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Help My Unbelief

September 10, 2018

’Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9: 23-24).

Frances (“Fanny”) Crosby, was perhaps the most prolific American hymn writer.  She was blind her entire life.  She was inspired to write Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior after speaking at a Manhattan prison in 1868 where she heard some prisoners plead for the Lord not to pass them by.  The fragments of the lyrics from the hymn that generally come to my mind in the middle of the night are: “Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry . . . help my unbelief. . . Do not pass me by . . .”

I thought of this hymn as I meditated on the Scripture texts for next Sunday.[1]  The texts emphasize that we must rely on God throughout our entire lives. After we receive the gift of faith, we’re not done.  The necessity to rely on God every day is a theme throughout Scripture and throughout Sunday’s texts.

When Jesus and his disciples encounter a man whose son is possessed, the disciples are not able to heal him.  The father appealed to Jesus, who told him “’Everything is possible for him who believes.’  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9: 23-24).  The father instinctively understood that even though he believed, there was a residue of unbelief in his soul that he needed Jesus’ help in overcoming.  We need to rely constantly on the Savior to overcome any amount of unbelief that undermines our faith and daily reliance on God.  This was a lesson that the disciples had not yet learned.

After Jesus healed the boy, the disciples privately asked Jesus “’Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer’” (Mark 9: 28-29).  He was telling them two things: first, this was a difficult case, and second, that complete reliance and dependence on God through prayer is the key that opens the door for miracles to occur in our lives.

James echoes this theme in his discourse on taming the tongue when he writes “No man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Every day we must rely completely on God to move us closer to him in the faith.  Only with God’s help can we begin to exercise control over our gossipy, unkind, and angry words.

Isaiah confirms the necessity of turning to God daily for sustenance and help: “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning . . . The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.  Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced” (Excerpts, Isaiah 50: 4-7).

Finally, the psalmist sings that we must turn to God throughout our lives: “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live . . . The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me” (Psalm 116: 1-2; 5-6).

Ask Jesus to help your unbelief.  If you look to God daily, he will not ignore you.  Jesus does not pass by those who turn to him in prayer on a consistent basis. Ask him to help you with doubts, fears, stubbornness pride, anger, and anything else that separates you from God   Turn to him daily to help your unbelief. When you do, you will grow in faith and reliance on God.  He will not pass you by.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are: Isaiah 50: 4-10; Psalm 116: 1-9; James 3: 1-12; Mark 9: 14-29.

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