What Do You Mean, "If"?
“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.”
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:21-24
Belief is tricky. It can feel silly to believe that a situation that has been one way for as long as you can remember will, in an instant, be changed... permanently. It almost sounds crazy to believe that anything can turn a corner that quickly. We are habitual, it seems most things in nature are that way. Once a reality has developed a pattern, things pretty much stay that way. Right?
Jesus encounters a man who had watched his son suffer for years at the hand of a very violent demon. Rather than playing and laughter, this boy had been unable to even speak because the spirit had made him mute and virtually unresponsive. Without warning, the boy would be thrown to the ground in convulsions and tossed about like a doll. The man heard about Jesus' ability to free people from demonic possession and thought, "Perhaps he can heal my boy, too."
The man had a glimmer of hope. He had seen the healing, himself. Neighbors who were once crippled or deathly-ill now lived as though the illness had never existed. So the man took a chance to find whether Jesus could be a blessing to his son, as well.
This father traveled with his son to find the area where Jesus is teaching, today. They arrive and find the disciples mingling with the people. Maybe he won't even need to bother the Rabbi. The disciples have freed people from demonic possession, before. He would ask them and see if they could do something for him. The Bible says that the disciples give their best attempts but were unable to change the boy's condition. This is unexpected. All of the stories he's heard about Jesus have said that healing happens, immediately. Perhaps, the stories aren't true. Well, they must have been true because he'd seen the difference Jesus had made in the lives of people, for himself. Maybe, his problem was just too big for this, Jesus.
Have you ever found yourself wondering if your situation is the exception? While you've seen prayer or fasting work for another person's situation, when you tried it, your results weren't the same. Have you ever believed with all the strength you could muster, yet, nothing changed? It's already difficult to believe that God can fix a situation, the first try. It's even more challenging to believe after we've tried a time or two and nothing has changed.
Jesus shows-up to the scene and the man is trying his best to be respectful. Jesus assesses the situation, "What is all the commotion"? After seeing the religious leaders and disciples fall over themselves trying to explain, the man realized that he need to say something for himself. He tells Jesus of his son's plight. He tells Jesus the torment his son has faced over the years and finally, that he tried to address it by going to Jesus' disciples, but nothing happened.
And now, the man makes a request and a challenge of sorts. "Please have mercy upon us and help us, if you can." The gentleman has mad a request, but again, Jesus has lad a heart bare. The man has requested a miracle on behalf of his son while letting Jesus "off the hook" if the situation is too difficult for him. He feels he is doing Jesus a favor, but Jesus sees it as an insult. This man has introduced doubt to a situation where doubt seemed reasonable. While the man's experience made doubt probable, Jesus demonstrates that the information provided by our experience has no bearing on what he is able, or willing, to do.
"What do you mean, if?"
Our situations can cause us to judge the power and character of God, purely upon our experience. We must remember that our story is not a measure of God's ability. Our lives, though incredibly concrete for us, are in no way a commentary on the nature and power of God. With just a few words, Jesus reminds this man that what his son has experienced is NOT who God is. His malady is merely a context in which God can reveal his true nature.
Could Jesus be perched over you as you pray asking, "What do you mean, 'if'? How can you question if, I love you. If I care? If I'm willing? I AM willing! I AM able! I DO care!"
What if we took the "if" out of our prayers? What if we stopped placing contingencies on our requests? Perhaps it's time to keep God on the hook. The book of Hebrews tells us, "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." Hebrews 4:16 We already know that God can. Let's believe God, without reservation, there are no "if's", with God.
1.What have you be waiting to receive from God?
2. How do we navigate the space between needing an answer from God and the time when that answer becomes evident?