Daily Reading: Mark 9:23:
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
When they looked up from the mess they were in, they were amazed to find the answer to their problems, not in themselves, but in the Lord (Mark 9:15).
In order to properly understand the story in Mark 9, imagine you are one of the nine disciples who did not make the journey up the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. A father brings his son to you, the boy has a seizure right in front of you, demonic forces at work in this instance, and you can’t heal him. How would you react? Would you;
- a) conclude that it’s not God’s will to heal all the sick?
(b) tell the father that God can heal but He is not going to heal your son right at this moment – maybe in eternity?
(c) speculate that the son has some unconfessed sin in his life?
(d) declare that the boy is healed even though he is still writhing on the ground?
(e) be puzzled
Matthew’s Gospel gives us the answer to the disciples response: “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (Matthew 17:19).
Jesus’ answer to their question of why they could not drive out the demon and heal the boy may surprise you. It may also answer questions you have about why more people aren’t healed today. So why did the disciples fail to heal this boy? Contrary to what you may have heard, the answer is not their faith but their unbelief.
Note that some translations interpret “unbelief” as “little faith.” So Jesus’ answer in verse 20 begins, “Because of your little faith.” But this is a poor translation that makes Jesus sound like He’s contradicting Himself. The Greek word for unbelief (apistia) in the passage above is the same word used by the boy’s father when he says, “help my unbelief.”
Some translators equate unbelief with little faith, but Jesus clearly says right after this “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Little faith is not the issue. If little faith can move a mountain, it can surely heal one small boy. It’s not about the size of your faith but whether your faith is handicapped by doubt and unbelief.
With the seizing boy, the father, like many of us, wanted God to take responsibility for the healing. “Lord, help us!” Yet Jesus said, “If you have faith, you can heal him.” We think healing the sick is God’s job, but He wants us to do it in Jesus’ name (Mark 16:18).
Why was unbelief a problem for the disciples in this case?
In his book You’ve Already Got It, Wommack identifies three different kinds of unbelief.
1)There’s unbelief that arises from ignorance
(“I didn’t know God heals the sick”)
2) unbelief that arises from bad theology
(“I don’t believe God heals the sick any more”)
3) and unbelief that arises from our natural senses
(“look at the size of that tumor!”).
How do we deal with unbelief? Starve it!
And He replied to them, “This kind (of unbelief) cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
Unbelief that arises from ignorance and bad theology can be corrected by showing people the truth (Mark 6:6), but overcoming natural unbelief may require prayer and fasting. If the Internet is fueling your doubts, then stay off the Internet! If your “faith sense” is dull because of your natural appetites, then curb your appetites.
“Your prayer and fasting doesn’t move God. Neither does it move the devil. Fasting and prayer moves you. It affects you… You don’t have a faith problem. What you have is an unbelief problem. Instead of trying to build bigger and bigger faith, we need to stop feeding unbelief (God Wants You Well, p.121,124).