Today is the last day in our series called [Re]Discovering Jesus for awhile, and next week we have our Fall Kick-off with some ministry highlights, and we’re going to have some ministry booths set up in the lobby area. We’re also kicking off a new series called “Reckless Love” which will focus on the reckless, extravagant love of God that Jesus tells about in Luke 15. As a part of this kick-off, you’re going to hear a testimony from a friend of mine from Lexington, KY who truly was a “prodigal son” who was a prominent business owner, shall we say, with children present, in a questionable entertainment industry, and then he discovered the reckless love of God and was radically transformed. So don’t miss next week, and be sure to invite someone to come along with you!
Now, if you have your Bibles or a Bible app, go ahead and turn to Mark 9 beginning with v. 14. What we’re going to take a look at today is the reality of those times in our lives when we’re faced with an obstacle that seems insurmountable, our faith is weak, and, let’s face it, we begin to question God. If you’ve been around churches for long, you know that there’s a culture or a climate that makes it uncomfortable for us to admit that we might struggle with doubts. I remember a time a number of years ago where a woman in a church I served just found out her husband had been having an affair, and in our anger she started to doubt if God was real. If He was, then why was He letting her go through this? And then she said, “I know I’m not supposed to doubt, but….” Let’s face it, most of us, if not all of, have had times of doubt. We look at the mess we’re in, and we wonder where is God, or can God really do something in my life? Maybe you’ve had doubts like these:
When we turn to Mark 9, we read a story about a man who had doubts. It’s understandable why. His son was possessed, Mark records. This father went to the disciples for help, but they couldn’t do anything. And so they brought the boy to Jesus. Let’s pick up the story right there at v. 20. And if you would, let’s stand together out of respect for the reading of God’s Word:
You may be seated. This father was desperate. And in his desperation, he went to Jesus’ disciples for help, but they weren’t able. So he comes to Jesus and says, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us!” (v. 22). Jesus almost sounds offended. “`If you can!’ `If you can!’ [Of course I can!!] All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23).
Now, what I’m going to say is going to sound counterintuitive, but I believe this is what we learn from this scripture about dealing with doubt. And if you’re taking notes, I encourage you to jot this down: Being honest about your doubts can lead you to greater faith. It sounds counterintuitive to say that having doubts can actually lead to greater faith. That’s like saying that having an illness can actually lead to greater health. But it’s true, isn’t it? A cardiologist who is faithful member here told me that he often hears from patients who speak of blessings from a heart attack. Prior to the heart attack, they didn’t know how bad their arteries were, and as a result of the heart attack, it’s actually led them to take measures to prevent something worse happening in the future!
So, by going through that difficult experience, it can actually lead to longer-term, greater health.
You see, we don’t think of having doubts in those terms. We typically think that if we have doubts, then something is wrong with us, and we must be a weak Christian. But here’s the key of what we learn from this courageous father in Mark 9:
The issue is not about having doubts; it’s about what you do with them.
I said this father in Mark 9 was courageous, because he did something about his doubts! He aggressively went to the disciples, to no avail. But this man didn’t stop there. When the boy was brought to Jesus, and the boy went into convulsions, the man cried out to Jesus. He took His doubts to the only Person who could do anything about them!! And even when he went to Jesus, he didn’t do so boldly. He acknowledged that he was a little lacking in the faith department! Look at v. 24: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Being honest about your doubts can lead you to greater faith, a greater faith in the very One who died for us on the cross, was buried, and rose again to give us life. Here in just a moment we’re going to move into communion where we can pray, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” And then after a time of communion, we’re going to learn from this father-son story in Mk. 9 HOW to acknowledge our doubts and work through them.
So, Being honest about your doubts can lead you to greater faith. But, how do we do this? How do we acknowledge our doubts and deal with them? How can doubts lead us to greater faith? Well, let’s look at the faith that this father had back in Mark 9 once again:
1. Be persistent in spite of doubts
I just love how this father simply doesn’t give up! He created this uproar in vv. 14-15. The disciples and scribes are arguing with one another, because the disciples couldn’t cast out the demon. I can just picture them having some theological debate as to why the demon didn’t come out. “Well, it’s because it’s not really a demon. It’s just a medical condition.” And Matthew says, “It’s not just a medical condition—this is spiritual warfare!” And Thomas, the Doubter, says, “This kid is just trying to get attention!” And while they’re yelling at each other, this kid is still lying down on the ground foaming at the mouth!!
Isn’t that the way it is with a lot of churches and denominations? We’re having these theological debates about the reality of demons or spiritual warfare or whatever, while people all around us aren’t getting any better!
But the father, in spite of all the chaos and confusion, doesn’t give up! Don’t give up. Do you have some doubts? OK—but be persistent. It irks me to no end when people reject Christianity because they have doubts about Jonah and the whale or was everything created in six literal days, and they’re not even willing to do a little research! OK—you have doubts? That’s o.k.! But now what are you going to do with them? Be persistent. And here’s the main focus we see from this father in Mark 9…
2. Be honest about your doubts
That’s what we learn from this father. He goes to Jesus and says to the One who existed before the foundation of the world and says, “IF you can do anything….” And then he says, “I believe, but help my unbelief.” Be honest about your doubts, because…Being honest about your doubts can lead you to greater faith.
I love the story over in John’s Gospel about Jesus talking to the woman at the well. After a rather interesting conversation, she goes back to the people in her village and she says, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). In the Greek language, there are two ways you can ask a question: one way is to ask it where you’re expecting a positive response such as, “We’re gathered in a large room, aren’t we?” Yes, we’re gathered in a large room. I’m expecting a positive answer. “This sermon is going awfully long, isn’t it?” No, don’t answer that one! Now, if I’m expecting a negative answer, I’d ask the question like this: “It’s not 30 degrees outside is it?” No, it’s not. In the Greek language if a writer is expecting a positive answer, he would use the word, ou; and if he’s expecting a negative answer, he would use the word, me (may). Is this a large room? Ou—I’m expecting a positive answer. It’s not 30 degrees outside is it? Me—I’m expecting a negative answer.
Now, hang with me on this. So, this woman has just spent time with Jesus. She comes back to the village, and she says, “Can this be the Christ?” Which word do you think John used in this question—ou—“This is the Christ, isn’t He?” Or me—“This isn’t the Christ, is He?” John used the word me indicating that even in this woman’s question, she wasn’t completely sure herself!! She was like the father in Mk. 9. I believe, but…help me in my unbelief…help me in my doubts. Now, here’s the kicker in all of this: In John 4:39, John writes, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39). What testimony?? Even in her testimony, she still had some doubts! What’s the point? Just…be…honest. Be persistent. Be honest. And notice just one other thing that this father did in Mark 9—He went to Jesus even though he still had doubts.
3. Go to the right Source with your doubts
If you have doubts, be honest about them, because Being honest about your doubts can lead you to greater faith. Be persistent. And make sure your taking your doubts to the very One who can do something about them!
Help me out on this: If my car is broken down, I take my car to a… mechanic. If I have an electrical problem at my house, I hire an… electrician. If I have a plumbing problem, I hire a… plumber. If I have a lack of faith problem, I go to the very One who can help me with my doubts! “Jesus said to them, `I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35). “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
This father went to Jesus with his lack of faith, and Jesus increased it. If you see your son who’s been suffering beyond measure all of a sudden go limp, and Jesus takes him by the hand and lifts him up, and he is set free, your faith is filled beyond measure.
And Jesus can do that for you, too. Right now. Be persistent. Be honest. Bring your doubts to Jesus. All things are possible for one who believes…even if that belief is just a little shaky. And guess what? Jesus already knows. He’s not surprised. He’s not caught off guard by your doubts. All He wants is for you to reach out to Him, and then He can take you by the hand and lift you up, so you can start walking with Him. Will you do that today? Let’s pray.