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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

“I Believe; Help My Unbelief!”

Fireplace from Microsoft Publishser ClipartI Believe, Help My Unbelief

That’s what the man with the demonized boy prayed in Mark 9:24.

And that’s what I’m praying this morning.

Here’s my problem: I’m dealing with some fears that show I am loving fame and money more than Christ.  (Sounds awful — but there it is.)

This shows there is unbelief in my heart, since I am not believing Jesus’ promise in John 6:35 –

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

My problem is unbelief, since I am not believing that Jesus himself will satisfy all my heart hungers and thirsts, and I am believing that fame and money will satisfy me more.

A Common Struggle

I’m not alone.  Unbelief is something we all battle —

  • When we worry about bills, we are not believing the promise of Matthew 6:33.
  • When we seek revenge, we are not believing the promise of Romans 12:19.
  • When we boast, we are not believing the truth of 1 Corinthians 4:7.
  • When we are afraid, we are not believing the promise of Isaiah 41:10.
  • When we lust, we are not believing the warning of Mark 9:47-48.

Every Christian has to deal with unbelief.

What Can We Do?

So what can we do when we discover unbelief in our hearts?

Here’s what we should NOT do –

  • Beat ourselves up for not being better Christians (how does THAT help?).
  • Blame our upbringing, or our circumstances (those can affect us, but they are not the root issue).
  • Ignore it, and hope our belief will be stronger tomorrow (and wallow in unbelief the rest of the day?).
  • Rely on our own will-power to overcome our unbelief (never works).
  • Call a friend and complain (and draw them into unbelief with us?).

Okay.  But what CAN we do?

Where Faith Comes From

The good news is that faith does not ultimately come from us – it is given to us by God.

That’s taught in Ephesians 2:8 –

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

So faith is not our own doing; it is the gift of God.

That’s also taught in Philippians 1:29 –

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. (New American Standard Version)

So believing in Christ is not something we come up with on our own.  It is granted to us — given to us — by God.

That’s also implied in the prayer of the man with the demonized boy in Mark 9:24 –

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

He knew he could not overcome his unbelief, but he knew that Jesus could.

So faith does not ultimately come from ourselves; it is given to us by God.

Don’t Passively Wait

Please don’t misunderstand this.  Faith IS a gift from God.  And we CAN’T produce faith by our own willpower.

But that does not mean we should passively wait for God to give us more faith.

Even though faith is a gift from God, we are never commanded to passively wait for faith; instead, we are commanded to have faith in Christ, to believe Christ, to trust Christ —

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” (Proverbs 3:5)
  • “Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
  • Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
  • “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27)
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

So if we can’t produce faith by our own efforts, and if faith must be given to us by God, how do we obey the command to have faith?

The Fireplace of Your Heart

See if this helps.  Picture your heart like a fireplace.  You want it to be ablaze with the fire of faith.

But what can you do when there’s no fire — and you have no matches?

God promises that if we will provide oxygen (prayer), and firewood (the Word), he will strike the match of the Holy Spirit – and the fire of faith will once again start to burn.

I get this from —

  • Mark 9:24 — the man with the demonized boy prays for Jesus to overcome his unbelief.
  • Luke 11:13 — if we pray for the Spirit’s work, the Father will always answer (and part of the Spirit’s work is to strengthen our faith — Ephesians 3:16-17).
  • Romans 10:17 – God promises to give us more faith as we hear his Word.

What Happened to Me

When I started writing this I was full of unbelief, which I planned on battling as part of this blog post.

But halfway through my writing I had to run an errand.  So while I drove I prayed earnestly for God to increase the work of his Spirit in my heart (adding oxygen into my fireplace).

And on my way home, along with prayer, I preached a couple verses to myself (putting firewood into my fireplace).

So there I was, with oxygen and firewood in my fireplace — and just as God promised, he struck the match of the Holy Spirit.

It was while I was preaching Hebrews 13:5 to myself —

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Usually the match of the Spirit starts with a little piece of kindling, and I can feel the fire of my faith grow slowly.

But this time it was not slowly.  This time the entire log of Hebrews 13:5 lit up all at once — and I saw and felt the glory of Christ as the one who would never leave or forsake me.

God had helped my unbelief, by strengthening my faith.

My heart was so filled that I desired nothing besides Christ, I cared nothing for fame, and I knew he would provide whatever finances we needed.

Every Time

So when you find your heart full of unbelief, don’t despair.  Through Christ God will give you more faith — as you pray for the Spirit’s work, and as you set your heart on his Word.

When we pray, “I believe, help my unbelief,” he will.  Every time.

Questions?  Comments?

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Category: Strengthening Your Faith

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28 Responses

  1. Cheryl says:

    Steve,
    Thanks, this is wonderfully transparent and profoundly practical. A Friend, Fred Butler, from my home church in CA posted the link. What a small world in Christ!

  2. K says:

    I like your analogy. If it makes sense, will the community here pray that God will give me strength and desire and sense to supply the oxygen and firewood and meet me speedily? That the Father will draw me to Jesus and awaken me to spiritual truth.

  3. K says:

    Thank you! Will you pray that He will lead me to see my sin and despise it and gladly receive Jesus? This is why I’m confused; I spent much time crying out to God to please crush my pride and help me receive Jesus over it and to protect me from this place I’m in now. To give me right feelings and humility!

  4. K says:

    I really need help from God tonight. And I really want to never think again that I am against The Lord, yet it’s like that’s all I think. And I don’t know how to read the bible when I’m feeling tortured and like I’m a demon. and I don’t know what to do besides look to Jesus, but I don’t know how when my mind says I am unwilling and angry and evil and want to be that way. What in the world do I do?! I really feel like I’m about to lose my mind. Please pray The Lord will not let me live in this state or worse.

    • Paul Walton says:

      K,
      “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

      What I would recommend is that you log on to DesiringGod.org search their vast teaching options, find John Piper’s study on Romans & stay there until you finish the complete series. I’m convinced you will never be the same.
      God Bless,
      Paul

  5. K says:

    Thank you for that suggestion Paul. Do you feel it’s from the Spirit? I am majorly struggling with bitterness about election/sovereignty and feel scared to approach Romans; like maybe I need to settle somewhere else? But maybe I’m wrong? I know I sound crazy, but would you pray about this suggestion (or let me know if you have!) and tell me if The Lord leads you to believe I should proceed? Thank you again, especially for your prayers!

    • Paul Walton says:

      K,

      Piper’s teaching on Romans is the perfect answer for all you are struggling with, (bitterness,election,sovereignty) & yes I do feel this is an answer to prayer. I’m very excited for you, for you will be a different person coming out the other side of this teaching. Don’t waste anymore time, jump in… now!
      Blessings,
      Paul

  6. K says:

    Thank you Paul. My mind is very sick, whether a result of sin or a mental health issue, I am not sure. I know going into Romans 1 that my mind will say I’m like the people who suppress truth; will you please pray for protection and drawing by the Spirit and new thoughts about self as I listen? For a softened heart and open mind, not a hardened heart and hostile mind? Can I ask you one last time to seek The Lord and make sure this recommendation is from Him, and ask him to protect and help me see and hear and desire rightly? Thank you again.

  7. Paul Walton says:

    K,
    I can see by your posts that you are troubled, I don’t say that in judgment, but In love. You need spiritual help, more than what Steve or myself can offer over the internet. We make suggestions about how you can grow spiritually, but you seem to be unable to progress beyond the consistent state of confusion. I have made my thoughts clear as to what you can do to help yourself, there’s nothing more I can do under these circumstances.
    May God show his grace to you,
    Paul

  8. Esther Lewis says:

    So honest…Thanks for making the blog so easy to read with lots of spacing and sentences that don’t go clear across the page….

  9. K says:

    Paul, I am beginning the Romans series today. Please be in prayer for me. Especially that I will see clearly how majestic Jesus is and have faith. That I will be able to turn from
    pride and receive Him. I have had times of weeping and crying out for The Lord to please crush my flesh and give me joy in looking to Jesus and his righteousness, yet seemingly failed. Pray for me, that my faith may not fail. And that if my perception of turning from pride is heaping condemnation on me that’s not from God that I will be free. I have a huge hangup with confessing before men that I’m coming to Christ truly and feel I haven’t before; I hate the thought of going before the church and making that confession. Or sometimes I feel I’m so ashamed to need gift righteousness, so I always feel I can’t look to Jesus. even though I have wanted to so badly at points! i share this with you to ask you to pray for these specific things; I hope you’re not frustrated by yet another post. Thank you again for your prayers. Please pray for a soft heart and for success in looking to Jesus in faith and surrender.

  10. Paul Walton says:

    K,
    I was just thinking to myself today how I can be so unmoved by what Christ has done for me most of the time. How I take for granted that He suffered & died for MY sins, that I’m more concerned about money & relationships & life in general. I can go for hours worrying about a thousand little things, that in the big picture of eternity mean very, very little. My heart can run very cold & unfeeling, I’m not focusing on glorifying the One who has taken all of God’s Wrath that I deserve, & willingly endured it, so I might have Life & have Life abundantly. We all take for granted what exactly did happen on Calvary on that day over Two-Thousand years ago.

    But as Steve so often reminds us, this journey is a fight of Faith, we are still sinful creatures who tend to wander from the One we love, but through reading God’s word, times of prayer, & the strength of community, we fight & encourage each other to keep on battling because Christ is worth it all.

    Fight sister, fight…
    Paul

  11. K says:

    “My heart can run very cold & unfeeling, I’m not focusing on glorifying the One who has taken all of God’s Wrath that I deserve, & willingly endured it, so I might have Life & have Life abundantly.” yes. Here is where I am hung up: on feeling offended at deserving God’s wrath. Which I KNOW is stupid, because Jesus took the punishment! I don’t know why I can’t seem to get out of this foolish mindset. Maybe I’m trying too hard to *feel* like I deserve God’s wrath? I want to feel it though, so that I feel great joy in Christ’s work! Please continue prying for me. Thank you!

    • Paul Walton says:

      There’s nothing as freeing to a soul as knowing because our depravity we could never deserve Grace, but it brought God pleasure to pour it out lavishly upon us. We had a debt as big as the universe hanging over us, we all had turned our backs on an Infinite Glorious God, we deserved His full Wrath for our wicked decision to choose ourselves over the Creator of All Things. And yet… He choose to show Mercy, What! Are you kidding me, we deserved death, & eternal punishment, but He choose to forgive!

      Now once we know the Truth, & comprehend what Grace is, to reject Christ, to reject God’s Gift of Grace, is the unforgivable sin. If there is sliver of a desire to be in Christ, ask that He would open your heart to fully understand what God the Father has done for us. Ask! Beg. Keep on asking & begging with everything that is within you!

  12. K says:

    “Ask that He would open your heart to fully understand what God the Father has done for us. Ask! Beg. Keep on asking & begging with everything that is within you!” will you do that with me? Will you pray for my mind, which I think is sick with possible OCD/mental illness or with demonic attack? I’m not sure that I’ll even be able to see my own desire or think rightly when I try to pray. Will y’all stand in the gap and pray that prayer with me? That God will give me desire for Himself and his grace everyday of my life and hem me in. For mental healing, protection, and freedom to rejoice in Jesus. Thank you.

  13. K says:

    My mind will attack truth/me and make many accusations and will hang up on the former part of your statement. Please pray for that to never be true of me and for disbelieving my mind. And for God-given freedom to rejoice in Christ

  14. NYC says:

    K,

    I recently stumbled upon this blog. Just wanted to let you know I am praying for you right now and wanted to share with you that I had experienced similar things in my walk with Christ. (The voices telling me that I was evil and didn’t really want to change and that I liked it. Etc..)

    But you just keep fighting…I promise you God will not leave you not forsake you…and the reason why is because It says so in His Word:

    .”Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut 31:6

    And our Lord is Worthy to be Trusted because He is constant. He is the one thing that will never change. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. John 14:6.

    Just tonight I woke up from a not so fun dream. But once I rested on the truth of who God is and realized there is nothing I can do…NOTHING apart from Him..once I realized that, I was able to just stand in His truth, not mine, and the attack had to flee.

    K-Get to know the Promises of who God is…go read your Bible and look up Phillipians 1:6….. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and have repented from your sins…then that Promise is for you!!! He will not just leave you hanging!

    Read Ephesians 6 as well! And if you can, look up verses about trust…

    I hope that helps. May the peace of Christ be with you, dear K.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I have just read thru many of your blogs this morning as the spirit of the Lord has lead me to do. Thank you for allowing the spirit of truth to live in you and pour out of you! I praise God for his loving mercy and many gifts, and I thank him for you my brother in Christ. May he continue the work he started in you as he promised! Be forever blessed in Jesus name!

  16. STEVE says:

    Thanks for this article. It was excellent.

    You can see why belief is so difficult for so many.
    If (say) I don’t believe in Christ (to any great degree) then why would I ask God for help with my unbelief. How can I logically ask someone for something when Im not convinced he exists? And if belief comes from God (not ourselves) then Im in trouble. This is a circular reference that many don’t escape from i..e I need to ask God for help with my belief and faith….but I dont have the belief and faith sufficient to ask.

    As you say….maybe the point is that the tiny flicker of faith we have is simply the tiny faith that utters this life changing prayer “…God…help my unbelief”. A tiny match can burn a whole forrest!
    Thanks again

    Steve

  17. Rosa says:

    Just wondering, can an unbeliever pray for the same thing? Like : ‘if You exist, help me with my unbelief’ ?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Rosa —

      Thanks for asking such a good question.

      Yes, an unbeliever certainly can ask God to do this for them — and if they mean it from the heart, and pray in Jesus’ name (not trusting their own goodness but Jesus to give them favor with God) — then God will always answer.

      But if an unbeliever doesn’t pray this from the heart, or prays trusting their own goodness to earn favor with God, God will not answer.

      I hope that helps —

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  18. Nita says:

    Thank-you for this! It’s exactly what I needed!xo❤

  19. A. Small says:

    Wow!! I really needed this. Thank you for this word of encouragement.

  20. FERN says:

    Thank you, I really needed this.

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