Steven Furtick - Overcoming Your Unbelief
In owning your doubts, you don't disqualify your faith. "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief". There are a couple of miracles in this passage. One is that the boy gets healed of his condition, and the second is that the man asks for help. How many women know that for a man to ask for help is a miracle in itself? Now not me. I ask Holly for help all the time. I particularly… This is one of the things in our marriage. I told you she helps me a lot. I am horrible about losing things and then freaking out and thinking it's gone forever. Holly is more calm. Every morning, we start our day with me losing my AirPods. Every morning. I know these are some real first-world problems I'm telling you about up here, but every morning, this is the first thing we do. I don't seek the Lord; I look for my AirPods, because I have sleep issues, so I always put something really boring in my AirPods to fall asleep to.
I spend the first 10 minutes of the day looking for the AirPods, and then after five minutes of looking for it, I ask Holly to help me, and she does. She has been doing this our whole marriage, because my first instinct is, "It's gone. It's gone. It'll never be back again". Whether it's sunglasses, AirPods, my anointing… I told you my first instinct is "It's gone". "I don't feel God's presence right now. I guess it's gone". "I've been looking for my AirPods for 30 seconds. They're not here. They're gone". She says, "Do you think they got up and walked away? You put them in your ear seven hours ago. They are here somewhere". This is what she taught me: "You don't know how to look". She said, "You don't know how to look". I said, "I looked". She said, "You looked with your eyes. To really look you can't just use your eyes". This was several years ago. She said, "I'm going to teach you how to look". She started picking stuff up. She said, "See what I'm doing? I'm lifting while I'm looking. See? I'm looking underneath stuff. I'm moving the pillow. I'm peeling back the covers".
God said some of y'all look, but you don't lift. You don't know how to look. So, in the past six months you've said stuff like this: "I've lost my faith". You didn't lose it. You just don't know how to look. When I talk to people, I notice the way we phrase things. We say, "I lost my joy. I lost my peace". How many of y'all have said in the last 30 days, "I feel like I'm losing my mind"? How many of y'all didn't even get that specific? Just "I feel like I'm losing it". You didn't lose it. You just have to learn how to look. Sometimes looking means lifting stuff, looking under stuff. Not just walking in… "It's gone"! "Well, I woke up in a good mood, but y'all just… The Devil just stole my joy". I guess he did. You left it lying right out for him to take. You didn't lock the door, roll up the window…
I'm preaching to me. I'll say I lost it, but I haven't really even looked. The man said, "I do believe. That's why I brought my boy to you. I still have faith, but will you help me with my unbelief"? What I want to teach you today is there's a difference between having unbelief and being an unbeliever. He did not say, "I'm an unbeliever". He said, "I have unbelief". When you have doubts about anything in your life, what God spoke to you or even who God is… Sometimes many of us doubt the existence of God. That doesn't make you an unbeliever. There's a difference between having unbelief… "Immediately he exclaimed…" Did you see that word? Immediately he exclaimed, "I do believe, but help my unbelief". We understand that although his explanation was immediate his unbelief probably came over time. His boy has been in this condition since childhood, and perhaps at the first sign or symptom that his boy had something wrong with him he believed, but life has a way of layering unbelief. Beneath the layers of unbelief is still a you who trusts God.
We try to bring you into church sometimes and remove all of the doubts from the equation. We do that sometimes through preaching clichés or by making vague promises that "You're going to make it to the other side," and things like that. I preach those things too, and sometimes they have value, but sometimes I think we think God is going to decrease our doubts. The father in this passage prayed Jesus would increase his faith. "Help me overcome my unbelief". He has shifted now. When he first started talking to Jesus… "Your disciples couldn't do it". The first instinct was to blame, but now he's understanding that "It's not going to get me anywhere to blame Jesus' staff. If I want my boy healed, I'm going to have to get beneath all of the surface reasons it didn't work, and I'm going to have to own this for myself. Help my unbelief". Would you have the guts to pray that out loud? "Help my unbelief".
Now, we pray, "Help my bank account". We pray, "Help my husband act right". We pray all kinds of things, but when you say, "Help my unbelief," power happens. That's the connection right there. "Help my unbelief". There are some things we need to unbelieve before we can believe what we need to believe. Unbelief creeps in. It doesn't come in all at once. You don't wake up one day and talk about "I just don't believe anymore". As years go by, as disappointments accumulate… Here's one way of saying it: faith doesn't disappear; it deteriorates. It wears away. I wrote a book in 2010 in my journey of faith called Sun Stand Still. It was a good book. It was about believing God for the impossible. I watched my dad die of ALS a couple of years later. I had to go back and revisit "Do I still believe God can do the impossible"?
My friend Levi Lusko prayed "Sun stand still" over his 5-year-old daughter, and she died in his arms of an asthma attack as he tried to resuscitate her. I have to go back in my life now and separate out the events that happened that caused me to doubt from the faith that I have to realize that sometimes we didn't really lose our faith, we misplaced it. It didn't get up and walk away. You didn't lose your faith; you misplaced it. In the father's case, he said, "Your disciples couldn't drive it out. Your disciples couldn't do it". The disciples weren't the ones you needed to believe in to begin with. Many of us lost our faith in Jesus because we put our trust in people. So, we lose our faith in God because somebody else let us down? Because the disciples couldn't do it, you're going to walk away from what God has for you? "I don't go to church anymore. I got burned".
Have you ever had a bad meal? Do you still eat? "Help my unbelief. I've watched my son like this so long…" When it has been so long like this, it just adds up over time to where his first instinct is, "I do believe, but will you help me overcome the part of me that doesn't"? I'll never forget when I was in Orangeburg, South Carolina, preaching on a Friday night. I preached this sermon back in the day on Jonathan from 1 Samuel 14, an Old Testament character. He was the son of Saul the king. I preached 1 Samuel 14:6 so many times. I used to talk about how Jonathan said, "Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving". I talked about how that sounds kind of like he hasn't quite made up his mind. "Nothing can hinder the Lord. Perhaps God will act". I called it the perhaps paradox.
Now, this was a small church, and I was…I don't know…19 years old. This guy drove me back to the host home where we were staying. The guy's name was Rodney who was driving me. On the way home… You know, I'm insecure, so I said, "How did you like the sermon, Rodney"? I shouldn't have asked that. He said, "I don't know if I'd call that a sermon what you did up there". I'm not making this up. He said, "There's no perhaps about it. If God said he'll do it, he'll do it. That stuff you're preaching up there isn't faith; it's doubt". I said, "But I got it from the Bible, Rodney. I read the Bible. That's what Jonathan said in the Bible. I was preaching the Bible verse". He said, "No, no, no. If God said he'll do it, he'll do it, and there's no if about it". Hold on. "'If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.' 'If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.'" And Jesus did it even though the man said if.
So, I started arguing with Rodney. I said, "Rodney, there are a lot of people in the Bible…" (I'm putting a substitute name in there. His real name wasn't Rodney. I still remember what it was. I'm not going to say it. I don't want to get sued or canceled.) The man said, "Well, real faith in the Bible…" I said, "Moses had doubts. He said God couldn't use him. God got so mad at Moses the Bible said his anger burned against him, but he still used him even though he had to get Aaron to speak for him. You have more faith than Moses"? I said, "Abraham lied about his wife". I went through a whole list of people who doubted but God still used them. I said, "You have more faith than all of them"? He said, "Well, I guess when it comes to that I do". By the time we got to where he was dropping me off in the driveway, we were about to fistfight in the driveway. The man whose home it was came running out of the house. He said, "What in the world is going on"?
He kind of broke us up, and he took us into the house, and Rodney left and spun out of the driveway in the pickup truck. I sat down in the house, and I said, "We were arguing about… He said if you have any doubt, you don't have real faith". This is what the man said to me. He said, "If you teach that and preach that, you're going to be broke, poor, and sick all your life, and so will all of the people you lead and your future children, if you have any". I'm like, "Hey, man. Leave my hypothetical future children out of this. You can make fun of me if you want". But he really thought that. He really thought the proof of faith is the absence of doubt. He had no room in his view of who God is for an if. But Jesus did what the man needed even though the man wasn't perfectly convinced he could do it, because the man invited Jesus into the place where he had the greatest doubt and the greatest pain.
Now I think this might be my favorite prayer in the Bible, because I can get with this. I can get with this when I'm in a bad mood. I can get with this when I'm in a good mood. I can get with this when I'm riding high. I can get with this when the news is bad. I can get with this any day of the week. "I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief". I'm not asking God to just take it away. I'm asking God "Help me overcome it". My faith is not gone. I just have to learn where to look. Sometimes the greatest faith…I need you to get this…is right underneath that biggest doubt.
Sometimes the greatest thing God wants to show you, if you will start lifting and looking and lifting and looking… Do you see what I'm saying? We can't just cover over it. We can't just come to church for a fresh coat of paint over our problems. We can't just come to church for a three-hour scriptural sugar boost to get us feeling good for a moment. It won't work, and we'll end up like the disciples, saying, "Why did I shout and sing and listen and take notes in church"? Because you didn't invite Jesus into the real place of your pain. You didn't lose your faith; you just stopped looking at the surface. "It's gone. It's gone". One boy broke up with you. "I guess I'll never be loved". You're 14 years old! "I guess it's gone. I guess you can't trust anybody". See how we do it? "It's gone". You have to know where to look.