“I believe; help my unbelief” is my favorite phrase in scripture. It captures so much of what it means and takes to be a follower of Christ, encapsulating struggle, faith, doubt, obedience, wandering, and repentance. It is deeply theological and personal. For these reasons and more I wrote a book called Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy of Faith (releases July 1 – Available at BarnesandNoble.com & Amazon.com) which explores what real belief is and its relationship with doubt in the life of a believer. The challenges of that tension are not unique to me; They’re nearly universal among Christians no matter position, maturity, or church tradition. In the weeks leading up to the release I will share the the thoughts and experiences of several friends of mine – authors, church leaders, writers, thinkers – who honestly answered five questions about faith and doubt.
Brian Mills is the Executive Ministries & Teaching Pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN. Before taking the roll of Executive Pastor, he spent 14 years serving in full time student ministry. After graduating from Ouachita Baptist University he has led student ministries as small as 7 and as large as 2,000 students. He is currently a speaker and consultant for churches and ministries all over the United States. Brian is also the co-author of Checkpoints: A Tactical Guide to Manhood and Virtuosity: Doing the Commonly Uncommonly Well along with being the Co-founder of Impact Resources, a curriculum guide for student ministries (@ImpactResources). Brian is passionate about seeing people saved, baptized and grow in their faith along with equipping and leading the staff and volunteers where he is currently serving. He is married to Jennifer Mills and father to McKenna and Parker.
1) What does “I believe; help my unbelief!” mean to you?
I have to be honest when I read this phrase from Mark 9:24, it seems so simple, and yet it is such a powerful and life changing encounter in scripture between Jesus and the father of this sick boy. “I believe” is a declarative statement of faith and trust. “I do not believe” is a statement of doubt. When we look at belief in light of that, it seems so simple that our trust, by faith challenges our doubt. In this passage, the father of the sick boy knows Jesus has the ability to heal his son – he had seen it done in others. But he admits his belief and then asks Jesus, “…help me overcome my unbelief!” He makes it personal. He’s seen what Jesus has done in the lives of others, and he knows he’s completely capable. But he’s begging Jesus to show up in his life!
When we move from our belief of the impossible, and we beg Him for the POSSIBLE – for what He’s completely capable of, He can then move mightily in our own life when we begin to believe. “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief” simply means, that when you when you experience belief in what you at one time, might not have believed in but witnessed in others, it can change your entire mindset and your faith when you encounter Him personally.
2) Do you have a favorite Bible passage about belief and doubt? What is it and how has it impacted you?
I would have to say John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
I don’t want us to miss the impact of this passage that I believe can be broken down a few ways. 1. “Whoever” – This word simply communicates to me that everyone has the opportunity to respond to a belief in Jesus. 2. “is not condemned” – This reveals we are all condemned from birth due to our sin. As a result we must come to belief in God to receive salvation by belief in His Son Jesus Christ. 3. “Whoever does not believe” – Signifies to me that God has given us a choice. He is not forcing His Son on anyone although Jesus died for everyone. He gives us the choice to believe & follow Him. The ones who chose to believe will chose surrender of their life to Jesus Christ. This passage truly displays to me God’s grace in salvation. Whoever believes in Jesus, no matter what, is not condemned. I love that!!!
3) What is belief in God?
To believe is to entrust or have faith in. I like to think of it this way with my own children. I have great belief in my daughter McKenna and my son Parker. I am fully committed to them as a father, mentor and leader. I only commit to that which I believe in wholeheartedly. When I asked my wife to marry me, I did not do some out of lust or worldliness. I did so because I had a great belief that she was the one that God had planned for me to spend my life with until the day God decides to take us home. My biggest decisions in my life have been a result of believing in them. I see my belief in God in some of the same. Belief is God means you truly trust and have great faith in the Creator of the universe. Belief cannot just be words with no action. It cannot just be a good idea. To say “I believe” requires action. I could tell my kids I believe in them or tell my wife I will be faithful to her, but what good are the words if there is no action behind them or if my actions display the opposite. Belief in God requires great action. What is belief in God? Belief in God is the willingness to entrust great faith in the unseen, and in placing belief in that, the decision requires action in making Him the Lord of your life and living that out by faith.
4) What do you see as the relationship between belief and doubt?
At some point everyone who believes has those moments of doubt. The moment when your “belief” is challenged through doubt is that moment where your “belief” can be strengthened the most. Doubt forces you to walk into the weight room of your faith and become stronger or to walk out and walk away, rejecting the journey of growth.
5) How can a person strengthen their belief in God?
Nothing strengthens a relationship more than time. Time is key to having an authentic and real relationship with Jesus Christ. To strengthen our belief in God we must spend time with Him daily. I believe this time should consist of a few key spiritual disciplines: Reading God’s word, journaling & applying what you discovered from what you read, memorize scripture and spend time in prayer for the day. Praying on the armor of God from Ephesians 6, both over our life and the life of our loved ones.
I am a firm believer that as we walk through each day, we will be presented with great doubt and temptations from our enemy (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, we must be prepared and begin each day with spending time with God. Not out of duty or obligation to check a box off on our Christian “to do list” but out of necessity and dependence of God to guide and direct us throughout that day! How we start our day determines how we act & react throughout our day, but it takes carving out quality time with the Lord and in His Word.