We are in the middle of a teaching series on Sundays called Trust. We are taking a deep dive to better understand this core part of our faith. And as we think about trust there is a pesky word that reflects our struggle to trust; it’s the word “if.” When it comes to trusting God, our “ifs” reflect that while we love God and believe he wants good for us, we are uncertain IF he can do what seems impossible in us (changing us) and through us (in how we respond to the storm or crisis we face).
We all, at times, experience genuine doubt. If we are honest, there are times we all doubt and wonder IF God will show up or IF he’ll be faithful to his promises or IF he really loves me like they say he does. I’ve been following Jesus for 48 years now and there are moments when I still deal with doubt. They don’t last as long and not are as frequent as they used to be. So, let’s be spiritually honest and admit that doubt still shows up.
As I’ve been preparing for the series on trust, I spent a long time looking at and studying a situation Jesus encountered in Mark 9:14-29. In the end, I couldn’t fit it into our four-week teaching, as much as I love this story. Jesus just came down from what we call the “transfiguration” where he appears with Moses and Elijah. God affirms Jesus to Peter, James and John and said for the second time, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
They come down the mountain to encounter the other nine disciples who can’t drive out a demon that has caused a boy to be mute and face constant lethal seizures. Read the descriptions of what the boy endured and your heart breaks. But the story is clear – there is a lack of faith and trust in the disciples, the crowd and the boy’s father. Jesus declares this in verse 19 – “You unbelieving generation.” We too are the generation that struggles to fully trust God.
The boy’s father begs Jesus and says in verse 22, “But IF you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” There’s the “if” word. Jesus replies; “If you can?” I can hear Jesus emphasize the word “if” when he repeated what the father said. Then Jesus says; “Everything is possible for the one who believes.” Jesus is inviting the father of the boy and you and me to believe that Jesus is God’s Son who can do anything. Please catch this. Our faith and trust believes that Jesus can do anything. There are no limits to his power. That of course doesn’t mean that Jesus is our genie who will grant our every wish. We don’t control Jesus. He is both loving and wise and knows how best to respond. We trust there are no limits to what Jesus can do in us, in others and in situations. But we also trust that how Jesus responds is what’s best and it will always be consistent with the character of God.
Then the father says what we all should probably say to Jesus; “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” That’s honest! That’s real. What we have here is the result of an IF kind of faith – guarded hope. In my storm, in my crisis, when I’m challenged to really obey and submit – will I trust him? Do I believe that he can help me do the hard things that require I trust him? The hard thing is to forgive someone who did terrible things to me. The hard thing is to obey him when it seems it might cost me a lot to obey. The hard thing is to really give generously first to God even when I don’t seem to have any extra. The hard thing is to take a risk and follow Jesus in serving or going on a short-term mission to Rocky Point. The hard thing is to invest in someone and look for a way to invite them to get to know Jesus. The hard things do require trust.
I do believe the ways of Jesus are good and are the best ways. I do trust you Jesus! But help me in all the ways I still struggle to trust you!