Mark 9:14-29 (ESV)

14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Jesus, along with Peter, James, and John, came down from the mountain where he had been transfigured and spoke with Moses and Elijah. When they returned, they saw a large crowd surrounding the disciples who didn’t go up with Jesus, as well as some of the religious leaders. The nine who stayed back weren’t idle. They had been at work attempting to do what Jesus taught and commanded them. But because of their lack of apparent success, the disciples and the religious leaders were now disputing and fighting with one another. Suddenly they noticed Jesus had returned! The crowd ran up to him and greeted him. Jesus asked what they were arguing about. A father replied by telling him that his son was demon-possessed. The father asked the disciples to cast the evil spirit out, but they weren’t able to. Jesus then spoke to the crowd and his followers, saying, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” The disciples couldn’t cast the demon out because of their unbelief. Jesus asked the father what the problem was with his son, and after the father described what the demon did, he added, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The father witnessed the failure of the disciples. Maybe Jesus would fail too. Jesus exclaimed, “If!” And then he added, “All things are possible for one who believes.”

The lesson Jesus taught was clear: true faith doesn’t put a limit on what God can do. Our question should never be “Can God do it?” Instead, our question should be “Is it God’s will to do it?” When the father approached Jesus, he asked for compassion from God (v. 22). Now Jesus asked him for faith. The lonely and desperate father faced a tough challenge from Jesus. Did the father have faith? In broken humility, the father cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24). What a beautiful request. The father knew his weakness. He brilliantly acknowledged that Jesus was both the object and the source of his faith. Without God, none of us can believe the way God calls us to believe. In what area do you doubt God’s ability to move? Respond as the father did. Cry out to Jesus today, “I believe; help my unbelief!”