Bryan Jones |

Dive into Mark 9, where Jesus teaches us how to battle unbelief.

January 7, 2024
Bryan Jones


A. Introduction

(Mark 9:14-16)

Early in our marriage, a young man came to live with me and Steph. He was a student at our church who we learned was bouncing from couch to couch. We took him in to care for him, and I even went to a parent-teacher conference. I learned quickly he was troubled. His dad had dropped him off on his grandparents’ doorstep. He felt abandoned. I tried to help him. I remember sitting down and thinking, I know what to do. I use my words for a living. I will talk some sense into him.

I thought the conversation went great… but after a while, things kept getting worse. I realized that I had no power to really help him. I asked certain people in the church what to do, and I was surprised that so many people missed the needs of this boy because they had certain principles they followed like, this is why the government needs to do this, or My philosophy is this, it’s not your problem. He messed up, so it’s time to kick him out. I remember that sometimes it became an argument on how much Steph and I should help this boy…

It's a very similar scene to what’s going on here…

A boy is hurting and in need.

The disciples are without power.

The religious leaders are arguing politics, doctrine, and preferences…

This feels like a modern-day picture of where our culture where…

The world is hurting and in need.

Christians have no power.

The Church seems to be arguing about politics, preferences, or end times…

We are surrounded right now by people with real physical and spiritual needs. And you have the religious people who don’t see because they have become more consumed with the Oval Office than the heavenly office. You have some people who really do see the needs, but they don’t feel like they have the power, the voice, the strength. 

The church doesn’t need better strategies, it needs deeper life in the spirit… amen!

You know we don’t just need new rhythms this new year, we need a new heart and God is faithful to give it…. So let me encourage you, if you want more faith and power, God is faithful… There has never been anyone in human history who’s been hungry who has left unfilled…

Do you know what one of the major problems is in this text? Its unbelief.  

Here’s the problem with unbelief, you will either be transformed in your faith or transformed in your unbelief. After a while, one will win out. You will always struggle with some amount of unbelief, but some people have a cancerous unbelief that spreads if not treated with the antidote of faith…

But how do we combat unbelief? How do we grow our faith, so our faith becomes greater than our unbelief?

We live in a culture where we tend to go to war with the wrong things… and we have a flippant attitude towards what matters most…

I want you to go to war with unbelief not each other… but unbelief…

I want to give you a few principles to battle unbelief and to be transformed with deeper faith.

B. To battle unbelief…

1. Don’t let yourself play the blame game.

(Mark 9:17-18. C/R: Matthew 16:24-25)

Almost anytime something is lost or broken in our house, I will hear Steph ask our twin girls what happened. Do you know their answer is 90% of the time? Dad did it. Like, they can break a lamp right in front of us… and they will say something like, Dad did it. He looked at me wrong…

Listen to what the man with a sick son says.

Mark 9:17-18 (NLT)

One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so You could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

Notice it’s so subtle… but he’s got Jesus there. The source. The great healer. And what does he first do starts to call out the disciples. They couldn’t do it, Jesus.

Disappointment and hurt are a part of this life, unfortunately. How many of you are facing some sort of disappointment or setback… you’re facing a hurt?

You have two choices.

Relive the past (Groundhog Day is a great movie, but it’s a terrible way to live).

Rewrite the future through the Spirit.

You can’t do both. Some things that happen to us aren’t fair but blame just keeps you in the negativity loop.

Matthew 16:24-25 (NLT)

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. 


The way of Jesus is death to everything in our life, it’s a complete surrender to Him… and then we find life.

Another way to battle unbelief is to…

2. Focus on the unseen.

(Mark 9:21-25. C/R: 2 Kings 6:15-17; Hebrews 11:1)

Faith focuses on what is unseen. Unbelief focuses on what we see. Look at what it says in…


Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.


I want you to know there is a difference between unbelief and an unbeliever.

Faith is more about God’s faithfulness to us than our faithfulness to Him, meaning faith isn’t something we grow, it’s something God continually grows in us.

There is a razor-thin edge between faith and doubt. Even the most mature Christians I know would say they have areas they want to grow in.

How do you make sure doubt doesn’t win?

Here’s the principle. Faith focuses on what is unseen and unbelief focuses on what we see.

And guess which one will grow naturally every day if you don’t draw near to Jesus …. Doubt.

Do you ever slow down to think why this man in the text struggles with unbelief?


Mark 9:21-22 (NLT)

“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if You can.”


Because every day, what he sees is a hopeless situation. Every day he sees his little boy overtaken by evil! You have to wonder, maybe he had great faith at one moment, maybe he prayed every day for his boy to be healed, but time and time again, nothing seem to change…

Notice he says, if You can… there is a reason he says that. He’s with Jesus and still unbelief is welling up because of all the years of silence. And you see it, take pity and help us if You can.


Mark 9:25 (NLT)

When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, He rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” He said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”


In the eyes of Jewish people, this was a particularly difficult—if not impossible—demon to cast out. This was because they believed that you had to learn a demon’s name before you could cast it out, and if a demon made someone mute, you could never learn his name.

This seemed like a hopeless situation… with physical eyes all hope seemed gone… but God wants us to have spiritual eyes…

Can I ask a question? Is there anything in your life that you’ve asked God for that you haven’t seen happen? Is there anything you haven’t seen an answer to in your life?

Why do people stop praying, why do they struggle with unbelief? It’s because the things they see seem unchanged and unimpacted. Oftentimes, we can read something, hear a sermon, and faith wells up in us. So we pray, and we believe; however, as the days roll by and when it seems like heaven is silent, when we don’t see the changes, we think, Maybe it’s me? Maybe heaven isn’t interested? Maybe nothing will ever change!

This is what the man felt…. But let me encourage you, God is greater…

Jesus used the most intense example to show His power! Don’t let your circumstances kill your faith… keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep drawing near and ask God to give you spiritual eyes, not physical eyes.

(One of the best verses to give you spiritual eyes is…)


Mark 9:24 (NLT)

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”


To battle unbelief…

3. You have to do some things you’ve never done before.

If you want a faith that you have never had before, then you’ve got to do some things you’ve never done before.

The disciples had been given authority and they had been successful. They had cast out demons, they had healed people, they had won people to Jesus.

But what was working before doesn’t seem to be working now. So, they ask Jesus.


Mark 9:28-29 (NLT)

Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with His disciples, they asked Him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”


Notice a keyword. This kind.

This kind.

There was something about this kind of darkness that business as usual wouldn’t work.

In the Ukraine, there is a war going on… many of us are oblivious to that…

There is a spiritual war… whether you realize it or not….

Because we don’t see possessions and demonic activity, we think it doesn’t exist… I would contend it’s gotten worse…

Let me give you a few stats…



Americans spend as much money on Adult and Pornographic Websites as they do on collegiate sports altogether ($1.15 billion).


There are more people being trafficked today than there ever have been.

Mental health

According to Harvard University, 1 out of every 2 people will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime.


We live in a culture where God is optional and many people are hostile to faith. It wasn’t like this 50 years ago. People still believed in God they just didn’t want to live for Him.

Political and racial division

Addictions (It’s not a struggle if you have been struggling for 10 years.)

This kind of darkness isn’t driven out by business as usual, we need a new kind of power… we need a new kind of faith, and a new kind of people…


Mark 9:29 (NKJV)

So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”


We need people who are committed to prayer and fasting. We need a deep awakening of the Spirit. We need power.

That’s why we are doing something next week called Breakthrough  

It’s about getting a new kind of power; it’s about moving closer to God.

1. 3 church wide gatherings

2. Fasting


Matthew 6:6-7 (NKJV)

“But when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think they will be heard for their many words.”


Matthew 6:16-18 (NKJV)

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”




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