Session #112 Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Scripture Matthew 17:14-23
Summary Matthew 17:14-23 is about discipleship and faith. When push came to shove when it mattered, how did the disciples fare? Where the rubber meets the road, how do we fare? Note the way the Master trained His disciples. Much to glean for our own discipleship and disciple-making initiatives.
And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 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.” Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful. Matthew 17:14–23
Where the Rubber Meets the Road (When the Rubber Hits the Road)
Tyres are the only contact a car has with the road. Engineers, designers and manufacturers do all they can to ensure the best performance and safety on all road conditions and in all weather conditions. At the end of the day, how will the tyre perform? That’s when and where the rubber meets the road. This is what happens in Matthew 17:14-21. In front of the multitudes, a father brings his son with an epileptic condition (demon-possessed). The disciples find themselves in a situation “where the rubber meets the road”. Jesus casts out the demon.
And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples… Matthew 17:14-16
As tyres are tested on the road, disciples are tested on assignments. Being tested in a discipleship class is different from being tested in a disciple mode. Presenting about the kingdom is different from representing the King. The ‘safety’ of the church is different from when we are out there in the areas of operation. Is the anointing only in Church? Or is there anointing wherever we go? How will we hold up? Will we skid? Will we crash?
Jesus and His ‘top’ students are not around. How? This takes place after Jesus’ transfiguration: “The next day” (Luke 9:37). They (Jesus and three disciples) were away when it happened. Stop pushing the “anointed” ones forward. How will you fare when the rubber hits the road? There is too much theoretical discipleship. There is much knowledge but not enough application. There is much teaching but not enough obedience. There are lots of armchair critics but not enough soldiers in battle. You don’t even need a demonic situation for this. If we live and move as disciples, even the simplest of assignments (marriage, parenting, at work, in ministry) can reveal many things.
So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him. Matthew 17:16
It was surprising that they could not since it was not their first encounter with demons. They had seen Jesus cast out demons many times. They had cast out demons too (Matthew 10:8). It’s one thing to observe and to move under supervision. It’s totally another when you are on your own. Agreeing (amen) is different from applying! Being shown the deep end is different from being thrown into the deep end. Note to Disciple-Makers and Mentors: Be comfortable with letting your charges make mistakes or fail. It is not easy because you have to pick up the pieces or clean up the mess. It is always easier to do it yourself. It saves time but nobody learns. Note to Disciples: It’s ok to make mistakes or fail. That’s where the rubber meets the road! Failing is a good experience. That’s the best and fastest way to learn.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” Matthew 17:19 Failures are good because it makes us question: Why? What happened? It pushes us back to the Lord. There is an alignment check. Always check-in and check back with Jesus. Have your private sessions with Him. Ask all your questions. Wrestle. Process. Jesus knows exactly what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed.
Jesus points out the issue immediately: It was a FAITH issue.
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief (little faith ESV); 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. Matthew 17:20
Disciples believed in Jesus (by faith). They had faith. But they also had unbelief (no faith) Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. Mark 16:14
We can believe in some areas and yet not believe in other areas. Unbelief is knowing something to be true but lacking the conviction to believe it. Disciples knew they had the authority to cast out demons, but they were not sufficiently convicted that they were able to do it.
It is not so much the amount of faith but the OBJECT of our faith. It is not about having faith in faith, but having faith in God. Just a little amount of faith is needed in the one true object of faith – Jesus (God). It’s not my faith that is great, but my God who is great. Little faith in a great God becomes great faith.
What do prayer and fasting have to do with faith?
However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Matthew 17:21
Prayer is aligning with God. Reliance on God. Intimacy with God. To the Jews, fasting is very closely associated with prayer. Faith is based on knowing and believing who God is and what He can do. Through prayer and fasting, our focus is directed back to the object of our faith. Faith, prayer and fasting are intricately linked. This is another indication that disciples relied on themselves or a method or formula; and not on God.
The mountain is a Jewish idiomatic expression for all challenges (not just demonic deliverance). The principle of faith can be applied to all difficulties and challenges. “Nothing will be impossible for you” simply means “You can overcome all difficulties and challenges.” Faith in God can move or remove challenges. The prayer of faith of a righteous man avails much (James 5:15-16). “This kind” indicates a different category or level of spiritual battles overpowers and principalities. The greater the challenge or difficulty, the more you need to know who God is and what He is able to do. Faith in God also enables you to bear through and overcome these difficulties and challenges.
Beware “hyper-faith” or “word of faith” teaching. Faith is not reckless or presumptuous faith: God must do it – no matter what! That was what the devil tempted Jesus with when He was in the wilderness. Throw yourself off. Angels will protect you. It is not name-it-claim-it but according to the will and purposes of God. It is not for our own selfish agendas, pleasures and desires (James 4:3).
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the child was cured from that very hour. Matthew 17:17-18
Who did Jesus direct this statement at? He was replying to the father’s comment about the disciples’ inability to cast out the demon (Mark 9:19). The father wanted to have personal faith. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” Jesus spoke in the presence of multitudes. It was an indictment against “a faithless and perverse generation” to repent (perverse) and to believe (faithless) in the Messiah and be saved from their sins. Imagine the reaction of disciples. It was a rebuke to the disciples. Jesus expected them to be operationally ready by that time but they were not. Time was running out. Jesus would not be with them much longer.
A faithless generation needs a faith-filled church. For them, Jesus was leaving. For us, Jesus is coming soon. How long more before we are ready to move on kingdom assignment? We should be eating meat but are we still feeding on milk? We ought to be teachers, mentors, disciple-makers, fellow soldiers on a mission but are we still struggling with baby faith, theoretical faith, little faith, no faith? How many more sermons or seminars do we need? How long?
Where the Rubber Meets the Road. How will you fare?
Tyres are tested on the road. Disciples are tested on assignment. Don’t be afraid of mistakes and failures. Keep checking in with the Master. Realign your faith through prayer and fasting. Be ready for kingdom assignments.