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Help My Unbelief

Mark 9:14-29

Objective: To demonstrate the absolute power of Christ and the necessary belief of man in the power of Christ to experience a miracle of healing.


          We all need help. As Christians, when we need help we are to turn to the Lord for solutions. Unfortunately, we do not always do that. Why? There are many reasons I am sure, but today I would like us to ponder one specific reason why we do not turn to God for help in our most difficult needs, and that is this—our unbelief. What? Of course I believe. I believe in God the Father, I believe in the Son and His sacrificial work on the cross for my sins, I believe in the Holy Spirit who lives in me and reforms me according to the will of God. I believe in the Holy Scriptures delivered unto man through the Apostles. I believe in everything necessary and good for salvation. And to that I say Amen, very good, me too. However, you and I both know that there are times when deep down in the inner most part of our souls—we don’t. We lack belief.

          Today, I would like to challenge you with a text that speaks to this very issue of unbelief. I would like you to know that your unbelief is not and should not be unbelievable. That is to say, don’t be unduly taken a back by this reality, for our Lord demonstrates to us this certainty amongst his disciples and a certain individual father that we will be introduced to today.

          Please turn to the Gospel of Mark chapter nine verses fourteen through twenty-nine.       



Mark 9:14-29

14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them.

15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.

16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?”

17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute;

18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”

19 And He *answered them and *said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”

20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth.

21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.

22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!”

27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.

28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”

29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”


(First of all, I would like you to notice . . .)


I. The disciples suffered from unbelief in the power of Christ (9:14-21)

A. They were arguing with the scribes (vs. 14)

Although not specifically stated, it would be safe to say it had something to do with dad and his demon possessed son.

          B. They could not cast out demon possessed boy

                   1. “I told your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”

                   2. Why not? They were given the power to do so, and had done it before (6: 7,13). Perhaps a key component was missing.

                   3. William Lane in his commentary on this passage writes, “They possessed the power of God. . ., but during Jesus’ absence an attitude of unbelief* and self-confidence, based on past success, had exposed them to failure” (332).

          C. Christ expresses grief over their unbelief

                   1. As seen in His expression:                       

                             a. “And He *answered them and *said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you*?”

                             b. The sorrowful tone in Christ’s expression is a familiar one.

                                       - See for example, Mark 3:5 and 8:12b

                   2. From this we conclude the necessity of belief in the healing/healer

                             - Unbelief was a major component in why the disciples could not cast out the demon.



(Not only did the disciples doubt, but so did the father, so we see that. . .)


II. The father needed more belief in the power of Christ (9:22-24) 

                    A. He wondered if Christ could help (“If you can do anything”)

                             1. Possibly his questioning of Christ was due to the disciple’s inability to do anything for his son.

                             2. I like what one commentator writes, “In its struggle with temptation, faith must always free itself from the disastrous presumption of doubt, in the certainty that with God nothing is impossible (10:27), and that his majesty becomes most visible when human resources have become exhausted. Jesus thus calls for the faith which bows its head before the concealed glory of God” (Lane, 333).

                             3. The Lord uses the father’s own words and rephrases them, “If you can!” All things are possible to him who believes”                                       (9:23).

                                      - This segment of the text has a strange arrangement in the original which explains why it seems awkward in the English. In fact some omit the article the and others substitute the word believe in order to help it make sense.  One way to phrase it that may help would be, “with reference to your statement, ‘if you can’, All things are possible to him who believes.”

                    B. He cried out (“I do believe”)

                             a. The word believe in the original denotes a reliance or trust.

                             b. The word is very similar to faith.

                             c. It is crucial that we see that the father’s belief was a necessary component in the boys healing.

                              -We see similar examples in Christ’s ministry:

                              The healing of the paralytic, “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’” And later the man took up his pallet and walked.

                             The women with the issue of blood, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mk. 5:34

                            The opposite in Nazareth, “And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their UNBELIEF” (Mk. 6:6).

                   C. He needed help (“help my unbelief”)

                             a. His expression of help demonstrates an understanding of his                                need. That is to say, he believed but in his honest outcry he says                             I still struggle with unbelief.

                             b. John Calvin writes, “[h]e declares that he believes and yet                                    acknowledges himself to have unbelief. These two statements                                 may appear to contradict each other but there is none of us that                                      does not experience both of them in himself.”

                             b. We, too, will cry with a mix of both, I Believe, HELP MY UNBELIEF!


(Notice thirdly as a result of the father’s cry . . .)


       III. The power of Christ and the belief of the father are demonstrated in the miracle of the boy (9:25-27)

          A. The demon was cast out (vs. 25)

                   1. “You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

                   2. We would classify this as a miracle.

                             - I like the definition of a miracle by Wayne Grudem who                               modified a definition by John Frame, “[a] miracle is a less                                    common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s                       awe and wonder and bears witness to himself” (Systematic                                     Theology, 355).

                   3. Take note of the way in which this occurred (vs. 26)

                             a. The deeply entrenched demon came out in a very violent                                      manner showing to the bitter end its ultimate desire—to destroy                     the boy.

                             b. The mode in which it exited was so violent that it looked as if                              the boy was dead.

                             c. I wonder at this point if some of the mockers and doubters                                  were possibly snickering off to the side.

          B. The boy was restored (vs. 27)

                   - “But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.”

                   - Notice the Lord’s tenderness in this moment, especially in contrast                       to the evil spirit, “he took him by the hand.”

          C. The question of the disciples (vs. 28)

                   - This exchange with the disciples points to the necessity of belief in                        the absolute power and authority of Jesus over all principalities and                     power and prayer and, as some text(s) add fasting.


(By way of application, let me ask you a few questions)


IV. Application

          A. What area of your life do you need a miracle this day?

          B. How would you rate your belief?

          C. Have you ever asked Jesus to help your unbelief in your situation?

          D. Is it possible that your lack of belief has adversely affected your prayers?

          E. Take a moment and stop and think about an area in your life where you need more belief, right now. I would like you to write it down, earmark        the situation, and begin to ask the Lord to give you “belief-help.” Cry out to     God and seek his face. Pray, cry, fast, do whatever it takes to make sure that    you have done what you could to procure the blessing of God in your           situation.


(In conclusion. . .)


         This morning we saw that the disciples suffered from unbelief in the power of Christ. We saw a father that needed more belief in the power of Christ, and we saw that the power of Christ and the belief of the father together resulted in the miracle healing of a demon-possessed boy. If Christ can do that for that father and his boy, then he can do a miracle for you today!!! Do you believe??? Do you need more belief? So Do I! Then let us run to Jesus and ask for more belief.

Indeed, we can cry out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”




Like a River Glorious—Hymn no. 494

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