Lord I Believe, Help My Unbelief

Mr. Marlon Brown
Kay Spiritual Life Center
September 22, 2005–Thursday Healing Service
Mark 9:14-29

14 At the foot of the mountain they found a great crowd surrounding the other disciples, as some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 The crowd watched Jesus in awe as he came toward them, and then they ran to greet him. 16 “What is all this arguing about?” he asked. 17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son for you to heal him. He can’t speak because he is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this evil spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground and makes him foam at the mouth and grind his teeth and become rigid.[b] So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you until you believe? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion. and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth . 21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was very small. 22 The evil spirit often makes him fall into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us. Do something if you can.” 23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly replied, “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!” 25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Spirit of deafness and muteness,” he said, “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again! , 26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy lay there motionless, and he appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd, “He’s dead. , 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. 28Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” 29Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.[c]”

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” This is a very awkward statement. How can one believe and not believe at the same time. In fact belief and unbelief are opposites. I could imagine seeing something on the SAT that say hot is to cold as belief is to (unbelief). In fact I can remember the first time that I really listened to this scripture. I was sitting in my 10th grade New Testament theology class at U of D High School. I can remember Fr. Ryan was really struck by the words of this father who was crying out to Christ for help. In his opinion, this was one of the most honest and sincere pleas of help that one might utter. Lord I belief, help my unbelief.

These words really didn’t have much of an impact on me at the time but now they seem to mean the whole world to me. In college we are presented with so many belief systems, so many opinions, so many ways of life, and even so many versions of Christianity. Not only that, but when I look around and take account of the things that are going on in the world, I am often left with more questions than answers. Lord, why are these things happening. Why do innocent people have to die when someone decides to blow up subway trains and a Double Decker Bus. Why is New Orleans submerged in toxic and hazardous water and waste? Why is a Category 5 hurricane headed for the city that is now housing evacuees from Katrina? I know that it’s hard to understand the will of God but sometimes you have to just scratch your head and wonder what’s going on up there.

And in the midst of all this chaos I try to pray and study the word and strengthen my faith, but I end up with more questions? In fact as of late, I find myself questioning my faith. It’s not that I don’t believe in Christ, who came down to die and save me of my sins so that I might enjoy eternal life – no I get all of that and I believe it? But sometimes my belief is contradicted by my doubts.

Jesus says “I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”[1] I used to hear this all the time as a kid, and we would sing songs about it in church. But one day I really got to thinking, can I really command Mount Everest to relocate across the world. And of course there were the times when I had faith that I would be spared from going to school because of the impending snow. But when I would wake up in the morning, there would be no snow, and I would have to still go to school. So it often seems that as much faith as I have, or profess to have, when it comes down to it, I have lots of doubts. I am just like the father asking Jesus to help his son. He asks Jesus to heal the boy if He can. And Jesus is like – If I can! Do you know who I am! The father probably does have some inclination that this Jesus can heal, but he has the natural inclination to doubt and he cries Lord I do believe, but help me not to doubt.

Now I know that some of you are probably saying to yourselves – geez this guy is a real downer. I came to healing service tonight and all he talked about was doubting God. Just hang on a few more minutes and I may be able to get us through this one. You see,, I too was wondering how I was going to finish this message. That’s probably why I put it off so long. But low and behold I found the answer – Star Wars! Well, no that’s not the answer, it just helped me understand this scripture. For those of you that have seen The Empire Strikes Back, you may remember the scene where Yoda is training Luke in the ways of the force. Yoda tells Luke that he can use the force to lift his X-Wing Fighter out of the swamp and Luke tries several times and is unsuccessful. You see Luke believes in the power of the force, but he doesn’t believe that he can use the force to lift up a space ship. He believes but he doubts. So Yoda, this furry little 4 foot tall guy who is a couple hundred years old, closes his eyes and levitates the ship out of the swamp and onto dry land. Yoda can do this because he has become one with the force and realizes its remarkable power. What a great scene!

Well if I can stretch this a little bit more, we are often just like Luke. God probably looks down on us and says “Hhhmmm. Much to learn, you still have!” On a serious note there are some real similarities between the force and what we call faith. You see when we are still learning and growing in our faith, there is room for doubt to creep in. There is room for worry, room for panic, and room for failure. But when we are strong in our faith, or when we have become one with our faith, we can move that space ship and yes we can move that mountain. I use this analogy because by becoming one with the force, Yoda was empowered to do the seemingly impossible. By becoming one with our faith – or transforming our mind to think without limitation – we can do the things that Jesus said we could. A mind without limitation can heal the sick. give the blind sight, stop pain and suffering, and save the lost. A mind without limitation can surpass what is seen or conceptualized by man. A mind without limitation is a mind formed in the image and likeness of God. Sure things seem hard, and crazy and chaotic and everything else, but a mind without limitation can rise above all that is around and still see God working in the very midst of our confusion. That’s what the father was asking Christ for – sure he may have believed in the scriptures, or the rituals and sacraments of the church, but what he really needed was a mind without limitation. He needed to embody his faith so that he could be a source of strength to his son. And so just as much as his prayer was for healing, his prayer was also for a transformed sense of faith – a faith without limitation.

So tonight whatever you may need, whatever is troubling you, whatever is holding you back in your praise. in your worship, in your faith – ask God to help you get rid of it. Ask God to help you let go of the doubt and cling to your faith. For it is through our faith that we are healed. Ask God to help you believe in Him without doubting. Just cry out to Him – Lord I believe, help my unbelief – and whatever you need, will be granted unto you. God is here in this very place tonight and He will hear your prayers. All you have to do is just believe!

[1] Matthew 17: 20