The View From 1776

Spiritual Disciplines

Breaking the strongholds of darkness depends upon developing spiritual disciplines in our lives.

Sunday’s sermon by Pastor Dan Gardner at the Cohocton Assembly of God Church was on the message of Matthew 17:14-21:

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

17 “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.

Why are we, like the disciples who were unable to heal the young epileptic, unable to place full faith and trust in God?  Why is there so little evidence in our lives of the power of God?  How are we to be ambassadors to the world for the Gospel?

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  (2 Corinthians 5: 18-20)

Jesus, in the passage from Matthew, shows us the way.

First, we must have faith, the tangible evidence that God is consistent with His Word.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

Faith is not about abstractions.  To bolster your faith, as young David did when Goliath confronted the Israelites, look around you and search your memory for the specific things that God has done to bless you in your own life.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
?Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.
  (1 Samuel 17:32-37)

Second, our prayers must become an ongoing communion with God that establishes a relationship.  Prayer must be more than mechanical recitation.  We must pray continually for God’s guidance and the opening of our hearts to the impulses of the Holy Spirit, telling us what we ought to do to lead good lives and to help others in their times of need.

That sort of relationship with God is what shines through to others when we deal fairly with them.  It’s not a matter of education or worldly prominence, as Jesus’s disciples demonstrated:

1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is ” ‘the stone you builders rejected,