The God Who Can

We often come to God with a mixture of belief and unbelief.  Learn 3 of the most common ways we let unbelief dilute our faith and how to fix it!


One of the great tensions we all wrestle with is unanswered prayer. 
No matter where you are on the spectrum…whether you’re just checking Jesus out…or you’ve been following Him for 50 years…
All of us have experienced unanswered prayer. 
Some of it is not serious. 
You’re praying to hit every green light
You’re praying it will never snow again 
But some of it is quite serious 
Your friend was sick…you prayed for them to get better…they didn’t 
One of your teenagers or adult children isn’t following Christ…you’ve praying that they would…they haven’t 
You’re asking God remove something from your life or help you to stop doing something…and yet, it’s still there.  
As we look at our passage in the Book of Luke today…we’re going to see the disciples wrestling with God not doing what they had hoped for. 
And Jesus is going to give them some reasons for why things didn’t go as they had hoped.  
I don’t know about you, but that’s something I want to pay attention to. 
(Page 842)
(Renovation App) 
We’re actually going to skip over another story, the Transfiguration where Jesus’ clothes become white as lightning and he’s standing next to Moses & Elijah…as we just covered that exact passage in Luke 9 back in 2017.  
(Luke 9:37-43a) – NIV 
37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” 
41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

The disciples were unable to help this boy, and then Jesus, surprisingly, offers a sharp rebuke of them. 
(Luke 9:41) – NIV 
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
The way Jesus talks there is hard for most of us in our culture. 
We’re familiar with the “soft and kind-hearted Jesus,” but we sometimes forget His intense side.  
But there’s something about His words here that we can’t miss. 
We’re told that the reason the demon didn’t come out…that they were unable to help the boy…was because the people were “unbelieving” 
Unbelief had crept into their hearts…and somehow that was affecting what was happening.   
The Gospel writer Matthew gives us a little more of the conversation, as Luke decided just to treat this story briefly.  
Here’s what Matthew adds: 
(Matthew 17:19-20) – NIV – Leave up for a few minutes
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. Truly I tell you, 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.”
Now, there’s a difficult tension here…and this is one that’s seen throughout the pages of the Bible. 
On the one hand, we like to say, “It’s not about the strength of your faith, but the object in which you place your faith” 
In other words, even if you have WEAK faith in Jesus…what matters is that you have faith in JESUS.   
That’s the mustard seed part: 
Even a tiny bit of faith…in the RIGHT thing…is enough.  
And YET…(and here’s the tension)…what is Jesus saying here? 
The disciples said, “How come we couldn’t do it?” 
And He says, “Because you have so little faith” 
The MEASURE of their faith seems to be some sort of factor in regards to the outcome
But how? 
Before we answer that…let’s talk about the fact that the disciples seem to have both faith AND unbelief
Because…faith and unbelief aren’t a dichotomy…an “either or.” 
The truth is, we have both. 
We covered this when we talked about doubt this Fall. 
If I have 100% faith, it’s not faith.  
It’s certainty. 
But if I have 97% faith…that means I have 3% doubt…or you might even say I have 3% unbelief.  
So, you’re always going to come to God with a mixture of faith and unbelief.  
Pastor Lee Eclov says that the unbelief that Jesus is referring to in this passage is like the unbelief that comes in and dilutes your faith…it waters down your percentage of faith. 
Imagine your faith is a powerful liquid cleaner 
The kind they only let professional cleaners use in large buildings. 
The kind that can clean up almost anything. 
But unbelief is a diluter. 
It’s like pouring water into that powerful liquid cleaner bottle. 
The more you pour in, the less effective it is 
So what I want to look at today in this passage is 3 diluters to our faith. 
3 ways that we let unbelief come in and dilute the power of what Jesus wants to do through us.  
Now…as an important preface…sometimes God isn’t answering our prayers…simply because it’s just not His will. 
But often…He’s holding back…or holding his TIMING back…because our faith is diluted by unbelief. 
This is really interesting even in our passage today: It was God’s WILL that the boy be set free, right?  
But it just didn’t happen until later…because of the disciples unbelief.  

Okay, let’s look at the first diluter to our faith 
3 Diluters To the Effectiveness of Your Faith 
#1: Believing in a Small God  
This is an interesting story in the Bible to piece together because both Luke and Matthew include the story in short-form…more of a cliff-notes version. 
However, Mark, gives us the longer narrative of what happened. 
And in Mark, we’re told that there was also a conversation between the boy’s father and Jesus.  
Take a look at it: 
(Mark 9:21-24) – NIV 
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
One of the great diluters to our faith is that most of us believe in a small god 
A god that blesses our meals, and ‘keeps us safe’ when we travel, and helps us get a raise at work. 
I was really convicted of this not too long ago when I was putting my daughter to bed. 
She had a really stuffy nose, and it was really uncomfortable for her. 
And she said, “Daddy, will you pray for me?” 
And I offered up this very American evangelical-like prayer: “God, help Liviana feel a little better when she wakes up!” 
And she interrupted and said, “Ugh, I just want God to heal me!” 
It was one of those convicting, yet-awesome parent moments.  
That’s someone who believes in “THE God WHO CAN…”
A God who can do anything!
Yet too many of us are stuck believing in “The God Who Might…but probably won’t.”  
And listen…I get it…we don’t know His will…
But we’re still supposed to come to Him in FAITH…approaching Him as “THE GOD WHO CAN” 
We’re not supposed to come, saying, “I don’t know if it’s your will, and you’re probably busy…and got other things to…and it’s kind of a big ask…” 
That’s like the boy’s father who says to Jesus, “if you can do anything about it…” 
Jesus is almost offended. 
“If I can??  If I CAN?!??” 
It would be like this: Imagine one of my kids is in middle school…and they’ve been assigned to give their first-ever speech for school. 
You remember these, right? 
Speak for 3-5 minutes on some subject of your choice.  
My favorite was always the one kid who went like 25 minutes…
I just remember thinking, “How do you NOT know you’re not in the 3-5 minute range anymore?!?” 
But let’s say my middle school child starts talking to our whole family at dinner and says, “Ugh, I’m just super nervous about this speech in front of my classmates.” 
“I just don’t think I can write a good speech…let alone deliver it.” 
And they continue on, saying: 
“I don’t know…I don’t know how’d I ever keep anyone’s attention…
“Or write something that was easy to follow…
“I don’t know where I’d even find help with something like that…
“oh well, it’s probably hopeless. 
And they go upstairs to their room
If that happens…I’m offended.  
I’m thinking, “Hello!  I stand up and talk in front of people every week…about pretty important stuff!...I could help you…I love you…I want to help you!” 
And I think this is how we treat God…
We go about our day…talking to all of our friends and co-workers about our problems…and how miserable our circumstances are…
And how we’re not sure if anything’s gonna change. 
And your FATHER in Heaven is hearing the whole thing! 
And He’s thinking, “Hello!  I know a thing or two about this!  And I love you! I can do something about this!  Not too hard for me!” 
God wants…and expects…you to treat Him as “The God WHO CAN”
Do you?? 
To come to Him in any other way is to not understand who He is and what He can truly do. 
It reminds me of Corrie Ten Boom, in her book, “The Hiding Place” (which is an absolutely incredible book) 
Corrie and her Christian family have decided to hide Jews from the Nazis…and she needed more ration cards to feed them all. 
And so she went to a particular official who was in charge of handing out ration cards because she knew he was sympathetic to her work in the “underground movement” 
And he asked Corrie Ten Boom…“How many ration cards to you want?” 
And she said, “5…(and then she paused and said)…no…100!”  
Because she believed in “The God Who Can!”
And the guy said, “How in the world am I supposed to get 100 ration cards?!”
But then they came up with a plan to stage a fake robbery, and eventually Corrie got 100 ration cards to help feed the Jews they were hiding” 
Because she believed in the God Who Can!  
Many of us, need to come to God today…like the boy’s father in our story. 
We need to say, “Lord, I believe…help me with my unbelief!” 
We need to pray, “God, show me how big you really are…and thus…increase my faith” 

Because…if you believe in a small God…here’s what will happen:
Not only will you have less faith…but your prayer-life…your relationship with God will fizzle. 
And that’ll dilute the effectiveness of your faith as well.  
3 Diluters To the Effectiveness of Your Faith 
#1: Believing in a Small God  
#2: Letting Your Prayer-Life Fizzle 
When your version of God is a small one…
You won’t keep coming to Him asking Him to bring your family member to Christ…
You won’t keep coming to Him asking Him fix your marriage
You won’t keep coming to Him asking Him to provide for you financially…
Because if deep inside you, you think of God as pretty small…you won’t feel compelled to ask Him to help. 
Why would you?  What can He do? 
And thus if you believe He’s small…your prayer life is going to fizzle…
and thus…there will be a negative impact even on the effectiveness of your prayers.   
Because the closer you are to God…the more effective your prayers will be.
Now…don’t hear me incorrectly: 
I’m not saying, “The better of a person you are…the more God hears you.” 
Our Christian faith is not based on our good works…but on the cross of Christ. 
We don’t EARN anything. 
If you’re just checking this whole thing out…
Christianity says that we are saved/forgiven…not because of what we do…
But by believing in Jesus who died in our place for our sins.  
So what do I mean then when I say…the closer you are to God, the more effective your prayers will be?   
I mean this: Those who really cultivate a prayer relationship with God….
Those who get up early, or stay up late, seeking God every single day…
Those are the people who are significantly more likely to hear his voice. 
Because they’re SEEKING it!  
And learning to hear it!
And if they’re hearing Him, they’re more likely to know what to pray for…where to go…what to say…who to talk to
Thus, the more likely to see God move!
It’s like when Ben Pierce was here two weeks ago when I was sick and lost my voice
And he spoke of his friend who was taking 1,000 risks for God. 
Well, in order to do that…you need to be talking to God every day.
How else would you know what to risk?  
And it’s NOT the closer you get to God, the more He does your will. 
It’s the closer you get to God, the more you’ll able to do His will. 
And the more you’re be able to believe that He’s THE GOD WHO CAN 
(1 John 5:14-15) – NIV 
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
And so those who have a serious prayer life…often get to see God move on a level that the rest of just never do…
…because they know (they’re hearing) what to pray for…and they’re praying with confidence to “The GOD WHO CAN!”
While the rest of us are still just randomly throwing up things we’d like to see happen in our lives. 
But it doesn’t have to be like that. 
You can restart your RELATIONSHIP with God again. 
He wants nothing more to just spend time with you again
And show you His love…and His power to move in your life.  
For some of you here…the best thing you could do today…would be to go home…and as soon as you get the chance…
Go to your room…get on your knees…and start asking God to come into your life again.  
Tell Him you’re ready to start seeking Him with all your heart again. 
So often…He’s not moving because we’re not listening to what HE wants to do
He’s not moving because honestly…He’d rather have your heart than just fulfill some of your wishes.  
Seek Him again. 

And so here’s where we are: 
We know that if we believe that He’s small…we won’t earnestly pray… 
And if we don’t really pray…we’ll fall into the 3rd diluter to our faith: 
And that’s…we start trying to do everything on our own 
3 Diluters To the Effectiveness of Your Faith 
#1: Believing in a Small God  
#2: Letting Your Prayer-Life Fizzle 
#3: Doing it on Your Own  
In our passage today, the disciples were trying to help…to remedy the situation.  
After all, they’ve done this “casting out of demons thing” before (in fact they were doing it just at the beginning of chapter 9)
However, this time, it’s not working.  
What’s the difference?? 
Well, we’re told they had little faith…
But we get even more clarity on this particular situation from the end of Mark’s passage: 
(Mark 9:28-29) – NIV 
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
I imagine that the disciples felt quite embarrassed by Jesus’ words. 
They had learned all the commands… “Come out by the name of Jesus Christ” 
They knew all the right words, all the motions, all the formulas…but they had stopped truly believing and relying on the POWER of God. 
And when you know all the right things to do…but you don’t rely on God’s power…who’s power are you relying on but your own?  
This is a dangerous place to be. 
Especially for those of you in leadership. 
If you lead a House Group, a small group, or a ministry here…and over 50 of you do... 
And many others of you lead things outside of these walls… (at work…in the community…) 
It’s a dangerous place to settle into a rhythm where we are merely just going through the motions…saying all the right things…but honestly, just doing it in our power 
You show up at small group every week, read the passage, ask the questions…but you haven’t really gone to God in prayer asking Him to do a mighty work…  
You’re left relying on what??  Just your own wisdom in asking the questions with the right words??
So many ministries in the United States right now are floundering because we’ve stopped depending on God…and started depending on our own wisdom and ideas instead. 
In fact, we’re going to do a whole series about this in April…as I think this is something our church really needs to reflect on deeply
We can’t expect God to move if we’re not calling on His power in faith.    
And often…if you’re not really going to Him in prayer…He WON’T move. 
And that’s on purpose.  
Often, in His wisdom, He lets our prayers go unanswered when we’re not truly putting our trust in Him. 
When our prayers just become robotic or routine…
Or when we start believing He has to answer just because “we said it”…
Like it’s some sort of formula.   
Often He’ll intentionally not answer our prayers when we have resorted to doing ministry or our Christian-walk in our own strength and in our own power. 
Because He wants you to seek Him again! 
He wants your heart more than He wants to change a circumstance. 
He wants you to seek Him again…
He wants you to go…this isn’t working…I need God!   
He wants you to be in a place that IF SHOULD ANSWER…that you would actually give Him the credit for it!   
And so if you’re here…and you’ve been in this spot where you haven’t seen God answer much prayer in your life lately. 
Please, go home, close your door to your room, get on your knees…and seek Him afresh. 
Start planning, right now even, how you are going to meet with Him each day again. 
He CAN move in your life!
He’s the GOD WHO CAN! 
He’s not a small God. 
There’s nothing that is too hard for Him. 
But He’s waiting for you to come under Him (not for us to be over Him…telling Him what to do)  
He wants you to seek first the Kingdom of God…and then…all of those other things are added in.  
Will you come back to Him? 
Let me pray that we do. 

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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