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Thursday, April 25, 2013

No room for if

We have probably heard the saying, "No ifs, ands, or doubts..."  In most cases, it means we need to finish a task and make absolutely no excuses for not having it done when the time comes for it to be complete.  Our teachers in school set deadlines for reports which were due - meet it or the report would be reduced a full letter grade for each day it was late!  Our parents left us with lists of chores, expecting full-well each one to be marked off as complete before we ever turned on the TV.  Even our employers give us tasks and expect them to be complete - tying each completed item to the potential to remain gainfully employed!  It is not uncommon for us to be expected to start and see something through to completion.  Yet, there is one "thing" we might just struggle with getting to the place of completion alone - our faith!  Martin Luther King once said, "Faith is taking the first step when you don't see the whole staircase."

He asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been going on?”  “Ever since he was a little boy. Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!”  Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”  No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”  (Mark 9:21-24 MSG)

Blaise Pascal was a mathematician and a Christian theologian.  These two just don't seem to go together, do they?  One "solves" the equation himself - the other waits on a "higher power" to solve the equation!  Yet, he wrote some pretty amazing stuff!  One of the quotes I most like which he penned back in the 1600's is:  "Belief is a wise wager.  Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false?  If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.  Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists."  Now, at first this might seem a little bit like he is saying nothing ventured, nothing gained.  He is also saying if nothing ventured, you cannot know if the venture will prove / disprove your beliefs.  I think this father might just have been in one of those situations where he did not really know if going to Jesus would help his son, but if he didn't take the step, he'd never know if the impossible was actually possible in God's hands.

The son had suffered for years - obviously tearing this father's heart to pieces each time he saw him seized by his disease.  His last hope may very well have been the "rabbi" (great teacher) passing through town that day.  His "knowledge" of his son's disease is great - his faith in the ability of the healer is not so great!  In fact, he almost puts himself out there with the statement, "IF you CAN do anything, do it."  Two words which really don't suggest much confidence, but which have a little seed of hope - the beginning of all steps of faith.  As King said, it is the first step which gets us on the staircase - you don't know the full extent of the climb until you actually reach the top!  

"IF" is almost like saying, "I am bringing my son to you today, just in case there might be a possibility somewhere in you to heal my son."  He is not saying he is there with all confidence his son will be made well - he is actually admitting he doesn't know for sure, but he is willing to take the chance - to have wagered Jesus would have "something" to help his son.  Now, this may not seem like much to you, but don't miss the truth being taught - even the tiniest step TOWARD faith is all Jesus needs to begin the biggest climb of your life!

"CAN" is really asking if Jesus has the ability or power to heal his son - then he appeals to Christ's heart with the words, "Have a heart and help us!"  Sometimes the best place we can be is the one which expresses the honesty of a heart not fully certain, but willing to be shown.  God doesn't need our "fully developed faith" in order to bring about his purposes in our lives - he just needs our willingness to take the first step toward his "CAN" (his ability, his power, his means).  

We almost might be tempted to think Jesus was chastising the father for not having "full faith" as he brings his son to him.  Read it again.  Jesus actually turns the man's statement around and makes it clear to him - this dad's "first step" made all the difference for this boy!  Jesus turns and speaks clearly to the man's heart - connecting what the dad knew with what he felt.  This is the mind - heart connection.  It is one thing to know something - another to actually walk it.  Jesus' words were really saying to the father, "There are no ifs, ands, or doubts about it - ANYTHING and EVERYTHING CAN happen now that you are here with me."  It was the father's willingness to bring even his "ifs" to Jesus and admit he might just not be making a full connection between what he knows ABOUT Jesus and what he believes is possible IN Jesus which moved the heart of Jesus to build this man's faith.  The seed was there - there was some element of hope - he was willing to wager it all.  The rest was up to Jesus.

This is the way of faith - we have but a small seed hope - Jesus encounters the seed of hope with the magnitude of his power.  The first step doesn't reveal the entire climb, but each step brings us nearer the top.  There are no greater words which move the heart of God than the words of this father, "Then help me with me with my doubts."  We often don't want to admit our doubts to Jesus - sometimes even avoiding him all together in areas where we just haven't made the connection between what we "know" ABOUT him and what IS possible IN him.  Yet, it is the willingness to admit we need help with our doubts which opens the door for Jesus to take us higher in our climb than we ever imagined possible.  Doubts can either keep us at the bottom of the staircase, only imagining what might be at the top, or they can bring us into his presence in humility and openness to the possibilities we might find there.

I don't know what doubts you struggle with today, but I do know when you admit them to Jesus, he is able to turn our "ifs" into "cans".  Just sayin!