"How Does He Put Up With Us?"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2006 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now do turn with me to Luke 9 once more as we consider: 'How Does He Put Up With Us?'. Let's read together verse 41: "And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?".
Let us bow together: Our Father, we thank You for the blessed Lord Jesus Christ whom we read in Your word was full of grace and truth. But Lord, we are obliged to accept everything that the Saviour taught and said to us, and we pray that we will have hearts to receive the word of God to us today. Lord, may we be able to grasp the truth that God would have us know just now, and we pray that it will make the difference in our lives. Let it never be said that the Saviour is only putting up with us, for Christ's sake we ask these things, and for His eternal glory, Amen.
Now we've read together verse 41, and I imagine, if you're like me, if those words were not spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, perhaps you would consider them to be nothing more than an expression of pompous superiority, that someone should say: 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?'. But because of who it is that speaks these words, we as Christians accept them without reservation, as we should every word that the Saviour has spoken to us. You see, we know that in comparison we are faithless and perverse when we measure ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. As Romans 3:23 says, we fall far short of the glory of God that is revealed in Him, we miss the mark.
So, in a sense, we are not surprised that the Lord should speak such harsh words to His disciples and to us. There are many harsh sayings of the Lord Jesus in the Scriptures that we have a tendency to ignore. If you read any Bible commentaries you find that often the commentators hurdle them - they're awkward! In fact, in 1983, F. F. Bruce, who would be known to some of you, wrote a book entitled 'The Hard Sayings of Jesus'. Each chapter was one of these difficult sayings of the Saviour. Some of them included in it, though we'll not consider them this morning, were where the Lord says in Matthew 10: 'Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword' - that's a strange saying for the Saviour to speak, isn't it? Luke 22, something similar: 'He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one'. Now I know that there are contexts for those statements, but nevertheless they are words that we don't often expect the Saviour to speak. Mark 7: 'Jesus said unto her', the Syrophoenician woman, 'Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs'. The Lord Jesus is equating this woman, as a Gentile, with the dogs!
Matthew 16, remember Peter confessed: 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God', after the Lord asked 'Who do you say that I am?'. Then a moment later he was dissuading the Lord Jesus from going to Calvary, and what does the Lord say to him? 'Get thee behind me, Satan!'. How would you like it if someone called you Satan? Then in Matthew 8, and we read its counterpart here in Luke 9, one of these men at the end of the chapter who has been called of the Lord Jesus Christ says: 'Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead'. Now put yourself in this man's shoes: your father is being buried today, and Jesus says 'Let the dead bury the dead, don't go to the funeral, follow me'. How would you like that?
Now we must ensure, I think, that our understanding of Christ is derived from scripture and not our own fantastic imaginations, otherwise we'll get a lopsided view of Christ, and a lopsided Christ is nothing more than an idol. We must make sure that our view of Jesus is not imbalanced. These harsh sayings were spoken by the Lord, but what further astonishes us is that we are surprised, or at least should be, to see that this frustration that the Lord Jesus expresses in verse 41 is directed towards His disciples. Now I know that it says, if you look at it, that this generation is perverse and faithless, but we have to remember that the context was the disciples' failure to cast out an evil spirit that had precipitated these remarks from the Saviour: 'You're unbelieving, you're perverse, and the whole generation as well!'.
I wonder have we fallen into this modern day evangelical trap of thinking that the Lord only has good things ever to say to His people? Where do we get those ideas from, that because we're in grace, that the Lord never has anything harsh or difficult to say to us? Now it's so incongruous to what scripture actually teaches, because the last scriptural conversation that the Lord Jesus Christ has with the church was largely a stern reprimand. The letters to the seven churches in the book of the Revelation, five out of the seven letters told those individual churches to repent or there would be serious consequences. Even today we never fail to shudder at the words that the Lord Jesus spoke to the church at Laodicea, Revelation 3 verses 15 and 16: 'I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth'.
So we have to conclude that there are times when the Lord Jesus has harsh and difficult words to speak to Christians. He speaks them even in a frustrated manner: 'How long shall I be with you?'. One translation puts it like this, you may have it: 'How long will I stay with you and put up with you?'. We're not accustomed to think of the Lord Jesus in this light: frustrated with us, irritated, disturbed, annoyed, dissatisfied. Now please don't misunderstand what I'm saying, I'm not suggesting in any shape or form that the Lord spoke these words unduly harshly, or in an extreme or unreasonable manner. But surely you'll have to agree with me that we tend to think of the Lord's winsome characteristics, His grace, His love, His gentleness - we're not accustomed to thinking of our Lord as being frustrated with His people, and rebuking His people!
This is what we have, I believe, before us in Luke chapter 9, specifically in verse 41 and the verses that follow. He is grieved at the failure of His followers, and He says: 'How long do I have to put up with you?'. Now, what was He putting up with? Let me share this with you from the verses, 41 through to the end of the chapter, under five headings - five things that He was frustrated with. The first thing was their unbelief and failure, and the Lord is still, I believe, frustrated with our unbelief and failure. In verses 37 to verse 42 there is this man who brings his only son, and he's possessed with a devil. Here is a great comment that gives us insight into the problem that there was that caused frustration in the Saviour's heart, verse 40, this man said: 'I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not'.
Now let me ask you: how many could say this of us today as the people of God? How many among the world, whether they're poor or needy or lost, or demonically troubled, could say to our Lord Jesus Christ about us as His children: 'I besought them that they should do this, but they could or they would not!'. Think about this for a moment: Christ's assessment of His own disciples agreed with the world's. He agreed with this man's assessment that they could not do it. The difference is, Jesus diagnosed the reason why they could not do it: faithless and perverse, verse 41. They were paralysed by unbelief and by failure, and the consequence of unbelief and failure is a lack of power - and that's what these disciples displayed.
I want you to grasp the Saviour's attitude here: He is astounded at these disciples because, if you look at the first verse of chapter 9, 'Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases'. He had given His apostles authority to cast out demons, to heal diseases, and here they are and they're too weak to cast out one devil from one boy. Why were they so weak? Jesus tells us, and if you look at the other Gospel narratives that record the same story in Matthew 17 and Mark 9, you find that in these three reports, including Luke 9, there are three things that were lacking in the disciples lives that caused them not to have power to cast out this demon.
Here's the first: faith. The second: prayer. And the third: fasting. When we look at Matthew 17, another counterpart to this story, verses 19 to 21, we read: 'Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast this devil out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting'.
Now what does the Lord indicate here? He indicates that at some point the disciples had allowed their devotional life to slip. Their discipline had disappeared. What the Lord is teaching us here is that if we do not exercise faith, through prayer, through fasting, that communicate dependence upon our God - and faith, of course, is claiming the promises of God, what God has spoken, 'Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' - we will be powerless, we will be helpless and hopeless. If we let our disciplines slip we'll be useless to the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is what frustrated Him. The Lord was wanting them to realise: it doesn't matter what gifts you have, as Hebrews 11 verse 6 tells us, without faith is impossible to please God. 'For he that cometh to God', if you want God to do things for you, 'you must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him' - belief, prayer, fasting.
Unbelief has always been the besetting sin of God's people, and it has also been the cause of provocation and frustration to the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews, talking of the Jews history, said in Hebrews 3:19 that they could not enter the land because of their unbelief. God kept them out of Canaan, wandering in the wilderness, because of their faithlessness. Hebrews 4 verse 2: 'For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it'. The word of God in the wilderness didn't do them much good, because they didn't believe God, they didn't mix God's word with faith. Hebrews 4:11, Paul says - the author to the Hebrews I believe is Paul - 'Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief'.
Unbelief is what kept them out. Moses tells us in Numbers 14:11: 'The LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?'. Even Paul, when he was preaching to the Jews in the book of Acts chapter 13 verse 18, said that 'about the time of forty years suffered God their manners in the wilderness'. God suffered the Israelites, He put up with them - but there were times, like the Lord Jesus I'm sure, that His thoughts were: 'How long shall I put up with you?'. Their unbelief and failure frustrated God, and this is exactly what is happening here in the Saviour. Indeed, in Mark chapter 6 we have a similar incident, where the Lord Jesus was ministering around His home district in Galilee. It says that when He came to Nazareth that 'He could there do no mighty work', no miracle, 'save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief'. He marvelled because of their unbelief, He was astounded!
Now we haven't got time to go into all the reasons why this was, and I'm not suggesting that their unbelief limited the power of God in the Lord Jesus - no - but the point is this: He could not do a mighty miracle here because He would not, because they weren't coming to Him in faith. We know that there's a principle in the Scriptures that when we accept light from God He gives us more light, but there wasn't a willingness to accept God's power in this people - probably because Jesus had grew up among them: 'Is not this Mary's son?'. The prophet was without honour in His own country, but the Lord wasn't going to respond because they would not believe - and He marvelled at it!
Now, many of us younger people have been raised in an environment of scepticism of the supernatural. In school and, sadly I would have to say, in church there is a doubt, a cynicism when it comes to God moving in our day and age in a supernatural way, and that can breed unbelief in us. We don't believe God can when God wills. But also there's failure in our lives, moral and spiritual failure, there's sin, there's also a slipping of our spiritual disciplines, prayer, scripture reading, fasting, these things that increase faith within us - and because of that, there are not people today saying that they marvel at the great things that God has done. Verse 43, when Jesus did these things all were amazed at the mighty power of God - but that doesn't happen much today, does it? That's why the Lord said to Thomas: 'Thomas, be not faithless, but believing'.
C. H. Spurgeon said: 'Every other crime touches God’s territory; but unbelief aims a blow at his divinity, impeaches his truth, denies his goodness, blasphemes his attributes, maligns his character; therefore God, of all things, hates first and chiefly, unbelief, wherever it is'. The apostles came to the Lord in Luke 17 and said: 'Lord, increase our faith' - and could it be, I believe it is so, in my life and in all our lives in this day and age, that the Lord Jesus is frustrated with our unbelief? Could we get to a place where we could say, like Wesley:
'Give me the faith which can remove
And sink the mountain to a plain;
Give me the childlike praying love,
Which longs to build Thy house again'.
Is He frustrated at our unbelief and our failure? Well, then secondly we find in verses 43 to 45, He was frustrated at their spiritual blindness, and He's frustrated at ours too. You see, the Lord came away from this demonic incident, and He used the disciples' failure - as He, incidentally, would use all our failures - as an opportunity to teach them a lesson. He took the twelve aside, and He begins to talk to them about how He would have to go to the cross and die - for, after all, in the context, the cross is the place where the devil and all the demonic world will be defeated, the deadly blow to Satan and his emissaries would take place at the cross. We know that from John 12: 'Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me'. Colossians 2:15 tells us that He: 'spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it'.
So He was teaching them this lesson, but they just couldn't get it. They were spiritually blind. Now let me ask you: how do you fare when it comes to spiritual perception? I have to say it: most are pathetic today when it comes to spiritual discernment. There is little discernment in this day and age in which we live. Ephesians 4:14 talks about some who are children, 'tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive'. But I want you to see that it was because of their lack of faith, their lack of prayer, their lack of power that they were falling for every trick in the enemy's book! Some people don't understand what they possess in Christ, these disciples didn't realise - or at least weren't believing enough - that they had power over the demonic world.
We sometimes don't realise, as Ephesians 1:3 says 'We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places' - but there are other Christians who not only don't realise what they possess, but they don't realise the victory that the cross has given to them! The cross has given us victory over the world, over the flesh, and over the devil. Yet many, as Peter says, are still entangled and overcome by these things - is that you today? You lack spiritual perception, you've got spiritual blindness - or at least if you're having victory in most of your life, there is a blind spot where you don't seem to be able to see the light. My friend, could it be that you've never really entered into Calvary victory? That we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us! It's not about struggling, it's about believing that when Jesus died He nailed my sin to that tree, and I died with Him, and when He rose again I rose with Him! Are you living in that victory? Or is the Lord frustrated as He looks down upon you today, because you're so blind to these facts? Do you think it frustrates the Good Shepherd to look upon the sheep for which He died, and see them caught in a thousand snares? I think it frustrates Him.
Many of the problems that we have are a direct result of spiritual blindness, a direct result of not understanding what the Lord has done for us, what the Lord has given to us. The Lord would say to us in Hebrews 5 and verse 12: 'For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat' - spiritually blind. Are you blind to these spiritual things because you have lost your belief, you have lost your faith, you've fallen into failure, your disciplines have disappeared?
Thirdly, their pride frustrated the Lord Jesus. Verses 46 and 48, they saw others who were using the name of Christ in an authentic manner, but they deemed that because they were not following with those disciples - the twelve - that they mustn't have been correct. Now we see - and this is what I want you to observe - that the problem that was underlying their unbelief and blindness was pride. They didn't believe, they didn't exercise prayer and fasting, they didn't seek God for spiritual perception because they believed they were alright. Incidentally, pride is the seed and embryo sin that is the beginning of every sin.
Think of the context for a moment. Imagine where these disciples have come from. At the beginning of the chapter, verses 10 to 17, they observed the Lord Jesus miraculously feeding 5000 men. Then in verses 28 to 36, you see the Lord with James, John and Peter up the Mount, and He was transfigured before them. They saw this unbelievable supernatural scene. Now they have heard the Master's judgment upon their failure and faithlessness regarding this demonic child, and they have now received also a message concerning the cross - and all they're concerned with is: 'But who is the greatest among us?'. What pride! As the saying goes: 'There is none so blind as them that cannot see'.
You know there's no greater obstacle to the display of God's power among God's people than this attitude of pride, the attitude that says: 'We have it made'. I believe that this is rampant among evangelicals today, particularly in the conservative wing that we reside. They wouldn't articulate this by the way, but in mind and heart, and by default it is evident in their practice, they are saying: 'We don't need to have faith, we have the faith once delivered to the saints, there's our faith. We don't need to exercise faith, we don't need to pray and fast, God has given us all the promises. We don't need to see any more than we see already!'. But here's the question: how does Christ see us?
The other church that said they needed nothing was Laodicea in Revelation 3, they said: 'I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and you know not', Christ said, 'You're wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see'. You're not seeing the way I'm seeing!
They had 'I' trouble. As Robbie Burns said: 'O, for the gift to see ourselves as others see us'. O, for the gift of grace to see ourselves as Christ sees us. How do you think He sees you this morning? How does He see me? How does He want to see you? Is He frustrated with you, or does He see you as a little child? This is what His message was: do you want to know what you should be like? Not fighting among yourselves about who is the greatest! He brings a little child, and He says: 'If you want to inherit the kingdom, the greatest in the kingdom will be like this little one'. 'The example of greatness in my kingdom', Jesus is saying, 'is a little child, someone who is helpless, someone who is dependent upon others, someone who is without status, someone who is living by faith'.
He was frustrated and putting up with their unbelief and their failure, with their spiritual blindness, with their pride - then we see in verse 49, I've referred to it already, verses 49 to 56, their lack of love. Now, of course, the disciples mustn't have had much love to one another, because they wouldn't have been arguing over who was the greatest among them if they had - but they hadn't much love toward other brothers. I referred to these other folk who were using the name of Christ. I think John, perhaps, was trying to impress the Lord Jesus by saying: 'They don't belong to us', but Jesus was not impressed. Then we see that they had a lack of love towards others, because when they came to the Samaritans who would not accept Jesus' ministry because they perceived that He was wanting to go to Jerusalem, He was travelling through Samaria to go there - the Sons of Thunder, James and John, showed their true nature. Possibly because they have already seen Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, it reminded them of how Elijah behaved on one occasion, and they thought: 'We'll imitate him, we'll call down fire from heaven to devour these Samaritans!'.
How self-deluded they were! They thought that they could imitate Elijah, and they couldn't even cast out one demon from a child. You know, sometimes how we view ourselves is vastly different to how the Lord sees us, how the Lord assesses us. Do we have a view of ourselves, we think we're Elijahs, like James and John, when really we couldn't cast out one demon from a child? Their lack of love was evident in this fact, and also let me say it was evident towards those that were lost - a lack of love. Verse 56, Jesus had to rebuke them and say: 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them'. 'You're wanting to wipe these people off the face of the earth like Jonah, and as Elijah did in a different context; but do you not know the grace of God, do you not understand that I am come to save men's lives, not to destroy it!'.
It's interesting, when you go into Acts chapter 8, you find there that the Samaritans, the arch-enemies of the Jews, would be reached by the Gospel and would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour - but think on this: if it had been left up to James and John, the Sons of Thunder, they would all have been in hell. How do we react towards the lost? What is our attitude to our enemies, even our enemies in the State, or whatever we want to view them as? How do we love them? Does our lack of love toward our brethren and toward others, the lost, does it frustrate Jesus Christ the Son of God? It's possible! I think it's inevitable!
Then fifthly and finally, the Lord was frustrated at their unbelief and failure, their spiritual blindness, their pride, their lack of love - then in verses 57 to 62, their lack of dedication. We see here three potential disciples, but their problem was that they failed to meet the conditions that were laid down by the Master. The first, Matthew tells us, was a Scribe. He volunteered himself to follow the Lord, and then all of a sudden he heard the cost: 'Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests', the Lord Jesus said, 'the Son of Man has not where to lay his head'. 'Are you willing to forsake all and follow me?', in other words, that would mean, for him, forsaking everything, even his home. He loved comfort too much, he loved himself too much, and he couldn't dedicate himself to such.
Then the second was called by Jesus, there's a difference there - but he was rejected then by Jesus, because he would not take up his cross and die to himself. As one author says: 'He was worried about somebody else's funeral when he should have been planning his own'. Jesus said: 'Let the dead bury the dead, I want you to die to me, spiritually. Let dead unregenerate people get on with burying their own, but you follow me!'. That was a hard saying, wasn't it? Now please don't think that the Lord Jesus here is promoting callousness towards family or a dishonouring of our parents, but He was teaching them that we must never permit our love for family or friends to weaken our love for Christ. I say to you: those first two men, one was living for comfort; the second was living for family - and two of the biggest obstacles to dedicating ourselves to Christ in the church in the 21st century is love of comfort and love of family. Comfort and family come before Christ - now brethren, that is not right!
I know family is important, and I know family ought not to be neglected at the expense of many other things, but we need to realise that many are just living for family - and Jesus says in Luke 14:26: 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple'. Warren Wiersbe says: 'We should love Christ so much, that our love for family would look like hatred in comparison'. We don't literally hate our family, but our love for Christ should be so all-consuming that everything else - though we love them too - pales into insignificance in comparison.
Are you frustrating the Lord Jesus because you're just living for yourself, for your comfort? Are you frustrating the Lord Jesus because you're just living for your family? Then the third, he volunteered but he found that he couldn't follow, because as he began to follow he was looking back instead of looking forward. His heart was not with the Lord Jesus, his heart was with the ploughing. I'll tell you this much: there's a lot of men and women in Christendom, and probably in this church, and all they live for is their work, their employment, putting in the hours, bringing in the pay. I'm telling you now: that frustrates Jesus Christ.
Is it any wonder the labourers are few? It would appear from this passage that all the teaching that these disciples had received at the feet of Jesus, it did them little good. They lacked faith, they lacked power, they lacked perception, they lacked humility, they lacked love and dedication - and it grieved Christ. He said again in Luke 14:27: 'Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple'. Verse 33: 'So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple'. Is it any wonder that it says in verse 41: 'How long shall I put up with you?'?
Friends, now don't misunderstand what I'm saying this morning, I'm speaking as much to my own heart as to yours - but how do you think the Lord Jesus is putting up with you? How do you think He's putting up with your unbelief? Your failure? Your lack of faith? Your lack of prayer? Your spiritual blindness? Your pride? Your lack of love towards the brethren and towards others who are lost? What about your lack of dedication? Your love for comfort, and your love for family, and your love for work that out-scales your love for Him? Would He have to say to you today: 'You cannot be my disciple'?
It was an article written by an atheist that spurred C.T. Studd, the great cricketer and wealthy intellectual, to give himself an all out dedication to Christ. I'm going to read this article of an atheist to you, listen: 'If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, then religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I would labour in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences would never stay my hand or seal my lips. Earth, its joys and it griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone and on the immortal souls around me soon to be everlastingly happy, or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?''.
I think the atheist had it. I think the atheist understood what frustrates Christ more than some of us do. Yet all that these people lacked is provided in grace - 2 Timothy 1:7: 'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and self-discipline'. The very things that they lack, Christ could give them, but they just wouldn't accept it by faith. Friend, let me ask you: is Jesus blessing you or is He bearing with you? Is Jesus pouring out His love on you, or is He putting up with you? Are you a joy to Jesus, or are you breaking His heart?
Lord Jesus, help us to be Your disciples, to deny ourselves, to take up the cross, to lose our lives in this world that we might gain them in the next. Lord, this is all there is worth living for, worth dying for - but yet, Lord, we get so distracted, and we believe that You get so frustrated. Lord, we pray that we will get our eyes off other things and look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Lord, do something this morning in all our hearts, for Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "How Does He Put Up With Us?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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