" I believe . . . Help thou mine unbelief!"
Mar 9:20 "And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him grievously; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
And he asked his father, How long time is it since this hath come unto him? And he said, From a child. And oft-times it hath cast him both into the fire and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. And Jesus said unto him, If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth. Straightway the father of the child cried out, and said, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (American Standard Version)
The father of the demon-possessed son was not the only one who has ever had to deal with the problem of doubt. It is fair to say that all who have ever followed Christ have had their weak moments. But I challenge you to do as the Beroean brethren of Acts 17 did: study the scriptures to see if this is so:
Neither God nor the Holy Spirit nor the Son ever lost patience with people who had doubts but were honestly trying to believe.
In our study let us see if this statement is true. For now, though, accept it in reassurance and in confidence that if we have doubts and are trying to resolve those doubts, God will not lash out at us, but will help us resolve those doubts and will help us to have even stronger faith.
There is an old saying that if we give a man a fish, we have fed him for one day; if we teach him to fish, we have fed him for a lifetime. In this lesson let us create a way to face our doubts and deal with them in ways that will give us a stronger faith, every time. We should not have to look away from doubt as we would avert our eyes from things that give us earthly fears, but rather let us learn to face our spiritual fears head on. Here's the procedure, in a short list. Then let's flesh it out.
1. Face that doubt, knowing that the Godhead has always helped rather than punished those who admitted that their faith needed strengthening.
2. Name that doubt! so you can better face it and bring its name to God in prayer.
3. Analyze that doubt! so you can better understand why it makes you fearful. In analyzing the doubt you have faced, you will have already begun to discover the doubt's weak points.
4. Acknowledge who or what is bringing that doubt to you! Are the seeds of doubt being planted by someone you think of as a friend? As a scientist? As a religious thinker? Just about every time, the person who is bringing you doubts about your religious convictions is a person who has an agenda.
5. See what the scripture says about that doubt! The answers are there, my friend. The scriptures are able to thoroughly furnish you unto every good work (2 Tim. 3: 17). When Satan was trying to plant doubt in Jesus' mind (Matthew 4, Luke 4) while tempting Him in the wilderness, Jesus answered Satan every time with a "Thus saith the Lord." We sometimes have difficulty answering Satan in this way because we are not deep enough into God's word.
Let's look at each of these five points in turn and in more detail. Having this plan for dealing with doubt will help us overcome a lack of faith. And remember to look for any exceptions to what I have said above about any member of the Godhead being anything less than helpful to people who would admit their doubts and ask for Divine help.
Facing that doubt. The father of the boy who had the evil spirit faced the doubt that Jesus might not be able to heal him. Probably so many well-intentioned medicine men and spiritualists had tried to before, only to fail. The father wanted to believe--but was Jesus any different from those who had tried before? How did Jesus react to his belief, and his cry "Help thou mine unbelief?" Did Jesus get shrill with him or tell the father to "straighten up?" No-- Jesus both healed the son and strengthened the faith of the father. The Gospel of Mark is strewn from one end to the other with accounts of miracles that Jesus did. The Gospel of Mark is sometimes referred to as The Book of Miracles. The miracles weren't done to provide immediate and earthly relief to the people who received them--they were done so that people might believe that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. If you are having a crisis of faith, read Mark. And read the creation account of Genesis. Those are tremendous faith builders. And "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10: 17). So face that doubt, and face the fact that you are having a crisis of faith head-on. Christ is there to help you.
In fact, after overcoming a particular crisis of faith, you will be made stronger. Facing and overcoming doubt have an innoculative effect. That's what James was talking about in James 1: 2-4.
Naming that doubt. Put a name on what is bothering you. After you have named it, you can begin working on it, but until you admit that you have a doubt and name that doubt, it will be a formless, faceless demon in the background that will keep you from enjoying the abundant life (John 10: 10) that Jesus wanted you to have.
1. Doubting that there is a God. This doubt is pretty basic. 2 Kings 6: 14-18 tells of the servant of Elisha that feared the Syrians that were camping all around them. Finally Elisha asks of God, "Open my servant's eyes, Lord, that he may see." And the servant's eyes were opened and he saw the chariots and horsemen (angels) of the Lord all around, a heavenly host of warriors that would not let anything bad happen to Elisha and his servant. At Elisha's bidding, the Syrians were struck blind.
A lot of us need to open our eyes, that we might see. Romans 1 speaks of God being evident in the natural wonders all around us. The odds that the world in which we live could have come together and be in a living state by accident are so infinestimally small that no thinking person would believe evolution as an explanation. There had to be a Master Designer and Architect for all of this to exist and in its orderly state. God is that Designer and Architect. We must believe that to begin to grow in further faith (Hebrews 11: 6).
2. Doubting that God will defend us, care for us, or provide for us. When you have named that doubt, see these scriptures: Matthew 6: 25-33, Romans 8: 28, Psalms 23: 1-6. Reflect upon your own past life about how God has gotten you through situations that initially looked so formidable. We are never in a place where God cannot find us (Psalms 139: 1-18).
3. Doubting that you can do the mission God has in mind for you. If you doubt this one, you are in some pretty good company. Moses had the same problem! (Exodus 3: 10-3: 14; 4: 1 - 17). Note that only when Moses said "Lord, send another"--a gesture of rebellion, not of doubt--was there any anger on the part of the Lord. Until then, the Lord had been patiently unpacking one tool after another for Moses to use to unify Israel behind him and to reason with/overcome Pharoah. See if that doesn't test my assertion of the third paragraph (above)!
God has given us talents and abilities to do specific parts of His mission (Matthew 25: 14-30; Romans 12: 4-8). He will use us for the upbuilding of His Kingdom if we will only allow ourselves to be used in that way. One of the problems in the Kingdom today is that there are too many five-talent people trying to convince themselves that they are two-talent people. But God knows where He left the money! Let us be faithful in carrying out the mission that He had in mind.
4. Doubting that Jesus is the Christ. A lot of people, some of them in the Bible, had this problem. Thomas (John 20: 24-41) wanted to believe but felt that he just had to see the evidence. And evidence was what Jesus gave him--the spear-prick in his side, the nailprints in his hands and feet. Jesus responds with evidence of his life and his uniqueness to those who are really trying to believe in Him. Open your Bibles and read! If you are doubting that Jesus is the Christ, read the Gospels. Read in Matthew of all of the prophecies that were fulfilled through him. Read of Jesus' miracles in Mark. Read of His parables, his work as The Master Teacher, in Luke. Read of his Divinity as God's son in the Gospel of John. If faith is low, get your nose in the Bible.
Simon Peter had his moment of doubt in faith ( Matthew 26: 33-35; 69-75). Jesus had only to look at him to remind Peter of how far off the mark he had fallen. But Jesus did not harangue him or call angels down to punish him--rather he enabled Peter to be the most quoted speaker of Pentecost (see Acts 2: 14-47).
Analyzing that doubt.--what is there about ourselves that makes it easy to doubt? The following is only one illustration how we can set ourselves up for doubt by the way we read the Bible. That's assuming we read it at all! If we won't read, we won't believe (Romans 10: 17) Read some out of the Old and New Testaments. Are we obligated to keep the commandments of the Old Law? Of course not (Hebrews chapters 7 through 10; Galatians chapters 3, 4, and 5). But reading the New Testament only can lead us to a faith in the system that God made instead of a faith in the God who made it. Read in the Old Testament of how God has always provided for His people. Read of his faithfulness and man's fickleness. Read of God's patience and love. The Old Testament is a real faith builder and doubt-buster. I think it likely that the Christian who never reads his Old Testament is setting himself up for a crisis of faith at some point in his life such as a major illness, a disappointment in a mate or child, or the death of a loved one. Don't love a system; love the God who made the system of salvation.
Acknowledge who or what is bringing that doubt to you. Who's bringing you this unpleasant information, the information that causes you to doubt? Currently there is a ripple in Christendom about having archeologists finding the tomb of Jesus and the tomb of Mary Magdalene right next to it. And who is one of the people principally behind it? The curator for the Jewish Museum! Why of course the Jews would come up with such a story! They were doing that within hours of Jesus' resurrection! Why should we believe them? This is almost like a Halloween prank. If anyone finds the tomb of Jesus, they will be looking at an empty one--scripture tells us so.
So many times we hear of scientists who think they have found something new in evolution, something to threaten our Christian faith. Science gets re-written every time we turn around. The Bible stays the same. Science is like the shifting sand of Matthew 7: 24-28 on the Sermon on the Mount. After the scientists have robbed you of your faith, now what will they offer you? Do they have any way to show you how to live any more abundant life (John 10: 10) than Jesus showed you? And if they are wrong about there being a God and there being a judgement, how much do you think they will be able to help you as you stand unrepentant before the judgement bar of God? Analyze that doubt! People who want you to doubt usually have an agenda. All too often, they don't like to have people around them who show evidence of having much of a conscience. So they try to get the Christians to change instead of changing their own lives.
Even under the Old Testament, Israelites were commanded to recognize who brought doubts and disbeliefs to them--and to punish such evil talkers (Deuteronomy 13:1-10). Don't let unbelieving people work on you and work on you and work on you (2 Corinthians 6: 14-7:1). Find some new friends, ones who will help you walk closer to the Lord.
See what the scripture says about that doubt. It's impossible to say it too much: You need to be a student of the scriptures before doubt arrives (2 Tim. 2: 15). In fact, if you are a good Bible student, doubt will rarely raise its ugly head. You just don't hear much of daily Bible readers having a crisis of faith.