November 2, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
As we saw in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, after his amazing experience we call the Transfiguration, Jesus came upon an argument that resulted from his disciples’ inability to chase a demon out of a boy. Distressed by the unbelief of his disciples, Jesus asked for the boy to be brought to him. As he came near to Jesus, the evil spirit threw him on the ground, where he was rolling around and “foaming at the mouth” (9:20). When the boy’s father said to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and helps us,” Jesus replied, “‘If you can?’ . . . Everything is possible for one who believes” (9:22-23). In response, the father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:24). A more literal translation would be, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
“I believe, help my unbelief.” I’ve prayed like this before. Many, many times. Perhaps you have too. When I cry out to God for help, I am praying in faith. Yet sometimes I feel the shakiness of my convictions: “Lord, please comfort this grieving family. I believe, help my unbelief.” “I ask you to heal this young mother who has terminal cancer. I believe, help my unbelief.” “O God, our world needs your peace. I believe, help my unbelief.” “Lord, I’m feeling overwhelmed by my work. I believe, help my unbelief.” “God, I don’t know where my business should be headed. I believe, help my unbelief.”
If we can speak honestly of our belief and our unbelief, then we are ready to ask for God’s help. He will strengthen our faith, much as he did for the father of the demonized boy, though not usually in such a dramatic way. Notice that when the father said, “I believe, help my unbelief,” Jesus did not rebuke him for his lack of faith. Rather, Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, commanding it to leave the boy. Soon the young man was free of his bondage. The father’s confession of unbelief did not disqualify him from God’s grace. Rather, it opened him to a fresh experience of that grace, right where it was needed most.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you feel freedom before God to confess your doubts and hesitations?
What helps you to have stronger faith in God?
O Lord, as I read this story, I find it so easy to relate to the father. I can imagine his desperation as he sought deliverance for his son. I can feel his hopeful fear as he admitted to you that he believed, but needed help with his unbelief. How often have I prayed to you just like this father!
Thank you, gracious Lord, for hearing my prayers of mustard-seed-sized faith. Thank you for not rejecting me when I question or doubt. Thank you for giving me the freedom to lay myself before you just as I am. Thank you for all you have done, and all you are doing, to strengthen my faith. By your grace, help me to trust you more, even today. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: So Little Faith
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.