Have you ever wondered how much faith God needs to accomplish something in your life? Don’t know if you ever wonder about things like that, but I do sometimes. There’s a story in Mark 9 that has been on my mind lately. It’s a story about faith and, to be honest, it kind of rocks mine.
14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw Him (Jesus), were greatly amazed and ran up to Him and greeted Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And He answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to Me.”
What we see happening is that Jesus comes on this scene of chaos and confusion. We have a little boy in captivity by an evil spirit and we have a father who has frantically come to Jesus looking for help. Maybe He’s heard the rumors about Jesus’ miracles. Maybe he actually saw Jesus do some miracles. Whatever it is, something has brought him to Jesus. And, so he comes to where he thought Jesus would be, but no Jesus. But, Jesus’ disciples were there … the next best thing, right? So, he goes to the disciples for help. Yet, despite their best efforts, nothing was happening. The boy? Still captive. The father? Still despondent. In the midst of this messy situation, no one seems to believe anything can be done. No one.
Ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now. More questions than answers … more hurt than hope. When we read on in the story, we see that this father and this boy have both been experiencing this for years. The longer a situation goes on, the more difficult it can be to find hope … especially when we find ourselves right in the middle of a long, hopeless situation. The longer something goes on, the harder it can be to believe God is good or that He even cares. And, in this story, everyone’s faith was shaken. Except for Jesus’.
20 And they brought the boy to him (Jesus). And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
This is where I see myself in the story because I often find myself with an “if you can” type of faith. Because when the father says, “If you can,” I just hear this great sense of doubt in his voice. And, seriously, can we blame him? He is right in the middle of an incredibly painful circumstance … his boy is convulsing on the ground, foaming at the mouth … and this condition has been going on for years. Can we blame him for his doubt? I mean, who among us has never doubted God? Who among us has ever seen or experienced a tragic loss and wondered if God is really good? Who among us has ever stopped praying for something or someone … not because we got a clear “no” from God but simply because we didn’t see anything happening, so we just gave up. I mean, I can look at my life and see situations I stopped praying about because I didn’t see anything happening or people I stopped praying for because I didn’t see happening what I thought should be happening. And, so, because of that, I found myself beginning to doubt that God was going to do anything. So I just quit. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it happens sometimes. And, the reality is, this is where we live our lives. We live our lives between our human circumstances and the promises of God. And, what we decide to focus on will make all the difference.
So, in our story, we have a situation that requires faith. And, the magnitude of the situation has elicited doubt that Jesus can really do anything about it. And, those two things bring the father to a choice. Let’s read about the choice that is made.
The father says to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 “And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.” “All things” … I looked up the original Greek word for “all” used in this verse. You know what it means? “All.” Not some things. Not a few things. Not just things naturally possible. Not simply things that fit within our limits. But, ALL things are possible for one who believes.
And, as I read this story, I believe, with compassion in His eyes, Jesus looks at this desperate father and basically says, “Oh my dear boy. Remember who you’re talking too. Remember, there will never be a challenge I can’t empower you to meet. There will never be a desire I cannot beat. There will never be a hurt I cannot comfort. There will never be a need that I cannot fill. Remember who you’re talking too. Look around you … you see all of this? I made this! I am the Creator! If I can hold the Universe together, I can hold your life together. If I can? My dear son, trust Me. I can.” This father was placing limits upon a limitless God. And, that is when the father cries out in verse 24, “ I believe; help my unbelief!”
And, this is where the question of how much faith does God need comes in to play. Even if there’s only about 1% of me that believes and 99% of me that doesn’t, I think God can work with that. And, even in a simple, honest prayer like “Help my unbelief,” we can see the amazing grace of God because God doesn’t need the biggest, boldest faith to work. He just needs an honest cry of desperation … “Help me overcome my unbelief!”
If that is you … if that’s where you are … can I tell you that Jesus isn’t condemning you. Jesus isn’t shaming you. If anything, He’s here to help you. He is there … right beside you … arm around your shoulder looking at you with all the love in the world and without a hint of doubt in His eyes saying “My dear son, my dear daughter. Remember who I am.” And, it’s in those moments when our prayer, our cry to Him can be “I believe. Help my unbelief.” When we come to Jesus like that, choosing to focus our attention on Him rather than on ourselves, that’s something God can work with because 1% of my faith in a limitless God is greater than 100% of my faith in my faith. So, don’t make the mistake of putting faith in your faith even if it’s a great faith. Put your faith in our great God. Even a little bit of faith in an unstoppable God can move mountains.