Caleb Duncan

Remember that New Year’s Resolution you made about 11 months ago? How’s that going? How is the diet you started or the commitment you made?

As we wind down toward the end of the year, reflect on the past several months. Did you accomplish everything you wanted in your business, home, or church? 

Now, I want to be honest with you, reader. This year has gone differently than I hoped. There have been many things that crashed and burned. While many positive things have happened this year for the better, I can’t help but think that there’s been one failure after another. 

I wonder what the Bible says about failure? Quite a bit, actually. In the short space I have, let me tell you about one instance in Mark 9:14-29. It’s an incredible story about a woman whose son was possessed by a demon. As an act of faith, she brought her son to the disciples to see if they could cast it out. But things didn’t go as expected. 

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute…So I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able.†(Mark 9:17-18) 

In the Gospel stories, even before Jesus was taken to the cross, Jesus gave his disciples the authority to minister in his name without hindrance.

One day, Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2). 

This begs the question: if they were able to do this in the past, why not with a demon-possessed little boy? Why were they…unable? Have you ever felt this way? Unable? Incapable? Powerless to do anything? Do you ever just feel like an absolute failure? 

We see a small glimpse of how the disciples felt. Verse 28 says, “When he had entered the house, his disciples came to him privately and asked, “Why could we not cast it out?†

The question the disciples posed to Jesus is a familiar question that we have all asked at one point or another, especially when we experience a failure of some sort. “Why could we not?†Why didn’t things go the way that we had hoped? Why do we seem to fail? 

If we were to leave this devotional thought like this, that would be one depressing devotional. “Sometimes we just fail†seems to be an inadequate answer. We want to know, “Why do we fail?â€

Thankfully, Jesus answered his disciples. “This kind,†he replied, “Can only be cast out by prayer.†Was Jesus just giving his disciples a lesson in demonology, or was he trying to tell them a more profound spiritual truth? 

The disciples could not cast out that demon because they did not depend and trust in God. I would venture to say, with cautious boldness, that many of the failures we experience come from the fact that we did not depend on God.

Our goals, however big, will sometimes fail if we do not put God first and rely on Him for everything. There is much more to say on this topic, but I’ll close by saying: my “New Year’s Resolution†next year is to depend more on God and not myself. 

Caleb Duncan is the Director for the West Florida Baptist Association in Chipley and holds an M.A. in Ethics, Theology, and Culture from Southeastern Seminary. Email him at [email protected] or follow his Twitter @calebtduncan.