Mark chapter 9 contains one of my favorite lines in the entire Bible.
After Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, Jesus, Peter, James, and John returned to the other disciples. A crowd had gathered, arguing with them. When Jesus asked what was going on, a man in the crowd explained that his son was possessed by a demon and the disciples were not able to cast it out.
Jesus got angry, called them “‘You faithless people’” (Mark 9:19), and asked for the boy to be brought to him. When the evil spirit saw Jesus, it caused the boy to convulse.
Jesus asked the boy’s father how long it had been happening, and he said since the boy was little. Then he said to Jesus, “‘Have mercy on us and help us, if you can’” (Mark 9:22).
Then comes my favorite line: “‘What do you mean, “If I can”?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes’” (Mark 9:23).
Can you imagine that? Asking Jesus to help you if he can?
Then “The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24, emphasis added).
Jesus then commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy and never return, and the boy was healed. And later, when the disciples asked him why they were not able to cast out the evil spirit, Jesus told them “‘This kind can be cast out only by prayer’” (Mark 9:29).
When I was studying this story, the last part confused me a bit because I thought they already would have used prayer to try to cast out the demon. So I turned to where this same story is told in Matthew chapter 17. When the disciples asked why they couldn’t cast out the spirit, Jesus said, “‘You don’t have enough faith…I tell you the truth, if you had faith even 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’” (Matthew 17:20).
I don’t know about you, but I felt convicted when I read this story. As much as we claim to have faith, we doubt God. When our prayers aren’t answered right away, we think God won’t answer at all. When we are feeling lonely, we think God isn’t there. When we try to do things in our own strength and it doesn’t work out how we planned, we think that God let us down. We condition our requests to God with “buts” and “ifs” like the man in this story. Even the disciples didn’t have enough faith in this story!
One time that I doubted God recently was with my eye this past year. I’ve had chronic dry eye for a very long time, but about a year ago it got really bad. My left eye was incredibly blurry and dry and I was in extreme pain. Most days I stayed home with the curtains drawn and the lights off and the brightness turned all the way down on the television.
I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I babysat (my day job) when I could, but driving was nearly impossible. I went to eye doctor appointment after appointment, never finding a solution. I prayed for healing, but I didn’t have enough faith. I asked God to heal me if he could. And I remained in pain.
Then this spring I went to a worship concert. The bright lights were so painful and I had to wear two pairs of sunglasses, but I heard a testimony about continuing to work for God despite chronic pain, and I couldn’t stop my tears from burning my already-stinging eyes.
That night I recommitted to the work God has called me to—to write despite my pain. I had complete faith that it was all going to work out according to his purpose.
Can you guess what happened?
Two weeks later I had another eye doctor appointment, and we tried one more kind of drop.
My eye was better the next day.
Is there a situation in your life where you’re stuck in unbelief? Like the father and his demon-possessed son and like with my eye, faith as small as a mustard seed could cause your mountain to move.
In Mark 9, Jesus reminds us to never doubt him. Why ask God if he can help you? The ruler of heaven and earth will always help you in times of trouble—if you have faith.
Lord, please help us to have faith, even as small as a mustard seed. Remind us that anything is possible with you. Help us get rid of all of our “buts” and “ifs” and overcome our unbelief. Thank you for every time you have healed us and every time you will heal us in the future. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Featured Photo by: Allison Mims