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Faith: quality, not quantity

February 23, 2023

Daily Scripture

Mark 9:14-24

14 When Jesus, Peter, James, and John approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them and legal experts arguing with them. 15 Suddenly the whole crowd caught sight of Jesus. They ran to greet him, overcome with excitement. 16 Jesus asked them, “What are you arguing about?”
17 Someone from the crowd responded, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, since he has a spirit that doesn’t allow him to speak. 18 Wherever it overpowers him, it throws him into a fit. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and stiffens up. So I spoke to your disciples to see if they could throw it out, but they couldn’t.”
19 Jesus answered them, “You faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring him to me.”
20 They brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a fit. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been going on?”
He said, “Since he was a child. 22 It has often thrown him into a fire or into water trying to kill him. If you can do anything, help us! Show us compassion!”
23 Jesus said to him, “‘If you can do anything’? All things are possible for the one who has faith.”
24 At that the boy’s father cried out, “I have faith; help my lack of faith!”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In Jesus’ day, most of today’s medical and psychological insights didn’t exist. People called nearly all baffling ills—like the probable case of epilepsy today’s reading described—“demon possession.” The father’s plea in verse 24 feels familiar to most Christ-followers at times. He sounded like Donald Miller’s friend, who said, “There is this part of me that wants to believe…. I feel as though I need to believe…. But it is all so completely stupid.” *

  • Scholar David E. Garland noted, “Jesus…reveals that prayer is not a magical incantation but a total openness to God’s action in and through us…. Disciples do not need to learn better techniques but must make themselves more receptive to the action of God…. effective prayer is a continuous posture, not simply an emergency procedure.” ** What helps you to make prayer a “continuous posture” in your life, not just a “magical” or “emergency” way to control God?
  • Scholar N. T. Wright said Jesus came to rescue people “from the destructive forces that enslaved them. So whether it was shrieking demons, a woman with a fever, or simply whatever diseases people happened to suffer from, Jesus dealt with them all…. Jesus had joined in a struggle against the forces of evil.” *** Are you ever tempted to ignore evil that causes suffering as just “the way things are”? In what ways have you (or will you) join in Jesus’ struggle against those forces?

Lord Jesus, you did not stay comfortable and safe from destructive evil forces loose in your world. Give me the caring and courage to enlist, working with you to help all those who hurt. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Mikiala Tennie

Mikiala Tennie

Mikiala Tennie serves as the Student Discipleship Program Director with Resurrection Students. She has nearly 20 years of volunteer and professional ministry experience and loves walking alongside and encouraging others in their spiritual journey. Mikiala is blessed to be an adoptive aunt and godmother to many kiddos and lives with her 10-pound Yorkie, KiKi Okoye Tennie.

I have always loved the seemingly contradictory plea of the father in the scene found in Mark chapter 9: “I have faith; help my lack of faith,” he cries out to Jesus. The version I grew up with said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

Growing up I always wondered, how can you believe and also not believe? How can you say in one breath that you have faith and then in the next breath ask for help with your faith?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it’s no contradiction—it’s looking deep into the reservoir of your soul and knowing that somewhere deep down there is faith that Jesus is who He said He is and will what He said He’d do—but, standing at the edge of that reservoir and looking down you know that life, fear, circumstances, hurts, and betrayals make faith evaporate to the point that only the tiniest amount is left there at the bottom.

But the beautiful thing about Jesus is that He said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my faith reservoir is at mustard seed levels even though I wish it were more substantial.

Thankfully, Jesus isn’t looking at how much faith we have left in our tank, and He’s not sizing up our mustard seeds. He is constantly answering our cry to help our lack of faith and belief.

When we show up with a nearly empty bucket or the tiniest of mustard seeds, Jesus shows up with the rest.

He is pulling us from the depths when we take our eyes off Him, and the waters look as if they’ll overtake us.

He is making feasts of plenty out of our five loaves and two fish.

He is making a healing mud from the dry dirt at our feet.

He is making the finest wine from our well water, and before He became one of us here on earth, He was using prophets to help make oil overflow from the little we had left in our own tiny jar.

The amount of faith we have…the bit of belief we can muster…Jesus can and will work with what we’ve got.

Whether you are at the beginning of your faith journey or somewhere in the middle, pray the prayer of the desperate father and let Jesus do His good work in you. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003, p. 53.
** David E. Garland, Reflection comment on Mark 9:14-29 in Matthew, Mark, Luke: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
*** N. T. Wright, Mark for Everyone. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 13.)