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Help My Unbelief
After Jesus’s return from the Mount of Transfiguration, He is met by His disciples and what would seem like a mob.
What happened is that a father brought to Jesus his son to be healed saying, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” (Mark 9:17-18 NKJV)
The father went on to say later than it would throw him into either fire or water to destroy him (Mark 9:22).
Now by the description given of this boy’s condition, medical science would list this as a severe form of epilepsy seeing that these seizures happen almost anywhere and at any time where he would fall into fires and get burned, or falling into water where he could drown.
When I look at this explanation and how we look upon illnesses and diseases, it would seem that we really haven’t progressed as far as people would like to think. Clearly humanity has taken great strides in the area of medical science, but they have left out the spiritual equation. They deal with the physical and emotional, but never consider the spiritual in their diagnoses.
In going through the concept of providing spiritual first aid in my next book, what I have found is that many doctors are beginning to change their tune in this area treating the whole person, that is, body, soul, and spirit, and to separate one from the other, which is what has been done, does more harm than good.
We kind of get the same idea with this father and his son. It seems like he visited all the doctors in the land, but nothing could be done for his son, and this had been going on for some time, seeing as the father said it had been happening from the boy’s childhood.
Now, when Jesus came near it says about the boy, “Immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.” (Mark 9:20b NKJV) But how do we know it is spiritual and not just the medical condition of epilepsy? By the words Jesus used.
“‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him.” (Mark 9:25b-26a NKJV)
Now, the father also used the description of a mute spirit, that is, he had no idea what was causing this boy’s condition, nothing and no one had revealed it. And many times, this is what is going on in our lives. We have no idea, and nothing seems to work.
But from Jesus’s words, it was clear that what caused the boy to fling himself onto the ground and foam at the mouth wasn’t epilepsy; rather it was a demonic spirit.
But prior to casting out the demonic spirit, Jesus did something very interesting. He didn’t immediately cast it out, but rather He looked at the father and said,
“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NKJV)
And here is where we really need to stop and look at what the father said. He was completely and totally honest. He admitted that he had unbelief, that he didn’t have complete faith and trust.
“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24 NKJV)
What was it that he didn’t quite believe? Was it that his son could be healed? Up to this point nothing and nobody was able to help. Maybe he didn’t believe that God could or would heal his son, or was his doubt in Jesus?
Guess what, we don’t know. But Jesus healed his son without there being the type of faith that one would think. Even prior to the healing, Jesus said to the people around, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Mark 9:19 NKJV)
And how can we proceed in understanding this healing and the faith that it required seeing that Jesus said that if he believed that all things were possible, and the father clearly said that he had his doubts. So why did Jesus heal this man’s son?
Let me just give you what I believe from what Jesus did. I think it had nothing to do with the boy’s faith, because clearly, he was controlled by the demonic spirit. I think it had everything to do with the father, but not his faith, but rather his honesty.
You see, we’re no different than this father. Yes, we believe. When we came to faith in Jesus Christ, making Him our Savior and Lord, we came by grace through faith, the Apostle Paul said (Ephesians 2:8-9).
But we still harbor these nasty little doubts that maybe we can’t be healed, that we can’t get out of this debt, or through these times of brokenness. So, what I see from our story is that we just need to get honest with God about our doubts. And why not? God already knows what they are, and sometimes I think He’s waiting for us to be honest with Him and with ourselves so He can move into our doubts and fears, and produce a miracle.
Now, I’m not saying this is or will always be the case, because it is through times of difficulties and trials that God tests our faith to see if we will continue to believe, but can we just be honest, and quit trying to be these super spiritual Christians that we think God only moves through and upon?
And so, Jesus acted upon the father’s honesty about his doubts and fears, and guess what, there was no naming or claiming.
And so, my question is, “Will We Believe?” And I’d like to look at four areas with you that I think we need to get settled.
1. God Will Intervene
Now, what we need to believe is that God sees what we’re going through and that He hears our cries.
Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord promised that while they were going to be in exile, He would deal with their enemies, and that He would also restore them.
“‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 30:17a NIV)
We have to believe that God isn’t sitting out there aloof and apart from our daily problems and difficulties, but that He knows and cares for us, and will come close and deliver.
Now, this is something that King David absolutely relied upon, even though His darkest moments.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
When David feigned madness in order to escape death, afterwards he said,
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry … The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:15, 17 NKJV)
And here’s the point, not only did David know it, that is, he had the mental understanding and the knowledge about God and His faithfulness, but He had personally experienced it, and that is what God desires for us to believe for our lives as well. That no matter what we’re going through, God will intervene, not so much in the way we would like, but in a way that He knows that is best for us.
2. When We Don’t See
Will we believe in God’s promises even though they have yet to come about?
To His disciple Thomas who doubted, Jesus said, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NKJV)
But I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like to wait. If God said it, I believe it, and I want it now.
Waiting is hard. But it’s while we wait that God does some pretty amazing things.
Think of Joseph, who had to wait years for God’s promise to take place, but his trust was in the Lord, even though he went through hell, first being a slave and then a prisoner, and even though he many have had his doubts, ultimately his trust in in the Lord never wavered, and it was rewarded, where he went from slave and prisoner to the second most important and powerful person in the world at that time.
And so, this is a faith walk, as the Apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews so aptly points out.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)
And so, while we’re waiting we need to trust that God knows what’s best and that He will not only give us the strength to handle whatever we are facing and what lies ahead, but that He will be with us all the way. That is why this Christian walk and life is a walk and life of faith.
3. God’s Word
I know we say yes when asked if we believe God’s word, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. What do I mean? Well, if we say we believe God’s word, are we following it. Our obedience to what God’s word says is proof of whether or not we believe it to be true.
It is through God’s word that we find the right road, the right path to take in this life.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 NKJV)
Yet even so, we tend to pick and choose what we will follow and what we won’t. We see the Lord say the same thing to the children of Israel, and their response.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV)
In fact, the children of Israel said to Jeremiah, “Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:5-6)
Wow, what a declaration of faith. And so, Jeremiah gave them God’s word, and indeed it was displeasing, it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but Jeremiah already knew that and called them hypocrites even before they said a word.
And what did they say, “You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’ … and all the people would not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah.” (Jeremiah 43:2,4b NKJV)
What we need to believe, and firmly get entrenched in our soul and spirit is that the Scriptures are God’s word given to us to help us decide what is right and what is wrong and how to live this life.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)
The Apostle Paul says the Bible is “profitable.” That is, it is useful, beneficial, and advantageous for our lives in teaching what is true, reproving what isn’t, along with correcting and instructing us on how to get and stay right with God.
And so, I believe the Lord is asking us whether or not we believe in divine intervention, in faith over sight, and in God’s word.
4. For The Impossible
What is it that you think is impossible in your life? Guess what, we serve a God that serves the possible up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and all the snacks in-between.
Even Jesus confirmed this when he said to the father, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NKJV)
When His disciples wonder who could possibly be saved, Jesus said,
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NKJV)
In other words, nothing is impossible when God is involved. So, let’s get out of our boat, or inviting God into our boat, and start getting into God’s boat and let Him calm the storms that are in our lives, and pull us up from certain disasters.
I have always liked what the Apostle Paul said, and I hold this Scripture dear to my soul, because I don’t want to limit God from doing whatever He wants to do.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)
Prayer and Fasting
Now, let’s get to the end of our story and see how we can move forward in our deliverances. Beside getting honest with God, there is also what Jesus told His disciples.
After delivering the boy from the demonic spirit, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast it out, and Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29 NKJV)
Rather than getting all caught up on casting out demonic spirits, what I’d like to look at is what Jesus said about the importance of prayer and fasting.
Having the right tools and knowledge of their use is critical to success in any endeavor. This is especially true in prayer when it’s coupled with fasting. The combination increases our effectiveness as well as our spiritual powers by allowing us to know God’s will and calling.
Prayer and fasting are central in successfully navigating through the many struggles of life, including getting free from bondage (Isaiah 58:6), and receiving deliverance in times of crisis (2 Chronicles 20).
I look upon them as a one two punch, or having a pair of six shooters. One gun has six bullets and can do damage, but when you add the second, it gets the job done. Nothing but prayer and fasting can break through and bring spiritual deliverance.
Prayer and fasting are also used to gain spiritual insight and receive God’s wisdom and direction. Basically, adding fasting to prayer cleans out the spiritual blockages and allows us to spiritually get connected to God.
And so, if we want God’s wisdom in whatever we are going through and to be delivered, we can no longer leave in our spiritual holsters these two important spiritual weapons God has given us.
And so today, if we want God to do a work in our lives, then we just have to be brutally honest and say as this father said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Be honest with the Lord about your doubts. It’s okay, He already knows them. And from what I can see, when we come to God honestly and expectantly, which is how this father came to Jesus, then we will see God move in a mighty way.
And so, believe that God desires to be a part of your life, and believe in what He has promised, even though at the present time it doesn’t look all that promising. Get into God’s word and trust in its truthfulness, and finally believe God for whatever it may be, knowing that He desires to do even more.
But one last thing, once we’re honest about our doubts and areas of unbelief, we just can’t leave it at that. What we need to do is like this father, confess them, and then begin the process of turning away from these doubts to belief and faith. It’s called repentance.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study