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I believe; Help my Unbelief

 

14When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to [Jesus] and greeted him. 16And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20And 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. 21And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22And 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.” 23And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25And 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.” 26And 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.” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”  (Mark 9:14-29)

 

Psalm 116:1-2, 5-7 1 I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice and my supplications. 2 Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. 6 The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7 Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

     “Furthermore, the devil occasionally assails the pious Christian hearts so hard with his fiery darts (Eph. 6:16) that they not only become oblivious to the exuberant glory of their filial relationship to God but also give way to the opposite ideas, as, for instance, that God has forgotten them or forsaken them, or has repudiated them and east them from His sight. For that matter, St. Paul did not always leap for joy and glory unrestrainedly in his kinship with God, and then, in that knowledge, defy the devil and the evil world. This is borne out by the following and other statements: “And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). And in 2 Cor. 7:5 he speaks of “fighting without and fear within.”

   “Thus our faith is still very feeble and cold. If it were as firm and stable as indeed it should be, we would almost die for sheer joy. But, God be praised, we know that even those of little faith are children of God. And Christ does not say in vain: “Fear not, little flock” (Luke 12:32). But we should at all times sigh and pray with the apostle: “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5); and with that man in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

   “This is our consolation, that the believer in Christ has been assured and guaranteed that he is an heir of God, not a servant or a maid but a son, who is an heir to all the possessions. To acquire this privilege we should be ready to crawl to the ends of the world on our knees, yes, on our bare feet.” [Luther, M. (1999, c1957). Vol. 22: Luther’s works, vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Jn 1:13). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.]

 

18. It may happen that God does not cause a person to find the forgiveness of guilt, and the turbulence and uneasiness of conscience persist after the sacrament as before. Here one must deal wisely, for the fault is in the faith. It is just as impossible that the heart should not be joyful when it believes its sins are forgiven, as that it should not be troubled and uneasy when it believes its sins are unforgiven. Now if God allows faith to remain weak, one should not despair on that account, but rather recognize it as a trial and temptation [anfechtung] by means of which God tests, prods, and drives a person to cry out all the more and plead for such faith, saying with the father of the possessed boy in the gospel, “O Lord, help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24], and with the apostles, “O Lord, increase our faith” [Luke 17:5]. Thus does a person come to learn that everything depends on the grace of God: the sacrament, the forgiveness, and the faith. Giving up all other hope, despairing of himself, he comes to hope exclusively in the grace of God and cling to it without ceasing. [Luther, M. (1999, c1960). Vol. 35: Luther’s works, vol. 35 : Word and Sacrament I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 35, Page 18-19). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.]

“One’s status as a believer in Jesus is not dependent upon how weak or how strong one’s faith may be at a particular time.  What matters is that this faith, however faltering or doubting, cries out to Jesus, “Lord, have mercy and save me!”  The grace of Jesus is seen in that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 3:5; Rom. 10:13).” [Matthew Gibbs, Concordia Commentary, Matthew 11:2-20:34, (St. Louis: CPH, 2010), 874-875]

 

“Where the disciples remain weak and uncertain, at times almost indistinguishable form the rest of this “faithless and crooked generation” (Matt. 17:17), Jesus is strong and unswerving, faithful and moving straight toward the purpose for which His entire ministry points.” [Matthew Gibbs, Concordia Commentary, Matthew 11:2-20:34, (St. Louis: CPH, 2010), 875]

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