March 2013: I Believe; Help My Unbelief
And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out…
Last year, I received an email from a man who was bound up in sexual addiction. He had been in so deep for so long that he doubted whether there was hope for freedom. I replied and tried to encourage him, but didn’t receive a response. Like the father whose son had been tormented since childhood, the years had worn him down.
“I do believe…” The boy’s father had heard of Jesus and how He’d delivered others; he approached his disciples for help, so a seed of faith was there… “help my unbelief…” But when it came to whether Jesus could help his son, he wasn’t sure.
Perhaps the father’s doubt had been galvanized a little more after the disciples, who had been given authority over unclean spirits and delivered others, had failed (Mark 9:18). I’ve been in a place where I’ve turned to man for answers and nothing worked, even though much of what they suggested was good, even Biblical.
There are times where God takes us to a place where we have nothing to go on but sheer, raw faith. Man’s advice doesn’t work or misses the mark, circumstances get progressively worse, and the books or conferences no longer provide new inspiration, hope, or answers.
In such a place, we’re left with a God we can’t see and a Bible with promises we may struggle to believe. Some may withdraw from others because Christians are “supposed to be rosy-glow, happy face people who never doubt God;” the fear of rejection keeps them hiding in the shadows.
Thankfully, God put people in His word who struggled with doubt, like the father in Mark 9. Jesus didn’t blow them off when they were honest; He ministered to them. God’s word tells us that all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains (Matthew 17:20). A mustard seed is about 1/16” of an inch in diameter; we don’t need to be super-Christians with mountain sized faith to trust and know Him.
Most of us don’t care about moving mountains; some would be happy if the chains of lust were broken, or if their spouse would stop hurting them with their porn/sex-addiction/adultery and treating them like trash. The years, bondage, and pain can shred our faith in God; some might even start to question if He exists.
The Lord may be allowing your faith to be stripped down to a mustard seed to purify it. Perhaps your faith is built on circumstances or people. Maybe you have a rosy-glow view of the Christian life that isn’t grounded in reality. Or maybe, the only person you really trust is yourself. Raw, pure faith has had all of the false coping mechanisms removed; when we’re forced to trust Him we begin the process of graduating from knowing about God to knowing Him personally.
Trials expose doubt, fear, and what we really believe about God. If we cooperate with His refining process, the fires of suffering will forge true faith in the God who can do anything. After the burning off process is finished, you may only have a mustard seed of faith left, but it’ll be rock hard, and tougher than anything the enemy can throw at you. It’ll also be enough to help you make it through the days of darkness.
If you’re in that “help my unbelief” place, or even if you’re not and would like a faith boost, here are nine points to consider:
1. Take a hard look at what you really believe. Do you believe that you’re beloved of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and that God can change you? Is your faith based on circumstances or people, or who God is and what He can do? Jesus didn’t shame the father in Mark 9 for admitting he doubted; which, in his case, was immediately before the breakthrough.
2. Keep soaking yourself in God’s word. When I was going through a faith crisis several years ago, a mentor told me to “stay in God’s word, even if you don’t believe it.” At first this felt wrong; like I needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps and will myself to believe. But he was right; I couldn’t force faith on my heart, especially when it was in pieces. Staying in God’s word gives the Holy Spirit room to work and speak to us, and it is when God shows up and ministers to us when doubt fades away.
3. Keep praying, no matter how you feel, how big your doubt seems, or how bad your circumstances are. Dick Eastman of Every Home for Christ has said that when people pray, “Godly coincidences start happening.” He’s right. When I go after God hard, He speaks; perhaps the advice of a friend mirrors a verse I read that morning, or God brings the same verse or theme in front of me multiple times in a short period of time. These God-induced “coincidences” are faith builders that will blossom your mustard seed with new growth.
4. Watch for God to speak and work. As He starts putting things together, learn to look for Him. Just the act of watching for God is an act of faith in itself. So are praying and reading His word.
5. When God shows up, thank Him. This is a way of receiving the gift He’s giving you, and reaffirms your trust in Him.
6. Learn to wait. Part of the process of burning off misplaced faith involves learning to wait on God and let Him do what He wants when He wants. It also burns off pride (doing what I want when I want) and reshapes our character with humility.
7. Start a journal where you record every instance where God has spoken, led, or worked. Over time you’ll be amazed at all He’s done in your life, and more doubt will crumble away. You’ll have so many entries that it will take too much effort to refuse to believe that God’s not with you. Doubting Him won’t make sense because He’s showed up too many times.
8. Never give up. The enemy wants to shipwreck your faith (1 Timothy 1:19). Before Peter denied Jesus, the Lord told Peter He prayed that “his faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32). If there wasn’t a real risk that Peter could have faded away, Jesus would not have prayed as He did for Peter. I know this goes against what some say “once saved always saved so he must not have been saved if he fell away,” but there are too many instances in Scripture where we’re given stories and warnings of falling away, and I surely wouldn’t call Peter an unbeliever before he denied Christ. The enemy will do whatever he can to destroy your faith with discouragement, fear, resentment, bitterness, or failure. His goal is to break the back of your faith so that you give up and walk away from God. The problem is not in God’s faithfulness, but in getting you to become so overwhelmed with lies and hopelessness that you drift away. The good news is that God has a habit of seeking those who are lost, hurting, or doubting. We have help we can count on; the answer is not about the hurting trying to fix themselves, but seeking the One who heals.
9. If the Lord exposes any core beliefs in your heart that don’t line up with the truth, discard them by confessing them as sin and renouncing them. Then ask God to replace the lie-weed with a new implant of truth. Satan uses his lies to drives us to sin, anger, and despair. The key to your breakthrough may be that Satan’s been mercilessly driving you by a lie for years, and you’ve been cooperating with him. Some of these lies might be “God isn’t big enough to deliver me,” “I’ve fallen too far,” “My sin is too big,” “I’m worthless;” or, “God can’t love me as I am.” If this is you, you never have to accept the Devil’s lies again; you’re free to believe the truth. You can choose to listen to what God says from now on instead of basing your life on the lies of the enemy. Replace the lie with the truth and you’ll change your heart; change your heart and you’ll find the life, love and peace you were looking for, in addition to discovering that your faith has blossomed. Get energized with the love of God, and the enemy will be peeing his pants because now you’re going to be fighting against him and helping others instead of wilting in hopelessness and shame.
If you’re in a place of doubt or fear, God is never far away. After having walked through a faith crisis of my own, I can tell you that He is faithful and His promises are sure.
You’ll never know that God is all you need until He’s all you have.
CBN News Article on Porn in the USA
CBN News recently published an interesting article and video on porn in the USA.
* 67% of men and 49% of women now say porn is acceptable.
* The average first age of exposure is 11. One man they interviewed got hooked at age eight.
* When a youth minister got in a friend’s face who offers porn at his Florida hotel chain, the hotel owner told him that their porn sales skyrocket when a Christian group comes to town with their convention.
* 90% of the kids who come to this youth minister are addicted to porn.
* 21% of Christian girls surveyed admitted to sending a picture of themselves naked through their cellphone.
You can read the article and watch the CBN video here.
New Book in the Works
The rough draft of my second book is done; the editing process is next. This new book will be a devotional with 100 readings for those who struggle sexual sin. I hope to have first copies in hand by June.
For a preview, see the RTG devotional page on the Road to Grace website.
More Reading & Newsletter Archives
It’s Just a Little Porn; I’m no Sex Addict
The Destructive Force of Adultery
Winning the War in the Mind
February 2013: Adultery
January 2013: Speak, Lord, Your Servant is Listening
December 2012: Healing the Wounds of Rejection
November 2012: A Look at Grace
October 2012: When Someone Shares their Sin
September 2012: Willpower Doesn’t Work
August 2012: Look Who’s One of the Porn Industry’s Biggest Customers
July 2012: For Those Who are Control Freaks (and Don’t Want to Be)
June 2012: Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning
After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God !” esus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Blazing Grace’s purpose is to minister to the sexually broken, encourage believers to draw closer to God, and encourage the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.
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All material copyright 2013 Mike Genung