Faith and Doubt


From Glen’s daily devotional: The King’s English …

Mark 9:24 is the confession of all weak and failing Christians – which means all Christians:

“Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”

They are the words of a father seeking deliverance for his son who is oppressed by a spirit.  He tells Jesus,

‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’

‘“If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’

Mark 9:22-24

The father has faith and doubt all at once.  He has confidence and uncertainty mixed in together.  And it has to be this way.  It would be very strange for a believer if they didn’t make this kind of confession.  The Christian who did not confess to unbelief would betray their self-reliance.  If anyone declared their “unmixed and unwavering belief in the Lord” it would sound very much like a dependence upon their own faithfulness.  And this would be the opposite of faith!

This father shows us the way.  I need to pray “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” regularly.  Because every day I struggle with a mixed faith.  If anyone needed proof of my struggle, they would only have to look at my sin.  Every sin shows I don’t believe the gospel. That’s why Luther says in his Galatians commentary:

“The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.”

My sin shows my unbelief.  And my unbelief makes me cry out for more of Christ.  This father literally cries out with tears as he confesses his own poverty of faith.  Yet even as he does so, he makes it a prayer: Lord, help!   And this is the essence of faith.  Not reliance on some inner quality of belief, but reliance on the Lord from whom faith must come.

Jesus must help our unbelief – because belief does not originate in our own hearts.  It comes as a gift from the Lord.  He wins our hearts with His own compelling fidelity and this awakens a feeble and faltering response in us.  The Lord shows Himself trustworthy and faith is kindled in our hearts.  Therefore faith is always His to bestow.

Put it this way:  there is very little my wife can do to make herself trust in me.  But there is plenty that I can do to become more trustworthy.  In this sense, her faith in me is in my hands, not hers.  And so it is with Jesus.  He grants faith – not via some impersonal heavenly zapping – but through revealing more of His own gospel faithfulness.  For our part, we put ourselves in the way of His gospel promises and allow them to win our fearful hearts over and over again. This has to be the way, because faith is always something that comes to us from outside ourselves.

Are you someone who cries out “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”?  This plea from the father is not only permissible for Christians, it is foundational to our daily walk.

3 thoughts on “Faith and Doubt

  1. Yes! We do tend to beat ourselves up a bit when we struggle to believe, don’t we? But God has never “beaten me up” over any confession I have made to Him!

  2. Really helpful post – thank you! Two reasons spring to mind

    1 – helpful to direct my eyes to Jesus instead of worriedly naval gazing my own emotions wondering if I’ve got this ‘faith’ thing or not and whether the very fact of worrying about it means not and if not that’s a bit scary and being scared is scary because if I was ‘made perfect in love’ I wouldn’t fear and so on….

    2 – helpful to direct people to Jesus when they say “I wish I had your faith” instead of not knowing what to say and wondering if they’d say that if they saw #1 above…

    Thanks again


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