I Believe; Help My Unbelief

And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:20-24

A man’s child could not control himself. He was convulsive. He foamed at the mouth. The father brought the boy he loved to Jesus, but his faith was weak.

That’s how I feel today, as American election results are finalized (I think). My concern is not about who won. My concern is with the spectacle of many self-confessed Christians possessed by partisan politics, those consumed by anxiety and convulsed with anger. Their speech is a verbal foaming at the mouth.

I do appreciate the political landscape, and have some sense of the cultural headwinds Christianity faces and will face. I appreciate the role God has assigned to government, and our role in a democracy to maintain good government. But I also recognize that putting our faith in a political ideology (left or right) to “save” any nation is idolatry.

How do you recognize idolatry? We give an idol the faith, focus, and passion that only God deserves. We entrust to an idol our sense of well-being. We devote to an idol the depth of our souls, and make it our only hope. We find our identity in an idol, ecstasy surpassing Sunday worship when it is victorious, and debilitating fear, anxiety and anger when it is defeated.

The worst influences of idolatry are not among unbelievers, but rather among believers. The Apostle John’s last words in 1 John are, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Idols are harsh taskmasters. They promise life and success, but once they draw you into their gravity well, you can’t get out.

Jesus has the power to free us from idols. While not immune to the political climate myself, I have nonetheless lifted up the American church every day, asking the Lord to free us to focus again on him, trust in his goodness, rejoice in his grace and rest in his sovereignty. Now in my 70’s, I feel a bit like the Apostle John, who, in his old age, called fellow Christians his “children.” I have developed a paternal, that is to say, a protective feeling toward fellow believers.

But like the father in the gospel account, my faith is strained. I have looked to well-known church leaders to point us toward freedom in Christ. But, like Christ’s disciples, they have been largely ineffective. Many seem caught up in the same convulsive political fever. Sometimes, I fear that gospel witness in our nation is dead.

So, I ask the Lord Jesus to heal us, if he can.

“If I can!??”

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Mark 9:25-27

So, I will continue to pray, as he later exhorted his disciples (vv. 28-29). May Jesus respond even to weak faith, and may his church once again arise as a witness to his goodness, his grace, and his sovereignty.

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