In Mark chapter 6 Jesus returns to His home town. He had the opportunity to teach the people, many of whom were His former neighbor, friends, or perhaps people He had done work for in the carpenter’s shop. Their response to His message – “Where did this fellow get this stuff?” (My free translation!) This was the carpenter’s son after all. We know his family. Where is this wisdom coming from? It was as if there was a darkness, a blanket over the eyes of their hearts. They couldn’t or wouldn’t let themselves trust what He was saying. That just seems so contemporary to me. We, particularly Americans, but the modern Western world in general, are so set in our own cultural norms, our technological mindset, all dulled by the pursuit of pleasure that our own eyes become darkened to spiritual truth. The god many believe in has to fit within the boxes they’ve made. When some preacher tries to say there’s more, there’s something deeper, there is a different way of life, the same response comes. Where did he get this stuff? But “this stuff” is very real and a truth the Lord want to open for all people. There really is much more to life than what our limited senses take in.
Reading in the Gospels it will say Jesus did this and His disciples believed in Him. Then a little further on, Jesus did something else and His disciple believed in Him. But then something would happen and Jesus had to chide them on their unbelief. Even after Jesus was raised from the dead, walked with the disciples for forty days, and was ready to be taken up into heaven, Matthew tells us that “some doubted”.(28:17) Believing is difficult. We say we believe in Jesus, and we do. We really do, but we are surrounded by a broken world with its many trials, and things that really don’t make sense. It’s not that we question our salvation, or the love Jesus has for us, or sacrifice He made to redeem us. I think these are firm. But will the Lord work in this particular situation I’m facing? Will He answer this prayer I bring before Him, even as I still see the need before me not seeming to change? Yes, our eyes see the trials, and we are praying to an unseen realm. Even so, we have the evidence of all the Lord has done for us in past years. We know the love He has shown for us by paying the price for all of our sins. And we have His clear promise never to leave or forsake us. Even though we only see through a glass dimly right now, these are the rocks to which we cling. We can believe. The love Jesus has for us is deeper than anything we can imagine. We can trust ourselves, and all we care about, into His hands.
There are times in the Gospels that Jesus seems to give us a blank check concerning our prayers. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”(John 14:13) Whatever you ask? But we know that there are things we ask in Jesus name and don’t receive. Another time Jesus spoke about the power of faith and said, “All things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”(Mt.21:22) Believing faith is a key, but that gives us a real problem. Doubts so easily assault us. When we pray for a healing and nothing happens, are we to blame for our lack of faith? I don’t believe that is a burden of guilt the Lord intends us to bear. That kind of guilt can drive us to despair, and that’s not where our Lord wants us. On another occasion a father came asking Jesus for healing for his son. Jesus asked if he believed He could do this. The father responded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24) That is where our faith must rest – in the One who has the power to help us overcome. He is the One who has given His life to cleanse us from sin. He is the One who knows us to the depth of our hearts. We won’t see all of our prayers answered just the way we ask, but we can trust ourselves into the hand of the One who loves us with an everlasting love.
Jesus was about to heal a boy who was demon possessed. He said to the boy’s father, “All things are possible to him who believes.” To which the father responded, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24) The boy needed healing, but so did the father, and so do we. We believe in prayer. We pray for one another, and we share many prayer requests. But we always face that lingering doubt and fear. When we pray do we expect to see results, or are we never quite sure? Lord, help my unbelief. In Luke 18 Jesus teaches us to be persistent in prayer. It is not that God needs to hear our prayer over and over, but He is also using our prayers to work on our own hearts, to open us more to Himself. Yes, we have doubts, but “all things are possible to him who believes,” and Jesus even helps us to believe.