There was a man who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples. The demon sent the boy into seizures, and it tried to destroy the boy by throwing him into fires or water. The disciples tried to cast the demon out, but they could not do it. And Jesus was clearly disappointed with them: “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Mark 9:19).
Jesus had the boy brought to Him, and immediately the demon cast the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground, rolling around and foaming at the mouth. The boy’s father pleaded with Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (v.22). And Jesus replied, “If you can? Anything is possible to him who believes” (v.23).
Do you think this father was discouraged by the failure of the disciples? It seems almost certain that he would be. Maybe some doubt was creeping in – I’ve heard this guy and his followers can heal and cast out demons, but when I brought my son to them, they couldn’t help. I don’t think we should be too critical that his plea was prefaced with an “if you can”.
We see time and time again throughout the Gospels that Jesus responds to demonstrations of faith – the paralytic’s friends (Mark 2:5), the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:34), the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:29). But this man clearly has doubts, so Jesus encourages him – if you will just have faith, anything is possible. And the father responds in a way that is a great pattern and example for us. He says, “I do believe – help my unbelief!” (v.24).
If doubt has never crept into your spiritual life, then you have never seriously considered things. And there will certainly be times when we are tempted to doubt or take things into our own hands or think God is dragging His feet or be alarmed at God’s silence. But we must have faith, so we cry, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” We admit that our faith is shaken, but we trust God and rely on Him to give us the grace to endure. But how do we find that grace to believe?
Jesus casts the demon out of the boy, and later when He is alone with His disciples, they ask Him why they were unsuccessful – why they couldn’t cast out the demon. And Jesus says simply, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (v.29).
Prayer is what connects us to God. Perhaps the disciples had begun to feel that the power to heal and cast out demons was within them, and they were no longer connecting with the real source of their power. This is true of any ministry: if we fail to maintain contact with God – the source of our gifts and abilities – our ministry will have no power behind it. It is so important to stay connected through prayer to the true source of our spiritual strength.
“I believe – help my unbelief!”
~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chair