I believe! But also, not so much.
Mark 9 records an account where a poor boy was tormented by demons. While it’s rare to encounter the powers of darkness manifesting in that way today, Ephesians 6 teaches the powers of darkness are at work in the world everyday.
When Jesus got there, some of the disciples were attempting a prayerless exorcism on this poor boy. When the boy’s father saw Jesus, he went to plead wit him for help. Not only did this set the stage for a demonstration of Christ’s power, but it gives some eyebrow raising insight into His grace.
While the disciples overestimated their strength, the father of this poor boy confessed his weakness. The disciples had a posture of self reliance and as a result, the restoring power of God evaded them. The father had a posture of total dependance and as a result, the restoring power of God was extended toward him.
After explaining his son’s torment, the father asked Jesus, “can you do anything?”. In the Greek, “can you do” is δύνῃ, which is “power”. This could also be translated, “do you have the power to do anything”? Jesus response was, “Can I do anything?” It sounds as though Jesus was about to strike the tone of a powerful, prestigious person annoyed by someone who doesn’t recognize their celebrity. Jesus continued, “All things possible to the one who believes.”
Jesus set the bar – and the bar is high.
The belief Jesus is asking for, (πιστεύοντι) is to come to the place where one is fully convinced and fully trusts. It is at this point that the father responds in utter desperation with the well known cry …
“I believe – help my unbelief!”
Consider the disparaging difference between what Jesus asks for and what this man can muster. Jesus asks for trust, this man confesses that he’s a mixed bag of belief and unbelief. Faith and fear. Trust and doubt. Jesus set the requirements and the father confesses that he doesn’t meet Jesus requirements.
What Jesus does for this wavering, weak father is worth noting because it’s how Jesus relates to everyone who comes to Him confessing their wavering weakness.
Jesus responds to the confession of weakness by moving toward those in weakness.
Jesus moves in healing, restoring power and grace. Jesus delivered the boy – not because the father demonstrated faith-filled righteousness but honest, repentant, helplessness.
To say, “I believe – help my unbelief!” is to say “I am wrestling with doubts, I can’t meet your requirements – help me!” In this passage in Mark 9, saving faith is revealed – not as unwavering strength, but an honest confession that you have no strength.
The good news of the gospel and the reason we gather together to worship is that Jesus is faithful though we are unfaithful. All our imperfection is swallowed up in His perfection. For all those who are united to Christ by grace and through faith, God looks on us as Jesus looked on this man – and we are accepted. Loved. Received. Brought in. Justified. So we put all our chips on Jesus.
May God continue the work He began in you, by his grace, as you live in honest confession of your need for him.
And my Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9