January 10, 1995
He was a sick little boy. Not only mute, he sometimes fell to the ground, rigid with flecks of foam coming from his mouth. The neighbors called it a demonic disorder but whatever was wrong, his family was desperate.
Finally his father took him to some faith healers. In spite of their confidence, When they tried to help him, nothing worked. Their efforts drew the attention of a few religious leaders and an argument added to an already distressing scene.
As onlookers wondered what was happening, three more approached. One of them asked the men who tried to heal the boy why they were arguing. The father of the boy answered: “Teacher, I brought my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
The Teacher, whose name was Jesus, told him to bring the child. Immediately the boy went into a convulsion, fell to the ground and rolled around foaming at the mouth. The father said the boy had been like this for a long time and added, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
Jesus said, “’If you can?’ Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” At that, Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and the boy was healed.
This remarkable narrative from the New Testament tells us about human doubt in the face of divine power. I can identify with the “faith” of that father. I believe yet there is sometimes doubt. Is God really able to take care of my problems? Is my faith sufficient?
Sometimes people claim to have “strong faith” but actually are focused more on their own fervent emotional assurance. From personal experience, I recognize this as misplaced faith. Instead of believing in God, the emphasis has shifted to believing in “faith.” When that happens, I need reminding that Biblical faith is not measured by the strength of personal convictions. God’s reliability does not slide up and down with my feelings.
Faith is only as good as its object. If my object or basis of trust becomes the strength of my come-and-go emotions, my responses to life soon begin to match. On the other hand, stability returns as I and focus on God and rely on His power, regardless of what I feel. Biblical faith is not faith in the strength of faith but faith in the strength of God.
Faith does not stand alone. It requires an object, something or someone to believe in. It also requires knowledge about that object. It is impossible to believe in something we don’t know. Because we tend to make up gods in our own image, God graciously gave us a revelation of Himself so we can know about Him, but we also need to be aware of this revelation. Faith can’t be conjured up by someone who is ignorant about God.
The Bible affirms this need: “Faith comes by hearing... and hearing by the Word of God.” As we read about God as described in Scripture and revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ, faith can develop and grow. If we look at circumstances (like sick children), and our human weaknesses, doubts, emotions, and wavering convictions, “faith” wobbles along with them, kept on a teeter-totter by our gut-reactions.
The solution is hearing... or reading the Bible. The father went to the Living Word with his confession of mixed feelings. We now can go to the Written Word where God replaces doubt with confidence in Him. He is in control and He wants us to know it.