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Common Discipleship Requires Uncommon Trust
Scripture: Mark 9:14-50
Track 12 of 19 in the Encountering a Changing World series
Running time: 32 minutes, 23 seconds.
Prayer is seen as the illustration of demonstrating trust. Trust produces a life of commitment to godly living.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, March 23, 2003
"Common Discipleship Requires Uncommon Trust"
(Mark 9: 14-50)
G. Charles Sackett

I love mountains. I've always loved mountains. One of my favorite experiences in life, in fact, is to get up on top of the mountain where you can see absolutely everything in every direction. If I had my way about things, and I obviously do not, I'd live on a mountain. I have looked across Illinois. There are none. Therefore, I guess I'll not live on one; at least not now.

But I've also discovered that every mountain has a valley. And, if you'll allow me to be philosophical for just a moment, I've also come to the conclusion that you're not intended to live on mountains, you're intended to visit them. It's a troubling thought to realize that after you've been on the mountain that chances are, that you're also going to have a valley.

I can't help but think of Harry Truman, not the president, but Harry Truman, the idiot. Ah, excuse me. That's probably not polite. He's the fella that was on Mt. St. Helen's when they told him he ought to leave and he said "no man can take me off of this mountain". Well, that's technically correct I suppose, except that the mountain is no longer there so I don't know where Harry is.

You could ask Martin Luther King, Jr. in April of 1968, in fact April the 3rd. He made this comment. "I don't know what will happen now. We've got difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me because I've been to the mountain top. Like anyone else I would like to live a long life but I'm not concerned with that. I just want to do God's will and He's allowed me to go up the mountain. I see the promise land. I may not get there with you but I want you to know tonight that, we as a people will get to the promise land. I'm happy tonight that

I'm not worried about anything. I am not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." Less than 24 hours later he was dead. Every mountain has a valley.

You could ask Moses, having been up on top of the mountain in the presence of God, only to come down and find the people of Israel worshiping a golden calf. You could ask Eli'jah, who up on the mountain, saw the hand of God light the fire, burn the calf, the rocks, the water only to come down into the valley and face His chief nemesis of a lady by the name of Jezebel. You could ask Peter, from just a week ago. Who are you? Oh you're the Christ. Get behind me, Satan! Every mountain seems to have a valley.

You could ask Jesus, who came down off of the mountain coming into Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey with people laying palm branches and coats in His path and shouting Hosanna, only to have, in a matter of hours, the Hosannas turn to Crucify Him! Every mountain seems to have a valley.

Well, that's what happens in our text. You remember last week. We're up on the mountain of transfiguration. Peter, James and John have gone with Jesus up on top of the mountain. Moses and Eli'jah have showed up. Not only have Moses and Eli'jah showed up but God has showed up. But they have to come down off the mountain.

And as they come down off the mountain we find them encountering a situation which is a bit odd. In fact, it's in Mark, Chapter 9, the 14th Verse. If you want to look at it, we're going to read down through this experience. Here are the nine disciples waiting down in the valley for Peter, James, John and Jesus to come down off the mountain. And, quite frankly, in my opinion, they're having a valley experience

Verse 14: When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd about them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and they ran to greet Him. "What are you arguing about?" He asked. A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son who is possessed by a spirit who has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground; he foams at the mouth, he gnashes his teeth, he becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit but they could not."

"O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

And so they brought him; and when the spirit saw Jesus, he immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground, he rolled around, he foamed at the mouth and Jesus asked the boy's father; "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. "Its often thrown him into the fire, or water to kill him; but if you can do anything, take pity on us, and help us."

"If you can! said Jesus. Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed; "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, He rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you come out of him, and never enter him again." the spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse; but many said, "He is dead." Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "This kind can only come out by prayer."

Can I call your attention to two or three verses in this text? There's this, I think, strong message that comes out. Verse 17: "Teacher, I brought you my son who is possessed by a spirit who has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground; he foams at the mouth, he gnashes his teeth, he becomes rigid.

If you look over at Verse 20: The spirit immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground, he rolled around, he foamed at the mouth

Verse 26: the spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse; but many said, "He is dead."

Here's the simple truth. Satan seeks to destroy believers. It's that subtle message that comes through Mark's gospel so clearly every time you encounter demon possession. Every time Satan gets into the scene, there is something done to destroy or to distort the image of God in humanity. Now, that's true historically. That's just not true in Mark's gospel. We just might as well own up to that possibility or that reality. When you look at the story of humanity and you start with the very first couple, Adam and Eve; as soon as Satan shows up, guess what you have?? TROUBLE! You walk one generation into that and you've got Cain and Abel and what do you have?? MURDER! You come down through history to a man after God's own heart named David, and yet as soon as Satan gets into the mix, he has an adulterous relationship and murders the woman's husband, in order to cover it up.

You cannot watch Satan interact with humanity without discovering that his one primary purpose is to destroy those of us who are made in the image of God. To distort that image as much as he knows how. Unfortunately, he's not stupid! His temptations are incredibly subtle. He knows how to get into the heart of people. For example; it's such a simple thing. He never temps us to do something stupid. I mean, it is stupid, but he never tells us it's stupid.

I was, oh I don't know - that high?? Ball parking it!! 8, 9, 10 years old. It looked really good. It was my favorite candy bar! It was right there on the shelf. It was my best friend's dad's store. Why shouldn't I take it?? And my mother had me by the ear, and marched me back into that store and made me stand there in front of that counter and admit I stole the candy bar. Now, I never would have stolen the candy bar had I known how bad that pinch on my ear was gonna hurt and how embarrassing it was gonna be. But Satan didn't come along and say, I wanna make you really, really uncomfortable, so take that candy bar. Nawh - he said - I want you to enjoy that chocolate!

Ya know, most of you knew I grew up in a bar. I never did, in one of those conversations that occurred in that bar, I never did hear anybody talk about how delighted they were going to be tomorrow morning, when they were hugging a toilet! They never did. They never sat around the bar and said man I can't wait until tomorrow when I wake up with this God awful headache! They said, bring me another beer, this is fun. Because Satan doesn't temp you to the pain.

I was sitting in my living room, on a box. We were packing to move to Illinois. Got a knock at the door and one of our high school girls came in with tears in her eyes and sat down on a box next to me and said, I don't want to abort this child, but I don't know what to do. Satan didn't temp her to the pain of giving up her child to adoption. He tempted her to the pleasure of a sexual encounter with her boyfriend. Because Satan isn't an IDIOT!! He doesn't come along and tell you the obvious. He comes along and tells you a lie to get you to move from the place where you think you're supposed to be into something that you think you're supposed to have. And then he cuts the rug out from under you so fast that you have no idea what you just did.

C. S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters says there are two, opposite extremes that we sometimes face. Some of us don't want to have anything to do, we just don't want to believe in Satan. It's supernatural, it's evil. We don't want anything to do with it and some of us want to become so enamored with it that, that's all we want to think about. Both extremes, he says, are deadly. I don't want to elevate Satan but I do want to warn you that we live in a world where Satan is alive and well. And I'm going to suggest to you four ways in which that occurs. And I want you to see how subtle some of them are. Now some of them are just those overt Satanic things. We see that kind of thing all around us, witchcraft and wiccan and devil worship and all kinds of stuff that you may not see in Quincy, Illinois. I haven't looked around to try to find it. This comes out of a high school in San Mateo, California. September 27, 2002, six months ago, a group of San Mateo high school students trying to stir up controversy, formed a club, based on Satanism. Calling themselves the SatanicThought Society, co-president of the club, James Doolittle, admits he originally started the club with his friend, Matt Heney, to rile things up a bit. Now that the two juniors have studied the teachings of Antoine Levey (??), founder of the Church of Satan, they say Satanism helps people to express themselves. Satanism's purpose is to turn man back into a natural state and not have him corrupted by religion. And the school board and the principal and the local clergy are supporting this club.

And then there is the, what I would call, covert. It's not quite as obvious. I was sitting on an airplane. A lady across the aisle from me, looked to be in her mid-twenties, dropped a book on the floor. Being the gentleman that I am, I leaned down and picked up the book, reached up to hand it to her - it was a book on wiccan practices. How to become a witch!

(Something missing here?? - did the tape not pick up something??)

Here ya go! I guess I could say since birth. She's answering the question; how long have you been interested in being a witch. She said, I guess you could say, since birth I've been a Baptist. All of my friends are Christian and I went to church with them a lot. My grandparents pressured me into going to their church and my preacher pressured me into being baptized. My parents were pressuring me too. I always pretended I was a witch when I a little girl. My friends played along sometimes. I lived in my "make believe" world. My parents tried to pull me into reality by taking me to church, then along came the internet and before long I pulled up a page on wicca and that's when my journey began. I was about 10 or 11 when I first learned about it. I printed pages off the internet and started my book of shadows. Before long my parents found it. They didn't question be about it. They just threw it away and told me to talk to a preacher. I tried to tell them about the religion, the basics. They told me to talk to the preacher, like a preacher would know about wicca. I went behind my parents back and started another book of shadows. They found that one and threw it away. I'm 13 now and I have a third book of shadows. It's well hidden so they shouldn't find it for some time. I tried to tell them about the religion again, but this time they called me a devil worshiper. Now I don't know how to tell them. They call me a devil worshiper and are constantly searching for my book of shadows. That's my story, wonderful ending huh? I wonder if anybody else has a similar story?? Please reply if you do - signed, Maggie

Here's the response that somebody sent: I realize that most Christians fail to study the origins of their religion, thus they do not realize that Christianity is merely a reinterpretation of Paganism and Egyptian Sun God worship. There's much written out there if you care to educate yourself on this matter and in specific I would look in to Christian Gnosticism, Christianity as practiced during Jesus time and up to the time of the Crusades. Happy Reading.

The only problem with the guy's response is that he's dead wrong. Gnosticism didn't develop for a hundred years after Jesus and was considered a hierarchy from the very beginning. It was never the practice of the church. And so Satan comes along and draws us into these covert kinds of things and gets us subtly confused and the next thing you know, we buy this kind of trash or our children do, because we don't take the time to try to find out what it is that's going on in their world, on their internet, in their books. And here is this subtle undermining of the values of God placed in the life of humanity. It's not that he's just overtly Satanic. It's not just that Satan is out there covertly. He has some subversive ways of doing things too, you know. Ways that you would never expect.

For example, how about the great children's author, Judy Bloom? Some of your children have read Judy Bloom. She is in all of the children's libraries across the country and frankly her children's books up through about the third grade are among the best children's books out there. You just want to be really careful you don't get a hold of a Judy Bloom book that was written for 7th graders, because the explicit sexual references will make your face turn red or should! And what does a kid know? He/she looks up Judy Bloom on the catalog and finds one they haven't read and the next thing you know, they're learning things that you hope they'll never find out, much less when they're 11.

Or how about this??? I'm sitting, preparing for this morning, thinking through the sermon. I have my back turned to the television. We're catching some of the update on the war and here comes the advertisement for a movie that's coming out soon. It's going to be about how it's okay to have an affair. Well, that's not even a shock any more. Why would that catch us by surprise? Does anybody care that the destruction of the family has absolutely destroyed most of us in some way or another because nobody will stand up and say listen, that's destructive! It distorts, it destroys! It's too subversive.

It was a wonderful, cute little movie. I haven't seen one for a long time, so I'll have to revert to an old one. It was called "Hello Again". Shelli Long was a lady who died. She choked on a piece of meat. Her sister happened to be a witch and she called her back from the dead one year later by doing certain incantations over her grave and everybody said OH HOW CUTE! And the kids from our church would ask questions like this: Ok preacher, what's wrong with that one? Cause they know how hard I am on movies. Well, what's wrong with it, it's all about seances and calling people back from the dead and witchcraft and stuff like that. Other than that, there's nothing wrong with it.

But, let me tell you the one that troubles me the most. Cause most of you are smart enough not to get caught up in overt Satanism. And you're smart enough not to get caught even in the covert subtle stuff, even if you're just paying attention. But do you realize that there is something that everybody in this room has been caught in at least once that is still as Satanic as any overt Satanism. Do you know what it's called? SIN

Do you know where SIN comes from. Do you know who the father of SIN is? So every time you gossip. Every time you are mean spirited. Every time you refuse to forgive. Every time you just cheat or lie. I don't like that part do you? OK - so we'll quit! Because it's just too hard to think about succumbing to Satan, cause that's for the bad people. But don't you see, that's exactly what it's trying to accomplish. He is out to destroy us by subtly undermining who we are. Did you notice this in Verse 18 in this story. It's such an interesting and frightening comment. He says: "I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit but they could not." Why Not?

Do you remember Chapter 6, Verse 7? He sent them out with the power to cast out demons. What happened? They had the power to do it. Why - - - - - did they not do it? Why did this father bring a demon possessed son for healing and the only thing the disciples can do is stand there with their teeth in their mouth? Why couldn't they do it? May I speculate a little bit?. . . . . It's not pure speculation! Remember where Jesus is at this time? He's up on the mountain. Guess who's with him? The same three guys that are always with him, Peter, James and John. I mean, they are always there. Can't you imagine being the nine disciples down there in the valley again saying: OK - there they go, Peter, James and John. We'll just sit down here and we'll just mind our own business until they get back and, along comes a father needing a miracle and so they're gonna do it. They're gonna do it, . . . .only thing . . . . nothing happens! Wonder what happened? What went wrong? Well, I wonder if there could be a clue in the text. Did you notice Verse 19 for example? When Jesus hears this question: Why couldn't they do it? His response is: "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?

Did you notice over here in Verse 23? The man asks at the end of Verse 22: "if you can do anything, take pity on us, and help us." And Jesus asked: "If you can! Everything is possible for him who believes." And the father says: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

Look down, particularly at Verse 28 and 29: After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "This kind can only come out by prayer." What did they forget to do? I can tell you what they forgot to do. They forgot to ask for help. They tried to do it on their own. We can do it, we don't need Peter, James and John around. We'll take care of this ourselves.

Can I let you in on a little secret? You can't do it by yourself! You will never succeed in this world against Satan by yourself. He will destroy you and leave you lying on the ground like that little boy's corpse shaking your head and wondering what just hit me. See, faith is the key to this victory. O unbelieving generation. This kind only comes out by prayer. Lord, help my unbelief. See, part of the difficulty is in we live in a world where we think we have God in a box. Cranfield (??), about this text, says to trust in God's power in the sense that we imagine that we have it in our control and at our disposal is _______ out to unbelief for it is really to trust in ourselves instead of God. It's like God's in a little box and He's supposed to act whenever you say ACT and when you put God in that kind of box you're not trusting in God, you're trusting in yourself. Or Grant Osborne would say, Spiritual power comes only when one's self centered action is reversed and one turns to God in faith.

The only way to win this battle is to realize you can't do it yourself. And to trust in the only ONE who can help you, but the question comes for me then; How in the world do I avoid this God-in-the-box syndrome. How do I find that kind of spiritual power? How do I demonstrate to myself and to God that I'm not depending on me? It's going to sound terribly simple. Hate to have kept you for 30 minutes to find something so easy. You see, disciples demonstrate their faith when they pray. I think that's what the disciples forgot to do. I don't think they asked for help.

Jesus says in Verse 29 that this kind only comes out by prayer. This only happens when you turn to me in the one way you can turn to me and you ask me for the help. I don't know if there is a clearer, more visible way in which I as a Christian, am reminded that I am not in control, than to be forced to go to God. To turn to him, to ask for him to help and yet I have to be honest with you, when I listen to my own prayers, my prayers are not cries for help. My prayers are instructions. Lord, here's how I want it done. Lord, here's what I expect you to do. Lord, here's how I want this answered and then I get mad if God doesn't give it to me my way. So then I'm arguing with God. God you didn't hear me. God, you didn't answer my prayer. God didn't do things - HE NEVER SAID HE WOULD DO IT OUR WAY!

What he said was, you come to me and you demonstrate your faith in me by trusting me and while your prayers may not change much of reality, they will change you, because they change the one that you depend upon. And you are no longer depending upon yourself. You're starting to depend upon the one, the only one who can help. It is why it is so terribly important that all of us come to the place that we recognize that we cannot be self-centered. We must be God centered. We cannot depend upon ourselves. We depend upon the one who sits on the THRONE.

And so, with as much regularity as possible there's a prayer email going out to a whole bunch of you asking you to pray and I hope you don't hit the delete button when that comes across your computer.

And if you're not on that prayer list, just call the office or put it on this tear-out sheet in your bulletin and you'll be added to that prayer list asking you weekly to pray for certain kinds of events about our church. It's why a year or so ago we posted notes all over the walls, of people we wanted to pray for. The staff went back through that list of prayer requests, by the way, this past week. We have identified at least 8 to 10 people who have become Christians in the past year or so since we posted those notes. Some of those names are yours and you prayed and people have responded because God does that kind of thing.

There is just no more visible way to say to God, I trust you, than when we pray. And we're asking you to be praying people. I don't know if you'll get the answers that you want, what I know is this. You'll get THE answer. That is, you cannot do this by yourself.

You know, sometimes I think we don't pray because we're a little afraid it won't work. Like somehow, if things don't turn out the way they are supposed to or we've done something wrong and we now have a big "F" on our report card.

Did you ever get one of those? A big "F" on your report card?? I had to confess to the people at the worship seminar yesterday, I got two; one in band and one in penmanship. Neither one of them were particularly uh, well, they were more related to my mouth than my hand or my musical instrument. But, that's ok. I decided it's not fair for anybody to go through life and never get an "F". So every once in awhile, I've not done this very often, but once in awhile, I'll have a student that's a straight "A" student, and they'll turn in a paper that's really an "A" paper and I'll just put a BIG "F" on it. I'll write them a little note. They'll turn it over, after the air has come back into their body, and it will say; I was just kidding! But I really thought you should know what it feels like to fail just once in your life. Some of them haven't appreciated it as much as others.

I'm confident that it's purely coincidental that G follows F on the scale or G follows F in the alphabet. But you know, it's not coincidental in this text that Jesus takes this same set of disciples and the very next verse says; And He walked along the road and He taught them some more. Because you see, when it comes to the Christian life, F is always followed by G, and G always stands for Grace. And He never gives up on our failure, He just invites you to come back one more time, having learned the lesson, you can't do it alone. You're going to have to have my help so let's try it again. Some of you need to try it again.

You have allowed your lives to end up where you never expected to end up and it's time for you to just recognize you've created your own dilemma and the only solution you have is not to try to do it harder, not to try to do it better, but to just give up and let Him do it for you. So quit fighting Him. Trust Him. He's not going to turn you away. He's going to invite you into His presence and give you the strength you need to succeed.

If you don't know how to do that, we want you to ask. Come and see us. Come up here and talk with us. Grab us in the hallway. Come to the Hospitality Room. Call on the phone. But don't go through life thinking you can't make it because you can, with HIM. But with HIM alone!