“And straightway the father of the child cried out,
and said with tears, Lord, I believe;
help thou mine unbelief.”
~ Mark 9:24
While Christ was away with Peter, James, and John, a man had come to his disciples with a great problem. His child was possessed with a devil from the time of his early childhood. It was a most sad case to the father who was powerless to help his son. He testified of his son’s condition saying, “And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him.” He watched helplessly as the evil spirit tormented and tortured his son, not knowing what would become of him. Finally, having heard the fame of Jesus of Nazareth, he brought his child seeking help.
He petitioned the Lord’s disciples to help him. Moreover, try as they might, they could not rid the boy of the spirit. The disciples had at one time rejoiced saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17). Now they were rendered impotent and could not prevail over this spirit. This must have plunged the poor man into despair. Of course, the scribes found perfect opportunity in this man’s misfortunes. They took interest in the disciple’s failure and sought occasion to win some points. They created quite a stir among the people. This man’s condition was worse now than before.
Jesus came on the scene seeing the clamor and desiring to know what the situation was. Notice that the disciples were not quick to confess their trouble. Having lost sight of Jesus for a short time, their fervor had cooled. Their own lack of faith became apparent. Christ told them, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
The boy’s father spread the matter before the Lord. Expressing his own hopelessness he said, “I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.” Whatever reasons others had for being in the crowd, his agenda was clear. He was not hesitant to speak up when he thought that he might find mercy and grace to help in his time of need. Jesus sought the boy saying, “Bring him unto me.” “And they brought him unto him.” Years of grief, worry, and dismay had all led up to this moment.
It is hard to say what the man expected at this point. Whatever his expectation, I believe he was surprised by the Lord’s words to him. “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). The words of Christ were a sharp sword that pierced him to his heart. He felt them a stinging rebuke, as is apparent in our text, for he “cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Had he ever considered his unbelief as a contributor to his misery? Had he ever realized that his lack of faith had bound him in a prison of despair? Had he ever seen his own handicap by weak faith? He was driven to tearful repentance confessing his unbelief to Christ. Let us now briefly consider some possible points of unbelief with this man.
He may have thought his situation was too hard and beyond help. No one had suffered on the order of his sufferings. Long years he had battled to no avail and his son only grew worse. I imagine he had pursued many avenues of assistance. Perhaps he had brought the child to the Synagogue many times seeking help of the rulers. Perhaps he had even enlisted the expertise of physicians. Perhaps he had prayed and come to no improvement. He had exhausted family and friends looking for aid. He could have thought the sum of these things pronounced hopelessness upon his case. Now the fame of miracles and triumph in similar cases had introduced a small hope.
On the other hand, his despair may have passed to presumption. He had sought help at the hands of the disciples. He may have become over-confident thinking that there was no need to bother Jesus with his problems. His fellow man could supply the help he desired. The disciples could try another approach that had escaped him to this point. He was distressed when this last hope failed.
In all these things, we see a consistency of unbelief. All of his thoughts turn inward. His focus is on his own insufficiency and inability. He cries up his awful circumstance and laments his uselessness. All of his statements involve “if.” If only he were stronger. If only he were wiser.
However, for all this, he had never come so honestly before the Lord and aired his complaint. He labored. He was heavy-laden. Why had he not come to the Lord? Yet in an act of divine mercy, “When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose” (Mark 9:25-27). His burden was lifted.
We too must pray this prayer of repentance, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Whether we face physical afflictions, temptations and trials, or a call to a greater field of service, we must confess our unbelief to the Lord and seek His help in overcoming. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
Unbelief is debilitating. When we focus on our own weakness, we are trapped and are the same as the man with one talent that buried it in the napkin. If we believe the promises of God, then we will focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ. “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5). Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
Let us look to the Lord and resolve to do as Asa of old who prayed, “LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee” (2 Chronicles 2:14). Let us seek to exalt and glorify Jesus Christ with our lives and lean wholly upon Him. I believe then we will accomplish much in the cause of His kingdom.