"IF YOU CAN"
Writing this blog has been extra challenging! I’ve written & edited repeatedly, seemingly unable to put down my thoughts, clearly, about a concept/truth that’s been rolling around in my head for weeks. I’ve been pondering a phrase from scripture that I’ve prayed for a long time. As usual, there’s more to it that just the obvious. Sometimes I have erroneously assumed that my one-time interpretation was complete. I surmised that a particular “ah-ha!” moment, as I like to call them, was the intended meaning of the passage, because it meant so much to me. Now, I’m thinking that maybe God reveals only what our minds/hearts can absorb, in a needy moment. That’s why a previously unnoticed word or phrase in a familiar passage can change your entire perspective! The Word reveals Christ. Christ is the Word. As such, when we read it, it should be an ever-increasing “knowing” relationship with Him. Sometimes it seems so simple, yet so profound. I find myself, sitting silently…trying to take it in.
The verse that I’ve been praying for years is, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” This is taken from Mark 9 & is the response of the father, to Jesus, regarding the healing of his demon-possessed son. I always thought it was an honest cry, one I’ve felt many times as I recognized my own doubts in the face of adversity. As I did a more calculated study of this passage, I also read the other 2 gospel accounts in Matthew 17 & Luke 9. The combined summary gives a better understanding to the background of this story. Jesus had previously fed 5000 people, healed a demon-possessed Gentile girl, a deaf/mute man, & then fed another 4000. Six days after Jesus rebuked Peter, He took Peter, James & John to the Mount of Transfiguration. In the meantime, the rest of disciples had apparently been ministering to a large group of people, one of which was the despairing father seeking healing for his son. Luke’s account says that the next day, when Jesus, Peter, James, & John came down from the mountain, a multitude met them. Mark’s account adds that a large crowd, including some scribes, were surrounding the other disciples & were arguing with them. So, when the crowd saw Jesus, they immediately ran to him.
Can’t you hear everyone talking at once, trying to voice their opinion? I can sense frustration, irritation & anticipation—simultaneously. Been there. Done that. Apparently, the disciples hadn’t been able to help the demon-possessed boy. Jesus rebukes the crowd by calling them an “unbelieving” generation. (Translated that would mean “not worthy of confidence, untrustworthy.”) Then He asks the father about his son’s condition. In that telling, the father reveals his heart. “But if you can do anything, take pity on us & help us.” 3 small words put doubt & unbelief on display. I can almost feel a hush come over the crown. A slight pause follows. What Jesus says next likely made time stand still. I think he might possibly have raised his voice. At the very least, He must’ve felt a little annoyed. “IF YOU CAN! ALL things are possible to him who believes.” The boy’s father quickly responds with what has been my prayer. “I do believe; help my unbelief.” In this verse, unbelief is defined as “faithlessness, distrust, the nonacknowledgment of Christ, a want of confidence in Christ’s power, a want of trust in the God of promise.” I don’t know about you, but all I feel here is conviction…and the need for repentance. Not “sorry God” but a humbling “I was wrong, Lord.”
Earlier this week I read about the distinction between believing that & believing in. They aren’t the same. Believing that is an intellectual acknowledging of something or someone. Believing in is trusting that brings automatic change to the mind. It involves repentance. Even unsaved people believe that Jesus existed. But they don’t believe in Him to experience life-changing salvation.
The bottom line is that when I don’t believe what God says, I’m not doubting the that. I’m not questioning that He is real or that He exists. For me, unbelief is when I doubt God’s character---the in. I don’t have faith in Him. I’m saying, “If you can…” That doubt leads to fear & I temporarily find myself in the pit. This lack of trust truly warrants my repentance. I think it’s like calling God a liar. Think about it! It would certainly be grievous to our Creator & the Author of our salvation, who has already accomplished, what is not humanly possible, to prove that He is trustworthy. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, & that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:1 & 6) I do not doubt that God is powerful enough to do anything. But I will admit that it’s easier for me to believe that He can take care of external things (provision, healing etc.), than it is for me to believe that He can supernaturally touch a deceived/hardened heart to repent & receive new life in Christ. And for whatever reason, I believe the seemingly impossible for others, before I believe the impossible for myself.
I’m grateful for all the truth that I’ve learned, & chewed on, while reading scripture & writing this entry. I’m thankful that God knows me better than I know myself & that He will teach me what He wants me to learn. I’m relieved to know that I don’t have to pretend to be something, on the outside, that I know isn’t true on the inside. Spiritually, God sees me complete in Christ Jesus. Each & every day He is faithfully working in me to reflect His Life. “…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will & to work for His good pleasure…Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; & may your spirit & soul & body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, & He also will bring it to pass.” (Philippians 2:13; I Thess 5: 23 & 24)