The story of a certain father bringing his demon-possessed son to Jesus is recorded in Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, and Luke 9:37-42. While each of those accounts provides different details about the story, the account that typically gets used as a preaching text is Mark’s. The reason for that has to do with the dialogue that Mark says took place between the father and Jesus.
According to Mark, the father brings the son to Jesus and says, “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The word “If” gives us a glimpse into that father’s heart. He is open-minded about Jesus but not fully convinced. He is willing to give Jesus a try, but he can’t make himself unreservedly believe that Jesus can cure the boy. But let’s not be too harsh on this man. He isn’t a bad sort of fellow; he is just a parent at his wit’s end over his child’s deplorable condition.
Jesus knows this, and so He doesn’t lambaste the guy for using the word “If.” Instead of getting all defensive about His miracle-working power, Jesus goes on the offensive by saying to the father, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” You have to love that comeback. Now the pressure is back on the father. Does the man have enough belief to see his son delivered?
This brings us to everybody’s favorite part of the story as the father responds to Jesus by saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” How’s that for blunt honesty? “Lord, I’m not totally faithless. 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. 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, this one is perhaps the most natural for me. I believe the Lord can and will do wonderful things in my life, but my belief frequently needs help. It’s during such times that I need a fresh measure of the Lord’s strengthening grace. Putting it another way, 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 bench presses 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 bar that is holding the weight, pulls it back up, and places it onto the holding bars.
I see myself as a weightlifter who can bench press 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 bench press, 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 my inability. He can pick up where I leave off.
I write this as a way of encouraging those of you out there 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. After all, 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 it isn’t. But the Lord always stands ready to give credit where credit is due, and He understands that some faith is certainly better than no faith. Think about a loving earthly father. If that father sees that his child is obviously making an attempt to live up to his wishes, he will not give up on his child. Instead, he will work with that 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 our heavenly Father?