September 12, 2021

Out on a Limb


But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands.

Psalm 10:14
In Mark 9, we read the story of a father who asked the disciples to heal his son, but they weren't able to. When Jesus himself approaches, the father makes this request: If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us [Mark 9:22]. This elicited the following commentary from John Calvin:

We see how little honor he renders to Christ; for, supposing him to be some prophet, whose power was limited, he approaches him with hesitation. On the other hand, the first foundation of faith is to embrace the boundless power of God; and the first step to prayer isn to raise it above all opposition by the firm belief that our prayers are not in vain.

Though I'm loath to get into dust-up with Calvin, I think he's being unfair here. For one thing, the poor man had already experienced the failure of Jesus' followers to accomplish anything. So why would he not approach Jesus with some hesitancy? It's not like the man had all of Paul's letter and a few centuries of Christian teaching behind him.

For another, the man was acting on the faith he had. When Jesus said that anything can happen for the one who believes, the father responded with these beautiful words: I believe; help my unbelief! God had granted him faith, and he did not hide it or rest on it; he dared to use what he had.

Discouraging people of little faith to wait until their faith is perfect either frightens people away from God, or encourages them to be dishonest about the state of their souls. Instead, I would say that the first foundation of faith is to embrace what little we have in hope that it will grow. And the first foundation in prayer would be to go out on a limb trusting that God will uphold you when your faith grows thin. 
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
I believe, Lord; help my unbelief!
 Mark 9:24
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After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.
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