Most of us can readily identify with the man who came to Jesus one day with a tragic, seemingly impossible situation. The man’s son was afflicted with demonic possession. The father’s description of the symptoms is heart-breaking: “A spirit …has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid,” (Mark 9:17-18). Previously the father brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they were powerless to help. Now the dad stands before Jesus with the frantic plea: “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (v.22).
Interestingly Jesus responds with a bit of a rebuke, “What do you mean, ‘If you can’?” Jesus must be amazed, even amused, at our doubtful “ifs.” But then Jesus issues a powerful declaration: “Everything is possible for him who believes” (v.23).
There you have the towering truth. God has all power, and Jesus was a pure conduit through which that power flowed on this earth because He lived in perfect trust (belief) in His heavenly Father. Everything is possible for the almighty God/Man. But Jesus’ statement is essentially an invitation to this hysterical father: If you will believe in Me it is possible for your son to be delivered.
As soon as those words fell on the man’s ears he uttered a statement that we all can relate to: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (v.24). So it is with most of us; we have this strange mixture of faith and doubt. Perhaps it’s only an intellectual faith that we possess. We know in our heads that Jesus has all power and can do all things. But that intellectual faith hasn’t soaked down deep enough into our souls to where it keeps us from panicking when we are faced with a crisis.
I admire this man’s honesty and humility; and apparently Jesus did too. Jesus rebuked the demonic spirit that had wrecked the boy’s life. The spirit departed immediately never to enter the boy again. The son was left in a heap on the ground; the people around thought he was dead. “But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up” (v.27). The boy’s life was changed forever … and so was his father’s faith.
“Help me overcome my unbelief.” We all struggle with doubts that keep us from fully trusting God in the face of trials and temptations. Just like this dad, we need to understand that grace imparts faith. We need the help of God to believe. And we should feel completely free, even compelled, to cry out for the grace to believe.
I find great encouragement and inspiration in the recorded prayers of the great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon. From the pulpit of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle on November 4, 1877 Spurgeon prayed:
“We trace therefore our faith to that same God who gave us life, and we ask now that we may have more of it. Lord, maintain the faith Thou hast created; strengthen it, let it be more and more simple. Deliver us from any sort of reliance upon ourselves, whatever shape that reliance might take, and let our faith in Thee become more childlike every day that we live; for, O dear Saviour, there is room for the greatest faith to be exercised upon Thy blessed person and work. O God, the Most High and All-sufficient, there is room for the greatest confidence in Thee. O Divine Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, there is now sufficient room for the fullest faith in Thine operations. Grant us this faith” (The Pastor in Prayer by C.H. Spurgeon, p.8).
Or in the words of the great hymn of our faith: “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him. How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. O for grace to trust Him more.”