Have you seen this poster on the T? You ever feel like this? Well, you're in good company. The words are a quote from Scripture. In the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 9, a man brings his son to Jesus' disciples to be healed. The boy has been suffering with a serious, life-threatening, heart-wrenching ailment since childhood and the father has heard that Jesus and his disciples can help. Life has been breathed back into his hope. He's not sure he buys all the stories, but "what if it's true?" What if Jesus is who he claims he is, and he can truly help?
However, Jesus' disciples, who have been known to heal before, are helpless before the boy's condition.
Jesus reaction to the disciples ineptitude is a little overwhelming: "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." The disciples lacked power because they lacked of faith. Jesus calls them "faithless." This is surprising, considering it must have taken at least a modicum of faith to attempt a healing! Actually, they must have had lots of faith. When's the last time you've attempted to heal someone? What did Jesus mean, then?
At the end of the account, after Jesus had healed the boy, the disciples asked Jesus privately, "Why could we not cast it [the oppressive spirit] out?" Jesus answered "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer." Prayer?! Prayer?!?! Isn't this obvious? Isn't it obvious that you don't attempt spiritual work without spiritual preparation? Apparently, the disciples had forgotten. Perhaps they took it for granted. They had healed before. They had cast of demons. They had experienced spiritual victories. They believed. Their faith was strong (if it hadn't been, they would never have attempted to heal the boy). However, incrementally and imperceptibly, their faith, though strong, became misdirected. They had become so confident in their faith that they had attempted an exorcism without turning to God for help. Over time, it became bent inwardly, and they began to "believe in themselves." They forgot to pray.
See, the lesson in Mark 9 is all about faith. True faith, powerful faith, vibrant faith is always faith directed at Jesus. Ultimately, it's not the strength of your faith that matters, but the direction.
The boy's father, though he hadn't spent much time with Jesus, believed IN Jesus. The father pleaded with Jesus: "If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus said to him, " 'If you can!' All things are possible for one who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"
Jesus seems a little taken aback that the father would even question Jesus' power. My power is not the issue, Jesus seems to be saying. Your faith is! Your faith is the channel through which Jesus' power flows. Do you believe? Is your faith directed at Jesus? The father says: yes! Yes, it is! But, I'm not sure it's strong enough. "I believe; help my unbelief!" The man is struggling with doubt, but even his doubts are directed at Jesus. True faith is honest faith: whatever mixture of confidence and doubt it's all directed at Jesus. So Jesus heals the boy.
True faith is always aware of how small and inadequate it is. The father becomes a believer not when he amasses a sufficient amount of faith but when he risks everything on what little faith he has, when he yields his insufficiency to the true sufficiency of Jesus, “ ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”