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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Believe

One of my favorite stories in all the Gospels is the story of the man with the demon-possessed son (Mark 9:14-29). You remember that story. This poor father brought his son to the disciples to get them to free his son from the clutches of a demon. They figured they could do it because, after all, they had been doing it (Matt 10:8). They, of course, were wrong. So Jesus came on the scene and asked what the problem was. The father told Jesus the troubles with his son and the failure of the disciples. Jesus gave the expected response ... oh, no, wait ... didn't see that coming.
O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me (Mark 9:19)!
Now, where did that come from? Well, they brought the son to him and the moment he saw Jesus the demon threw him into convulsions. Jesus spoke with compassion -- "How long has this been happening to him?" (Mark 9:21). The dad told Him and begged Him for help.
If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us (Mark 9:22)!
"If". "If"? Jesus told him, "All things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23) to which the father makes the very prayer of my heart. "I do believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). There it is. Yes, I have faith. Yes, I trust You. Yes, I know you can do all things. And yet ...

And yet it was sufficient. Jesus expelled the demon (Mark 9:25), made matters worse (Everyone thought the boy was dead) (Mark 9:26), and ultimately restored the healed son to his father (Mark 9:27).

The disciples wanted to know what they did wrong (Mark 9:28). Jesus told them "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer" (Mark 9:29). Perhaps the parallel version provides additional insight. In the Matthew version Jesus also told them it was due to their "littleness of faith" (Matt 17:20).

I love the story because I so heartily identify with the father. "I believe; help my unbelief." I know that God can do anything, but I often question whether or not He will. I hang on that "if". I get it. So I love the "help my unbelief" prayer because, first, there is help for my unbelief -- I don't have to muster the faith on my own -- and, second, the requirement isn't for vast faith, but just a little. I love that.

Did you ever wonder about that earlier phrase? Jesus seemed a bit miffed at those He called an "unbelieving generation". Who was that? Some believe it was the father. Others argue that it was the crowd. I would agree with both. But I would argue, at the end, that it included the very disciples to whom the father had brought his son. Why? Because, according to Jesus, the reason they couldn't get rid of this demon was the littleness of their faith. Repeatedly Jesus calls His very own disciples "men of little faith" (Matt 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). They were, basically, no different than the boy's father. "I believe; help my unbelief."

That's the parallel lesson I pull from this passage. I like the "help my unbelief" concept because I recognize that I can be a believer lacking faith. I don't want to be that person. I believe. Help my unbelief.

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