Ministry Verses Ecstasy

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 17:14-21

14 At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” 17 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well. 19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” 20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

This same story is told by both Mark and Luke and today, I would like to defer to Mark….

 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him. 16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked. 17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” 23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!” 26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. 28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” 29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”
 

INTRODUCTION

Tonight, I want to make three practical observations. This is not an attempt to exegete this passage or expound on every point but simply three insights that I think can help us.
 
I. JESUS COULD HAVE STAYED IN THE CLOUDS OF GLORY BUT HE CHOOSE TO COME BACK DOWN TO THE PAINS AND PROBLEMS OF EVERYDAY LIFE
 
I can only imagine what it was like on the mountain top: seeing Jesus transfigured, seeing the glory of His divinity come out; seeing Moses and Elijah…awesome…hearing the voice from the cloud…wow…being engulfed the shekinah glory cloud…what a glorious experience. Most of us, especially preachers, have been to conferences where the singing was awesome. Last year at the Iron Mans Conference in Birmingham, I heard 2,500 men singing with all their heart, what a blessing. When my voice is right I can out sing [in terms of sheer volume] the entire congregation. You cannot do that in a mountain top setting because everyone is singing. The first evangelism conference I attended was back in 1970. I got to hear Dr. Vance Havner and several more renowned speakers but what blew my doors off was the singing. I was like Peter, why don’t we just stay here in conference all the time? Some people live from conference to conference. They worship the mountain top. I like the mountain top experiences. If I had my way, I would have one every day but this is not reality. The only mountain top experience recorded in the life and ministry of Jesus is this story. I think He had others but their were no human witnesses. We all prefer glorious ecstasy over servant ministry, at least some forms of ministry. I do love helping people but sometimes the problems are overwhelming just as they were in this story for the nine disciples. Just this past month, I had to deal with two heartbreaking situations involving five innocent children. I know why God hates divorce. It hurts like hades. It is heart breaking to see families severed by divorce, especially when grown adults are acting like irresponsible teenagers. Yeah, I prefer a mountain top ecstatic experience over heartbreak any day. I am trying to give comfort and consolation to two stage four cancer patients right now and there seems to be at least one on my list all the time. So, I will take a mountain top over cancer. BUT Jesus choose not to stay on the mountain top. He made a conscious decision to come back down to the valley were there was suffering and people who needed His help.
 
You can’t help the hurting when you have your head stuck in the clouds. Life is not about the mountain top, it is about the valley. God gives us just enough mountain tops to keep us going but it is all about helping those who are hurting and you can’t do that on the mountain top. I don’t know about you but I am glad Jesus came down, not only to earth but from the shekinah glory of the mountain top.
 
II. SECONDLY: DID YOU NOTICE, EVERYONE IS THIS STORY HAS PROBLEMS EXCEPT JESUS
  • The teachers of the Religious law [Scribes and Pharisees] are arguing with the disciples. What were they arguing about? I don’t know but I’m sure if was not important. So what we have here is a group of self-righteous hypocrites who see everyone sins except their own.
  • Then you have the frustrated disciples who can’t do anything right. Jesus upbraids them for their lack of faith and they have failed publically to help the pleading father.
  • Then there is the father. He believes enough to approach Jesus but is filled with doubt.
  • Then there is the demon possessed son.
  • We are all flawed, no one has it all together other than Jesus. This sets HIM apart and makes HIM worthy of our worship and praise. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

III. LAST BUT NOT LEAST: JESUS RESPONDS TO IMPERFECT FAITH.

Notice the verbal exchange between Jesus and the father of the demon possessed boy“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” 23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’? Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Aren’t you glad that Jesus did not say…“Get out of my sight, you have offended Me with your doubt. I want nothing to do with you or your kind.” Instead Jesus healed the boy in an instant in spite of the father’s imperfect faith. I’ve been a Christian for 56 years and I still pray this prayer…”LORD I do believe but help me overcome my unbelief.” You have faith but you don’t have perfect faith and neither do I. How do I know? I know your faith is not perfect because you don’t move mountains.

You come to Jesus with the faith that you have. Don’t wait until you get perfect faith. Jesus helps us with our unbelief.

Charlotte Elliott was born March 18th, 1789. The first 32 years of her life were spent mostly at Clapham, England.  Then in 1823 she moved to Brighton where she lived the rest of her life. The first part of her life was rather stormy. Charlotte was a sickly child and was not able to join the activities of others her age. She spent most of her time inside. Her family was not poor and all her needs were provided but some how she became embittered and had a rather surly attitude. The family was friends with a Swiss evangelist and hymn writer Cesar Malan. On one of his visits, they were all around the supper table when Dr. Malan asked Charlotte if she was a believer, Charlotte  bristled. She acted so rudely that her family was embarrassed and removed themselves from her presence. She was lift at the table with the evangelist tried to smooth over the encounter with some apologetics. Charlotte did not seem to respond to his witness but it was actually the turning point of her life. She could not get his suggestion out of her head. Three weeks later, she met Malan again and told him that ever since he had spoken to her, she had been trying to find Jesus her Savior. How could she come to Him, she wondered. She saw gifts, talents, abilities in all the other family members but she felt that she had nothing of worth that God could use. Malan gently explained… “You have nothing of merit to bring to God. You must come just as you are.”  Long story short, Charlotte gave her heart to Christ and later wrote a poem for her brother to use as a fund raiser. The poem is the lyrics of the hymn “Just As I am” which Billy Graham used for decades in all his crusades. It is amazing what Jesus can do with a little faith.

Did you know that Jesus nicknamed His disciples “Little-faiths”. In the Greek, it is one wordoligopistos‘. We’ve made a sentence out of it but Jesus was actually calling them “Little-faiths” and look at what our magnificent LORD has done with those Little-faiths.

Sept. 22nd. 1871. She was born in a Christian family and they were connected to Dr. C. Malan of Geneva who paid the family a visit. Charlotte was a sickly child who showed little interest in anything or anyone. As she matured into womanhood, she became bitter in spirit. Her grandfather was a preacher and her brother was a preacher but Charlotte felt

The history of the writing of “Just as I am, without one plea”.— In the Record, Oct. 15th. 1897, Bishop H.C.G. Moule of Durham, the Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, gave a most interesting account of Miss Elliott, and the origin of this hymn. Dr. Moule, who is related to the family, derived his information from family sources. In an abbreviated form, this is the beautiful story — “Ill health still beset her. Besides its general trying influence on the spirit, it often caused her the peculiar pain of a seeming uselessness in her life, while the circle round her was full of unresting serviceableness for God. Such a time of trial marked the year 1834, when she was 45 years old and was living in Westfield Lodge, Brighton … Her brother, the Rev. H.V. Elliott, had not long before conceived the plan of St. Mary’s Hall at Brighton, a school designed to give at nominal cost, a high education to the daughters of clergymen; a noble work which is to this day carried on with admirable ability and large success. In aid to St.Mary’s Hall there was to be held a bazaar… Westfield Lodge was all astir; every member of the large circle was occupied morning and night in preparation with the one exception of the ailing sister Charlotte — as full of eager interest as any of them, but physically fit for nothing. The night before the bazaar she was kept wakeful by distressing thoughts of her apparent uselessness; and these thoughts passed by a transition easy to imagine into a spiritual conflict until she questioned the reality of her whole spiritual life, and wondered whether it was anything better after all than an illusion of the emotions, an illusion ready to be sorrowfully dispelled. The next day, the busy day of the bazaar …. the troubles of the night came back upon her with such force that she felt they must be met and conquered by the grace of God. She gathered up in her soul the grand certainties, not of her emotions, but of her salvation: her Lord; His power: His promise. And taking pen and paper from the table she deliberately set down in writing for her own comfort the formulae of her faith … so in verse she restated to herself the Gospel of pardon, peace and heaven…. there, then, always, not at some past moment, but “even now” she was accepted in the Beloved, “Just as I am”. As the day wore on, her sister-in-law, Mrs. H.V. Elliott, came in to see her and bring news of the work. She read the hymn and asked (she well might) for a copy. So it first stole out from that quiet room into the world, where for sixty years it has been sowing and reaping, until a multitude which only God can number has been blessed through the message”.

The hymn “Just as I am without one plea” was first published in the “Invalid’s Hymn Book, 1836” in 6 stanzas, headed with the text, “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out”. The hymn has been transferred to almost every hymnal published in English-speaking countries during the past fifty years. It has been translated into every European language, and into the languages of many distant lands. The testimony of Miss Elliott’s brother, (the Rev. H.V. Elliott, editor of Psalms and Hymns, 1835) to the great results arising from this one hymn is very touching. He says, “In the course of a long ministry I hope I have been permitted to see some fruit for my labours; but I feel far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s”. It ranks with the finest hymns in the English language. Its success has given rise to many imitations.

Under the date of Jan. 26th. 1872, the Rev. J. Babbington, brother-in-law to Miss Elliott, wrote to the late D. Sedgwick concerning Miss Elliott’s hymn “O Jesus, make Thyself to me”, “the lines you refer to (O Jesus make Thyself to me) are Miss Charlotte Elliott’s. They were for many years the private expression of her own daily prayers, and were so much a part of her own hidden life with her Saviour that they were rarely communicated by her to any one, and only to her most intimate friends. One of those had them printed on a card by Taylor (Edinburgh 1860) and at first she was rather disconcerted, till she was led to feel that this was her loved Saviour’s way of leading others to the participation in her own sacred inner life. The lines were:

Charlotte Elliott was a weakly child and spent most of her time inside. She was not raised in poverty but she did have physical problems that kept her from socializing with others. As she entered her adolescent years, she became bitter.

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