Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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Doing the Impossible

Meditation for the week of April 18, 2010

Matthew 17:18-21 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"  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.  "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

Prayer is a mystical concept and fasting is a controversial concept.  Most of us think of prayer as asking for something from God.  If that is true, why should we ask for something if God already knows our needs and already knows how He is going to answer?  Isn’t He One who knows the end from the beginning?  Do we really change things by praying?  Fasting is controversial because while it was obviously practiced by the Jews and while it was also practiced in the early new testament church (See Acts 13:2, 3 and 14:23), there is no clear cut command in the new testament for fasting.  Neither is their any doctrinal explanation of its merits. 

Prayer is obviously more than just asking God for something.  It is really talking with God about everything.  Prayer can involve praise, thanksgiving, intercession, and supplication.  But I believe it can also involve just talking with God in the same way that we would talk to a friend.  Often as we “talk things out,” our thinking is clarified.  And as we talk with God about things, we often find that the Holy Spirit brings a passage of Scripture to our mind that clearly helps us in making decisions.  Talking with God should be a two-way conversation.

In this passage, the disciples had not been able to do what the Lord had commissioned them to do.  They had not been able to cast out this particular difficult demon.  Why could they not do it?  It was because of their unbelief.  Apparently, this particular demon had either resisted them or scared them on their first try.  But the problem was with their faith in the commission and promise.  The problem was not in the power of God.  To have proper faith doesn’t mean that we have a more intense belief, it means that we have perfect confidence in a promise God has given us.  We sometimes think we can do ANYTHING if we have the proper faith based on this verse.  That is NOT true.  But we can do ANYTHING THAT GOD TELLS US WE CAN DO.  The mountain in these disciples’ life was a certain demon.  They had been told they could cast him out and they had not  been able to do that.  They needed to fast and pray.

Fasting is associated with mourning, but it is also a matter of self-denial.  When we fast, our self is set aside so that when we pray there is nothing hindering our ability to hear when God speaks.  People who fast when they pray are not saying prayers, they are actually praying.  When we fast and pray about something that God has asked us to do that seems impossible, we will be given strength and guidance so that we neither give up and do things in a self-willed way nor will we give up and assume that the “mountain” cannot be moved. 

For those of you reading some editions of the Bible, you will notice that the verse on praying and fasting has been left out.  Some of the copies of the original manuscripts leave it out and some put it in.  While this is not a major issue in my mind, I like the manuscripts that the King James Version was based on because the passage seems incomplete without these instructions. 
Often today people say that the way things were done in the new testament worked then but that our day is different.  Because of our lack of faith we often build churches based on marketing plans rather than on the preaching of the Gospel.  We assume that we have to  finance them the world’s way  through fund raising and business ventures and borrowing rather than letting God support His work through the voluntary partnership of  believers.  We try to turn the world (which is our enemy) into the kingdom of God by political means.  We forget that we are supposed to be occupied with heavenly and spiritual things rather than being occupied with this earth (Colossians 3:1-2).  But dear friends, God knew all about the 21st century when he gave us the Bible.  God has not changed. His power has not changed. His principles have not changed.  His promises are dependable.  If God has commissioned us to do something His way, it will work when we do it His way.  Let’s have confidence in the God of the Bible and in His promises so we can  go out and move some mountains!

Bruce Collins

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