Do You Believe?
Jesus said to him, “[You say to Me,] ‘If You can?’ All things are possible for the one who believes trusts [in Me]!” Immediately the father of the boy cried out [with a desperate, piercing cry], saying, “I do believe; help [me overcome] my unbelief.”
Mark 9: 23-24
Most of us readily identify with this distraught father who desperately wanted Jesus to help his demon-possessed son but struggled to find the faith to trust Him. The demon threw the boy into a convulsion, and the dad turned to Jesus, “If you can do anything, help us!”(Mark 9: 17-22)
The problem in this situation, like all problems we encounter, isn’t the limitation of the power of God but a limitation of man’s faith. God can do absolutely anything, but He often waits for us to wrestle with our faith until we truly believe. (And of course, no matter how much faith we have, He may choose to act in ways that are so different from our request. We can’t make Him do what we want.)
Jesus quickly refocused the man’s attention and reminded him, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The man, painfully aware of his weak faith, acknowledged the little faith he had and pleaded with Jesus for more. At any point in our walk with God and at any moment of crisis in our faith, we can follow this man’s example. God delights In our honesty, and He responds to our cries for help. Whether in a flash of insight or a long process, Christ answers our prayer to build our faith. Perhaps we see Him perform a miracle in the moment we cry out to Him, or perhaps He gives us faith to trust Him through a long illness or a strain in a cherished relationship. Whatever our situation, we first admit that our faith is flawed, and we ask Him for help.
Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one that assures the successful outcome of any venture.
The majesty, miraculous power, and love of God is far beyond our comprehension. Yet that is the essence of our faith. We believe what we do not understand and trust in what we can’t see. Our faith isn’t anchored in events or happenings but in the Person of God. We who live on this side of Calvary are truly blessed for we also have actual facts with which to boost our faith. Like the father who had a desperate need, we have many questions and they aren’t unique. Throughout Scripture there have been those who wondered, “In the vastness of the universe, does God the Creator notice little old me?” David asked that question in Psalm 8:
“When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,The moon and the stars, which You have established, What is man that You are mindful of him,And the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him?”
And we find the answer to that question in Psalm 91:
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most HighWill remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!” “Because he set his love on Me, therefore I will save him;I will set him [securely] on high, because he knows My name [he confidently trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never abandon him, no, never]. “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;I will be with him in trouble;I will rescue him and honor him. “With a long life I will satisfy himAnd I will let him see My salvation.”
Psalm 91: 1-2, 14-16
How, you ask, did David know the answer to his question? By the same Holy Spirit who makes God known to us.
Our evidence, however, is greater perhaps than any of those we read about in the Bible. In a few days we will celebrate Christmas- the birth of Jesus. Never mind that we don’t know exactly when that was. Our evidence isn’t in a date but but from the witness of the angelic proclamation to shepherds on a hillside:
“In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah). And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host (angelic army) praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest [heaven],And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.”
Our witness from the shepherds who went and saw, from Simeon and Anna in the temple and later the witness of the disciples that God had indeed came down to earth to dwell among humanity and through His short 33 1/2 years showed the love and care of God. As He touched lepers, ate meals with sinners, gave blind people sight, lame people healing, and demon-possessed people deliverance, He gave proof of God’s desire to help us. In our text today, we find a father who has a desperate need. Like many of those who came to Jesus, this father had no doubt exhausted every available resource with no results. I’m sure that as he watched his son suffer day by day with no relief, he must have come to the conclusion that the situation would never change. He heard about Jesus and how He touched many and how their situation had changed. I’m sure that he saw evidence of those things and I’m sure he believed that Christ could do such things. We, too, have read about how Jesus did miracles for many people and we’re sure that He did. Most of us believe that God still does those kinds of things-for others. We’re just not sure we qualify for that kind of help from God. The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically that this was the father’s challenge but it does give us help when we struggle with our faith.
The first thing we notice is that the father had brought his son to the disciples and they tried to help but weren’t successful. That might be us. Maybe we’ve went to friends or people we believed could help us only to discover nothing changed. In this story, we find Jesus showing up in the moment and His first question is, “What are all of you talking about?” That’s an interesting question for it tell us that although nothing was being done, the situation was being talked to death. Most of the time when we don’t know what to do we do a lot of talking as though somehow the solution is just going to pop up in our conversation. Maybe they were talking about why nothing was happening. Maybe they were searching for a scapegoat to blame. Or maybe they were saying to the father, we tried, it didn’t work, and we’re sorry to tell you that you and your son will just have to learn to live with it. That’s what we do many times. Once Jesus became aware of the details-the father told Him the situation, He responds with a question and I’m taking the liberty of interpreting: “What will it take for you to truly believe in Me?” Like the disciples, we find ourselves forgetting what we have experienced God doing in our lives as soon as we face another challenge. We may reason that God has the capability to fix the last thing but we’re not sure about the current one, especially if it’s a different need.
The command from Jesus to the Father applies to us. “Bring him to Me,” Jesus said. That’s what He’s saying to us. Bring it to me. Bring your need, your fears, your struggles, and yourself to Me.
The father obeys and standing before Jesus he says: “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” He’s literally asking two questions: can you actually do anything for us and are we significant enough to receive your help. We are confronted with those very same questions. We ask, “God, is there anything You can do with this thing?” And, “God, do you care enough for me to exercise Your power on my behalf?”
Jesus responds with very significant words:
Jesus said to him, “[You say to Me,] ‘If You can?’ All things are possible for the one who believes trusts [in Me]!”
The father could have turned away, thinking to himself, “I’ve tried to believe and it’s just not working.” But I’m glad he didn’t go that route. Instead, he gives you and I hope and encouragement when we’ve tried to believe unsuccessfully:
“Immediately the father of the boy cried out [with a desperate, piercing cry], saying, “I do believe; help [me overcome] my unbelief.”
Isn’t it amazing that Christ not only offered access to overcoming the impossible but also touched the father struggling with his faith and helped him believe? That’s what He’ll do for us when we come to Him honestly say to Him that we’re trying to believe, we just need a faith lift.
Today, you may be facing an impossible situation. You may have exhausted every resource available without any resolution. You may have prayed and tried to believe in the promises of God and yet, nothing has changed. I want to encourage you to go again in prayer to the One who loves you. Cry out as the desperate father, “Lord, I’m trying to believe. Help me overcome my doubts.” And I know that Christ and the Holy Spirit will rush to your side.
Dr. John Thompson