Thursday, September 10, 2009

Help My Unbelief - Mark 9

"And when they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. And immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed, and began running up to greet Him. And He asked them, 'What are you discussing with them?' And one of the crowd answered Him, 'Teacher, I brought you my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and stiffens out. And I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.'
And He answered them and said, 'O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring Him to Me!'

And they brought the boy to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling about and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' And he said, 'From childhood. And it has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!' And Jesus said to him, 'If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.'

Immediately the boy's father cried out and began saying, 'I do believe; help my unbelief.'
And when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.'
And after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, 'He is dead!' But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. And when He had come into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, 'Why could we not cast it out?' And He said to them, 'This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer and fasting.'"
(Mark 9:14-29)

In my last post I began looking at Hebrews 11 - the faith chapter. The apostle gave us the Biblical definition of faith - "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Before taking a tour down the hall of faith that we find in verses 4-40 of that beautiful chapter, I wanted to camp out for a day in Mark 9.

I don't know about you (well, actually I've got a pretty good idea about you), but from time to time I struggle with my faith. Within me there is a sad and at times sickening mixture of great faith and of great doubt. 

I'm fickle. 
I'm foolish. 
I'm fallen - as we all are. 

Recently, a good friend pointed me to the words of J.C. Ryle from Mark 9. They have been a balm to my mustard seed soul and I will quote them in their entirety trusting and praying that they will soothe yours as well.

"The contrast between these verses and those which precede them in the chapter is very striking. We pass from the mount of transfiguration to a melancholy history of the work of the devil. We come down from the vision of glory, to a conflict with Satanic possession. We change the blessed company of Moses and Elijah, for the rude intercourse of unbelieving Scribes. We leave the foretaste of millennial glory, and the solemn voice of God the Father testifying to God the Son, and return once more to a scene of pain, weakness, and misery - a boy in agony of body, a father in deep distress, and a little band of feeble disciples baffled by Satan's power, and unable to give relief.
The contrast, we must all feel, is very great. Yet it is but a faint emblem of the change of scene that Jesus voluntarily undertook to witness, when He first laid aside His glory and came into the world. And it is after all a vivid picture of the life of all true Christians. With them, as with their Master, work, conflict, and scenes of weakness and sorrw will always be the rule. With them too, visions of glory, foretastes of heaven, seasons on the mount, will always be the exception.
Let us learn from these verses, how dependent Christ's disciples are on the company and help of their Master! We see this truth brought out in a striking manner in the scene which meets our Lord's eyes, when He came down from the mount. Like Moses, when he came down from Mount Sinai, he finds his little flock in confusion. He sees His nine apostles beset by a party of malicious Scribes, and baffled in an attempt to heal one who had been brought to them possessed with a devil. The very same disciples who a short time before had done many miracles and "cast out many devils," had now met with a case too hard for them. They were learning by humbling experience the great lesson, 'without me ye can do nothing' (Jn 15:5).
It was a useful lesson, no doubt, and over-ruled to their spiritual good. it would probably be remembered all the days of their lives. The things that we learn by smarting experience, abide in our memories, while truths heard with the ear are often forgotten. But we may be sure it was a bitter lesson at the time. We do not love to learn that we can do nothing without Christ.
We need not look far to see many illustrations of this truth in the history of Christ's people in every age. The very men who at one time have done great exploits in the cause of the Gospel, at another time have failed entirely, and proved weak and unstable as water. The temporary recantations of Cranmer and Jewell are striking examples.

The holiest and best of Christians has nothing to glory of. His strength is not his own. He has nothing but what he has received. He has only to provoke the Lord to leave him for a season, and he will soon discover that his power is gone. Like Samson, when he hair was shorn, he is weak as any other man
Let us learn a lesson of humility from the failure of the disciples. Let us strive to realize every day our need of the grace and presence of Christ. With Him we may do all things. Without Him we can do nothing at all. With Him we may overcome the greatest temptations. Without Him the least may overcome us. Let our cry be every morning, "leave us not to ourselves - we know not what a day may bring forth - if Thy presence go not with us we cannot go up.
Let us learn, in the second place, from these verses, how early in life we are liable to be injured by Satan. We read a fearful description of the miseries inflicted by Satan on the young man, whose case is here recorded. And we are told that he had been under this awful visitation from his very infancy. It came to him, 'as a child.'

There is a lesson of deep importance here which we must not overlook. We must labor to do good to our children, even from their earliest years. If Satan begins so early to do them harm, we must not be behind him in diligence to lead them to God. It is never too soon to strive and pray for the salvation of the souls of children - never too soon to speak to them as moral beings and tell them of God, and Christ, and right, and wrong. The devil, we may be quite sure, loses no time in endeavoring to influence the minds of young people. He begins with them even "as a child." Let us work hard to counteract him. If young hearts can be filled by Satan, they can also be filled with the Spirit of God.
Let us learn, in the third place, from these verses, how faith and unbelief can be mixed together in the same heart. The words of the child's father set this truth before us in a touching way. 'Lord,' he cried, 'I believe; help thou mine unbelief.'
We see in those words a vivid picture of the heart of many a true Christian. Few indeed are to be found among believers, in whom trust and doubt, hope and fear, do not exist side by side. Nothing is perfect in a child of God, so long as he is in the body. His knowledge, and love, and humility, are all more or less defective, and mingeld with corruption. And as it is with his other graces, so it is with his faith. He believes, and yet has about him a remainder of unbelief.
What shall we do with our faith? We must use it. Weak, trembling, doubting, feeble as it may be, we must use it. We must not wait till it is great, perfect, and mighty, but like the man before us, turn it to account, and hope that one day it will be more strong. 'Lord,' he said, 'I believe.'
What shall we do with our unbelief? We must resist it, and pray against it. We must not allow it to keep us back from Christ. We must take it to Christ, as we take all other sins and infirmities, and cry to Him for deliverance. Like the man before us, we must cry, 'Lord, help mine unbelief.'
These are experimental truths. Happy are they who know something of them. The world is ignorant of them. Faith and unbelief, doubts and fears, are all foolishenss to the natural man. But let the true Christian study these things well, and thoroughly understand them. It is of the utmost importance to our comfort to know, that a true believer may be known by his inward warfare, as well as by his inward peace."

The passage ends with Christ exercising complete and total dominion over Satan and all of his minions. Christ speaks with authority and they obey. 

The Lord Jesus is mighty to save. 
He is mighty to save us from our sufferings.
He is mighty to save us from Satan. 
And He is mighty to save us from ourselves 
     - even from the doubting self that lurks within.

"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." Friend, let us use the grain of faith, though it be as small as a mustard seed. Resist the mountain of unbelief and flee to One who makes mountains into valleys.

May our very warfare in this area be a source of peace and comfort assuring us that He has planted the seed of faith deep within our souls.


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