Breaking Through The Belief Barrier
\\ Mark 9:14-9:31
23“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-23)
Diagnostic testing is a regular part of life. We diagnose everything from health to a car. Your family physician evaluates your health with yearly check-ups. A mechanic puts your car through diagnostic tests to determine if the electrical system has a short. Whether it’s to determine the quality of water or the acidity of garden soil, those who do diagnostic work use two means: questions and tests.
The English Puritans often referred to ministers as physicians of the soul. As a “physician of the soul,” I will suggest questions and tests, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, you will learn how to self-diagnose and discern your spiritual health.
A good diagnosis always includes some key questions. Why not start with a few?
Ø When was the last time you did something for the first time for Jesus’ sake?
Ø What would your Christian life be like if you were making more than just incremental gains in your performance or quality of life?
Ø Have you realized that your capacity for life in Christ can be greater than ever?
Ø What challenges inspire you to greater achievements?
This series will aid you in rocketing past previous limitations and making real breakthroughs.
When I graduated with my doctorate from Fuller Seminary, Denny Davis, President of Northwest College, gave me a card with the picture of a cyclist crossing the finish line holding up his hands in victory. This saying was written on the bottom:
“You can do anything if you put your focus on how to do it rather on why you can’t.”
The reason I am teaching you how to diagnose your spiritual health is because all of us come to a place in our Christian life when we realize we are not really where we want to be. The good news is that God is on our side and is able to move us into a closer alignment with Jesus Christ. Psalm 18:29 reminds us of that promise: “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
The text provides a growing awareness that I am capable of so much more. If I keep doing the same thing, I am going to get the same results. I love the action verbs in the text: advance and scale. They’re words that are aggressive. No indecision here!
For most of us, no little change will do. It must be something of seismic proportions. The word often associated with such change is the word “paradigm.” This word is used for a set of shared assumptions regarding what works or what is true. In this series I will be asking you to discard old thinking and embrace a new model of living for Christ. This new paradigm will be a fresh wineskin that God will use to hold the truth of his word that he wants to deposit in your spirit.
The word for paradigm is often associated with Jesus’ words found in Matthew 9:16-17:
16“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
But this scripture is void of power if you don’t believe God can make it happen. Do you believe? The first step to a proper spiritual diagnosis is getting a handle on Breaking Through the Barrier of Belief. The effort and learning you are going to achieve in the next few minutes will provide rest in His arms. It is there that your driven soul will find wisdom and your restless mind shall find peace beyond all understanding.
Breaking Through the Belief Barrier
For over one hundred years the Holy Grail of athletic competition was to run the mile in less than four minutes. With each failed attempt the possibility of success faded further. In the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s science and what passed for sports medicine held that the human body was simply incapable of such unbelievable performances. The conventional wisdom of the day was that the lungs could not process enough oxygen to sustain the effort; they would burst under the strain, as would the heart. The bones would fracture, joints rupture, muscles give out, and ligaments and tendons would tear and fail under such stress. It was a physiological and psychological barrier.
A human being running a mile under four minutes was just not possible. 1
Then it happened. His vocation had taken him to one of the most prestigious schools of the day, Oxford in England where he was a medical student. On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes, and 59.4 seconds. Bannister believed. The world did not. His friends offered little support. That day Bannister broke not only the physical four-minute-mile barrier but the universally held “belief barrier.” It would take over three years for it to happen again. Impossible? Bannister didn’t think so. He proved it was possible. Now everyone believes. Today thousands of runners have broken the barriers. They even do it in high school!
What you believe determines what you achieve. It is your belief that determines your destiny. Belief is energy in action. High school science tells us that there are two types of energy: potential and kinetic. Potential energy is just what it sounds like - potential. It just sits there, and accomplishes nothing. Kinetic energy is energy in action. It is actually doing something.
In our text we see a father who put his energy of belief into action. He was desperate to do something. He was a father with a son who faced severe emotional, mental, and physical challenges. Dad was not willing to give up. It was his belief got the ball rolling. When it comes to diagnosing our spiritual health, our belief will get the ball rolling in our life, too.
1. You can do anything if you put your focus on belief.
Belief is trusting God for those things that only He can bring about. When we believe something we are saying that something is really possible - life after death, a healing from cancer. We either believe it’s possible or we don’t. Impossibility then is simply the absence of “positive belief.” 2
Jesus and Peter, James, and John return from the Mount of Transfiguration. They come down from the mountaintop of a spiritual high and step right into the muck of humanity. The disciples and the scribes are arguing in front of a large crowd (vs. 14). Apparently the dispute was over why the disciples did not possess the power to do an exorcism on the boy. Jesus had given them the commission to do such: …to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3:15)
These were not rookie disciples. These men had already experienced a measure of success. Mark 6:13 gives us glimpse of their spiritual pedigree:
12They went out and preached that people should repent. 13They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
Jesus arrives on the scene and wants to know what all the commotion is about. The father steps forward and provides a graphic picture of his son’s illness and points out that the disciples were unable to deliver him. An evil spirit had possessed the boy (vs. 17) and rendered him speechless. He also experienced seizures that included foaming at the mouth and grinding of teeth, and he would become stiff as a board (vs. 18).
In the absence of Jesus, the father turned the boy over to His associates, but with no “luck.” What a pitiful sight. The boy should be playing and laughing, instead he is foaming and contorting. He should be running and hiding, instead his is fearful and confused. He should be smiling and secure, but he is drowning and burning. Certainly the disciples had fully expected to see the boy healed. This stuff was not new to them. Instead, they get a stern rebuke for lack of faith (vs. 19)
19“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
2. You can do anything if you put your focus on how to do it.
24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Jesus immediately goes to work. He says to Satan, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own age and your own size?” A power encounter ensues. Sadly, it doesn’t take much encounter from the enemy to render us powerless. Often, at the first sign of opposition, we turn tail and run. Take a stand, my friend, against the powers of darkness in your life and family and let God use you to regularly defeat Satan. He has given you all power and authority.
The deadly conflict begins. The demon immediately throws the boy to the ground and he foams at the mouth. Rounds one and two - Satan. Jesus asks the father how long this has been going on. Notice the diagnostic question Jesus asks: “How long this has been going on?” I can just imagine the boy, saying, “Hey dad, come on, cut it short. Give the short story, we don’t need a story we need deliverance.” A shriek comes out of the boy. Round three - Satan. After a discussion of some past medical history that included a picture of the boy being thrown like a rag doll into the water and fire, Jesus hears a father’s helpless plea, “…But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”(Mark 9:22b)
Jesus steps up with the most significant word about belief. “Everything is possible for him who believes” (vs. 23b). Jesus immediately corrects dad with the phrase, “It’s not, if you can. It’s, if you believe.” With a loud outburst of emotion the father exclaimed, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
As the crowd began to swell and the father cried out in desperation, Jesus summoned the power God had anointed Him with and drove the evil spirit out of the boy. You too, dear one, can call on the power of belief coupled with God’s anointing and see Satan rendered powerless in your life and family.
Doubt is like black paint. Belief is white paint. When you mix white paint with black, it takes a lot of white to get gray. When you mix just a dab of black in with white, it makes gray immediately. This is the description of unbelief and doubt.
Never let doubt in your head rob you of faith in your heart.
23“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
3. You can do anything if you put your focus on how to do it rather than on why you can’t.
24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
As we close this chapter of diagnosing your spiritual health, perhaps a word on the difference between doubt and unbelief would be in order. Sometimes what we call doubt is really just stubborn unbelief. Doubt is honest uncertainty. It is innocent apprehension. It is learning how to trust God but not quite being there yet. You know what I am talking about.
On the other hand, unbelief is a stubborn streak of fear. It is the refusal to walk on water when the presence of Jesus Christ is holding your hand. It is the attitude that refuses to obey when God clearly says, “Make the change today. Step out of the boat and trust me.”
Doubt asks an honest question, “God is that you directing and leading me?” Unbelief looks all together different: “God, I’ve heard and seen but my circumstances have not changed. I won’t believe.” When God gives you the green light or the thumbs up and says, “Start today to believe the specific promise to a given situation,” and you still say, “I don’t see it and will not try,” that is rebellious unbelief.
As a loving father, God loves to rescue us in our hour of need, but He often doesn’t because that would, once again, tighten the noose around our neck, the noose of addiction to the temporal instead of eternal, to the visible instead of invisible, to the natural instead of supernatural. God wants us to learn how to believe. Put these action steps concerning belief into practice and enjoy God’s blessing.
FOCUS ON HOW TO DO IT!
Ø Learn to distinguish between two types of belief.
Ø Move from trying to doing.
Ø Remember: what you think determines what you believe.
Ø If you don’t control what you think, what you think will control you.
Ø Never let anyone push or shove you off your God-given course.
Belief is to the spiritual world what sight is to the natural world. It is belief that allows us accept God’s promptings rather than focus on the circumstances around us. Where do you get belief? From God’s word. Because God has acted faithfully in the past, He will do it again. Let’s not be dull to the Lord’s leading or blind to his ways. In His father heart of love, God wants to awaken your soul to fresh belief. Won’t you cry out like the father in our text, “I believe, help my unbelief”? God is not shaken up or ringing his hands in worry because your belief is peppered with humanity. Perhaps the father was shaky. Jesus still healed. Jesus still delivers today.
God’s purpose for belief is to teach you how to walk in the world of darkness so you might see spiritually. Can you look back on your life and find times when you responded with unbelief? Can you take a moment to thank God for the fresh God-given belief that is rising in your soul this minute?
If you have yet to start this wonderful journey with Jesus Christ as your Savior, won’t you pray the following prayer and begin today.
Today I declare my wholehearted belief that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord. I believe He came as God’s Son, took my sins upon Himself at the cross, and died a brutal death in my place. I believe God raised Him from the dead and that He gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. Today I receive His complete forgiveness of all my sins and the free gift of eternal life.
If you prayed this prayer, get a Bible and start attending a Bible teaching local church, and get baptized. Welcome to the family of God!
1. Impossible? Bannister didn’t think so. He proved it was possible. Now everyone believes. Today thousands of runners have broken the barriers. They even do it in high school! What you believe determines what you achieve. It is your belief that determines your destiny. Belief is energy in action.
2. Doubt is like black paint. Belief is white paint. When you mix white paint with black, it takes a lot of white to get gray. When you mix just a dab of black in with white, it makes gray immediately. This is the description of unbelief and doubt.
3. Belief is to the spiritual world what sight is to the natural world. It is belief that allows us to accept God’s promptings rather than focus on the circumstances around us.
1. Never let doubt in your head rob you of faith in your heart.
2. Where do you get belief? From God’s word. Because God has acted in faithfully in the past, He will do it again.
(1) Peter Hirsch. Success by Design. Bethany House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2002, pg. 32-33.
(2) Ibid, pg. 31.