What To Do in the Face of a Discipleship Fail


October 5, 2018

Mark 9:14-20

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.  A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 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.”

“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.” 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.


136, Transfiguration one day and trouble the next. Life ever moves from mountain top experiences to chaotic messes in the valleys; even for Jesus. Why should it be different for us.

Understand the situation here. Jesus left the nine disciples for a short time away. While he was gone, the “feds” showed up on their “gotcha” campaign to continue their investigation into this exciting upstart movement afoot in Galilee. The pressure was on, and what came forward but another impossible situation. Could these disciples get it done? No. In the wake of their failure the religious officials pounced and an argument broke  out.

137. This is a classic picture of every day life. The powers of darkness meet up with the presence of God in the midst of human pain and all of this inside a larger context of conflict. This is what the powers of darkness do. They foment chaos, confusion and conflict while exploiting peoples problems and amplifying their pain. Multiply this by a few hundred million and you get a pretty good picture of the world we live in. Transfiguration mountains are the exception on the still broken side of the not yet Kingdom. Still, we must be good news people at work in the midst of what is so often a very bad news situation.

It’s just so easy to become pessimistic, because we know all too well the situation of the disciples who couldn’t quite get it done. In the face of so much unresolved pain and unhealed suffering it’s all too easy to slip into pessimistic attitudes and cynical spirits. We must rebuke these responses in ourselves the minute we detect them rising up. Why? Because they are toxic to faith.

138. So how does faith respond in the face of fails. While we know pessimism isn’t the answer, neither is optimism. In between those poles lives perhaps the worst response of all: a defeated spirit of resignation. Here’s my prescription in the face of this kind of fail:

1. Learn from Jesus in the face of failure. Tomorrow he will teach us something about this situation.

2. Get back up and get on the horse again. Failure is going to happen. We don’t have to accept failure but neither do we need to be surprised by it. It’s the nature of the game when you are dealing with rogue satanic forces. Jesus is going to win the war, but the troops are going to lose some battles along the way. There will be discipleship fails. The team will lose some contests. Faith forges on in the face of failure wiser for the battles ahead.

3. Let failure take its toll on our self confidence because what we need more is God confidence. When self-confidence fails it gives rise to humility, and when God-confidence rises, boldness is born. This is precisely the posture of discipleship Jesus wants for his disciples: humble boldness. It’s the powerfully beautiful convergence of poverty of spirit, meekness and purity of heart. This is a learned disposition only Jesus can teach us and once we learn it we will realize only the Holy Spirit can empower its implementation in our lives.

4. And sing this song. . . . . a lot.


Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of failure, because as my self-confidence decreases my confidence in you rises. Save me from the twin traps of pessimism and optimism. Just give me faith. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. For the glory of your name, Jesus. Amen.


Where do you find yourself failing in your discipleship at the moment?

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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