A Little is a Lot
How much faith is necessary to meet your need? If you are like most Christians, you would say, "A Lot." Yet this is simply not true. Jesus said that in matters of faith, a little is a lot!
Think about it. The biggest miracle you ever received was the new birth. The tiny amount of faith you used when you received Jesus as Your Lord moved you from Satan's kingdom into God's, from spiritual death into eternal life, and from satanic darkness into the kingdom of light. Nothing will ever compare with the power demonstrated by God when He removed you from Satan's family and made you His own child. Any other need you may have in your life is eclipsed by your deliverance at salvation. Any other miracle is a lesser miracle.
More Faith is Not the Answer
We have all been guilty of telling someone who did not receive healing, "You needed more faith." We have also condemned ourselves when we failed to receive an answer to prayer, saying, "I guess I didn't have enough faith." We spend time trying to build up our faith, when this isn't the answer at all. We are not in need of more faith, but of liberating and setting free the faith we have.
In foreign countries, we see people receiving Jesus as Lord and then immediately being healed of incurable diseases, receiving their eyesight or hearing, or having missing limbs restored. What's even more mysterious is that many are healed of incurable diseases and then become saved. These people have not had time to build up a great amount of faith - but what little faith they have is unhindered.
The Day the Disciples Failed
In Matthew 17, Jesus was called on to cast the devil out of a young boy. His disciples had been unsuccessful, and the father now looked to Jesus for the answer.
"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?” Matthew 17:18, 19
The disciples were bewildered when Jesus was successful after they were not. They were confused because they had been successful many times before. When Jesus first gave them power over unclean spirits and every type of sickness (Matthew 10:1), they went out, two-by-two, using their new-found authority over Satan. They came back rejoicing that demons were subject to them (Luke 10:17). This instance in Matthew 17 was not the first time they had come up against demons - it was one of many times. So why were they not successful?
The story is told again in Mark 9:14-27. Mark fills us in on many details Matthew did not give. Mark tells us the disciples were surrounded by a large multitude of people who were watching them. There was also a group of scribes who were questioning the disciples and antagonizing them. It didn't help matters when the young boy who needed deliverance fell to the ground wallowing and foaming from his mouth.
The disciples were really put on the spot. Before, when they had gone out two-by-two, a multitude did not follow them. They were able to cast out devils without so many distractions, often in the privacy of a home. Now all eyes were on them. They felt the pressure of the worried father, the on-looking crowd, and the critical attitude of the religious leaders. Under this great pressure, they failed for the first time.
What Was Jesus' Answer?
When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast out the devil, He did not tell them they did not have faith.
"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." Matthew 17:20
Before speaking with Jesus, the disciples had apparently tried to analyze their failure among themselves and had come to the conclusion they didn't have enough faith. This explains why Jesus mentioned the small amount of faith needed to remove problems in the Christian life. Between the last successful case of casting out a devil and this occasion of failure, something unnoticed had crept into the faith life of the disciples.
The problem with the disciples was not more faith, but less unbelief. In fact, Jesus said a very small amount of faith, the size of a mustard seed, would not only move a mountain, it would also guarantee no impossibilities from that time on. But to work, the mustard seed has to be unhindered. A little bit of unbelief will nullify the power of faith.
Faith was never designed to be a tug of war. When unbelief is absent, a mustard-seed amount of faith will carry a mountain into the sea. Unbelief acts as an opponent to faith and pulls on the mountain from the other side. Faith is nullified and the mountain remains. Jesus told the disciples that unbelief was why they were unable to cast out the devil.
Although Jesus was in the same situation as the disciples, He was not moved by the attention of the crowd or the critical attitude of the scribes. He was not intimidated by the young boy who fell on the ground wallowing and foaming. He cast out the devil and set the young boy free. Jesus was a man of faith. He had no unbelief, so His faith was free and unhindered.
The Power of the Mustard Seed
Do you remember the song a number of years ago about the and who wanted to move a rubber tree plant? With high hopes, he did. Have you ever been on a picnic and watched a piece of popcorn or cake crumb go walking off? When you lifted the popcorn, you found an ant underneath. The ant can move objects much larger and heavier than itself. But faith is even more powerful.
Imagine a mountain moving along without anything visible pushing it. If you could lift up the mountain, you would find a measure of faith the size of a mustard seed carrying the mountain toward the sea. And after the mountain is gone, this tiny speck of faith just keeps on working, guaranteeing absolute success in every situation from then on. This speck only asks one thing: "Keep me unhindered and free from unbelief."
When Jesus met resistance to His healing and miracle power, He did not blame it on a lack of faith, but a presence of unbelief. The Scriptures tell us as much about ridding ourselves of unbelief as they do of increasing our faith. Let's look at a few of the verses:
"Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief." Matthew 13:58
"Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief." Mark 6:5, 6
"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
In Hebrews, we find instructions for us as New Testament, Church-age believers:
"So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." Hebrews 3:19
"...Those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of unbelief," Hebrews 4:6
"Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of unbelief." Hebrews 4:22
So, How Do I Get Rid of Unbelief
Jesus said, "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Jesus was not referring to the demon in the young boy. There is no demon which is not subject to the name of Jesus (Luke 10:17-19, Ephesians 1:21, 22). Jesus was talking here about unbelief: "this kind (of unbelief) does not out except by prayer and fasting."
There are two types of unbelief: rebellious unbelief and passive unbelief. Rebellious unbelief comes from sin. It openly defies the Word and power of God. The exodus generation was guilty of this type of unbelief. When confronted with the promises of God, they hardened their heart and spoke out against God and Moses.
This was not the kind of unbelief the disciples had when they tried to cast the demon out of the young boy. They were not hardening their hearts against God's plan. No, they faced the second type of unbelief - passive unbelief.
The disciples were truly believing God, but their faith was nullified. As soon as they could, they took Jesus aside and asked in all honesty why they could not cast out the devil this time as they had before.
The Lord's answer cut right to the heart of the problem: "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." Passive unbelief comes from over-occupation with legitimate things of life. In Mark 4:7, Jesus warns of the thorns which choke the Word and make it unfruitful. In verses 18 and 19, He describes the thorns of unbelief as "...the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things..." The cares of this world are not bad, wealth is not wrong, and things are a legitimate part of life. But if we spend too much time concerned with them, our fruitfulness is choked out.
God wants our time to be taken up with prayer and the Word of God. He knows that His Word is our source of life. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) Passive unbelief takes us away from the Word as we fill our life to overflowing with other activities.
2 Corinthians 10:5 gives us an insight into passive unbelief: "...casting down arguments (reasonings), and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God..." Unbelief comes with reasonings which set themselves up against the Word of God.
Jesus gave His disciples the remedy for curing this type of unbelief: it has to be starved to death!
Relief from Unbelief
Do you remember a time in your Christian life when you rarely listened to the radio or watched television? Do you remember when the Word was the most important thing to you? You filled each spare moment with the Word.
In those days, your faith worked every time. You were growing daily toward maturity, and each mountain you faced seemed to head toward the sea. Your faith may have been small, but it was completely free from unbelief.
But now, do you come home after work and sit in front of the television for hours at a time? Do you listen to the radio or other things while in your car? Is your home filled with movies instead of Bible teaching? Do you surf the internet all evening and into the morning hours?
Is it any wonder that the demons who used to flee and the mountains which used to head for the sea, now won't budge? The faith which used to be unhindered is now stifled by human reasonings. The thorns of unbelief have rendered your faith unfruitful. Relief from this type of unbelief demands prayer and fasting.
You must starve unbelief. Unbelief feeds off input from the world. I recommend "fasting" from such input for a beginning period of one to two weeks. Spend more time listening to the teaching of God's Word, don't turn on the television, read a teaching book. this will begin to starve your unbelief to death. Your faith will find a freedom it has not experienced for years.
After only one day you will notice a great difference. You will find yourself meditating on the teaching you have heard and read. Instead of songs and news which only produce human reasonings, doubt, and unbelief, human reasonings will be starved to death and will no longer exalt themselves against the knowledge of God
You will have liberated your faith. And once again, it will be unhindered, free from unbelief, and ready to carry mountains off into the sea!