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Jesus, Help My Unbelief

By Caleb Camp

Last night at our Life Group, after worship and prayer, Holy Spirit led us down a path that wasn’t planned for the night.  After a few people shared and encouraged each other, the topic of conversation focused on our faith.

“What things are you believing God for, but you’re not quite there yet?” Meaning, you believe in your head that God “can” do it, but you’re not sure he will.

It’s interesting how that works.  We read the Word and see all that Jesus is capable of doing.  We can recount the stories of how He has moved in the lives of other people.  We might even have our own testimonies of what He has already done in our own lives.  But sometimes, in the really big things, right next to our belief, is unbelief.

The reasons for the unbelief are as vast and different as the people that experience them.  It could be related to trauma.  It could be an inner narrative that tells us God would do it for somebody else, but not us.  Maybe it’s guilt and shame from past sin that says, “God won’t do it because of you, or what you did.”  Maybe God’s answer to a previous prayer wasn’t what you had hoped for, and now disappointment has kept you from believing. No matter the cause, when that unbelief is allowed to remain it can inform your faith.  So, what do we do?

Not to sound like a broken record in a Sunday School class, but, we go to Jesus!  The first part of Hebrews 12:2 NLT says that, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”  Jesus is the initiator of our faith.  Other translations use the word author.  The idea here, is that even our own faith begins with Jesus.  He initiates its beginning inside of us.  When there was no faith at all, because of Jesus, it sprouted in our hearts.  He writes it within us out of His goodness.  Our faith is an expression of his generous grace.  Even faith is a gift.  Ephesians 2:8 tells us this, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

He is good!  He doesn’t just initiate and author our faith; he also perfects and finishes it!  He doesn’t just plant the seed and leave it unattended; he makes sure that it sees its intended purpose and completion.  He gives the gift, and then He keeps giving Himself.  Paul encourages us with this truth in Philippians 1:6 NLT “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” 

So, while the circumstances of our lives or the voices of our inner narratives may be telling us otherwise, Jesus has us covered!  That is why we go to Him when we realize that there might be unbelief parked in the same garage as our belief.  So, what does this look like?

In Mark 9, we see the story of Jesus healing a demon possessed boy:

Mark 9:14-21 NLT “14 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him. 16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked. 17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy.”

What an interesting scene!  A demon possessed boy is the center of attention.  Jesus’ disciples, tried and failed to cast out the demon.  The religious folks are arguing about what happened, what didn’t happen and what should happen.  Finally, Jesus arrives and when the boy comes into Jesus’ presence, the demon starts to show off.  So, instead of healing him instantly, Jesus takes inventory!  “What’s going on?  How long has he been like this?  Where is your faith?”

The Father continues to give feedback in verse 22, “The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”  It’s clear that even though he calls Jesus teacher or rabbi, he doesn’t really know much about him.  “Help us, if you can.”  He’s desperate.

Jesus responds in verse 23, “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” It seems like Jesus’ response here puts the burden of healing upon the faith of the father.  It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Of course I can!  I can help anybody who believes!”  We know from Matthew 13:58 that Jesus was unable to perform miracles in His hometown, “And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.”  So, what should this desperate father do?  What should any of us do?  Go to Jesus!

Mark 9:24 NLT “24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”  And there it is…faith parked right next to unbelief!  And yet, the picture we have is beautiful.  A desperate father, who as somebody in Life Group said, “doesn’t want to be responsible for his son not getting healed”, cries out that he believes, and that he doesn’t.

The honesty in his confession is the humble realization that he needs Jesus to initiate and perfect faith inside of him in all the places that are holding him back.  Maybe his head believes but his heart doesn’t.  Maybe he’s heard the stories of Jesus’ power, but he’s never seen it with his own eyes, so it’s hard to logically make sense.  We don’t know the reason these two incompatible partners are stored in the same place, and that doesn’t really matter.  What matters, is that he’s honest with the one who can fix not only his son’s issue, but his own. I believe!  Please, please help my unbelief!

The rest of the story through verse 29, is the unfolding of Jesus healing the boy!

So, let’s bring it home to our own hearts.  What are the BIG things that you are believing for, but if you’re honest, you also have unbelief about?  What would happen if you take them both to Jesus, the one who planted the seed of faith in your heart and promises to perfect and complete it?

Jesus, I believe you can do it, help my unbelief.