Sermon July 24, 2022: First, Pray For Your Unbelief (Pentecost 8)

Image: The Transfiguration by Raphael, Wikipedia

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/732824038

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3i007VZl6r

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen

HYMN Blessed Assurance
Bill & Gloria Gaither – Blessed Assurance (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LRI-lLYyq4

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Be Not Dismayed Whate’er Betide
The Oak Ridge Boys – God Will Take Care of You (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ORXnfjQAXA

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: First, Pray For Your Unbelief
Mark 9:2-9, 14-29, Matthew 17:19-20, 22:35-40
Series: “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.”

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Mark 9:2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

14 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.

Mark 9:28 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. ”

Matthew 17:19 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. ”

Matthew 22:35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.   – Howard Thurman

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HYMN Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Breathe On Me, Breath Of God · Steve Green
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S140Ew5PhI8

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

First, what should we pray for first?
First, pray for your unbelief.

It occurred to me this week as I was praying over and thinking over what we should talk about, it occurred to me that you and I have this beautiful opportunity: The Holy Spirit comes alongside of us. The word paraclete, that’s what it literally means. The Holy Spirit comes alongside of us with everything that we need in that moment.

That’s the whole point of these paraclete scriptures. And one of the things that we may find that we need is the faith to “pray with faith” for God to help us in our time of need. The Holy Spirit comes alongside of us with everything we need. And sometimes what we need is faith, because that faith will release the power of God for our prayers to be answered.

We’ve been talking about this concept for a while now because I think it’s so important to us today, after the day of Pentecost, after the day of Easter, and this is the season we’re in now. The Holy Spirit comes along with you all day long and is ready to give you the help that you need to love yourself when you have a problem. But not only that. If we can just sort of open our eyes to see things the way God sees when the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us and we come alongside of someone else, all of a sudden, God has the opportunity through the Holy Spirit and through us to change the lives of everyone you and I come alongside of each day. As it says in Ephesians 2:10, for we are his workmanship … God is working on us. God is working through us. We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand. Every person you come alongside of during your day, God knew that – and quite often prepares for that encounter, that conversation. And we never know whether a smile on our face, a few friendly words, might literally change that person’s life. You just don’t know.

But what the scripture seems to indicate is that God wants to work through each of us because then God is everywhere, touching thousands of people’s lives each week. Your micro-mission field, I suggest, are the people that you talk with each day. There are probably typically about a dozen people. Those are the people where God can really do something and God is at work through us.

I’d also like to suggest that the Holy Spirit frequently communicates more commonly with our subconscious mind. It is a reality. There are many, many times that you know something, but you just don’t really know it consciously, but you are because your eyes and your ears take in information that goes into your heart. And you get a sense– that’s not logical thought, but you just have a sense that something is not quite right, that something is needed here. And so, quite often, the Holy Spirit communicates through impressions, through emotions, through how we feel. And when you have that sort of feeling, when you’re next to that person, maybe God is trying to tell you something.

Well, here’s a point from James 4:2 … You do not have because you do not ask. You’re always able to question your own feelings, “Lord, what is it that I’m feeling? What is happening? I have this awareness, what does it mean?” And all of those questions are another form of perhaps the most important question, “Lord, what is your will today?” or, “Lord, how can I pray for this person? How can I pray for myself?” And you’re always able to ask, “Holy Spirit, please help me to understand this more clearly.”

And in addition to that, if you do not have the faith for prayers to be answered, you’re always welcome to ask for it. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if I should begin every prayer as I did this morning: Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief, help my faith to be stronger, help me to believe in such a way that it releases the power of God for prayers to be answered. That could be the first thing I pray as a part of every prayer. And maybe it should. Maybe it should. Help me, Lord, to see the truth. Because you see, just like an iceberg, myself, that other person, what is going on, there’s what is visible. But so much of what is the truth lies beneath just like an iceberg. Lord, help me to see the truth, help me to see what is reality, what can literally be seen. But, Lord, give me the imagination, give me the hope, give me the belief to also be able to see what could happen if our prayers were answered, how broken people could be made well, how sick people could be healed. Because, Lord, help us if all we can see is the mess that we’re in, when we also need to see how God can straighten out that mess.

We need to see that when we look in the mirror because, certainly, we’re far from perfect. But certainly, we need to be aware. Lord, what could happen if you, who helped this person with what they’re struggling with today? And it might just be that what we pray, because we can see what could be, with God’s help, could lead to a miracle that changes someone’s life.

I’d like to talk to you about an idea that I think I’m going to call the House of Prayer having two stories. And it has to do with our scripture today, which is the story of Jesus and the Mount of Transfiguration. But the two stories summarize these two commandments. We go up to the upper room to pray and to be with God. And when we do that, we fulfill the first commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And that’s where the tank of faith gets filled up. But sooner or later, we have to go down the mountain. I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures of mountains. Generally, nothing grows on top of the mountain. There’s nothing to eat on top of the mountain. There’s no running water on top of the mountain. Everything runs downhill. Everything in life happens down in the valley.

But every now and then, you need to get away from everything. Every now and then, you need to get away from everyone, even 23 kids on a VBS bus. Every now and then you need to find some peace and quiet. And there you can meet with God. And the love you have for God in your heart and your soul and your mind can strengthen. That’s the upper story in the House of Prayer.

But sooner or later, we have to go down into where life is messy and where people struggle.
And friends, life would be wonderful except for all those other people that are doing all those other things that we don’t like and we don’t want them to do. See, up on the mountain, when you’re all by yourself, usually, you can get along with the person that’s there. When you come down into the rest of the world, all of a sudden we have to cope with all these other people.

And that’s where the second commandment comes in because it’s the commandment for the lower level of the House of Prayer. How do we pray when God asks us to love our neighbor? How do we pray when God asks us to love ourselves in a world that is full of the noise and the conflict of neighbors? The House of Prayer has two stories; one is heavenly, and one is earthly.

So let’s look at this scripture. After six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him – three of the twelve disciples – and led them up a high mountain where they were all alone. And there he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus,”Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let’s put up three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah. What was Peter wanting to do? “Lord, let’s stay up here forever.” Now, that’s what came out of his mouth. But what was going on in his heart? He did not know what to say. They were so frightened.

When Jesus was transfigured before them, they became aware of Jesus as he actually is. And friends, when we spend time in prayer, when we spend time at the top of the mountain, we become aware of Jesus as he actually is: powerful and wise and able and mighty to change our lives.

But the time eventually comes. They have to come down the mountain. Before they leave, they hear this voice that a cloud appeared and covered them and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my son whom I love. Listen to him.” And notice verse 8. Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. This is the great benefit of time in prayer, time at the top of the mountain. All the distractions fall away, and all we can see is Jesus. We need that because we’re going to be headed down the mountain. We’re going to be headed down into problems.

And in fact, as they go down the mountain, they see the other nine disciples surrounded by a crowd, surrounded by the teachers of the law, and everybody’s arguing and fighting. I know I would be tempted to turn around and head back up the mountain! But Jesus comes toward the people who are struggling. Verse 16. He asked this question, “What are you arguing with them about?” And a man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.” And he goes on to describe the troubles the boy experienced. And finally, he says this, “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” And of course, the crowd all around them is finding fault with everything at everybody, which is what crowds frequently do.

But the man goes on to say these words, “But, Jesus, if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” And Jesus responds immediately, “If you can–“ now, please let these words sink in. Everything is possible. Everything is possible for one who believes. And on the spur of the moment, out of his love for his child and his anxiety and fear and worry and frustration, immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe. Help me to overcome my unbelief.”

And as I said to you earlier, I wonder if this phrase should not become a part of our prayers to continually ask, “Lord, whatever unbelief is there, help me to overcome it. Help me to overcome my unbelief.”

Jesus heals the boy. Everyone is happy except the people who wanted to fight and argue. And Jesus and the disciples leave. But later when they’re in private, Jesus has asked the question, “Why couldn’t we fix this? Why couldn’t we solve this problem? Why couldn’t we drive it out? Verse 29, he replied, this kind could come out only by prayer. You see, friends, there’s some things you can do after you spend time in prayer that you can’t do before you spend time in prayer. Sometimes there are things you can do after you spend time with God that are just beyond your ability when you rush from one thing to another in the valley and skimp or skip that time with God. Jesus replied, this kind can come out only by prayer, sufficient prayer. Before you start plowing that field, you should have the tank filled with gas. And that’s what prayer does.

In Matthew 17, Jesus gives a slightly different answer. As Jesus is explaining things, he says a variety of things. This is what Jesus says in Matthew 17– then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, why couldn’t we drive it out? And he replied, because you have so little faith. Now, they had been following him. They had more faith, but they weren’t quite there yet. It’s like saying: you’re good but you’re not that good. You’ve learned, but you’ve not learned enough. Why couldn’t we drive it out? Because you have so little faith. And Jesus goes on to say 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, if you have faith, nothing will be impossible to you. Consequently, I wonder, when we pray, should the first thing we pray, or one of the first things we pray, simply be this, “Lord, I have faith, but if I need more faith, give me that faith now. Strengthen my faith. Help me to overcome my unbelief.”

So here’s my suggestion to you, friends, for our prayers, let reality drive. If you’re going down the road, you need to see clearly what lies in front of you. And that’s how you need to steer the car. Your awareness of reality should guide you as you go through life. And of course, reality is the reality of how life is unperfect. It’s not what you wanted. It’s not what you expected. Because as the sermon last week said so dramatically, sometimes you just don’t know. Nonetheless, you need to be aware of reality.

But even more, ask God to show you clearly what could happen if God answered our prayers and intervened with that reality. Because we need to not only see the road in front of us, we need to see where it could lead with God’s help. And I hope God will help you to imagine, no matter what person you’re with, what their life would be like if our prayers were answered. And not only that, when you look in the mirror, I hope that God would help you to see what your life could be like if all of your prayers were answered. So ask the Holy Spirit to show you what could be with God’s help.

Two other things about prayer. In Luke 17:5, the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” His answer is a little unusual, just again to remind them of the power of faith, even just a little faith, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree–“ now think about it. First, it’s a boy, then it’s a mountain, now it’s a mulberry tree. Jesus said these words to them frequently to remind them of this truth. Even a small amount of faith has great power. And you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and the mulberry tree will obey you.

The apostles say, “Increase our faith.” Jesus’s way of doing that is just simply to remind them what is possible. And so I want to remind all of us, anything is possible with faith. Anything is possible.

So then Paul says what increases faith. Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” When you go up to the top of the mountain, I would encourage you to bring your Bible with you. I would encourage you to pray. And as you pray, read the words of Jesus and let them sink in. Because certainly, any prayers that Jesus prayed, we can pray. Certainly, what Jesus did, God can help us to do. And one of the things the Holy Spirit does that Jesus says in these Paraclete scriptures, we talked about it a couple of weeks ago, is the way the Holy Spirit will teach you what’s possible is to remind you what Jesus did. The way the Holy Spirit will increase your faith is to remind you what Jesus said.

And so a part of your daily prayer time, a part of your daily devotion, a part of that time you spend on the mountain top in private with Jesus Christ, a part of that time should be time where we let the Word of God come into our minds and hearts. And again, you can ask, “Holy Spirit, remind me. In this situation, what did Jesus say about it with this kind of problem? Where did that happen in the scripture?” You could ask the Holy Spirit to interpret God’s word to you. And if Paul is right, and I know he is, faith will come through our hearing as we adjust what we know to the Word of God.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, as I pray, I want to acknowledge that I believe. But I also want to acknowledge that I need help with my unbelief, whatever sort of unbelief there is, whatever amount of unbelief there is. Lord, there are some things I believe that You can do, but there are some things that it’s just not easy for me to believe. But, Lord, I pray that You will help me to learn from Your word, that You will help me to learn from those times of hearing that I spend in prayer with You, that You will help me to learn and deepen my faith so that my faith can overcome all the challenges of this world. And so, Lord, along with all the other prayers we pray, I ask that You would help us to overcome our unbelief. And I ask that for all of us in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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