"When the [evil] spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy's father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘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 him who believes.’ Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’"
- Mark 9:20-24 NIV
In the above passage, a man whose son is possessed by an evil spirit appeals to Jesus to deliver the boy from his torment. We discover in the preceding verses that the disciples had just attempted to drive out the demon, and failed. Who could blame this father for his doubts? When he appeals to the Master for help, Jesus indicates that the man's own faith plays a part in whether or not his son will receive a miracle. It is then that this parent pleads with the Savior to help him believe. How does Jesus respond? He doesn't say, “Well, you've just missed your chance for a miracle, and now your son will just have to learn to live with that demon!” No, Jesus responds by casting the foul spirit out of the boy forever.
Some Christians believe that in certain matters, our faith has to be perfect before we can receive anything from God. I used to believe that myself. Some believe that we shouldn't ask God to increase our faith because it might displease Him, and He probably wouldn't do it anyway. Now I believe that in times of doubt, that father's exclamation is one of the best prayers I can pray. Romans 12:3 says that our faith is a gift from God. And Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) says that Jesus is “the author and perfecter of our faith.” The Bible makes it clear that our faith is a gift from God, perfected by God, so why do we berate ourselves when we can't muster up the faith we think we should have?
I do believe Scripture reveals that doubt and unbelief are sins against God, and because of that, we need to resist them like other sins. But if we are permitted, and even expected, to ask God for help to overcome other sins, why can't we do the same when we're struggling with doubt?
In addition to prayer, there are other things we can do to cooperate with God's faith-building plan for us. The Bible says that God's Word builds our faith. (Romans 10:17, Acts 20:32) So, we can devote ourselves to studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Scriptures. And we can spend time listening to good preaching and teaching. But let us not forget that in times of doubt, we can pray like the Savior's own disciples did – “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)
Prayer: Lord, I want so much to have perfect faith, but sometimes I must confess that I struggle with doubt. During those times, I ask You to help me overcome my unbelief. Increase my faith daily, and teach me to do my part, so that I can cooperate with You for the perfecting of my faith. Thank You for giving me the faith I need to receive all that You have for me!
- J. M. Farro