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Help To Believe

By William R. Cunningham


I was watching the movie, the Polar Express, a couple of days ago—I know it’s not Christmas time, but I felt like watching it anyway.  One of the things that caught my attention in the movie was that the little boy began to doubt the existence of Santa Claus.  He seemed to want to believe, but was having a very hard time doing so.

We can be that way sometimes.  We want to believe and trust God, but we have a hard time doing it sometimes based on the situation.  Will God pull me out of this or that?  We see around us where it appears that God did not come to the rescue so we are always wondering if God will swoop down to save us or will we suffer some dire fate in a given situation.

Our lesson today deals with a father who was having trouble believing that Jesus could heal his son of demonic possession.  He believed, but at the same time he seemed to doubt.  We will see his turmoil and what happened in the end.

Our lesson is taken from Mark 9:14-29 (also see Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 9:37-42).

Scripture Lesson

Mark 9:17-18 (NKJV) -- {17} Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. {18} 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.”

Here a man brought his son to Jesus (though at first he met His disciples) to be healed of what appeared to be epilepsy, but was identified as demonic possession.

He first saw Jesus’ disciples, but they were unable to cure the man’s son. 

You can probably imagine that the man’s confidence in Jesus and company was affected by the failure of the disciples to cast the demon out of his son.

Jesus’ response was somewhat strange.

Mark 9:19 (NKJV) -- {19} He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”

Evidently the disciples should have been able to cast the demon out of the boy.  Jesus called them faithless, which implies that the disciple’s faith was not sufficient to cast the demon out, but it should have been.

Perhaps spiritual failure is characterized by lack of faith.

Mark 9:20-22 (NKJV) -- {20} Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. {21} So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. {22} And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Have you ever been discouraged immediately after you were encouraged?  I mean sometimes you gain enough confidence and then something happens within the situation that challenges your faith even more.  The demons in the boy were perhaps trying to discourage Jesus and perhaps they did the same thing to the disciples, which caused them to be so intimidated that they lost faith in God.
What can cause you to loose faith in God?  I’m not talking about salvation, though I suppose the same question applies.  I am talking more about various situations that challenge us.  We face a plethora of challenges in our lives such as health, financial, and relationships. How do we respond to those challenges?  Do we get angry at God and fall away from the fellowship?  Sometimes it is tough to remain as faithful as when things were going well.  It is important though, to remain faithful and get help to remain faithful.

The man asked Jesus that if he could do anything, to have compassion on he and his son and to help them.  We want God to have compassion on us and help us in our times of need.  We want the love of God to manifest itself into a solution for our problems.  Sure, sometimes things don’t work out, but the important thing is to trust God no matter what.

Mark 9:23-24 (NKJV) -- {23} Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” {24} Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus told the man that all things are possible to him who believes.  Let’s stop for a moment.  Our lord and savior Jesus Christ said that all things are possible to him who believes.  To me that mean that if I can just believe that anything is possible.  Believe what?  The context here is to believe God. 

Let’s look at another scripture that shows this.

Mark 11:22-24 (NKJV) -- {22} So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. {23} For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. {24} Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

We see that the first thing is to have faith in God.  The second thing is that we can speak in confidence when we pray.  Jesus said that when you ask God for something in your prayers, believe that you receive them and you will have them.  Keep in mind that this isn’t a blank check so to speak since we know that our desires will be affected by the Spirit of God that lives in us.

Why can’t we just believe that God will work it out—not that we just sit back and do nothing though?  Why can’t we just trust God?  What happens such that the baby faith that we had in God is replaced by uncertainty and fear to trust?  Life happens.  Consider what Jesus said about that with regard to the Word of God.

Matthew 13:22 (NKJV) -- {22} Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Life comes in and shows us a picture that is contrary to our faith.  Life shows us how people are suffering and dying and we start to wonder why we should expect not to be a part of that suffering group.  We start to lose faith in God because we are not sure if God will do it for us.  We may believe that He can do anything, but that He may not do it for us.  Again, why not just believe God all the way.  If it turned out bad then at least I was faithful until the end.  Why not do that since we don’t know what tomorrow holds anyway?  Why not pursue tomorrow as if things will work out?

Let’s go back to Mark nine.  Notice the father’s response.  He told Jesus that he believed and that he wanted him to help his unbelief.  He believed God, but he had doubts.  I suppose this could be a kind of double minded man in that he believed and doubted at the same time.

James 1:2-8 (NKJV) -- {2} My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, {3} knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. {4} But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. {5} If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. {6} But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. {7} For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; {8} he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

It appears that God wants us to come to him confidently.  Therefore, let’s go to God in faith and believe that he will have compassion on you and that he will help you.

We need help to believe.  Faith is not something that we can just power up to do.  We need help to believe God because that kind of faith is not contained within the human spirit.  God will help us to trust him.  I believe that the best way to learn to trust God is simply to do what he says.  Then we will learn that he is trustworthy.

Mark 9:25-27 (NKJV) -- {25} When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” {26} Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” {27} But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

In the end, God did have compassion on the man and his son because Jesus healed the boy.  This is not to say that all problems are a result of demonic oppression.  We do see that Jesus teaches us to put our faith in God.  Things may go one way or another, but there is no reason to believe that things will go awry.  In the midst of uncertainty, why not trust God to work everything else.  Sure you will need God to help your unbelief, but at least you are on the right road.

Mark 9:28-29 (NKJV) -- {28} And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” {29} So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

Jesus told the disciples that prayer and fasting were necessary to cast out demons (or perhaps that particular one, which is doubtful to mean that).  The term “prayer and fasting” appears in almost all major Greek manuscripts.  It appears that the term “and fasting” were added later.  The point is that we must connect with God in order to overcome the situations that befall us.  It is not by our own faith or our own abilities that we are able to do anything.  We must trust God.

Why not trust God?  From this day on, trust God in your situation instead of seeing the worse case scenario.  Look at the best case scenario and at least be encouraged.  Remember to ask God to help you believe him!  Amen.

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