A father brought his son to Christ saying, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit…. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” (Mark 9.17-18) When Christ challenged his faith he said, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9.24) It was then that Christ healed his son. When we ask God for something, we won’t always get what we want, but we will always get what we need. When the father asked Christ to strengthen his faith, God gave him what he needed. Stop asking God for special treatment. Instead, ask God to strengthen your faith. Then you will have a better understanding what God wants for you.
My brothers and sisters, in this morning’s gospel, we hear two very important understandings of our faith. In this healing miracle, yes, the son gets healed by God, but that is not the focus of the story. The focus of the story is the faith of the Father. The father has his son who from childhood has had a demon, and he takes his son to Christ. He says, “No one else has been able to help. I even brought him to your disciples. Please, Lord, if You can do anything, have mercy on us and help us,” as if to say, “God, it’s not going like I want. Please do something.” We find ourselves in that reality of life very often. We want something from God and we go here, we go there, we go here, we go there, and it doesn’t always come to us as we want. So we find ourselves ultimately laying ourselves in front of God, saying, “Okay. You are my last hope. You are my last chance.”
Christ says to the father, “Oh, faithless generation, bring the boy to me.” How often do you think God says that about us? When we go here, we go there, we go everywhere except for God, and finally, as our last resort, we turn to God. “Okay, God, no one else could do it. Maybe You can do it for us.” What do you think God says in that moment? “Are you kidding me? Why didn’t you come to me first?” As parents, we know that to be true. How many times do our children do this? Then finally our children come and we say, “Why didn’t you just come to us first? We could have helped you.” He says to the Father, “If you have faith, all things are possible to those who believe.” Now, we have to be careful with this thing here because too many of us think that this particular challenge from God means that if we believe in God, we can have whatever we want. I’m going to read it again.
He says, “If you can believe all things are possible to him who believes,” and so we take that as God’s free pass. “Well, I believe in God, so I should be able to have whatever I want,” except we know that’s not true. We can’t have whatever we want, whenever we want it however we want it, and this father is an example of that. He wanted his son to be healed, but still his son was sick. He says to God, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Now, I want to switch to the modern Greek here because this has a beautiful nuance that we don’t fully capture in either the original or the modern English. The original Greek, like the English says, “I believe, help my unbelief, apistía.”
However, in the modern Greek it says, “I believe, help me, however, because my belief is weak.”. You see, he had faith. It just wasn’t very much, and so he asks God to strengthen his faith. This, my brothers and sisters, is where the final importance comes in. When the apostles say, “Why couldn’t we heal this man?” He says, “This kind can only go out through prayer and fasting,” because when we pray and we fast, our faith is strengthened. It doesn’t mean we’re going to get everything we want. In fact, the more we pray and the more we fast, we generally want less from God because we realize just how much we already have. It’s when we’re focusing on our own desire that we forget that we already have the blessings from God. I remember when my mother was suffering with cancer, and for three years I prayed for God to heal my mother, and then my mother died. I could easily have said God didn’t give me what I want, when, in fact, God gave me exactly what I wanted, because in death my mother no longer had cancer.
You see, my brothers and sisters, in prayer and fasting, we come to have a better understanding of God’s grace. God knows what is best for us. He knows what we need, and more importantly, he knows when we need it. So I invite you, my brothers and sisters, we only have a couple of weeks of Lent left. I invite you to embrace the message of this morning’s gospel, increase your prayers, increase your fasting. Come to church, come to Christ as often as you can, and simply ask Him to strengthen your faith. As your faith strengthens, your eyes will be opened, and we all will have a better understanding of what God wants for us in our life. It might be a miracle healing. It might not be, but we in our prayer and our fasting will have a greater faith in God and understand better what it is that he’s offering to us in His grace and His love. Glory to God for all things.