Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
As Christians we often forget who we are (2Pet 1.9). We forget what we are supposed to be; we forget what we are supposed to quit being. We forget what God has done for us, and we forget what we are suppose to do for God.
We forget the things which are now true as Believers,
while having no trouble remembering how to act like sinners.
I think it is profitable at times for us to systematically remember and refresh ourselves about what is true and real as Christians. This helps us to identify and evaluate our current lives and spiritual state; it helps us to grow and improve in ways that we have not yet explored. It reminds us that God has made available to us everything that we need (2Pet 1.3) to live a life of Godliness and fullness. Over the next few days I want to “remember” the things that are true for those who believe in God and Jesus Christ.
Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (NKJV; emphasis mine)
This wonderful verse has been used out of context much in today’s “christian” world to support the ideas of “possibility thinking” and other such carnal, humanistic and materialistic human success messages. It is not the purpose of this series to refute those or comment about them (much!). It will suffice to say for now, that it is a destructive and deceptive trend in modern Christianity to use Scripture to support the idea that God intends for every Christian to be wealthy, to have an abundance of earthly treasure, to live a comfortable, even luxurious, life on this earth and to use belief and faith as a tool to achieve affluency.
In a nutshell, the Godly approach to wealth is to believe that God owns it all; He gives money as it is needed to do His will and provide for our needs. The amount of wealth you have has nothing to do with “faith” as it is taught today, and “prosperity teaching” has distracted millions of Christians from spiritual growth, keeping them “babes” long after they should have grown up in Christ (Heb 5.11-12).
In Mark 9.23 we find that for Believers, all things are possible. It’s easy to see how that verse could be used to support any number of fleshly ideas. So what does it really mean? We know that “all” cannot actually mean “all” as in “anything you can think of” or “anything you desire”. If that were true, then God has lied to us because no rational person would argue this verse means that if I believe I can jump Mount Everest then I can; that if I believe I can stand in front of speeding bus and not get hurt, I won’t; or that if I believe I will be the richest person alive, God will grant it.
The context of Mark 9.23 is a father who had come to the disciples of Jesus to have a demon cast out of his son. The disciples had failed, causing Jesus to rebuke them for their lack of faith. What is faith? Many times you hear Heb 11.1 quoted as the definition of faith, but it is not a definition so much as it is the result of it.
Simply put, faith is a combination of belief,
and the object of that belief.
The disciples lacked a degree of either true belief, or had not fully come to realize that Jesus really was the Son of God (as evidenced by their actions and words in other situations) thereby having a lack with regards to the object of their faith. I’m often asked how to define faith and the best I have come up with from my own study is:
Faith is undoubting belief focused on
the correct object or Person.
For example, millions of people have undoubting faith focused on the wrong object or person and sadly, will not find out that their faith has condemned them until it is too late. Undoubting faith is not exclusive to Christians. The lost world places their faith in something: money, materialism, human potential, false religion, morality…. many people have “faith” that these things are the answer, but their faith is useless (eternally) because is does not have the correct object or person in focus.
For Christians, we have the right object, a Person (God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit), as our focus, but often we have doubting faith. [Note: hence the unScriptural nature of alot of “word faith” teaching today. The object of that “word faith” is often “faith in our faith” or “faith in techniques” rather than faith in God.]
James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
A Christian who doubts (lack of faith) is like a wave of water on the ocean that is tossed around in all directions at the mercy of the wind and currents. A doubting Christian can have no confidence and no assurance that what He asks God for will be done or granted because the doubt is an indicator of a lack of true belief. The doubting Christian asks God, but isn’t convinced God can do it, which is an insult to the revealed character of God.
Such is the case in Mark 9. The disciples either doubted, or still weren’t convinced of who Jesus really was, and were not placing the Lord as the sole object of their faith. So Jesus tells the father after rebuking the disciples that “all things are possible to him who believes.”
At this point that father gives an answer that both presents to Jesus his sincere belief, and appeals to the Lord to help him where his belief fell short. This is a great lesson for us. There is no spiritual formula, key or trick. We all struggle with unbelief, it’s just a matter of degree and how honest we want to be about it. We can never conjure up enough faith to EVER be able to say, “God, I have perfect undoubting faith, therefore you MUST do what I’m asking.” (contrary to much teaching today).
Not only are all things possible for the true Believer,
but God in His mercy even helps us in our unbelief.
So the primary key becomes the object of our faith, or in this case, a Person. If we have the correct Person as the focus of our faith, He will even help us when the fullness of belief is not within our grasp, which is always. We would do well to learn to answer and pray as this father did, “Lord, I believe. And where I might fall short or deceive myself about my belief, will you please help me and make up the difference?”. That would be considered a “negative confession” in many circles today, and yet the Lord accepted the father’s imperfect faith and indeed, helped his unbelief. His son was set free because of the father’s faith.
So what does the verse mean then? What are these “all things” that are possible? What was possible for the father of the boy? It was possible that Jesus could heal the demon possessed boy. Why? Undoubtedly the father had heard or seen of the countless miracles performed by Christ. He already knew in his mind, his intellectual what Jesus could do. So it now became an issue of whether or not he had the faith that Jesus would do the healing for HIM personally, to save his son.
The “all things” in Mark 9.23 refer to what we know God has promised He will do, has demonstrated He will do, has written that He will do, and has declared that He can do. Where do we find out about all these things? In His revealed Word of course, the Holy Bible. God has plainly declared and promised all that He will do, why He will do it, and the conditions, if any, that are required for Him to do it. The Bible is the place to inform our intellect, our mind, of “all things” that God can do.
Like the father who knew Jesus had healed countless others, we know from Scripture everything God has, and can do. Now faith and belief enter the picture to take this knowledge from our head to our heart, from our mind to our eyes. With our heart we believe, and with you eyes we look only to the One who can do “all things”. Knowledge, belief and focus combine to create this thing called “faith”.
Faith without doubt moves the hand of God to do those things He has said He willl do. True belief makes “all things” possible for us as Christian. “All things” are everything God has said He can and will do as we serve Him. That is why all things are possible for those who believe.
To summarize, God will never fail to do all things (everything He has promised or declared) if we have faith – just for believers.
Lord God, Help us to understand what real faith is. Help us in our unbelief, and to always focus on You as the object of our faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: All things are possible for the Believer. The trick is, you have to be diligent to find out what “all things” are, which are found in God’s Word. This is a promise that is just for believers.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?