17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” 19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “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.” 23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
I love this story. The father brings his son to Jesus in the hope that maybe Jesus can do something about the son’s pathetic condition. He wants to believe that Christ can help, but he’s ambivalent. “If you can do anything…,” he says. Part of him has confidence that Jesus can do something, but his faith is also compromised by doubt. Jesus affirms that all things are possible to those who believe. The father’s response is the classic statement of faith tinged with doubt—“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”
Isn’t this the reality where our faith is concerned? We are most often a mixture of faith and doubt. Confidence and skepticism. Belief and unbelief. I am encouraged by Jesus’ response to the man’s divided heart. He doesn’t say, “Too bad for you. I can’t believe you have doubts. Come back later when your faith is 100% and undeniable. I’m sorry, but you missed out on any healing for your son, since your faith wasn’t complete.” Jesus doesn’t say any of that. Instead, he rebukes the impure spirit and heals the man’s son. He responds to an incomplete but hungry faith.
Part of God’s grace to us is His willingness to help even when we struggle to believe. While it’s true that God calls on us to put our trust in Him, He is aware of our often-feeble faith. He knows we have trust issues. We wrestle with whether we can really trust God to meet our needs. There’s a great verse in Jude. It’s verse 22, “Be merciful to those who doubt.”
So today, if you’re wondering whether you can trust God for your needs, take heart from this episode. Remember that the power of faith is in the object of your faith. Even a small amount of faith placed in the right object (person) can produce a mighty result. You can be transparent enough with God to say, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”