This seems contradictory for him to first say he had faith, then to ask for help with his lack of faith.
Mark 9:14 - 29
ESV - 14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him.
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You are exactly right in the explanation of your question; this does "seem" to be contradictory. And yet, most of us have often felt compelled to pray this same prayer: "Lord, I believe; help me with my unbelief." It may be that it is on the level of personal experience, the level of our own faith in God, that we can best understand the father's request in this passage. We can acknowledge that many scriptures "seem" contradictory at first glance. However, our conviction that the Bible is the word of God and is, therefore, infallible and inerrant compels us to take a closer look at those passages. While there are several reasons that scripture may sometimes appear to contradict itself, we often find that an apparent contradiction is actually a paradox: “a statement that seems contradictory or absurd but is actually valid or true” (Dictionary.com). Christianity has been referred to as the "religion of paradox" because of the multiple examples found within our faith. Just to point out a few: God is "one" and He is "three;" Jesus is the Son of "God" and the Son of "Man;" He is the "Lamb" of God and the "Lion" of Judah; He is the "LORD" of Lords and the "KING" of Kings and yet He is the Suffering "Servant;" Jesus is "begotten" of the Father and yet He has "always existed;" believers are both “sinners” and “saints;” we must “lose” our life in order to “gain” our life; we are “in” this world, but “not of” this world; we remain “here” on earth, and yet we are seated with Him in “heavenly places.” These (and many others) seem to contradict themselves, but each one has a scriptural answer that is true, reasonable and perfectly logical. There is wonderful grace and beauty in the explanatory and illustrative power of the paradox! The father's response to Jesus in Mark 9:24 fits the definition and the scriptural pattern of a paradox. It seems to be a contradiction, but it actually posits a true and valid proposition: that faith and unbelief can coexist. This premise becomes clear when we examine one particular aspect of the nature of our faith. We commonly think of our faith in God as an absolute; we either have it, or we don't. While that is true in the sense of "saving faith," the faith required for salvation, it is not the case for faith in a general sense. The faith in view in this passage is not saving faith, but general belief in the character and power of Jesus. Does the father of the boy believe that Jesus is willing and able, in this circumstance, to cast out this particular demon? His answer is: yes, but not perfectly! Faith, in this general sense, is commonly referred to in the Bible in quantitative terms. That is, we have varying amounts, degrees or measures of faith (Romans 12:3, Matthew 17:20, etc.). There are quantitative differences in faith from one believer to the next and even within an individual believer at different points in their life (2 Corinthians 10:15, etc.). There are also qualitative differences in faith. That is, differences in the quality of what we believe in terms of doctrinal purity. Do our individual beliefs always perfectly align with scripture rightly interpreted? Do our individual doctrines collectively form a cogent system of belief that perfectly reflects the Bible message from beginning to end? The answer to both questions, of course, is an unfortunate but resounding, “no!” Therefore, it is our common experience that we are always in a state of faith mixed with unbelief. Like the father in Mark 9:24, our faith is never perfect or complete. At our times of deepest reflection, we acknowledge that there is always at least a tiny remnant of ignorance, skepticism, doubt or uncertainty. Having been given a measure of faith by God, we still have need to cry out to Him, “Help my unbelief” until the day when we will not just believe, but will “know fully, even as (we) have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Although faith seems to be a quantitative thing, Jesus never condemned seekers who were questioning their faith. He said that if you have even a mustard seed of faith, God will work with that. In this story the father was being honest about his level of faith. He had watched his child suffer for many years, and he knew that he only had a mustard seed faith, but was asking Jesus to help him in his areas of unbelief. Jesus was however, exasperated with the disciples who had watched Him doing miracles for three years, but were unable to help the man and his son. Jesus did use some examples of what "great faith" looks like. He said that unless we have the faith of a child we shall not see the kingdom of heaven. A child is weak, and unable to use their personal strength to prove their worth. There was also the story of the Centurion in Matthew 8, who called himself "a man under authority, who also had men under his authority". Jesus said that this Roman centurion had the greatest faith Jesus had ever seen in all of Israel. The Centurion knew that as a soldier, he had no control of where he was going or what he doing that day, he just followed orders. He also understood that when he gave orders, his men were expected to follow his direction. He recognised Jesus as a man of authority who only had to send His word, and it would be accomplished. Faith then is following obediently when the master gives orders, and knowing our own level of authority when giving orders to be followed. We are always trying to shore up our faith in an attempt to portray it as "great faith", but Jesus just wants us to be honest about our level of faith and trust Him to give His strength where we are weak.
This is a good question. This man reminds me of myself before my conversion. I too had faith, but it was a historical faith. I can remember going to Sunday school and watching my teacher put those images on the flannel graph board. I have never had a problem with believing Noah's ark, Jonah and the whale or any other lesson in the bible, but believing all that was not gonna get me to heaven. Yes I believed the old and New Testament teachings alike. When I was 4 and 5 years old, I would gather my cousins and brothers to the picnic table, and I would stand behind a tree stump with a log splitting wedge in my hand and preach to them about Calvary. All this from an historical faith, and yet I was not converted, transformed, passed from death unto life. There is a difference between historical faith and converting faith! One must have faith to repent, and here this man is face to face with Jesus, and Jn.7:46 declares, Never a man spake like this man. This man came to Jesus, and maybe he was a lawful man, maybe he was faithful to the house of God, maybe he did all the right things, but for the first time in in life he saw himself as Jesus saw him. We cannot fool God, he sees us for what we are, but most the time we cannot see ourselves. However when Jesus shows up in our life we can began to see who and what we are(sinners). It is there that we tremble at the law we've spurned. It is there that mankind can turn from sin and hell to righteousness and heaven. It is such a faith that convicts and converts the soul. Someone once said " The greatest gift ever given was nailed to a cross". That's pretty good, but what about the gift of faith to believe all that. According to Eph.2:8 Faith is a gift from God. This man nor any other man can be converted until God gives us the faith to do so. Heb.11:6 says that God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. Here in our text we can see just that as this man sets out to find Jesus, and through his diligence and perseverance he was rewarded. The reward is not just a 401k, but it's that and a paycheck this week too. It's a life of Joy, Peace, Communion with the Father, Fellowship with the brethren, comfort of the Holy Ghost, Rest & Love, just to name a few. Just as this man we can have all the historical faith in the world and still die and go to Hell, but faith cometh by hearing the word, and Jesus is the word, and when this man heard from Jesus he was given the saving faith he needed to be redeemed. Romans 2:4 teaches us that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. What are gifts? What are rewards? They are things we consider to be good, I mean, we want them. If faith is a gift from God, and it is good, then if it's the real thing it should lead us to repentance. This is exactly what the man in Mark 9 did and got exactly what he needed. I don't think this man contradicted himself at all, I just think he came to understand there was something missing in him, and he went to the right person to get it.
I believe that the father in this story must have heard of the work that Jesus was doing at this time. In Matthew 8:5-11, the story of the centurion, we find Jesus astonished at the faith of the man. Jesus was looking for this faith to use as a sign to prove who He was. In Romans 5:3 we are told that hardship develops perseverance, perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope... A hope which will not let us down. This father had hope, faith that Jesus would help. And Jesus did! Also if look at the same story in Luke 9:37-43,it seems that Jesus may be upset with His disciples for not demonstrating enough faith.
Jesus knew that in order for the daughter to be healed, He, the father, must believe that Jesus was capable of doing exactly what He was able to do. If you recall in most examples of healing Jesus always stated "Your faith" has made you whole. In areas where He wasn't able to perform healing, it was due to the lack of faith in the people. The father knew that by having complete faith his child would survive and Jesus was the conduit to that. In regard to coming as children, Children believe unequivocally what they are taught. They believe unwavering and they seek unabashedly. A child is not wrapped up in "correctness" they will simply ask and get an answer no matter what it is. That is why Jesus said to come as children. Seeking with wonder and amazement. Healing is only received by the person whose faith is strong. Believing they have received even if it hasn't been manifested in the natural. Faith is calling things that are not in the physical as if they were. You don't need faith for things that are seen. Faith is used for the unseen.
I LOVE all the answers above and agree with them. I just want to add a small something. I believe the man was saying to Jesus: "I want to believe, help me!" I also think Jesus loves that attitude and will honor it. JESUS says "I stand at the door and knock" wanting us to ask Him in.
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