I’m sure you’ve heard that too much of anything is bad for you, even if it’s something that’s good for you. I think that’s one of America’s main problems; we don’t know the meaning of restraint. We lack discipline in every area of our lives. Healthy foods are good for you, but eating too much is bad. Knowledge and education is good for you, but too much can very rapidly turn into an obsession that controls your life. The same with work. Work is good, but living for work isn’t so good.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something out there that you couldn’t overdose on? Something you couldn’t get too much of?
Today’s verses are Mark 9:17-27.
One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”
Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.
“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.
He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”
Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.
Earlier this year, I did a month-long study of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), looking deeper into what each Fruit of the Spirit actually is and how we can make sure they’re a part of our lives. The thing about the Fruit of the Spirit is that you can overdose on each one of them and you’ll be better off than you were before. Like Love. You can’t get enough real love in your life. Pick any one of the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance) and adding an abundance of any one of them in your life will only improve it.
The one that I needed to focus on this morning was faith. The Bible is full of examples of faith, but there are a few stories in scripture that deal with people asking for more faith. Today’s set of verses is just one.
I tend to think that faith is something I have to develop on my own. It’s a choice I have to make in my life every day. I’ve heard people describe faith as a feeling or as an experience, but that’s misleading. Yes, faith can include some pretty powerful emotions and can create some overwhelming feelings, but faith isn’t an emotional response. Faith can create an emotional response, but when you get right down to it, faith is a choice you make, to believe no matter what. There will be days you don’t feel like believing, and it’s those days when you need the steel that comes from choice rather than relying on what your broken emotions will tell you.
But is it okay to ask God for more faith? Is faith something God can give you? I believe it is.
I mean, for one thing, faith is a spiritual gift (1Corinthians 12:9). There are some people who just have a lot of faith. Those are the people who don’t have any trouble believing that God can do everything. Even during times when it feels like their lives are falling apart, they hold on to God’s promises and never give up. That’s not normal, folks, in case you didn’t know. For some people, when they accept Christ, they just get that kind of faith.
For other people, they don’t have it. The Spirit has given them some other kind of gift and faith is something they have to build in their own life.
The verses for today tell a story about a man who believed that Jesus could heal his son. But even though he believed Jesus could do it, the man still asked Jesus to help him overcome his doubt and unbelief, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Life beats us down. Circumstances and situations in our lives discourage us and hurt us and tear us up. We face disappointment. We face hopes that are crushed and dreams that will never come true. And for those people to whom faith doesn’t come easily, it’s okay to admit that you don’t have enough faith. It’s okay to tell God you’re struggling to keep believing. He isn’t going to crush you. He isn’t going to be angry at you. He wants to help you.
And on the flip side, if you are a person who faith comes to easily, it’s still okay to ask for more. You can be greedy about faith. You really can’t get enough of it.
So if you’re facing something hard in your life right now and you don’t think you have enough faith to get through it, tell God about it and ask Him to help you have more faith. He’s listening, and He wants to help. Now, I can’t speak to how He will go about increasing your faith. That’s going to be different for every person who asks, but one thing I know for sure: God is good. So everything He does is good, even if it doesn’t feel like it.