The Disciples' Faith is Still a Work in Progress

You can’t grow great faith without sticking your neck out.

Luke 9:37-42 (ESV)

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

Jesus performed countless miracles like this. At one point, He even gave His disciples this power. 

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, – Luke 9:1

What makes this miracle worth special mention (here and in Matthew 17:14-20 and Mark 9:14-29)?

The key is the disciples’ failure to cast the demon out. What happened to the power they received in verse 1? Did their “training exercise” fail to completely train them?

Exactly. The power they were given in verse 1 wasn’t permanent. When they returned from their travels, it was apparently taken back. Without that special gift, their faith wasn’t enough. The account in Matthew explains it best.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:19-20 (ESV)

Their faith is still a work in progress. It will grow significantly, especially when they see the risen Lord with their own eyes. Then the Holy Spirit shows up at Pentecost.

Then the mountains start to move.

No one’s faith is ever complete (in this life anyway), but it can be nurtured. We tend to neglect our faith – assuming it doesn’t need exercise the way our muscles do. In fact, it should be our highest priority.

We can be strategic about growing our faith. There are two parts to this: prayer and experience. If you want more faith (and who wouldn’t) you have to ask for it.

But the other half is just as important. If you’re not using your faith, you won’t get a chance to see it validated. That’s what the first Christians did so well; they actually went out and did things – big things.

And notice that even their failures were important.

You can’t grow great faith without sticking your neck out.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.