My father is a Mexican immigrant who came to America 40 years ago looking for an opportunity to reap the benefits of his hard work.
He raised us with the philosophy that a person should work hard and contribute to his family. Like millions of men everywhere, I try to implement that philosophy in my role as husband and father. However, there is one aspect of his philosophy that failed my father and his family—he tried doing it through his own will and strength.
Jesus’ disciples were average guys. They considered things like respect (John 13:8), loyalty (Mark 14:29), and adventure (John 11:16) to be important. And like your average guy, carrying their own weight without depending on others was important to them as well. This is one of the dominant characteristics of most men; our pride makes us try to do everything with little or no help. This is where my father’s philosophy failed him and also where the disciples learned how dependent they really were.
In his gospel, Mark writes of how the disciples tried to exorcise a demon from a boy and failed. This made no sense to the disciples since they had been able to do this before. They were well trained, they had watched Jesus, and they felt confident; yet for some reason they could not exorcise this demon. It is absolutely frustrating when we try to do something exactly how we are sure it should be done and yet for some unknown reason we just can’t make it work.
When Jesus arrived, He was upset that they did not drive out the demon and He called them an “unbelieving generation” (Mark 9:19). He spoke with the boy’s father and then cast out the demon saying only, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” I can imagine how the disciples felt watching Jesus do easily what they failed at doing on their own. I am sure that they each had their own ideas. Mark writes that, “After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:28-29).
For all of their strengths, intentions, knowledge, and determination, the disciples were not able to do what Jesus had done so easily. They had forgotten where true power comes from—God. They needed to seek God, and pray that He would drive out the demon. But their pride had caused them to neglect prayer and its importance to any holy task. Too often, we all—men and women—forget that true power to do anything good comes only from God.
The Psalmist writes, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1 NIV). My father, like many fathers before him desired to build and protect his house. But until he was willing to give himself to God and lean upon God for strength, my father toiled in vain.
Today my father looks to God first and foremost in every part of his life—something he has taught me to be important as well. Seeking God in prayer is key to the success of families, work, growth, love, hope, peace, and everything else. If you find that you are doing everything right and yet still it is not working ask yourself how much time you spend on your knees praying to God.
Fathers, unless we lead our families from our knees, our work will be in vain.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m. for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!