A crowd gathered around Jesus’ disciples. A demon-possessed boy had been brought to them, but they were unable to cast out the devil. When Jesus appeared, the father rushed to him, desperate for someone to help his son. “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” the father implored (Mark 9:22, NKJV).
The New King James Version doesn’t do justice to the words Jesus then spoke: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Other translations almost certainly capture the real response of our Lord: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (ESV). In that response, Jesus chides the man for doubting his power. The problem is not the Lord’s ability; it’s lack of faith that hinders what God might do.
The father’s response confirms this view: “Immediately the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'” (Mark 9:24) By acknowledging a deficiency in his faith, the man opened the door to divine power.
Do we recognize that our faith may not be where it should be? True, we are regular in attending worship and in Bible reading. But how strong is our faith in God’s power in our lives? Could it be that our doubts might hinder what God could do through us?
Paul pointed to Abraham as a model for our faith: “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20). Was it easy for this aged man to believe God’s promise that he would have a son? But Abraham put more emphasis on the power of God than he did on the frailties of his own body, and his faith thus triumphed.
But that was Abraham. We today don’t have the same ability to be instruments in the hand of God — do we? Consider these words before you dismiss the possibility: “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Do those words still apply to Christians? Undoubtedly they do, and they affirm that God’s power is still available to do great things, assuming we don’t limit that power by our unbelief.
Focusing on a material world won’t strengthen anyone’s faith. Under those conditions, unbelief will prevail, and God’s power will be shut out. Those who redirect their attention to the spiritual realm make themselves available for God’s work. No, it won’t be miraculous works, as in the case of the demon-possessed boy. But God’s influence in a Christian’s life will nonetheless attract the attention of many and will lead some to glorify God (see Matthew 5:16).
Lord, help my unbelief!
My lack of faith hinders the power of God in my life.