This past Sunday I preached on the subject of spiritual warfare. My text was Ephesians 6:12. I opened the sermon by showing a scene from the movie Jesus of Nazareth. The scene depicted the story of the demon-possessed son who kept throwing himself into fire and water (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-42).
The father in that story brought the son to Jesus and said, “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The word “If” gives us a glimpse into the man’s heart. He was open-minded about Jesus, but not convinced. He was willing to give Jesus a try, but he couldn’t make himself unreservedly believe that Jesus could cure the boy. Let’s not be too harsh on the man, though. He wasn’t a bad sort of fellow. He was just a parent at his wit’s end over his child’s deplorable condition.
Jesus knew this, and He didn’t lambaste the guy for using the word “If.” Instead of getting all defensive about His miracle-working power, Jesus went on the offensive. He said to the father, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” You gota love that comeback. “The issue is not My power; it is your belief.”
And now we come to my favorite part of the story. The father’s response to Jesus is, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” There is blunt honesty on display. “Lord, I’m not totally faithless. I’m not a rank unbeliever. There is a very real part of me that does believe you can heal my son. But I won’t lie and say that my faith is perfect. It’s not. I need you to help it. I want to be the believer You want me to be, but You are going to have to help me get there.”
Of all the Bible stories in which I could be cast, perhaps this one would be the most natural for me. I believe the Lord can and will do wonderful things in my life, but my belief frequently needs help. In such times I need a fresh measure of the Lord’s strengthening grace. I need Him to look at me through eyes of mercy and not let my bad cancel out my good.
Those of us who know something about weightlifting know the term “spotter.” A spotter is a person who stands behind the bench while the weightlifter lies on the bench and benchpresses as much weight as he can. When the weightlifter reaches the limit of what he can lift, and the weight starts coming back down toward his chest, the spotter reaches down with both hands, grabs the weight, pulls it back up, and places it in the holding bars.
I see myself as a weightlifter who can benchpress a limited amount of weight. I know where the spiritual gym is, and I know how to handle myself in the midst of a spiritual benchpress. But when the weight becomes too heavy for me, when I can no longer lift it, when I feel it is just about to crash down hard onto my chest, I’m glad I have Jesus as my spotter. His strength makes up for weakness. His ability covers over my inability. He can pick up where I leave off.
I write this as a way of encouraging each of you who are too hard on yourself concerning your level of faith. If you are a Christian, and if you have a legitimate amount of faith, don’t think that your lack of “ideal” faith keeps the Lord from doing what He wants to do in your life. If Jesus had waited until the father of that demon-possessed boy had “perfected” his belief, who knows when that boy would have been delivered and healed? Would he ever have been?
You see, it’s not that your somewhat deficient faith is a good thing. We know better than that. But the Lord always stands ready to give credit where credit is due. He understands that some faith is certainly better than no faith. Think of it this way: A loving father who sees that his child is obviously making an attempt to live up to his wishes will not give up on the child. What he will do is work with the child, show patience, and give the child time to do even better. And my point is, if an earthly father will operate like that, how much more will God?