One day, the disciples were stumped by a demon. They tried to cast it out of a little boy, but it refused to budge. In desperation, the boy’s father went to Jesus and begged for help (Matt. 17:14–20).

Jesus was exasperated. “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” he exclaimed. “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and immediately it departed.

The disciples asked Jesus, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 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.”

Note that Jesus didn’t say that the disciples had no faith. He said they had “little faith.” If this was true of Peter and the disciples, then you and I have micro faith. Are you brave enough to look a demon in the eye and tell it to take a hike?

In the past, I’ve trusted God to help me give birth, find a job, get to church on time, hold my marriage together, and raise my kids. But telling off demons? For the disciples to even attempt this was remarkable.

Surely, they believed they could cast out the demon or they’d never have tried, least of all in front of all those people. So, why did Jesus become exasperated? Because he’d expected a few fishermen to give the devil his walking papers?

I think Jesus was exasperated because his disciples got cocky. They mistook courage for faith. The more they relied upon their own bravery, the less they relied on Jesus. Instead of asking Jesus why he didn’t drive the demon out, they asked why they couldn’t drive it out. They had forgotten that they’re but little children.

A few years ago, I walked into the kitchen to see my spindly little daughter preparing to lift an angry, bubbling casserole out of the hot oven. I didn’t decry an “unbelieving and perverse generation.” But I certainly yelled, “Whoa! Stop!”

You see, the disciples had no business evicting powerful demons all by themselves any more than my eight-year-old had any business extracting molten dinner from the oven. It was way out of their league. Working up the courage was all fine and dandy, but it wasn’t enough.

Faith isn’t fearlessness, and it isn’t courage. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It’s his faithful endeavor to soften our hearts, fix our eyes on Jesus, and keep our hope alive, no matter what this life throws at us.

Excerpted from Defiant Joy Copyright © 2024 by Jennifer Michelle Greenberg. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, on February 27, 2024.

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Defiant Joy: Find the Hope to Light Your Way, Even in the Darkness
Defiant Joy: Find the Hope to Light Your Way, Even in the Darkness
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