Read Mark 9
If is a little word that makes a big difference, most often inferring that one is not certain of and event or outcome. There is a significant difference between the following two statements.
“I will do (insert variable here) when I can,”
“I will do (insert variable here) if I can”.
The first statement conveys the idea that I believe I am able to do whatever the variable is. The second one casts doubt on whether I will be able to do whatever it is even if I should get as far as attempting to do so.
In today’s reading a man brings his son to Jesus because Jesus’ disciples were unable to cast the evil spirit out of the boy. As the father describes the condition of the boy, he adds the statement, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (v. 22) Jesus response is somewhat surprising. He questions the man’s faith because he used the phrase “if you can”.
And Jesus said to him, “ ’If you can’! All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 23-24)
When the dust settles at the end of this encounter, the boy goes home with his father free of the evil spirit, and I think it might be safe to assume that the father went home believing! What strikes me is the conflicted nature of the father’s statement in response to Jesus. “I believe – help my unbelief!” What does that even mean? I suspect it may have been a little more accurate for the father to say, “I want to believe – help my unbelief” and I suspect that is they way Jesus understood his response.
It is not uncommon for us as believers to have if moments. An if moment is moment when we don’t have the faith to believe that something will come about as we hope. There was a time when our family owned a second-hand car that provided me with an if moment nearly every time I turned the key in the ignition to start it. After being let down a sufficient number of times, it had become difficult for me to trust the engine would actually fire up when I turned the key.
Perhaps the failure of the disciples’ attempts to heal his son had spawned the same type of doubt in the father of the boy.While the text does not provide us with a direct answer to what is happening in the mind of the boy’s father, it does reveal the conclusion of the matter as Jesus does heal the boy and the father appears to go home believing.
It would seem that while God does allow us to have the occasional if moment, it is not His intention to leave us there; rather, His intention is to provide us with an opportunity to move from if to when, to move on toward faith despite our doubt. Perhaps if we would choose to believe more often, our faith would grow resulting in fewer instances of wondering if God will come through for us?