In Mark 9:24, the father of a child possessed by an unclean spirit cries out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
In response, Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the boy and the boy is completely healed.
I think this is an incredibly beautiful picture of the Christian life. It sums up so much of what it looks like to follow Christ.
But this verse does raise a question: why would Jesus heal the boy if the father was struggling with unbelief?
After all, in Hebrews, it says that without faith it is impossible to please God. And there were even times when Jesus refused to perform miracles because of the unbelief of the people.
So what made this situation so different? Why did Jesus answer the man’s feeble cry of, “I believe, help my unbelief,”?
I Believe, Help My Unbelief
On the surface, it seems like a rather strange thing that Jesus would heal the man’s son when he said, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Because when we look at the entire Bible, we see faith coursing through it like a mighty river.
Faith is essential for every aspect of the Christian life.
The Christian life is one of faith. From start to finish, beginning to end, we place our faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We believe in Christ Jesus to be saved. Everyone who believes in Jesus for salvation has their sins forgiven. Those who don’t believe will not receive salvation. There is no Christian life without faith in Christ.
We believe God to fulfill all his promises to us. As it says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Jesus].” God is faithful and will bring about all his promises in our lives.
We believe God to preserve us and keep us and sustain us to the end. As it says in Jude 1:24, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.”
And again and again, throughout Scripture, the Lord rebukes those who do not believe him. He rebukes those who doubt his word, his promises, and his faithfulness.
One of the primary reasons Israel was kept out of the Promised Land was their failure to believe and obey the word of the Lord.
Which brings us back to the question we keep asking again and again: what is it about the words, “I believe, help my unbelief,” that caused Jesus to answer the man’s prayer?
Weak Faith, Strong Savior
Charles Spurgeon put it beautifully when he said:
There is the sun; I do not know how many thousands of times the sun is bigger than the earth, and yet the sun can come into a little room. And what is more, the sun can get in through a chink. So Christ can come in through a little faith, a mere chink of confidence.
I absolutely love this quote because I think it captures the heart cry behind the prayer, “Help my unbelief.”
Because we are sinful, there are times when we do struggle with doubt. When we have to fight and wrestle to believe the promises of God. When we struggle to believe that God is faithful.
If we’re honest, I think we’d all say that there are many times when faith and unbelief are mixed together in our hearts. When we believe…yet also struggle with unbelief. When we have faith, yet also feel buffeted by the waves of unbelief. Almost as if there are two warring sides within us, fighting against each other.
You know what I’m talking about…
When we’ve been praying for years for a person to be saved and it doesn’t look like God is doing anything.
When our finances are tight and we wonder if God is going to provide for us.
When we’re dealing with chronic illness and we struggle to believe that God is good.
When our marriage is difficult and we wonder how we’re going to keep going.
In those moments, we find ourselves caught in the middle between faith and unbelief. We know in our heads that God can answer our prayers and that he is good. But we struggle to believe those things in our hearts. We know that technically God can answer our prayers, but we’re not so sure that he will.
And so we cry out to God, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
When we utter this prayer, we often feel like the Lord won’t answer us because our faith is so weak.
But here’s the glorious good news. Jesus loves to respond to even the weakest, most feeble faith.
We don’t have to have perfect, flawless faith in order for Jesus to hear and answer our prayers. We don’t have to be some sort of hero of the faith for God to work mightily on our behalf.
Jesus responds to our prayers…EVEN WHEN they’re mixed with unbelief. As Spurgeon put it, Christ can come into ANY situation, even when there’s just a little chink of faith.
The glorious reality is that it’s not the strength of our faith that causes God to answer prayers, but the steadfast love of the Lord. God loves us even when our faith is weak and feeble. He delights in us even when we’re tottering on the knife-edge between faith and unbelief.
And so if we have even the smallest smidgeon of faith, God can and often does still answer our prayers. It shows how great and powerful our God is when he can take our weak, little, ineffective prayers, and turn them into something great and glorious.
So don’t give up in prayer!
- Keep praying for your child who isn’t following the Lord.
- Keep praying that God would provide abundantly for you.
- Keep praying that God would bless your church plant.
- Keep praying that will help you overcome your sin.
Yes, your faith is weak and feeble. But you serve a great Savior who can use your feeble prayers to achieve absolutely staggering things.
So don’t be afraid to cry out to the Lord, “I believe, help my unbelief!” He won’t turn a deaf ear to that prayer. If you have even the smallest bit of faith, God can do mighty things.