VIDEO The Place of Ministry

He said to them, “This kind [of unclean spirit] can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29

“His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ ” (Mark 9:28). The answer lies in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “This kind can come out by nothing but” concentrating on Him, and then doubling and redoubling that concentration on Him. We can remain powerless forever, as the disciples were in this situation, by trying to do God’s work without concentrating on His power, and by following instead the ideas that we draw from our own nature. We actually slander and dishonor God by our very eagerness to serve Him without knowing Him.

When you are brought face to face with a difficult situation and nothing happens externally, you can still know that freedom and release will be given because of your continued concentration on Jesus Christ. Your duty in service and ministry is to see that there is nothing between Jesus and yourself. Is there anything between you and Jesus even now? If there is, you must get through it, not by ignoring it as an irritation, or by going up and over it, but by facing it and getting through it into the presence of Jesus Christ. Then that very problem itself, and all that you have been through in connection with it, will glorify Jesus Christ in a way that you will never know until you see Him face to face.

We must be able to “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31), but we must also know how to come down. The power of the saint lies in the coming down and in the living that is done in the valley. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and what he was referring to were mostly humiliating things. And yet it is in our power to refuse to be humiliated and to say, “No, thank you, I much prefer to be on the mountaintop with God.” Can I face things as they actually are in the light of the reality of Jesus Christ, or do things as they really are destroy my faith in Him, and put me into a panic?

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest. Disciples Indeed, 395 L


The Healing of the Possessed Boy (Mark 9:14–29) — A Sermon by R.C. Sproul

The Dwindles

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

It started with a tickle in my throat. Uh oh, I thought. That tickle turned out to be influenza. And that was just the beginning of bronchial affliction. Influenza morphed into whooping cough—yes, that whooping cough—and that turned into pneumonia.

Eight weeks of torso-wracking coughing—it’s not called whooping cough for nothing—has left me humbled. I don’t think of myself as old. But I’m old enough to start thinking about heading in that direction. A member of my small group at church has a funny name for the health issues that assail us as we age: “the dwindles.” But there’s nothing funny about dwindling’s work “in action.”

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul too wrote—in his own way—about “the dwindles.” That chapter chronicles the persecution he and his team endured. Fulfilling his mission had taken a heavy toll: “Outwardly we are wasting away,” he admitted. But even as his body failed—from age, persecution, and harsh conditions—Paul held tightly to his sustaining hope: “Inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (v. 16). These “light and momentary troubles,” he insisted, can’t compare to what awaits: “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (v. 17).

Even as I write tonight, the dwindles claw insistently at my chest. But I know that in my life and that of anyone who clings to Christ, they’ll not have the last word.

By:  Adam Holz

Reflect & Pray

What “dwindles” are affecting you or someone you love right now? What can help you maintain your faith and hope during seasons of struggle or discouragement with health issues?

Father, even as our bodies “waste away,” help me to see those physical struggles through the lens of our hope in Jesus and the glory He promises.

Sunday Reflection: Love for One Another

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

At the last supper, Jesus said to the disciples, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, emphasis added). Notice that He could have generalized by simple saying “love people.” But the Lord was being specific. He was talking to a particular group of men who knew each other well and spent time together day after day.

When we consider Jesus’ call to love, our mind often goes “out there,” skipping over the people we see day in and day out. However, the Lord was speaking to the disciples, who at this point had been together for three years and shared so much. Think about the ones you spend the most time with— your family or perhaps a roommate or coworker. The Lord’s words remind us that we’re to demonstrate God’s love not just in general ways to acquaintances down the street or groups abroad; we’re also to be intentional about loving those closest to us. Sometimes it’s this very specific kind of love that best shows the world who Jesus is.

THINK ABOUT IT
• This week, try pausing your concerns for “out there” and focus on the cares and concerns of one person you love.

Following the Mark

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul called his personal achievements (Philippians 3:4-6) as valuable as dung (v. 8), rejecting his own righteousness (v. 9). Now he is focused on reaching the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” He is well aware that he has not already attained God’s ultimate design for him, nor is he perfect in any sense of what he will become, but he intends to follow after and be “apprehended” of the Lord Jesus (Philippians 3:12).

To begin with, Paul knows that he must forget “those things which are behind.” Not only his rather stellar reputation and achievements, but especially the awful conditions of being “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Those terrible conditions were done away with when Paul (and those of us who are twice-born) were created after God “in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

Now, having been apprehended of Christ and forgetting those things that were part of our old lives, we can “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (today’s verse). Like for an athlete, the prize is gained only by those who win, not by those who run “uncertainly” (1 Corinthians 9:24, 26).

Thus, we cannot win if we have “two masters” (Luke 16:13), nor can we please “him who has chosen” us if we entangle ourselves with the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:4). May God keep us focused on the prize. HMM III

Not For Selfish Gain

He

Teach me, Lord, the meaning of Your statutes, and I will always keep them. Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart. Help me stay on the path of Your commands, for I take pleasure in it. Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to material gain. Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways. Confirm what You said to Your servant, for it produces reverence for You. Turn away the disgrace I dread; indeed, Your judgments are good. How I long for Your precepts! Give me life through Your righteousness (Psalm vv. 33-40).

What drives me? What hidden desires motivate me to perform? What goals beckon me? Part of being imperfect, human, and fallen is the struggle with mixed motives. I want my life to bring glory to God, but I also want some other things—personal fulfillment, meaningful work, the recognition of my peers, financial success, domestic tranquility, O how easy it is to be deceived, to rationalize, to be a self-preservationist! I want to be “in the world but not of it,” yet, to be honest, secular culture carries a punch that the Word often doesn’t.

This psalmist puts me to shame! He observes the law wholeheartedly (vv. 33-35), then begs God to purge him of any unworthy motives—”material gain,’ worthless things” (vv. 36-37), Then he gives us the key to proper motivation for the study of God’s Word as well as for all other endeavors undertaken by the believer, “Help me stay on the path of Your commands” (v. 35). With divine direction the psalmist knows he can’t miss a beat.

If I live to fulfill my own goals and desires or even to satisfy the expectations of others—no matter how worthy—I’ll miss the greater blessing of living my life to please God. Obeying his Word is the premiere goal that drives me now!

Personal Prayer

O Lord, turn my heart toward your statutes today. May I not live my life for selfish gain but to please you!

Sovereign Grace

For you are saved by grace through faith … it is God’s gift.—Ephesians 2:8

In order to understand grace, we must see it in relation to a Sovereign. As one writer puts it: “Grace is bound to be sovereign since it cannot by its very nature be subject to compulsion.” This is why we often refer to it as free grace. There is no reason for grace but grace.

I believe the old definition of grace cannot be improved upon: “Grace is the free, unmerited favor of God.” At the heart of all true communion with God there lies this gripping truth: God took the initiative. He is more inclined toward us than we are toward Him. We cannot earn His affection. We have simply to receive it. Always the initiative is from God.

When you originally came to Him, you came because He first drew you. The very faith by which you lay hold of Him is not of yourself; it is, as our text says, “God’s gift.” Every step you make on your spiritual pilgrimage is possible because of His grace.

I know this teaching affronts many modern-day men and women because they like to feel that they can “work their passage to heaven,” as one preacher puts it. This is like someone in debt for a million pounds trying to get the one to whom he is indebted to accept his resources of a few pence as being sufficient to clear the debt. Listen to the Word of God again and let it sink deep into your soul: “For you are saved by grace through faith … it is God’s gift.” Grace is a gift. You do not have to achieve but simply receive.

Prayer

O Father, once again my heart is moved as I realize it was not my merit but Your mercy, acting in grace, that drew You to me and me to You. All honor and glory be to Your mighty and everlasting name. Amen.

Further Study

Rm 5:1-21; Tit 3:7

How does Paul define grace?

Write out your own definition of grace.

Sin, The Great Destroyer

Romans 6:23

Sin is the great foe! Look at the destruction of the children and the young people for which sin is answerable. Look at the ruin of womanhood which goes steadily forward in every land. Think of the wives and mothers degraded or deserted, or both. Consider the moral and physical decay of manhood in the sinful sensualism of the day.

Oh, sin, thou archenemy of man, we hate thee. Sin, thou hateful monster, we challenge thy cruel and lawless reign over our fellows! But for sin there would be no war, no blight in the young people, no ruined womanhood, no corrupt men. Sin is the curse.

See the disorder it brings. Sin disarranges everything in men’s souls. Lies come to look like truth. Virtue appears foolish and vice seems wise. Pleasure grows more important than duty. Self is preferred to God, time to eternity. It is a kind of upside-downism of the soul.

See how sin makes men try to be independent of God, their rightful Sovereign. Sin brought in this plague of the human spirit—pride—and we know how it destroys the very best of people.

What havoc sins works with faithfulness. Look at the children who promised to care for their parents, and don’t. Look at the men and women who vowed to be faithful to one another, but have broken their vows. Look at the fathers who wrong their children, and at the prodigals who go off and break their mothers’ hearts. And what of unfaithfulness to God? How sin inclines the heart to mistrust Him.

What a horrible effect sin has on the imagination, on all that belongs to the mind of man. It lights the fires of passion and filthy lust by unclean thoughts. And by and by the sinful mind becomes a dreadful infection to the whole man.

What rebellion sin brings about in men’s souls. They get other rulers—self, money, degraded appetite, evil habit. These are among the gods sin substitutes for the great Father of Love. It is an awful exchange.

Yes, sin is the great destroyer. The fact is that nothing of the material order can do anything with sin. What is wanted is a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a Savior—

a revelation which opens to the bad in heart a way to be pure in heart, which brings to guilt and despair and danger the assurance of pardon, of hope, of safety—or, in one word, of salvation.

Bramwell Booth, Life and Religion