“I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Hey, do you know the Christian person who has such a strong faith in God that they never have any doubt about what God’s word is saying? You know – the one who always hears and understands the Holy Spirit, and never experiences any weak faith in their life? They read the Bible, pray and get quick answers and never experience unbelief or doubt in their life of faith.
Uh…no, actually I don’t know any of those people. And if I did know someone who presented themselves as such, maybe I should pray that they would be more honest with themselves…
I hope that we are strong enough in our faith to believe that the God of the Bible is the true God and Creator. Hopefully, we believe that Jesus Christ gave His life to save us from our sins and have given our lives to Him – now enjoying a personal relationship with the God of the universe.
However, now or somewhere along the way, you have probably had the following words or attitude:
“I believe. Help my unbelief.”
This is a remarkably bold, but humble statement found in the Gospel of Mark as a father cries out asking Jesus to intervene in the horrible state in which his son is existing.
In this story, we find that Jesus is returning with Peter, James, and John from the incredible experience of the transfiguration. The Transfiguration is when Jesus, in front of Peter, James, and John became transformed, revealing his glory and speaking to Elijah and Moses, confirming His identity as the Son of God,
When Jesus came back from that astonishing event he finds the other disciples surrounded by a large group of people. Some teachers of the Jewish law were arguing with disciples.
However, when Jesus walked up all eyes were on Him and the people were “overwhelmed with awe.” Some suggest that there were lingering effects from the transfiguration still seen on Jesus. At any rate, the Son of God could draw attention. So, Jesus steps right up:
“And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “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.”Mark 9:16-18 ESV
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When the boy’s father gave that answer to Jesus concerning his child, Jesus immediately proclaimed the truth in front of this large crowd. And- He didn’t seem very happy about it!
We know that Jesus was never sinful in any way. However, we do see Him show righteous frustration and even anger (Matthew 21:12-13), but without sin. Here we find Jesus speaking a bit of righteous indignation:
“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 9:19 ESV
Why did this seem to upset Jesus? Who was he addressing? He refers to them as an “unbelieving generation.” Once again, this stresses that our faith, our belief, and our total need to trust God comes to the forefront here.
In fact, we find this the story of this father and his demon-possessed boy is wrapped in various degrees of unbelief all the way from the religious leaders to Jesus’ disciples to the father of the child. However, the confession of the father “help my unbelief” seems to be the part that touched Jesus’ heart rather than adding to an already frustrating situation
The Power of Unbelief
Whether he realized it in these terms or not, this father was asking Jesus to break through the power of unbelief. By saying “I believe. Help my unbelief,” he is opening up an opportunity for more faith and trust in Christ.
Unfortunately, unbelief has the power to hold us back from incredible things that God may have for us. We saw this clearly in the gospels where Jesus could not help the people of Nazareth as he wanted to. One would think that surely He would have been some incredibly amazing things in his hometown, but:
“And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”Matthew 13:58 ESV
For non-Christians, unbelief can cost them everything. If their unbelief continues and they refuse to accept Jesus as Lord, it can cost them an eternity of separation from God and the heaven we all long for.
For Christians, unbelief and the lack of faith in what God can do in their lives can weigh them down and prevent life-changing developments in them that could bring them greater joy, happiness, and fruitfulness in their lives.
I Believe. Help My Unbelief: Making an Appeal To Jesus
This boy’s father realized that the situation with his son was so incredibly bad that even the disciples of Jesus had failed in dealing with it. He knew his only hope was to appeal to Jesus directly, passionately, and honestly.
“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 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!”Mark 9:21-24
Those two short statements, “I believe. Help my unbelief” were said by a father desperately wanting his son to be delivered and asking Jesus to change his son’s life by setting him free from the ravages of the unclean spirit. The father obviously had a certain degree of belief in Jesus, while at the same time admitting that there was some form of doubt in His mind for which He wanted Jesus’ help.
So, when Jesus heard these words of a desperate father and the sincerity and trust that came through with that simple confession, the miracle happened.
“And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose”Mark 9:25-27 ESV
Miracle accomplished. Problem solved. But, I have questions. How about you?
Would Jesus have driven out the demon from the young boy even if the young man’s father had not responded as he did when he spoke to Jesus? Maybe He would have, but the statement of “I believe. Help my unbelief” undoubtedly touched Jesus as He took action in the supernatural realm.
The Problem With the Disciples’ Faith
Why could the disciples not get the job done? Let’s remind ourselves that earlier in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus had given his disciples the power to cast out demons. Apparently, on this occasion, they couldn’t get it done, however.
So, later the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t get the unclean spirit out.”
“And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”Mark 9:28-29 ESV
In Matthew’s account of this story, he adds an additional statement by Jesus.
“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. 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 17:19-21 ESV
Okay, there it is again…unbelief. Because of your meager faith.” The New Living Translation puts Jesus’ words very simply, “You don’t have enough faith.
The disciples had been given power by Jesus to cast out demons but yet, even those men (chosen by God) had been limited in some way by their personal unbelief.
Here is a question: What if, when those disciples were confronted with an evil spirit this powerful, they had recognized and acknowledged to God in prayer, “We believe. Help our unbelief, Father.” I like to think they might have then thrown out the unclean spirit in the boy.
A Life Of Faith: A Life of Belief
Embracing the Lordship of Christ is a life of faith. It is our repentance, belief, and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins that begin the lifelong process of depending on God’s ability rather than our own.
When a person admits their need for Jesus, turns from sin, accepting Jesus as Savior that is a life-changing transaction in which you, as an individual, BELIEVE. However, as we grow in our faith and trust in God, we should be totally honest with God about areas in which we lack faith. In our own words, we can say our own humble prayer of “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief, please.”
Sometimes we can be too proud or pious or even ashamed to express our doubts about God or the teachings found in His word. God doesn’t want us to live our lives with constant doubt, but He does want us to confess our doubts.
“God, I know you are there and are in control, but I am having doubts about ______.” You fill in the blanks. Ask Him to show you, teach you, and help you have your doubts erased and filled with faith. He wants to do that.
We are always going to deal with ongoing challenges in our lives – doubt, fear that God will not answer our prayer, not recognizing God’s purpose in our lives, or sometimes struggling to understand God’s word to us found in the Bible.
However, I believe that it pleases God when we acknowledge our belief and trust in His word while at the same time confessing that we desire to have a greater level of faith in the Lord
A Daily Prayer
It is my firm belief that we should embed this Father’s statement to Jesus in our prayers regularly. “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
How powerful would that be if would sincerely express this thought to God on a regular basis? As we began, I still don’t think we know of anyone with “perfect faith.” Moses didn’t have it. The Apostle Paul didn’t either. So, none of us do.
So, let’s consider the statement of the father of the possessed son. It might be a life changer to make it our own. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
Brian is a Christian Blogger and website developer and has served over 35 years as a Pastor of Worship and various Associate Pastor roles in several churches in the state of Georgia. He earned his Education degree from North Georgia State University and attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife live in southern Hall County, GA.
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