that was tormenting his young son, who could in fact do such a thing. The apostle Matthew records this particular occurrence, which is actually quite interesting considering he himself was one of those nine disciples who encountered this father who had brought his young boy unto his disciples to see if they could cure him. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Matthew to write and record these words thinking back and considering what it was like to be present on this particular day and to be completely and utterly unable to bring any hope, any relief, any comfort, any encouragement, any deliverance and freedom for this father and his son.
WHEN DELIVERANCE CAN’T BE FOUND IN THE HOUSE! WHEN DELIVERANCE ISN’T FOUND IN THE HOUSE! WHEN FREEDOM IS ABSENT FROM THE HOUSE! The more I read the words which the apostle Matthew wrote in this particular passage of Scripture, the more I can’t help but see a tremendous picture here of men and women who bring those in need into the house of the Lord in order that they might find relief, comfort, encouragement, freedom, deliverance, and the the like in their current situation, or perhaps even in the lives of those closest to them. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women enter into the house of the Lord week after week expecting and hoping for deliverance and freedom from that which torments and oppresses them, and they come unto the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ, only to find and discover that they are unable to provide for them what they have been seeking. I am completely and utterly convinced that there are a number of men and women who have entered into the house of the Lord seeking freedom and deliverance from that which torments and oppresses them on a regular basis, and yet they are unable to find any relief whatsoever. I am convinced that there are those who enter into the church and the house of God week after week and find themselves completely unable to experience the deliverance and the freedom they so desperately desire and seek after. What a tremendous tragedy it is to find men and women coming into the house of the Lord to find freedom and deliverance within their lives, only to find that they have entered the house and found absolutely nothing. There are houses of worship within the land today which offer and promote freedom and deliverance from oppression and that which lays hold of and captivates and holds in bondage men and women, and yet when men and women actually enter into the midst, they find the absolute opposite. There are houses of worship within the land today where men and women come for deliverance, for freedom, and for relief from that which oppresses and torments them, and yet they find themselves leaving the same way they entered and come in. There is nothing more tragic then when men and women enter into the house of the Lord seeking freedom, seeking deliverance, seeking relief from that which they have wrestled and struggled with throughout the course of their lives, and yet they find themselves being disappointed because the church could not do for them what they had hoped for and desired.
I can’t help but wonder if this particular father grew discouraged when he found the disciples of Jesus to be unable to cast out the evil spirit which had tormented and oppressed his son. Did an already distressed father turn into a hopeless father when he recognized and realized that the disciples of Jesus could not cast out this evil spirit from this young boy’s life? Did this father perhaps grow hopeless, and perhaps even lose faith, trust, confidence, and even hope after watching the disciples struggle to bring forth deliverance in the life of his young boy? What we find when reading this particular passage of Scripture is that there might have been a smoldering wick of hope—a tiny flame of trust and confidence—left within the heart of this particular father as he figured he would appeal to Jesus Himself. It was true the disciples of Jesus could not cast this evil spirit out, and it was true that his son’s condition had not changed as a result of being brought unto Jesus, however, there was the hope that if he could make an appeal directly to Jesus, He would not only cast the evil spirit out, but would also bring the freedom and deliverance which he so desperately sought for his son. When Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James and John, I am sure this father experienced a tremendous amount of hope—perhaps even as hope was reignited within his heart once more. WHEN HOPE IS REIGNITED WITHIN YOUR HEART! I am completely and utterly convinced that there are men and women among us right now who have found themselves in a place where they have grown discouraged and disillusioned with the church and with the house of God, for they entered into the house looking for and expecting one thing, and yet finding that which they desperately sought after not being present. I am convinced there are men and women who are present within churches all throughout and all across America in this generation who have entered into the house in hopes that they would experience and find deliverance and freedom from that which oppressed and tormented them, and yet that which they found instead was something far from freedom and deliverance. DISILLUSIONED SAINTS AND DISCOURAGED FOLLOWERS! There is not a doubt in my mind that there are men and women among us in the earth today who are and who have been living in a place of discouragement and disillusionment with and within the church of Jesus Christ, for they entered into the church hopping to find deliverance and freedom from that which oppressed and tormented them, and yet that which they found instead was only hopelessness, disappointment, frustration and discouragement.
FRUSTRATED IN THE HOUSE! DISCOURAGED IN THE HOUSE! DISILLUSIONED IN THE HOUSE! BITTER IN THE HOUSE! ANGRY IN THE HOUSE! There is not a doubt in my mind that there are countless men and women who are attending our churches and services week after week, and yet they find themselves in a place of frustration, discouragement and disillusionment, for that which they had hoped for, and that which they had expected when entering into the house of the Lord was anything but what they actually experienced. I am utterly convinced that there are men and women present among us in the house of the Lord who are perhaps bitter and offended—perhaps with the servants of Jesus, or perhaps with Jesus and the Father Himself—because they have sought deliverance and freedom within their lives, and yet they have found themselves remaining in the very same place they were in previously. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women leave our churches week after week finding themselves completely and totally discouraged, frustrated, and perhaps even let down because that which they hoped for, and that which they expected did not happen. How many men and women enter into the house of the Lord on any given Sunday expecting and hoping for a wonderful miracle within their lives—perhaps for deliverance, perhaps for healing, perhaps for freedom, perhaps for something else altogether—and yet they find themselves leaving the house of the Lord in the very same place and condition they were in when they entered. I firmly believe that there is a great number of men and women present among us within our churches—particularly and especially in the Western Hemisphere—who attend church week after week, and yet they find themselves completely and totally frustrated, discouraged and angry because that which they desired and that which they sought after has not happened. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder if there are men and women who are present among us within our churches who have lost any and all manner of expectancy within their hearts because they have been disappointed so much within and throughout the course of their experience within the church. I can’t help but wonder if there are men and women who right now enter into the house of the Lord, and yet it is more of a formality, and more of a routine for them—simply because they entered into the house of the Lord expecting and hoping for something, yet not finding what they were looking for and seeking after.
This father brought his young son unto the disciples of Jesus in hopes that they would cast the evil spirit out of him, and yet what he found was the furthest thing from that which he had hoped for and desired. Imagine coming unto the disciples of Jesus seeking deliverance and freedom for a loved one and one whom you cared about, and yet the only thing you find instead was disappointment, frustration and discouragement. As surely as this father brought his son unto the disciples of Jesus hoping they would cast the evil spirit out of him—only to find the disciples unable to do so—and as much as this father perhaps grew discouraged, distressed, and perhaps even frantic and hopeless, I am convinced that when this father saw Jesus coming down from the mountain and coming unto them, hope was reignited within his heart. There is not a doubt in my mind that when this father saw Jesus coming unto the great multitude that had gathered there hoping to watch the disciples cast out the evil spirit, hope, trust and confidence was reignited within his heart, and he thought perhaps once and for all he would be able to watch his son be delivered from that which tormented and oppressed him. With that being said, I firmly believe that there are men and women among us within the house of God who desperately need hope to be reignited within their hearts and souls, as they have found themselves discouraged, disillusioned, frustrated and hopeless because of past experiences. I believe there are men and women right now who might very well have been disappointed by the church, and who might even have been disappointed with the church’s inability to do within their lives that which they desired and sought after. Such men and women desperately need to find themselves in the company and presence of Jesus, as it is Jesus alone who can do within their lives that which they desperately desire. There are men and women right now who enter into the house of God week in and week out and have stopped looking for something, have stopped expecting something, have stopped anticipating anything taking place within their lives because they have experience so much frustration, disappointment, and perhaps even heartache. Sometimes it’s not being hurt and wounded by those within the church that causes men and women to grow bitter with and towards the church, but rather frustration with desiring and wanting something, only to find that it did not and has not taken place. We tend to think that much of the frustration, much of the anger, much of the bitterness, much of the hostility towards the church is largely due to men and women being hurt, wounded and bruised by those within the church, and yet I am convinced that this isn’t necessarily the case.
The more I read the account of this father and his young son, the more I can’t help but be confronted with the tremendous fact that there are countless men and women present among us within the house of the Lord who are sorely and severely discouraged and disillusioned—not because the church or those within the church have done anything wrong to them, but simply because they have entered into the house expecting one thing, and yet found the complete and exactly opposite. What about you who are reading these words? Have you found yourself discouraged and disillusioned with the church and with those within it because you entered into one seeking something very personal and very real within your heart and life, and yet what you found was the complete and exact opposite. We would be incredibly naïve to think and believe that such a reality is not present within our houses of worship and within our churches. We would be incredibly naïve to think that there aren’t men and women who are present among us right now who have stopped hoping, who have stopped expecting, who have stopped anticipating anything within the church and within the house because they have found previous hope and previous expectation being dashed against rock of disappointment and discouragement. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are men and women among us in this generation who desperately need their hearts to be reignited once more as they learn to hope once more. LEARNING TO HOPE ONCE MORE! LEARNING TO BELIEVE ONCE MORE! LEARNING TO EXPECT ONCE MORE! LEARNING TO TRUST ONCE MORE! I am completely and utterly convinced that not everyone who has offense and takes issue with those within the church, or even with the church itself have necessarily been wounded, bruised, hurt and scarred by those within the church, but rather have found themselves in the receiving end of disappointment and discouragement. I believe with everything inside me that there are men and women who desperately need their hearts to be reignited once more, as they have been living for far too long in a place of hopelessness, discouragement, frustration and perhaps even bitterness. I know that one of the greatest needs within the house of the Lord is not only for hearts to be reignited once more as the flaming embers of trust, hope, belief and confidence are in danger of going out. I am completely and totally convinced that there are men and women who desperately need Jesus to show up—not only within the house itself, but also within their lives—and as a direct result of Jesus showing up, they find themselves experiencing hope once more. Such men and women need to learn how to hope and trust once more, for for many of them, it has been quite some time since they have actually hoped, trusted and believed for something.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote in the first verse of the eleventh chapter when writing and speaking of faith. In the first verse of the eleventh chapter we find the author emphatically declaring “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I have to admit that I have seen and read this verse countless times throughout the years I have studied the Bible, and I have never once been struck by the first word of this verse as I was recently. If you read this particular verse you will find that the very first word when speaking of faith was the word “now,” thus speaking of and denoting a sense of urgency. I find it absolutely incredible that when writing and speaking concerning faith, the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews used the word “now,” for it speaks tremendous lengths and volumes concerning the need for faith now. I love that the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews used the word “now,” for it gives the impression that faith is not needed tomorrow, faith is not needed a week from now, nor is faith needed a month from now. Faith is not needed a year from now, nor is faith needed at some distant time in the future. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews used the word “now” when writing and speaking of faith, and I am convinced that we need to recognize and understand the importance of what I would call “now faith.” I am completely and utterly convinced that there are men and women who right now desperately need to make the decision that they are going to have and pursue faith that operates in the here and now rather than in that which has yet to come within their hearts and lives. There are men and women whose faith might be rooted in some distant expectation and desire, and yet they have absolutely no idea that the faith that is needed is not a “tomorrow faith,” but a “now faith”—a faith that operates in the here and the now and does not wait to be ignited or expressed. Oh, there is a tremendous need within the hearts of countless men and women to embrace this faith in the here and the now and expect and anticipate once more in the here and now. There are men and women who desperately need Jesus the Christ to ignite their hearts and set on fire their expectation, their hope, their trust, their confidence, their belief, and their faith once more. This father expressed faith that would operate in the here and now, for the father cried out to Jesus knowing that Jesus was able to do that which He had done within the lives of countless others. This father experienced a faith that operated in the here and the now rather than a faith that waited for an answer in the future.
With this being said, please understand that I am in no way suggesting that there aren’t certain times within our lives when we are called and told to wait rather than experiencing that which we hope for in the here and now. What I am speaking of is an urgent faith, an urgent trust, an urgent confidence, an urgent belief in the living God that moves and operates in the here and the now, that operates in the present, and does not live in the future. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote “Now faith is,” and there is not a doubt in my mind that what is found within this particular passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture of a faith that is needed in the here and the now, and for men and women to live in the present. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus Himself spoke when delivering the Sermon on the Mount—words which are found beginning with the twenty-fifth verse of the sixth chapter. I leave you with the words of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount as a wonderful and powerful expression of the tremendous need to live in the here and now, to express and walk with an urgent faith that operates in the here and now, and to trust and believe the Lord to do exactly what we know He is able and capable of doing. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the twenty-fifth verse of the sixth chapter:
“Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeders them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:25-34).