Get to the Root

This post is based on a message from Pastor Todd Cosenza, given at Hope Church on Sunday, April 14, 2024. Click the link at the bottom of the page to watch the entire message.

As humans, we tend to ignore the root of our issues. It’s easy to do because generally speaking, roots are not easily seen. Just like the roots of a tree are hidden in the ground, the roots of our problems are often hidden, therefore we tend to not think about them. Paul the Apostle said what we can see is temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). Often what we cannot see is what matters. This is why Jesus wants to get to the root. Let’s look at how Jesus got to the root of a boy’s problem in Matthew 17.

“When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’” (Matthew 17:14-16 NIV)

This man’s son was having epileptic seizures, something outside of his physical control. He was suffering greatly. The man brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples but they could not heal him. The issue was the boy didn’t actually need healing; he needed deliverance. The disciples were going after the wrong root. They were going after a physical root (a disease), but it was in fact a spiritual root (a demon). The father said the demon tried to throw the boy into fire or water to destroy him. This is what demons do. They try to get people to do things that are destructive to their lives. Sometimes it’s a horrible thought or a destructive desire.

You don’t have to accept every thought that comes across your mind.

Don’t settle for any thought that’s not in line with God’s will for your life. Be tenacious enough to be a good steward of your mind. Sometimes the enemy will speak negative/toxic thoughts to us. He is testing us because he knows if we accept the thoughts, they will go down deep into the soil of our life and take root and grow toxic fruit. This is why we must refuse and reject thoughts from the enemy. 

“‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to Me.’” (Matthew 17:17 NIV)

Jesus had a strong reaction for a reason. He had already given His disciples authority to drive out demons, but they weren’t using that authority. Let’s look back a few chapters to Matthew 10.

“Jesus called His twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Matthew 10:1 NIV)

He’s telling His disciples they were unbelieving, and their unbelief was perverse to Him. He wasn’t upset because they weren’t using what they didn’t have. They weren’t utilizing something they did have. When God’s people don’t walk in the authority He’s already given us, He has the right to be upset with us. It is a perverse thing to the Kingdom of God that an innocent little boy would be controlled by a destructive spirit while God’s people are unable or unwilling to deal with it, to use the authority they’ve been given — letting a little evil demon have its way in the life of a little boy. If this situation is perverse in heaven, it should be perverse to God’s people on earth as well. 

“Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.”  (Matthew 17:18 NIV)

The New Testament has a few different Greek words for “healed”:

  1. Iaomai – a supernatural miracle, something that could never happen in the natural. 
  2. therapeuó – the body returning to its natural state, assuming its natural healthy place. 

In verse 18 when it says the boy was healed at that moment, the Greek word therapeuó is used, from where we derive the English word therapeutic. When Jesus delivered the boy from the demon, his body returned to its natural, healthy state as God designed it. When Jesus addressed the correct root of the problem, the boy’s body naturally returned to a healthy state. This is why it is important to address the root of our issues, and not just how we feel. 

Jesus was not just interested in helping the boy feel better in the moment. The moment of deliverance may have felt uncomfortable for the boy as the demon came out of him (often times people will convulse or scream as a demon leaves). Jesus did not prioritize the boy’s feelings; He prioritized his freedom. 

Good feelings are not God’s priority for us. Freedom is God’s priority for us. 

Sometimes we focus on our feelings. We want God to help us feel better in the moment, but a change in feelings may not deal with the root of the issue. Jesus wants to get to the root of the issue and bring us freedom, even if it means some temporary discomfort. Before He brings an axe to the root of the tree, He may bring a shovel first to uncover the roots and expose the real problem. Once we are free, good feelings will follow.

“Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’” (Matthew 17:19 NIV)

The disciples were wise to ask Jesus why they failed to help the boy. We should be like the disciples and ask why there is no change when we are praying for change. Don’t shrug it off and assume “this horrible thing must be part of God’s plan for my life.” There is no shame in asking the Lord to show you what the root is. Sometimes we need to repent for just going after the fruit — the symptoms, the pain, the emotions we feel — in our prayers. God’s priority is about bringing a life change at the root level. We should pray, “Lord, bring Your shovel, bring Your axe. Get to the root of any issue in my life.“

“He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith….’” (Matthew 17:20a NIV)

Jesus got to the root of the boy’s problem; now He is getting to the root of the disciples’ problem. The word used in verse 20 for “little faith” refers to the quantity or number of times their faith had been applied. (See this explanation of “little faith” used in Matthew 17:20.) So what Jesus said can be paraphrased, “Because you’ve used your faith so little.”

“‘…For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.’”  (Matthew 17:20b ESV)

It’s not about the size of our faith, because every believer has faith (Romans 12:3). Even a tiny mustard seed of faith can move a mountain. It’s about how much we’ve used the faith that we have.

Here is something to consider. Geologically, mountains have roots. As the pressures of moving tectonic plates in the earth causes the inner rock and sediments to be forced up past the earth’s surface creating the mountains, those rocks and sediments form literal roots underneath the mountains that go very deep into the earth’s mantle. It’s these geological roots that keep mountains from buckling under their own weight.

When Jesus says a mustard seed of faith can move mountains, He is implicitly saying that putting our small faith into action can not only move mountains but also pull them up by their geologic roots! We can use our faith to remove the roots of mountain-sized problems!

Whatever size faith you have, use it. 

The little boy had a demon and not just a disease — this was the root of his problem. Jesus had given His disciples authority and they weren’t using it — this was the root of their problem. Jesus always wants to get to the root of every issue. He wants to get below the surface to the root and not just deal with the fruit. If we change the root, the fruit will change as well.

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