Long ago, a man brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus. The evil spirit troubling this young man would often cause him to fall down, foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, and become rigid. The boy’s father explained to Jesus that his son had been possessed from childhood, and that the demon often threw his son into fire or water. In desperation, the man begged Jesus to have compassion and cast the demon out.
This scenario might seem unrelatable to us in our day, since we don’t commonly witness demon-possession. But we who are parents can sympathize with this father in more ways than we may understand at first glance.
Imagine this family’s misery, living with such a dangerous and difficult situation. People likely avoided this child and those living with him. Imagine a life with no friends—even your relatives want nothing to do with you. This family lived in constant fear, regularly dealing with the terrifying events the father described. How many of us have faced agonizing concerns for our own children, whatever the cause? Few things cut into a parent’s heart so deeply as a suffering child.
Jesus certainly felt this pain and, moved with compassion, said to the man, “‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23–24). The Scriptures go on to show that Jesus honored this man’s faith by commanding the demonic spirit to come out forever! “Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose” (Mark 9:26–27). This moving story demonstrates the potential of faith and the power of God Almighty! Although this spirit had not responded to Christ’s disciples, it was no match for the faith-filled Son of God. The demon had no choice but to obey Christ’s order!
There inevitably come times when we, too, recognize that we are insufficient to address the concerns that weigh on us. There are times when we cry out for God to rescue us or a loved one. In such cases, our faith will be tested. Before God intervenes, He wants to know if we “believe.” When we ask God for a miracle, He requires faith.
James, Jesus’ brother, wrote that if we truly desire answers, we must “ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6–8). To doubt is to be divided in one’s mind, to halt between belief and unbelief with an inclination toward the latter. If we have the faith of Jesus Christ, there will be no hesitation, doubt, or vacillating thoughts.
The doubter is likened to “a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” A wave has no stability. It is at the wind’s mercy, driven and tossed about. In like manner, he who comes to God with unsettled convictions is likely to be mentally driven about. At one moment, his mind is filled with faith and hope—at the next, with uncertainty and doubt. Hope on one hand and fear on the other keep the mind restless and faithless. To be “double-minded” in this way is to be unsettled, undetermined. Scripture confirms how important faith is in a Christian’s life: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). In other words, we can only hope for God’s favor if we put confidence in Him. He sees the heart, and if He sees there no belief in His existence, no real trust in Him, no reliance on His promises, we cannot please Him. Why would God grant us what we ask of Him if we ask in such a state of mind? If we waver between belief and unbelief, we should not expect God’s favor, nor should we expect the desired answers to our prayers.
Faith is simply confidence and assurance in God. We can depend on God never to break His word (Hebrews 6:18; 10:23). Faith is the assurance that what God has promised, He is able to perform (Romans 4:21). It is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the unshakable belief that God will do what He has said He will do. But that belief must be rooted in something more fundamental than our own desires—we must seek God’s will.
In 1 John 5:14–15 we read, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” God reveals His will through His written word, and real, dynamic, living faith must be based on it. If we wish to know what God has and has not promised, we must “search the Scriptures” (John 5:39). The Bible shows that it is His will to heal us, for instance. However, it also reveals that if we wish to be healed, we must have faith, exercise patience, and live in obedience to God’s laws (1 John 3:22). When we pray for healing, we must believe and obey—and then, because God has not promised when He will heal us, we must patiently wait for Him to intervene. So, besides faith, obedience and patience are also conditions for healing. Sometimes God heals instantly, but more often He requires us to wait. In some instances, God chooses to delay healing until the resurrection. We are required to exercise patience, trusting that God will act when He knows the time is best. James said the prayer of faith will save the sick and God will raise them up (James 5:15)—but he did not say when.
It is important to realize that our own faith is insufficient to save us—we need to have the faith of the Son of God added to our limited, human faith. Faith is God’s gift (Ephesians 2:8) and it comes through Bible study (Romans 10:17) and through prayer. Like the father of the demon-possessed boy, we need to ask for the power to overcome our doubts and faithlessness. The apostles understood this and asked Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). Unbelief is the opposite of faith, and it is a dead-end street! “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
Let’s pray for more faith. When our families face trials, we should be thankful that God is testing and deepening our faith and helping us develop greater patience—two important aspects of holy character! In our trials, there is no one we can trust more than God. Trust Him!