THE BELIEVER’S PARADOX
By A.W. Pink [ A MUST read for all God’s Elect]
“Lord, I do believe! Help my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24]
This was the honest confession of one whose faith had been put to a most severe test. It issued from a man who had a son possessed by a demon, which grievously tormented him, “And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away”
How PARADOXICAL was this language, for it was almost, if not quite, a contradiction in terms.
If this man was a genuine believer, then why should he bemoan his unbelief? Or, since he bemoaned his unbelief, with what propriety could he claim to be a believer? It is like a man saying, I am hot—help my shivering coldness; I am strong—help my tottering weakness; for faith and unbelief are OPPOSITES.
Ah there are many PARADOXES in the Christian life, which are quite unintelligible to the wise of this world. That man has to become a FOOL in order to be WISE (1 Cor. 3:18), that he has to become a pauper in order to be made rich (Matt. 5:3), that he has to be made weak in order to become strong (2 Cor. 12:10), are enigmas that proud philosophers cannot elucidate. But thank God, what remains mysterious to the wise and prudent among men—is revealed to those who are babes in His family.
Unbelief is part of the entail of the FALL. By nature all of us are “children in whom is NO faith” (Deut. 32:20). Frightful thing is that! To have a heart which distrusts God; to have a heart which is ever prone to lean upon anyone and anything rather than upon the Lord Himself; to forsake the Fountain, and betake ourselves to “cisterns which hold no water.” Such is fallen man. Plenty of faith in himself, faith in his fellows, until he is disillusioned and disappointed; but no faith in GOD.
That it is which explains why Christ is “despised an rejected by men,” so that in the days of His flesh He cried “O FAITHLESS and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you!” (Matt. 17:17). This it is which accounts for the universal attitude of men toward both the Law and the Gospel—they do not believe the Author and Giver of them, they are destitute of faith in Him; and thus they will continue all their days—unless the Holy Spirit sovereignly intervenes and performs a miracle of grace in their hearts.
Unbelief REMAINS in the hearts even of the regenerate. Though God imparts to them the gift of faith, he does not remove (in this life) the root of unbelief. The Heroes of Faith, whose portraits hang upon the walls of fame in Hebrews 11, experienced that solemn fact. Look at Abraham, the father of all those who believe—when famine arose in Canaan he went down to Egypt for support, and so afraid was he to trust his wife in the hands of God, he told a lie by saying she was his sister. Look at Moses; afraid to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh after Jehovah had appeared to him at the burning bush and had promised the deliverance of His people (Exo. 3); and later, complaining to Him, because he had so evilly dealt with Israel (Exo. 5:22, 23). Look at David, the slayer of Goliath—yet saying in his heart “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” (1 Sam. 27:1). Look at the once intrepid Elijah, fleeing in terror from Jezebel. Ah, my reader, the Holy Spirit has delineated the characters of the saints in the colors of truth and reality; not as they OUGHT to have been—but as they ACTUALLY WERE.
Unbelief is the great burden of the saint. It grieves his soul—the man in our text WEPT over it—do you? Gladly would the Christian be freed from this plague—but the Lord does not see fit to remove it in this life. Frequently it acts like a cloud that covers the sun, for there is nothing so effectual as unbelief in hiding from us the light of God’s countenance.
Unbelief fetters our spiritual movements and impedes our progress. There are times when the believer fears that his unbelief will utterly sink him. Yet painful though this experience be, it is nevertheless a most hopeful and encouraging sign. It is not until God has communicated faith—that any soul is conscious of its unbelief! A living faith is necessary in order to recognize our dead unbelief! There must be Divine light to see its existence, and Divine light to feel its power. Here, then, is solid comfort for those who are groaning over this burden—in your UNREGENERATE days you were never EXCERCISED over your unbelief!
To genuinely mourn for our wicked unbelief is a sure evidence that Divine life is present in the soul. Those who are strangers to God, certainly do not make conscience of such matters; how can they—when they are quite unconscious of the plague of their hearts! But the Christian is not only conscious of unbelief, he goes to God and makes humble and contrite CONFESSION of the same. Yes, it is a sense of this grievous burden which drives him to the great Physician, crying, “Lord, I do believe! Help my unbelief!”
A true Christian does not cloak or excuse his unbelief—but honestly acknowledges it before God. Nor does he sit still and pity himself as one who is totally impotent and without any responsibility in the matter. No, he genuinely seeks “help,” which clearly denotes he is RESISTING this enemy—but needs Divine assistance. True, without Christ he can do nothing (John 15:5)—but he CAN do all things by Christ strengthening him (Phil. 4:13).
Here, then, is the solution to the difficulty and the explanation of the PARADOX presented by the language in our text. There are two distinct and totally different principles or “natures” indwelling the saint—faith and unbelief, and there is a continual opposition between them. They issue from the “spirit” and the “flesh,” concerning which we read, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Gal. 5:17). It is this unceasing warfare between the two antagonistic principles that give rise to A DUAL EXPERIENCE—one moment trusting God, the next doubting Him; one moment resting upon and drawing comfort from His promises, the next having no confidence in the same.
And this dual and distressing experience, moves him to cry “Lord, I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Ah, my reader, if YOU are not plagued with and burdened by unbelief, if you do not humbly confess the same to God and seek His help about it—then are you of all men most miserable.
Contrariwise, as we have already said, here is that which provides real comfort for the conscience-distressed and Satan-harassed soul. How often the Devil will tell a Christian, “Your profession is an empty one—you do not belong to the Household of Faith—how can you, when filled with unbelief!?” Listen, dear friend—the man in our text was a genuine believer—yet he owned HIS unbelief; and that is recorded for OUR instruction and comfort.
This internal warfare, is one of the plainest possible proofs that we ARE believers. No unbeliever ever shed tears over his unbelief; no empty professor ever groaned because of his questioning of God; no hypocrite is burdened by his doubts and fears. No! Such are filled with carnal confidence and fleshly assurance— THEY have not had a doubt about their salvation for years past; they can exercise faith any time, as easily as you can turn a tap and make the water come; but such is NOT THE FAITH OF GOD’S ELECT.
There’s more to the above article . . . Read the full article and be blessed –