Late in 2009 Dick was asked to speak on a Sunday evening for the small congregation where we were attending church. His topic was Trusting In The Lord For All Things. He carried his toy boat along as a prop, told them the story, and then suggested that the Lord would do exceedingly, abundantly above all they could ask or think in their lives too. He suggested, even though alter-calls were noticeably absent from their traditional services, anyone who had a need might want to carry it to the foot of the large cross standing near the podium and leave it with Jesus.
Interestingly we had been with this group long enough to know there were severe illnesses, dramatic financial reversals, pending career changes and unsaved loved ones who needed the Lord’s touch. More interesting still, not one of them gave an indication of needing a blessing by so much as the flicker of an eyelash! The only person in the room who moved toward the cross was a young woman from Texas, who was visiting her invalid father and, probably under duress, had driven him to church that evening. She knelt on the steps in front of the cross and laid her failed marriage, drug addiction and generally miserable life before the Lord Jesus. She believed Jesus would save her.
We believe He did!
Later in the week Dick was told his actions were inappropriate, “All you did was give your testimony!” The implication being, that sort of thing (the alter-call?) was too intense for their congregation.”
That wasn’t the first time we’d been accused of being too intense, and I doubt very seriously if it will be the last time.
In my Bible I find an account of Jesus healing a boy who was tormented from childhood by a horrible ailment. He was unable to speak, was often convulsed, became rigid, foamed at the mouth, often fell into the fire or into the water and “suffered terribly.” I suspect his family suffered terribly as well.
The boy’s father, begging Jesus for mercy, said, “…if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”
He was told, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:14-29
For awhile, years ago, when our faith was in our own faith we read this passage placing the emphasis upon him who believes. We were guilty of leaning on our own understanding—placing the em-`phasis on the wrong syl`lable, so to speak. We were guilty of trusting in our own ability to believe powerfully enough to convince God, and any other spiritual being who might notice us, that we had no unbelief and were, therefore, in control of things.
Experience has changed the emphasis.
Jesus told the boy’s father, “All things are possible to him who believes.” Whereupon the father replied, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!”
Jesus could have expanded the thought to, “All things are possible to him who trusts in and relies on the Father’s love and willingness to bestow blessings upon us in times of need.”
Sometimes my prayers have been similar to what that father must have been feeling. “Lord, I know you exist. I believe you can supernaturally change these circumstances if you want to. But…what if you don’t want to. Please, help my unbelief!”
After the boy was healed, freed from the ailment and all of its accompanying horror, Jesus and his disciples went into the house. That’s when the disciples asked Him, as we have asked Him, “Why could we not accomplish what you just accomplished. Our faith was strong. We’ve said and done all of the prescribed things. What went wrong? Why didn’t it work?”
Jesus answered, “This sort of thing cannot be accomplished except by prayer.”
Was he telling them, as we have been told, “if you pray hard enough and fast long enough, eventually you’ll become good enough to do the things I can do?”
For one thing the word fasting does not appear in the original manuscripts…it was added to later translations, perhaps because somehow to the early church fathers prayer did not seem enough to cover the problem. J. B. Phillips, noted Greek scholar, translates Mark 9:29 this way:
“Nothing can drive out this kind of thing except prayer,” replied Jesus.
Jesus told the disciples, as He tells us today, “This kind of thing can only be accomplished by seeking God!” Jesus taught his followers to seek the Father in prayer. He told them, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9
Let’s consider this for a moment. IF you were in heaven right now, what would the Father’s will for you be? Perfect health? Certainly! A room in a mansion? That’s what it says! Food, clothing, financial security? Jesus says yes…right here in the same chapter. Matthew 6:25-33
Our experience says the Word of God is true!
Our experience says God the Father is willing to do what he has done for us in the lives of every one of His children. Where ever there are people who desire to seek Jesus, welcome Jesus, give Jesus free reign in their hearts and lives, show by their words and deeds Jesus is Lord of their life. God can and will show His children amazing grace and love, so long as we believe in Him, remain open to Him and love as He commands us.
To love as God commands demands a soft heart, a tenderness, a gentleness of mind and spirit.
Religious leaders, in Jesus’ time did not have soft hearts or gentle spirits, but instead they chose to follow the dogma of the law according to their own interpretation, even to doing murder to prove their point.
When Jesus healed a man’s deformed hand on the sabbath, they accused him of breaking the law, caring nothing for the plight of a man with a severe physical handicap. Their only interest…the law of the sabbath.
Jesus was grieved and angered by this hardness of heart, this lack of love and compassion. Perhaps he thought, as we have thought over the years, “How can these foolish religious people so completely misunderstand what the love of God is all about?”
Our experience says some of God’s children still suffer from hard hearts. In fact, religious thinking may be more prevalent in churches today than when Christ walked the earth.
“Show me signs and wonders.”
“Let me see a spectacle!”
“I’ll believe for myself when I see with my own eyes!”
We are blessed when we do not see and yet believe. Believing God is the only thing necessary for His children to be quite blessed. But they must believe.
All things are possible to him who believes.
Yes, I guess you could say our faith is quite intense! And we have no plans for change…not in this life time.