• Tony Birkhead

Are you Thirsty? Week - 4




I know God knows what’s best. I know I don’t, and I know He cares!


INTRODUCTION

When have you felt helpless in life? Describe what that time was like.

At the time, how did you think God felt about your situation and what did you think He was doing?

How would you describe the strength of your faith during that time?

Why are prayers of courage often difficult to pray?

Help your group see that Jesus will change lives when people respond to Him in faith. He forgives their sins. He makes them new people (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus can give people the power to overcome bad habits. He can transform negative attitudes, mend broken relationships, give strength to the weary, and encouragement to the sad. He surrounds those who trust Him with His love. All people need the Lord. Have you cried out with courage for the Lord’s help?

This obligation of gospel consistency extends to how we respond to being mistreated, as difficult as that can be. We believe in a God who promises to enact justice in the end, but this same God went about accomplishing justice in His world by becoming a man and suffering injustice Himself. Indeed, Jesus did not judge us according to our sin as He had every right to do; instead, He took the penalty for our sin by going to the cross. As the Master goes, so go the disciples. As Jesus entrusted Himself to the ultimate Judge in the face of persecution, we must do likewise when we encounter injustice committed against us.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Mark 9:14-29

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. 17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” 19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 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!” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 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.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ MARK 9:14-19.

Who were “they” and where had they been? What were the remaining disciples and the scribes arguing about (vv. 17-18)?

Why did the disciples think they could cast out demons? (See Mark 6:7,13.) Why were they unsuccessful this time?

Who showed a lack of faith? Why was Jesus so disheartened with His disciples?

The disciples’ lack of faith caused Jesus grief. He responded with a cry of exasperation revealing His frustration and disappointment. Most likely in Mark 9:19 Jesus wasn’t addressing the crowd or the boy’s father, but instead was referring to the disciples. They appeared no different from unbelievers who demanded signs from God. In the crucial moment, during a temporary absence of Jesus, they experienced unbelief. How then would they be able to continue Christ’s ministry when He was no longer there?

What were the questions Jesus asked His disciples in verse 19? What was the significance?

Have you ever demanded a sign from God? Why did you feel like you needed visual confirmation of His presence?

Jesus addressed His closest friends as unbelieving. They had failed because they lacked faith. Could Jesus call us unbelieving? We must learn that fruitfulness in ministry efforts and victory over sin and temptation come through faith in Jesus Christ, not through our own efforts. Apart from Christ we can do nothing.

READ MARK 9:20-24.

Verse 20 says, “When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion.” Was this by coincidence? Why would the spirit start his attack at this time?

Why did Jesus inquire about how long the boy had been this way if He already knew?

Point out to your group that the violent seizure the boy experienced demonstrated the enmity and conflict between Jesus and the demonic. By reducing the boy to complete helplessness, the spirit revealed an evil intent to destroy the child as well as total contempt for Jesus.

Mark’s focus on detail in describing the boy’s condition directs attention to the greatness of Jesus’ cure and compassion. Jesus was deeply moved for the child’s condition and His question revealed that. The boy had experienced such torment since childhood. Perhaps Jesus’ question also had the purpose of demonstrating the hopelessness of the situation to the father. He wanted the man to confess the desperate nature of the boy’s case. Jesus was showing this father that he had no other resource but faith in Christ.

Read verses 23-24 again. How is Jesus’ ability to act related to your ability to believe?

Why do we sometimes have the same problem with limited faith that the boy’s father had?

Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (v. 23). Does Jesus’ statement lead us to conclude that people can have anything they wish by faith? Why or why not? If not, what does this statement mean?

How can we resist the temptation to set limits to what God’s power can do?

What did the father do when he recognized his limited faith (v. 24)? How can you believe when it’s hard to believe?

The father’s statement both affirmed his faith and also indicated he was deserving of the rebuke earlier directed to the disciples. He recognized his faith was not perfect and was mixed with unbelief. The father demonstrated both honesty and distress in his response. He desperately needed Jesus to cure his son. Yet he realized that he was completely unworthy of Christ’s compassion toward him. His coming to Christ showed a trembling faith. And this was enough. No contradiction exists between this affirmation of faith and the confession of unbelief. All believers at one time or another experience this tension.

MOVING FORWARD

  • Why was there no contradiction between the fathers’ affirmation of faith and his confession of unbelief? How does this provide hope for us today?

PRAY TOGETHER

God, let us understand that we can cry out to You for help with the faith we do have. And we thank You that victory over sin comes through faith in Your Son, not through our own efforts. Amen.

COMMENTARY

Mark 9:14-29

9:14. After a mountaintop experience, many Christians hesitate to return to the everyday routine. The disciples felt the same. Peter wanted to remain on the mountaintop with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. They descended the mountain, however, and were confronted immediately with human needs. Jesus’ other disciples were not able to meet the need. They were engaged in a dispute with a group of scribes.

9:15. Some interpreters believe the crowds were “overwhelmed” because Jesus’ face shone as did Moses’ when he descended the mountain of God. The text, however, gives no indication of this. If this had happened, it would have contradicted Jesus’ own words to keep the event secret until after his death and resurrection. The more likely meaning is that Jesus’ appearance was sudden and unexpected.

9:16. Jesus’ question was meant to draw out the person who needed healing. Before we can be healed, we must admit our need. Some interpreters suggest that Jesus’ question was meant to draw attention away from the disciples and to himself. This may be parallel with Jesus’ writing on the ground in John 8:6. We don’t know what he wrote, but we do know his actions drew attention away from the woman caught in adultery and to himself. It is a snapshot of what Jesus did for all believers on the cross.

9:17–18. The father’s intention was to bring his son to be healed by Jesus. Since Jesus was not available, he made his request to the disciples. Because Jesus had previously given the disciples authority in his name, the father’s request was not inappropriate. But the disciples were unable to meet this pressing need.

The son is described as mute and deaf (v. 25). The description of convulsions is symptomatic of epilepsy, but the father claimed he was “possessed by a spirit.” This has caused many problems for theologians over the years as they try to decide whether epilepsy is always described as demon possession. A few things can be said in response to this. (1) All sickness is not demon possession. (2) The deafness here is of demonic origin; however, not all instances of deafness are attributed to demons. (3) The seizures were the work of an unclean spirit.

Many people with epilepsy and other severe diseases have been traumatized by well-meaning but misguided people who tried to cast demons out of them. Christians need discernment, compassion, and prayer—something that Jesus pointed out in verse 29. The father’s concern for his son was genuine. His graphic detail, recounted possibly by the eyewitness Peter to Mark, shows a brokenness that looked to Jesus for healing.

9:19. Jesus’ words are an indication of God’s longsuffering patience with his wayward and unbelieving children. They remind us of the failure of the three disciples to understand Jesus’ prophecy of his death and resurrection just a little while before. Jesus took immediate action and asked that the boy be brought to him. When we face despair because the task seems too large, we should leave it in God’s hands and do the work that needs to be done.

9:20–22. The demon responded violently when it saw Jesus. This is reminiscent of Mark 5:6. Jesus’ questioning of the father was meant to bring a confession of need. It may seem a strange question. Why would the father not admit his need? And yet, many parents are blinded to disabilities. Psychologist John White admitted that when his son was born with a club foot, he literally did not see it. Denial can be a strong opponent—perhaps the only thing that can forever block Jesus’ healing touch. The Master forced the father to acknowledge that Jesus was his only hope. While the man knew this, he did not know whether this hope was enough. After all, the disciples had been unable to do anything for the son. Perhaps this had shaken his faith somewhat.

9:23–24. Jesus declared that he had the power to heal his son if the man had the faith. “If you can?… Everything is possible for him who believes,” he declared. Jesus did not mean that miracles depend on the strength of a person’s faith. We must pray always with God’s will in mind. The father confessed his belief immediately. It sprang from his heart. But he was aware that he was an imperfect human being; his recent lack of faith proved it. Therefore, he asked Jesus to heal him—the father—first. “Whatever is in me, Lord, that does not believe or want to believe, heal that first.” Like removing the log from our own eye, this request was not only appropriate but life-giving.

DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE

HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart: Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God: Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer): After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action: Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?

DAY 1

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 30:5

In a previous job, I had a boss who kept promising me a promotion if I just waited “a little longer” and “kept working hard.” That’s exactly what I did. I waited and worked. But the promotion never came. He was someone who dangled a promise in front of me, but never came through. Have you ever known someone who overpromised, then under-delivered? Maybe it was a boss. Perhaps a friend. Or maybe even a family member. Whoever it was, it can be easy to grow jaded and skeptical. To immediately assume whatever is promised won’t actually happen.

GOD DOESN’T OVERPROMISE- While people constantly disappoint us, there is one who never will: God. Today’s verse tells us that, “Every word of God proves true…” Could you imagine meeting a person like that?! Who never overpromised or made plans they couldn’t keep?

DO YOU DOUBT? So, what promises of God do you struggle with doubting? That you’re saved by the blood of Jesus alone? That Jesus is coming back for his Church? That he will answer prayer? No matter what they are, you can take refuge in the promises of God. They are sure. They never fail. They are as real as the sun above your head and the earth beneath your feet.

CHOOSE YOUR REFUGE- A refuge is “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.”

Imagine you’re in a war and being chased by vicious enemies. Ahead, there are two fortresses you can seek refuge in. One is hundreds of years old. It is built of sturdy stone and has impenetrable iron gates. It has weathered hundreds of storms and sieges in its lifetime. Then, there is another. It, too, looks impressive on the outside. But as you look closer, the gates are made of rotting wood. The bars over the windows are rusting. And there are cracks in the foundation.

Which refuge would you choose? Obviously, the choice makes itself! You would look for safety in the first fortress. As Christians, we have the same choice each day.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Mark 1:35


The Gospel of Mark is action packed. Jesus is: traveling, teaching, healing, casting out demons, rebuking Pharisees, calling people to follow him, taking authority over nature, prophesying, going to the cross, resurrecting,

and so many more incredible things.

Even though we only find him praying a few times in this Gospel—in today’s verse, in Gethsemane, and on the cross—we see his constant pattern of prayer throughout the four Gospels.

In today’s text, a key word is “solitude.” Jesus left the bustle and noise of the crowd to be alone with God—and this shaped everything he did. In fact, Jesus said in John 12:49 that he never did or said anything outside of the Father’s will. Where did he learn what the Father’s will was? In solitary prayer.

One of our great distractions is undoubtedly media delivered via the internet, the television, or even the radio. So, perhaps the best place for us to practice prayer-filled solitude with the Father is by cutting ourselves off from the noisy world. Research shows the mere presence of our smartphones in the same room decreases our ability to focus. When you go to study your Bible and pray, turn off your phones, computers, tablets, and TVs. This will help you focus on God’s presence, his voice, and his purpose for your life. It is a practical way for us to follow Jesus’s pattern of intentional withdrawal from everything but communion with God.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:43-44

Deception is Satan’s trademark, and it’s nothing new. The very first book of the Bible tells of his trickery with Eve in the Garden of Eden: He planted seeds of doubt about God’s words by asking, “Indeed, has God said ... ?” (Gen. 3:1). And this is still the devil’s primary tactic because deception blinds people to the truth.

If you’ve ever accepted a false belief or been intentionally deceived, you know how devastating it is to feel betrayed. Now imagine the utter ruination Satan causes by blinding people to the truth of the gospel. It’s hard to imagine the countless souls who will suffer eternally because of his trickery.

However, the devil doesn’t limit his efforts to preventing faith. He also works diligently to deceive believers by feeding us discouraging thoughts: he insinuates God doesn’t care when we’re going through difficulties and suggests He’s unjust for allowing our suffering. Our enemy also prompts us to dwell on the wrongs done to us or the things God hasn’t provided so we’ll hold grudges, complain, and find fault.

All this robs us of the joy, gratitude, and peace that are ours in Christ. Our first defense against deception is a mind filled with truth from God’s Word so we can discern the lies before they poison our emotions and contaminate our behavior.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 4

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

John 5:24-26

Believers in Christ often wrestle with discouragement and shame over past sins. This could then prompt doubt about God’s love, because they feel unworthy to be His child. As a result, their guilty feelings weigh them down, sap their energy, dampen their hope, and draw them away from the Lord.

Both the conscience and the Holy Spirit produce feelings of guilt within us when we sin, thereby prompting us to confess and repent. However, if we’ve trusted Jesus as Savior, there is no reason to hang on to remorse after repentance because Jesus bore the guilt for all our sins when He died on the cross.

Now we are forgiven, reconciled to the Father, and credited with Christ’s righteousness. Although we will still sin, God has given us a path to restoration and cleansing through confession (1 John 1:9). Although it’s natural to feel regret for sin, we don’t have to wallow in it. In fact, to do so is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ’s death as payment for all sin. If you are dealing with feelings of shame, confess your sins, and meditate on the redemption Christ purchased for you with His blood. Then believe God and let His truth set you free.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.

John 20:25

G. Campbell Morgan said, "If you believe in God, you sometimes wonder why He allows certain things to happen. But keep in mind that there’s a difference between doubt and unbelief. . . . Unbelief is an act of the will, while doubt is born out of a troubled mind and a broken heart."

I think sometimes we confuse doubt and unbelief. Doubt is a matter of the mind. We don’t understand what God is doing or why He is doing it. We like to call Thomas, one of the Twelve, "doubting Thomas" because he didn’t believe the other disciples when they told him Christ appeared to them in the Upper Room. He effectively said, "I’ll believe it when I see it. If I can put my hand in the wound in His side and touch the wounds in His hands, then I will believe." The next time the disciples met, Thomas was there. And who showed up? The risen Christ. Loosely paraphrased, He said, "Thomas, go for it, buddy. Here I am." But Thomas simply replied, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). In his defense, Thomas didn’t ask for any more than the other disciples had experienced. He wasn’t willing to believe something just because someone told him it was true. He wanted to know for himself. There is nothing wrong with that. When presented with the evidence, the doubter turns into the believer. That is doubt.

Unbelief, on the other hand, is a choice. Unbelief says, "I hear what you are saying, and I choose not to believe it. I reject what you are saying altogether." Unbelief is a matter of the will. It is refusing to believe God’s Word and obey what He tells us to do. It is not necessarily bad to have moments of doubt. Sometimes we need to go through the foyer of doubt to get into the sanctuary of certainty.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

Mark 9:24


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