“I believe; help my unbelief” is my favorite phrase in scripture. It captures so much of what it means and takes to be a follower of Christ, encapsulating struggle, faith, doubt, obedience, wandering, and repentance. It is deeply theological and personal. For these reasons and more I wrote a book called Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy of Faith which explores what real belief is and its relationship with doubt in the life of a believer. The challenges of that tension are not unique to me; They’re nearly universal among Christians no matter position, maturity, or church tradition. In the weeks leading up to the release I will share the the thoughts and experiences of several friends of mine – authors, church leaders, writers, thinkers – who honestly answered five questions about faith and doubt.
Mark Sayers is the Senior Leader of Red Church, and the co-founder of Über Ministries. He is particularly interested in the intersection between Christianity and the culture of the West. Mark is the author of several books including Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm, Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience, and Reappearing Church: The Hope for Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Culture. Mark lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Trudi, daughter Grace, and twin boys Hudson and Billy.
1) What does “I believe; help my unbelief” mean to you?
I find this verse a wonderfully human utterance. It is not a philosophical statement written in a dusty academic book, but rather a live statement that emerges from the heart of a father who wishes to see his son’s torment end. It is a desire for faith that emerges from a flesh and blood man, just like me, who is filled with reason, emotion and desire. A man who wishes for faith, but who acknowledges the desert of unbelief within him. The beauty of this verse is that it is spoken in the presence of the Christ who has come to conquer such unbelief.
2) Do you have a favorite Bible passage about belief and doubt? What is it and how has it impacted you?
Probably the woman who was healed by Jesus in Matthew 9, after touching the hem of his garment. Here is this woman who must have been overcome by doubts, yet at the same time filled with faith. As someone who had been bleeding for twelve years she was religiously unclean, and naturally would have worried that by touching Jesus she could have made Him unclean, what would his response be? Anger? Disgust? How would the crowd react? Would she experience even more marginalization? And yet amongst what have been so many doubts, this bold faith. A faith which is rewarded. Jesus feels power go from him. This woman who must have been caught in a mix of doubt, shame, faith and hope experiences both healing and the power of God. Such an incredible moment.
3) What is belief in God?
For me my belief in God is multilayered. Today we reduced belief to a correlation of facts, coldly noted and adhered to. I believe that belief in God is so much more. Reason and facts are in there, but so is revelation, knowing, relationship, love. Belief in God is as Leslie Newbigin described it as being in the middle of a story, there is so much we know and can attest to, and at the same time we have to have faith in the goodness of the writer and main actor in the story, that he has covered the parts of the story that we cannot see from our vantage point.
4) What do you see as the relationship between belief and doubt?
Doubt is the blank parts of the canvas which is being filled with the color of belief.
5) How can a person strengthen their belief in God?
Pray that dangerous prayer that God will reveal himself to you no matter the cost. Remember that Christianity is a walking faith, to be put into action and practiced. Read God’s word, actually try doing the stuff that Jesus spoke of. Immerse yourself in the lives of the heroes of the faith, learn from their faith and their doubts. Don’t forget that Christianity is a community faith, to be lived with others, others who can sustain and encourage you when doubt comes.