Devotional 19: Help My Unbelief

Mark 9: 17-24

17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

19 He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe,[a] all things are possible to him who believes.”

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

A father’s faith in the works of Jesus had suffered a blow from the inability of the disciples to cast out a violent, life-threatening demon from his son. The demon threw the boy into fire and water, the father said, in order to destroy him.

How wearying it must have been for the father to be ever-vigilant in order to save his son’s life, how frightening to see that visage take over an innocent face, subjecting it to brief glimpses of hell’s horrors! But to his credit, he didn’t give up. We’re not told if he traveled a great distance to get to Jesus, but I believe he would have done anything to save his son’s life, as any good parent would.

Also to his credit, when the disciples couldn’t cast it out, though his hopes were initially dashed, he sought out the source of holy Power, and went to see Jesus.

When the man tells Jesus that his disciples failed, Jesus initially rebukes them (again, though indirectly) for their lack of faith, because now, as a result, this man has come to him full of hope, but also doubt.

As they bring the boy to Him, the demon does obeisance, albeit violently, and throws the boy’s body to the ground because even demons are unable to stand in the presence of the Lord.

After a brief Q & A with Jesus, the father, not surprisingly, qualifies his request with, “But if You can do anything…” This is the first time Jesus’ ability to do anything is called into question. Normally, when we read “if” statements in Scripture, it goes more like this: “Lord, if you are willing…”

But Jesus, having compassion, puts forth a condition of his own: “If you can believe…”

Faith is the conduit to answered prayer, and without it being in the person making the request, Jesus will not override doubt. Not cannot override doubt, but will not. This is why we are admonished to ask in prayer, believing we have already received.

The father now realizes what he’s done, and cries out, offering his remnant of faith for Jesus to take and increase. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

And Jesus casts out the demon with a caveat of his own. “Enter him no more!” for the father’s doubt has left his son vulnerable to repossession, as Jesus said. In Luke 11:24-26 we read: 

24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

And the gathering crowd now adds their voices of doubt to the scene, believing Jesus has killed the boy by delivering him:

26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Is it any wonder Jesus cried out against the faithless generation He worked among? And as much as we would like to believe in our own piety, we too, even now, have our moments; but even faith the size of a mustard seed has to be nurtured.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, You say all things are possible to those who believe, but my faith is as a mustard seed, and the conditions surround its soil are not conducive to its growth: my senses, my circumstances, my finances, my health, my family, and other worldly cares cause it to struggle to break its small and fragile shell, and it suffers greatly, weakening from stagnation every day.

I would not have it die, Lord, so help my unbelief, for you cannot work where there is doubt.

Cast out that demon in me that wants to please man, and to do all that you say makes a man unclean from the inside out, and his soul before God impure and unworthy to enter the Kingdom. I would not be a whited sepulcher.

Bless, purify, sanctify, and forgive this unworthy servant who listens to hell’s whispering: “Did G-d really say…?”

Deliver me, O Lord, from myself: my way, my strength, my will, my thoughts not taken captive, for they are flying demons looking for an empty house.

Lord Jesus, I pray that You command them to enter me no more, that may stand guiltless before Your throne, and hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.

“Enter.”

Amen

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