When you doubt that your faith is strong enough for you to be a child of God, it’s a clear indication that you misunderstand the nature of faith. Faith in God doesn’t involve certainty, nor does it imply the absence of doubts. The Gospel of Mark makes this clear in the account of Jesus’ healing of a little boy possessed by evil spirits ( Mark 9:14-27 ). The father came asking for help in front of a multitude, including religious leaders. He told Jesus that he had asked His disciples to cast the demons from the child, but they were unable. Then he said:
If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us (v.22).
Jesus’ tested the father’s sincerity, saying:
“If you can” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes” (v.23).
The boy’s father didn’t claim that he had perfect faith, nor did he walk away in despair. He acknowledged his doubts (unbelief) at the same time that he passionately expressed his desire to believe:
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v.24).
This father’s faith passed Jesus’ test. Jesus didn’t condemn him for his doubts. Instead, He healed his son.
What a torment, what a terrible burden, to believe that faith must be perfect before God will respond to our need! If we believe that our faith must be perfect, we have established an unattainable goal and enslaved ourselves to a new form of works-salvation. Rather than basing our faith on God’s goodness and Christ’s completed work of love on our behalf, we base it on our own achievement-our own perfection.
People who think that their faith must be perfect before it will be acceptable to God ignore dozens of scriptural examples of people whose trust in God was imperfect, yet their faith was still accepted by Him. Here are just a few:
- Moses ( Exodus 3:11; 4:1 )
- Abraham ( Genesis 12:10-13; 15:1-5 )
- Jacob ( Genesis 25:29-34; 27:1-46 )
- Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:4 )
- Peter ( Matthew 14:28-31; 26:69-75 )
- Thomas ( John 20:24-25 )
- The disciples ( Matthew 26:56 ).
These examples show that it isn’t the perfection of our trust that matters, but the perfection of God’s love and forgiveness. Perfect faith will be ours only when the Holy Spirit has completed His work of sanctification within us.