“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
This weekend, we got to read Mark 9:14-29, where Jesus heals a boy possessed by an impure spirit. A father with nowhere else to turn pleads with Jesus, begging for healing for his son. Jesus’s disciples were unable to drive the spirit out. This weary father was full of fear and doubt. And his encounter with Jesus tells us everything we need to know about faith.
Right off the bat, Pastor Zach shows a beautiful truth revealed to us in this story: “The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is self-sufficiency.”
In his message, Pastor Zach shows us where faith begins, how faith works, and why it’s needed. We first get to see this model at work with the father in the story.
For this dad, his faith began at the end of himself. His son had suffered from this spirit since childhood. He saw convulsions throw his child into danger, and he felt the fear and terror as he witnessed his son’s pain. He has searched for solutions, and when we meet him, he has once again seen disappointment. Jesus’s disciples were unable to drive the spirit out of the boy.
And that’s where faith begins in all of our stories. As Pastor Zach points out, “when life is easy, it’s easy for us to think we are god.” When things are going well for us, or we are living comfortably, we have a false sense of control. We feel capable of handling things in our own strength and sometimes lose sight of how desperately we need God. But, when hardship finds us, we find ourselves once again looking for the Lord.
That’s exactly where Jesus enters the scene. The father was at the end of his abilities. The disciples were at the end of their abilities. And, in comes our capable and compassionate Savior.
What happens next is such a beautiful reminder to all of us. The father was exhausted. He was scared and desperate. And, he was honest. He was honest with God about his unbelief. He had just seen the disciples fail to cast out the evil spirit. His spirit was downcast and full of doubt within him. He had believed too many times before with no healing. He had prayed too many times with no answers. By the time he got to Jesus, he was scared to believe again. So he appealed to Jesus, “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us. (Mark 9:23)”
At this, Jesus could have rebuked this weary father. He could have turned him away.
And yet, he didn’t. He answered his shaky faith with firm, unwavering faithfulness. He healed the boy.
As Pastor Zach profoundly put it, “Doubt is the byproduct of trying to believe.” Jesus knows that we will have doubts, fears, and questions. He doesn’t need us to be perfect or have all the answers when we come to Him. He simply needs us to surrender our self-sufficiency and put our hope entirely in him.
He desires to help us. His answer to our hurting hearts and our honest pleas for rescue is always, “yes.”
So, why do we need faith?
We need faith because we will all experience something in this life that breaks us. We will come to the end of our resources and abilities. Our strength will fail us. But, there is one person whose strength never fails and whose love for us never wavers: Jesus.
His life and death are a testament to his love for us. He took our burdens upon himself. He fought for us, taking the weight of our sin on his shoulders to make us right with God. Even when we are faithless and full of doubt, he remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).
Self-sufficiency is not a sufficient Savior. And, when we surrender control and seek God, that’s where faith begins.
He will help us overcome our unbelief. He will hold us close when we have doubts. He will hear our cries for help, our sincere laments, our weary hearts. And, he will always answer. That’s how faith works.
We live in a broken world. The father in the story experienced it as he watched his son suffer for years. We experience it as we feel the weight of grief, loss, and pain on this side of eternity.
But, Jesus is the only one who has overcome the world (John 16:33). And, as we learn to surrender our sufficiency, we will find through prayer and relationship with God that his grace is more than sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). That’s why faith is needed.
Lord, we believe. Please, never stop helping us overcome our unbelief.