The Help for Unbelief
Read Mark 9:20-24 (ESV)
And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Have you ever doubted that God could or would help you? What did you do about it?
No matter how firm our faith, we all have moments of doubt. The question isn’t if we doubt, but what we should do about our doubts. Let’s go back to the Bible for the answer on how to handle moments of weakness in our faith.
For background on today’s passage, Jesus had just come down from the mountain with Peter, James, and John after His transfiguration to find the rest of His disciples surrounded by a crowd, arguing with the scribes. Jesus asked what they were arguing about and a father stepped forward and said, “‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’ And he answered them, ‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me’” (Mark 9:14-19).
The disciples were baffled that they were not able to heal the boy while Jesus was away because Jesus had granted them the power. In Mark 3:14-15, we see Jesus give them this authority: “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.” In Mark 6:13, they were able to execute that power: “And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.”
So why weren’t they able to heal this boy? Jesus pointed to unbelief. But not just the unbelief of the boy’s father or with the nine disciples who failed at casting out the demon, but of the entire generation of Israel, and especially the lack of belief by the scribes who were probably relishing the fact that the disciples had been unsuccessful.
Then, Jesus asked the boy’s father how long he had been like this, and the father said since childhood. He pleaded with Jesus to do something to help him “if He can.” His words betrayed his doubt. So Jesus exhorted him to have faith and in the desperate father’s response is a lesson for all of us. He said, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” So Jesus rebuked the demon and restored the boy.
The father admitted that he had faith but that it was weak. But instead of lamenting his doubts and growing despondent, he turned to the only One who was able to help and asked for more faith, which is an act of faith in and of itself!
Following this, the disciples asked Jesus why they weren’t able to cast out the demon. Jesus said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29). Apparently, the disciples were trying to heal by relying on their own strength instead of seeking the power of God and it backfired. They were putting their faith in themselves to be able to heal. But the father knew he was unable to help his son, he knew his faith was weak, but he also knew that Jesus was the answer to both of those problems. He sought the Lord to both heal his son and increase his faith.
Friends, all of us have doubts. But many of us are like the nine disciples, trying to increase our own faith and solve our own problems. So often, we forget that we lack faith and the power to overcome because we don’t seek Him in prayer. Jesus said that prayer was the answer. Prayer is what strengthens our faith and demonstrates our reliance on Him. Prayer is what grows and matures us. Prayer is what keeps us in close fellowship with Him. Prayer, in and of itself, even if it is a confession of weakness and doubt, is an act of faith because it is turning to God for help.
If you are struggling with doubt, don’t despair. Seek God’s help through prayer and ask Him to increase your faith.
Lord, thank You for the privilege to turn to You in prayer. I know that prayer is powerful and effective (James 5:16) because it demonstrates our reliance on You. You are powerful and the only One able to help us. I believe in You. Help my unbelief. Amen.