Volume. XXXii, No. 7
Sunday, 12 August 2018

The Empowered Christian (Mark 9: 14 – 29) – Part 3

(This edited message was preached by Elder Colin Gan on The Lord’s Day 10 June 2018.)

In Part 1 and Part 2 we firstly reflected on empowerment and disempowerment in the Christian life by looking into the characters involved in this passage. Secondly, we saw that faith is essential for empowerment. We will begin with the first half of the third point today, with the conclusion of the article presented next week.

  • Empowerment Comes from Depending on God in All Things (vv. 28-29)

Now, there is a relationship between faith in God and dependence on God.  We may believe in God, that He exists and has the power to help us, but we might not depend on Him.  “Is this possible?”, you might ask.  Yes, very much so.  This is the false doctrine of “salvation by works!”  Those who adhere to this (whether deliberately or unknowingly) are those who seek to do some form of penance for their sins.  They have to work out their own salvation even if Christ has already paid the price.  It is like one who has wronged someone, and that someone says, “Be at peace.  I forgive you” but the one forgiven says, “No, no, I must make it right with you!”  It is a matter of pride for them.  They depend on their own abilities and so reject the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, when we have faith in God and are dependent on Him, we become like the fruit bearing branch that is engrafted to the vine.  We read Jesus’ words in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”  The branch (which is us) is totally dependent on the vine (which is Christ), and only then are we empowered to bring forth much fruit.

I must at this point also mention John 15:7, where Jesus also says, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”  Here is a reference of Jesus’ words abiding in us.  This refers to the knowledge and understanding of the Bible, which leads to faith for Romans 10:17 tells us, “… faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  The conjunction “and” between abiding in Christ and His words abiding in us implies that both are of equal importance and they are not separable.  So, empowerment requires both faith (which comes from knowing the Scriptures) and dependence on God.  With this in mind, we return to our narrative, where I will take faith as a given and elaborate more on the dependence on God in all things.

When the Disciples failed or were rebuked by Jesus for their faithlessness, they did not get upset or angry with Jesus.  Instead they did three things:

They stayed with Jesus

When we are rebuked, it is not uncommon for us to become upset and often we don't wish to be in the presence of the one who rebuked us.  We may become upset and even angry as we try to justify what we have done (even if it was wrong or our omission).  But probably they had come to know Christ personally, as they lived and followed Him in His earthly ministry and understood that all Christ does is for a good purpose; and when He rebukes, it is a cause for reflection that we might be corrected.

So, when things seem bad, when we are upset or angry, when we are anxious and afraid, when we are disappointed, discouraged or desperate, stay with Jesus.  He knows exactly our situation and how we feel; take it to the Lord in prayer.  The source of power is Jesus, who will strengthen us. 

They humbled themselves before Jesus

Nobody likes to be embarrassed or rebuked because these are offensive to our pride.  We do not like to be laughed at or to be made to look small.  But for the Disciples, there was nothing they needed to hide from Jesus as He knew them through and through.  What is there to be proud of before Jesus when He clearly sees how full of sin and shame we are?  Let us learn to humble ourselves before Jesus as only then can the Holy Spirit work in us to teach and empower us to be more like Christ.

When the Disciples were privately with Christ, they did not make excuses for their faithlessness or weaknesses.  There was no seeking of self-justification.  In the same way, we need to stop making excuses or blaming others for our failings before God.  If we are to receive help, we must first admit that we are in need of help.

They sought to know why they were powerless

Knowing why we are weak will often help us understand what we need to do to address our weaknesses.  I'm not sure whether the term "root-cause analysis" is familiar to you, but in engineering, when things go wrong it is often necessary to do a root-cause analysis to determine how it went wrong in order to implement the proper corrective action to prevent such things from happening again.  Simplistically it requires us to drill down by repeatedly asking the question "why?" as we interrogate the answers we get from the initial and subsequent "whys" until we are down to the base answer which is the true cause (usually at least five "whys" later or when the answer to another "why?" is not forthcoming).

And so the Disciples wanted to know why they could not cast out the evil spirit.  They had had no problems doing so in the past when Jesus sent them out through the towns as mentioned in Luke 9:1-6, so why were they powerless in this instant?  They didn't have to do a root-cause analysis because Jesus cut to the heart of matter (the root-cause) when He said, "... This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29).

How much time do we spend in prayer and fasting before God?  The power to live an empowered Christian life is proportional to how much time we spend in prayer and fasting - spend little time and we are weak Christians; spend more time with God and we mature and become stronger Christians, able to withstand the tempests of the world thrown against us.  It is not left to us to judge others, but it is left to us to judge ourselves regarding the state we are in.  Maybe we need to apply some root-cause analysis to ourselves?


To be continued…

More Lively Hope



  • Congratulations to Pastor David Weng & congregation of Providence BPC on their 4th Anniversary Thanksgiving today. Their Thanksgiving Service starts at 2pm.
  • Coupons for Missions Fair are on sale starting today at Fellowship Hall.
  • Those who have completed their Basic Bible Knowledge course & would like to be baptised, re-affirmed or transfer their membership, please see any of the Session members.
  • New Basic Bible Knowledge Class will commence soon. If interested, please inform any Session member ASAP.
  • Lunch Duty: This week: VFG. Next week: YAF.


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Providence BPC’s 4th Anniversary Thanksgiving.
  • Visitors & Church activities in the past week.
  • God’s daily provision, guidance & protection.
  • Journey mercies: those who have travelled.



  • Healing: Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev George van Buuren; & others in afflictions.
  • God’s comfort in their grief: Sis Siew Ling Teh & family.
  • Missions: Rev David Koo & ministry; Life University (Sihanoukville).
  • Year 12 students as they prepare for exams.
  • God’s provision of funds for our church missions & building extensions.
  • Journey mercies: those who are travelling.





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