‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’Mark 9:23-24 NIV
Many of us can relate to this father in one way or another when it comes to our faith.
This father had a son who faced an uphill battle in regards to his health and well-being. Despite years of effort, his condition had not improved.
So when Jesus challenged his faith, this man responded with hesitation. He believed Jesus could help, but what if this time was like all the others?
When faced with long-term challenges — in myself, in others, or in my circumstances — I can feel that same juxtaposition of having some part of me believe that God can do anything, while at the same time doubting anything can really change.
So this leads us to a question: how do we increase our faith, so that our faith is greater than our unbelief or fear of disappointment?
The book of Mark is full of stories of people who pushed past suffering and setbacks to believe that God would do the impossible on their behalf. Reading their stories and imitating their decisions to come to God for help is perhaps one of the greatest ways we can increase our faith.
Interestingly, I noticed a common theme in many of these stories: as each person tried to approach Jesus for help, a crowd of people almost always blocked their way. Their “crowd” was physical, but I think “the crowd” can be emotional and spiritual too — like the “crowd” of negativity in people around us or even in our own heads.
And that led me to this takeaway: if we are going to increase our faith, we will have to make courageous decisions to push past “crowds” of fear and negativity.
Let’s look at a few more examples of people who overcame these crowds to have the faith to go to Jesus.
Dare to believe beyond your setbacks
Now, in the crowd that day was a woman who had suffered horribly from continual bleeding for twelve years.  She had endured a great deal under the care of various doctors, yet in spite of spending all she had on their treatments, she was not getting better, but worse.  When she heard about Jesus’ healing power, she pushed through the crowd and came up from behind him and touched his prayer shawl.  For she kept saying to herself, “If only I could touch his clothes, I know I will be healed.”  As soon as her hand touched him, her bleeding immediately stopped! She knew it, for she could feel her body instantly being healed of her disease! When the woman who experienced this miracle realized what had happened to her, she came before him, trembling with fear, and threw herself down at his feet, saying, “I was the one who touched you.” And she told him her story of what had just happened.  Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, because you dared to believe, your faith has healed you. Go with peace in your heart, and be free from your suffering!” Mark 5:25-29, 33-34 TPT
This woman’s past twelve years were defined by suffering, setbacks, and disappointments. Despite all her efforts to get better, nothing seemed to work.
When we’ve been in her shoes and have experienced the exhausting wave of failure after failure it’s hard to believe. The last thing you want to do is to try again when your faith has been battered.
I remember going through a very challenging time when I felt this way. My wife and I had decided we were ready to start a family, but we found ourselves in a years-long battle with infertility. We saw doctors for years, did a litany of tests, and my wife had surgery — but still, we did not get pregnant.
We believed God wanted us to have a family, but with each passing month and year, it became increasingly difficult to believe.
While we were in the midst of this struggle, we got more challenging news: both my mother and my wife’s mother were diagnosed with cancer and began fighting for their lives.
As a way of managing our disappointment, it became easier for us to anticipate bad news than to believe good news was around the corner. Our faith was almost crowded out by our fear of disappointment.
But with a fragile faith, we kept trying to push past that crowd of fear. We didn’t stop believing God had a plan, despite the constant setbacks. And not only did God bless us with two rambunctious kids but both of our mothers became Christians in their time of need. That period of our lives was one of the most trying, but also one of the most rewarding.
I admire this woman in the story because I know it took great courage and vulnerability for her to push past the crowds and dare to believe Jesus could heal her. It’s always easier to stay in the crowd, to not stand out and risk potential failure or experience disappointment again.
Read more: Deep Insecurity
Pushing past the crowd also means pushing past the potential scrutiny of other people. In society at that time, this woman’s condition would have caused a great deal of not only physical suffering but also emotional pain. She would have been excluded from marriage and religious life. She had probably been a social outcast for years.
And so her decision to push through the potential scrutiny of the crowd becomes even more significant. The risk of rejection and judgment from people was high.
And yet, despite the years of painful rejection from people, she still believed Jesus would care and help her. And because she believed that, she found the courage to vulnerably tell him her story in front of the crowd.
If we are to increase our faith we have to summon the courage and dare to believe by pushing past the crowds to get to Jesus. There in the midst of the frenzy of the crowd we have to find the vulnerability to tell him our story.
Pause and reflect
- What do you need to dare to believe is possible?
- What are the “crowds” you have to push past?
- How do you feel about vulnerably telling Jesus and other people your story? Why?
- Pushing past the crowd begins in prayer. Take action by finding the courage to be one-on-one, eye-to-eye with Jesus by being real with him about your needs and your story.
Don’t yield to the voice of negativity
And before he had finished speaking, people arrived from Jairus’ house and pushed through the crowd to give Jairus the news: “There’s no need to trouble the master any longer—your daughter has died.”  But Jesus refused to listen to what they were told and said to the Jewish official, “Don’t yield to fear. All you need to do is to keep on believing.”Mark 5:35-36 TPT
When we finally push past fear and reach Jesus, there is a little voice that often threatens to slip through the crowd and rattle our faith: the news of negativity.
Negativity is all too easy to come by. No matter our preferred social media platform, or news source, our minds are inundated with negativity regularly. In order to increase our faith, we must do what Jesus told Jairus: refuse to listen and give in to negativity, don’t yield to fear, and keep on believing.
Jairus was in a desperate situation as his daughter was dying. If you read the whole chapter, you may notice that Jesus was actually on his way to help Jairus when the woman from the previous point was healed.
If I were Jairus, I would be annoyed by the woman who stopped Jesus, because I would feel she was wasting precious time from saving my daughter. Once I heard that my daughter was dead, I would definitely have blamed her and given up hope.
Yet, I believe Jairus needed the example of the woman’s bold faith in order to choose not to give in to his fear.
When he heard the bad news about his daughter, he had a choice: to give in to fear by listening to news of negativity or to choose to believe by listening to Jesus.
Jairus didn’t give up. He continued walking with Jesus to his house and saw a miracle as Jesus brought his daughter back to life (Mark 5:38-42).
So how do we resist the ever-present voice of negativity in our own lives? I’ve learned that we have to use the spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) of Scripture and prayer to overcome negativity.
Taking our fears to God in prayer and asking him for help is one way we can decide not to yield to negativity. Once we’ve told God our fears, we also need to make a decision to believe God’s Word in Scripture more than our own emotions.
Pause and reflect
- What are some examples of negative news that has affected your faith?
- Are there any areas of your life in which you feel you have been yielding to fear more than listening to God?
- Choosing to not yield to fear is obedience to the Bible. Negativity will constantly tempt us to give in to our fear.
- Find a scripture that you will hold onto throughout the day. That means you will choose to believe and live it out no matter what happens or how you feel throughout the day.
Exercise your faith by caring for the crowd
By the time Jesus came ashore, a massive crowd was waiting. At the sight of them, his heart was filled with compassion, because they seemed like wandering sheep who had no shepherd. So he taught them many things.  Late that afternoon, his disciples said, “It’s getting really late and we’re here in this remote place with nothing to eat.  You should send the crowds away so they can go into the surrounding villages and buy food for themselves.”  But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”Mark 6:34-37 TPT
Up until now, we’ve seen “the crowd” as something of an obstacle to our faith. But Jesus turns that perspective on its head in this passage with the way he responds to a crowd.
He doesn’t push past the crowd or send them away. He sees beyond how the crowd might inconvenience his own life and sees their needs. Jesus knew and believed his teaching could make a difference in their lives.
By his example, Jesus teaches us that our personal fight to increase our faith isn’t supposed to end with us. Our increase in faith is meant to help us to change the lives of others. And, faith and action go hand-in-hand (James 2:20-22); taking action to help others will increase our own faith. This begins with taking the time to understand their story.
We must find the courage as Jesus teaches his disciples to be willing to see people and hear their stories. Everyone in the crowd has a story. Take a look at some of these recent statistics about adults in the United States:
- One out of five are suffering from an emotional health challenge.
- Half of all those who are married will end up divorced.
- Half of all Americans feel lonely.
- About 1 in 10 Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.
These needs aren’t always obvious when you first get to know someone. What this tells us is that we all have our needs, yet a lot of people blend into the crowd or hide their needs and don’t find answers to their challenges. This is where we are meant to make a difference.
Deciding to “care for the crowd” is even more important since the pandemic has strained the way we see and interact with strangers. It has become very easy to see people we don’t know as a potential risk to our well-being. And while it is certainly important to stay vigilant in our fight against Covid-19, it’s also important that we follow Jesus’ example of having a heart for other people instead of fearing them or avoiding them.
We are all the suffering woman and Jairus at different points in our lives. When we dare to believe that God can do the impossible and decide not to yield to negativity, our faith will grow. We will want other people to experience God’s power in their lives too.
We will recognize ourselves in the crowds and find the compassion to help instead of avoiding people. Our faith will grow as we exercise it and take the time to listen to other people’s stories the way Jesus listens to our own.
Pause and reflect
- How has the pandemic normalized for you that other people are dangerous or scary?
- What are some practical ways you sometimes “avoid the crowd”?
- Who do you think that God has put in your life for you to take time to build a relationship with and get to know their story?
- While taking appropriate safety precautions, build a relationship this week. Get to know someone by sharing your story and learning theirs.
For further studies to help you increase your faith consider the following:
- Bible books: James; Hebrews
- Bible characters: Abraham
- Deep Spirituality devotional: Five Things to Let Go to Grow Your Faith