Faith and Unbelief (28-03-22)
Bible Reading: Mark 9:17-18, 21-24
A man in the crowd said, "Teacher, I brought you my son,
who is possessed by a spirit that 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.
I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."
Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for one who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help my unbelief!"
I am sure that there are times for all of us when we all struggle to equate our belief in a loving God with some of the situations that we face in life. It might be the devastation in Ukraine or it might be something closer to home, like a serious family illness. This seems to be the situation with the man in today’s bible reading. His son suffers from epileptic fits which have put him in situations that threaten his life. The father has heard about Jesus, he knows that he can work miracles, but when he comes face to face with Jesus he acknowledges that within him there is a mixture of both belief and of unbelief.
I think we often think that belief and unbelief, or faith and doubt, are mutually exclusive, that it is ‘either/or’, when in fact it is ‘both/and’. Maybe it is better to see belief and unbelief as a range, or a scale, rather than two distinct camps, something we progress along throughout our Christian life.
If we are anything like the disciples, movement along the scale will not always be forwards; there will be hiccups along the way, things that challenge our faith and cause us to re-assess our understanding of God. These can derail our faith if we let them but, if we follow the example of the father in our reading, they can also become points of growth. This man had the integrity to acknowledge both his belief and also his unbelief, as he said to Jesus ‘I believe, help my unbelief’. Jesus clearly respected his integrity; the result of this honest request was the healing of his son.
I wonder if sometimes the problem with our mix of belief and unbelief is that, while we believe God answers prayer in principle, we don’t believe that Jesus would do something specifically for us. Maybe that he has bigger problems to sort elsewhere, or perhaps there are other people whose needs are greater than mine. But there are many examples in the gospels where Jesus notices the individual in the crowd and meets their need. And there is actually no physical limit on the grace of God, only it seems on our willingness to ask.
Are there things in your life that cause your faith to struggle? Can you bring them to Jesus now and say to him ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief’.
Lord Jesus, I believe that you are the Son of God, crucified, died, risen and ascended in glory. I bring to you the areas of life where my faith in you struggles,
and ask you: Help my unbelief.
This I believe