“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
I know a man who wants nothing more than to believe. He’s very well-read on matters spiritual; he has devoured most of the Bible and has also made in-depth studies into the ‘background’ of the Bible’s history. He’s read ancient history, he’s read about the ancient civilisations that are mentioned in the Bible (and some that are not!), and he’s even begun learning Hebrew. (And he’ll probably read this too – hey buddy!)
And he wants nothing more than to be able to believe. He wants it like nobody else I have ever met.
I love this guy. He’s so honest about his doubts and what-have-you.
And Jesus loves him too; there’s no question. His searching and seeking reminds me of two things: one, that Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “Seek, and you will find…for everyone … who seeks, finds”; two, the verse that Jesus is probably referring to when He said that, from Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.
But he also reminds me of the story of the man in Mark 9:24, who says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”. In short, Jesus fully appreciates that there are people who do believe, and/or want with all their hearts to believe (just like my seeking friend) – and that’s perfectly ok. He neither judges nor condemns people for that, or anything else for that matter. You can be sure that He’s also available to help those who do believe but in some ways still don’t, and also those who feel they don’t believe but would love to. Jesus would say to these people, like my friend, “You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Mark 12:24)*
Belief is not always a black-and-white, binary yes/no, do/don’t issue. There are shades of belief; even within a single church there are people who believe different things and at different levels. For instance, the whole lot of them may believe in Jesus’s power to heal, but some may balk at asking Him to heal something really serious, like Alzheimer’s or cancer or something. But Jesus accepts them all just the same, because they seek Him. Seeking comes first; believing follows on after. “Lord, help my unbelief” is the seeking.
And the great thing is that even just a little bit of belief rapidly grows into a larger ‘amount’, if such a thing can be measured. This is what Jesus meant in His parable of the mustard seed, “[The Kingdom of Heaven] is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:19) Once a person receives a taste of the things of God, he wants more and more! And God has already freely given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3); all we have to do is receive, take a hold of it, and live in the blessing. It’s really that simple.
No, Jesus is no stranger to those who want to believe, but can’t quite find it in themselves. That’s because it isn’t really in ourselves at all; it’s actually in Him. That’s why the man in Mark 9:24 had to say “…help me in my unbelief!” – and in his context, he was actually making that request of the one Person in the entire world who could actually grant that request. And it’s the same today. All we have to do is ask Him and He will help us in our unbelief; He will make Himself known.
Prayer – in whatever way you feel able – is the way to do this. If something happens, it will be the best thing that ever happened to you – let Him in, let Him meet you! If nothing happens this time, don’t be discouraged; it’s all part of the seeking process! But be encouraged – Jesus is seeking you so much more fervently than you are seeking Him! His love for you blazes with a jealous, fiery passion and intensity that is straight from the heart of the Father. In that love, He will lead you to a place where you are ready to believe. And He will never let you go.
To finish with, here’s a story song about the man in Mark 9:24, told like only Don Francisco can tell ’em:
At first we trusted anyone who said they had a cure
But with every disappointment it grew harder to be sure
Still, when we heard of Jesus, we went looking for this man
Who could break the grip of demons by the power of His command.
We found His close disciples in the foothills where He’d been
But as I tried to talk to them the devil struck again
My son began to scream aloud and his eyes rolled back inside
And he fell and moaned and he stiffened out and I turned to them and cried.
“Cast it out of him, I beg you!”, but it was all to no avail
And as each one made excuses all my hopes began to fail
But then I heard excited voices shouting out “The Master’s here!”
And as Jesus walked right toward me, desperation conquered fear.
I begged Him, “Rabbi help us, he’s my son, my only son”
Your men have tried to cast it out ah but nothing could be done
He’s been like this since childhood; no one can tell us why
Oh but Sir, if you can help at all, I beg You please to try”
“If You can?”, He thundered, “You asked me if I can?
Everything is possible when there’s faith inside a man!”
I cried “Oh Lord forgive me, please, I’ve lived so long with grief
And I do believe You can oh Lord, oh please, please help my unbelief!”
He told the spirit “Leave the boy, and enter him no more!”
It shrieked and threw him on the ground, worse than all the times before
‘Til at last he laid just like a corpse, and I thought it was the end
But Jesus raised him up and said “Here’s your son, my friend”
We walked back home that evening, and his mother laughed and cried
As we told her all that Jesus did; how the others failed but tried
And the lesson that he’d taught me in the healing we received
Everything is possible to someone who believes.
Everything is possible to someone who believes
It is your Father’s joy to give to all who will receive
Those who strive are always caught in the tangled webs they weave
But everything is possible to someone who believes.
– Words and music by Don Francisco, used here with his permission.
*The Kingdom of Heaven is not referring to the ‘afterlife’ (although that’s part of it), but as God’s Kingdom here on earth, which is basically wherever Jesus’s people are. The Kingdom of Heaven is where the power and reality of the future Kingdom seen here on Earth, in terms of the power of God and the Presence of Jesus, which are right there with His people. Unfortunately, some of His people don’t realise they’ve got all this!