Today we hear another lesson about the growth of the disciples of Jesus Christ, which means us. Faith and faithfulness are not an On/Off switch so that you either perfectly have faith or perfectly don’t. Our faith is partial most of the time: it is not perfect yet. For this reason, it is the faith and righteousness of Jesus Christ that is my hope, and not my own performance. And yet, when I do draw nearer to God through faith and faithfulness, I find more of Jesus Christ in my life.
The boy’s father in this lesson is a picture of us. Aren’t there times when you tentatively pray to God (often in the unofficial, informal prayer that is the background of our life), saying “If you can do anything, have compassion on me and help me” (verse 22)? And doesn’t Jesus whisper to you “If you can believe, all things are possible for him who believes?”
There is no shame in being weak. In fact, God has chosen the weak things of the world that He might exalt them and to humble the strong things. But there is shame and guilt for being weak and not crying out to God when you are weak. God’s judgment is not upon the weak but upon those who refuse to turn to Him for help.
It would have been better if the faith of the boy’s father were greater. It would have been better if his faith were not so weak that he considered it a species of unbelief. But since his faith was weak, and since our faith is weak, what should we do from that starting point? We should do what the boy’s father did and cry out: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Sometimes we moderns are so determined to install On/Off switches in life that we can’t see what God is really saying. “I don’t get it . . . . Did this man believe or not? He says both. It does not compute.”
Isn’t it true in your own life that you are often a mixture of belief and unbelief, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, that doesn’t compute? Even St. Paul never considered that he had already reached the goal but was always striving for mastery.
We are works in progress, and what God loves to see is that we continue to turn to Him, regardless of what our starting point is.
The disciples themselves teach us a second lesson about being more faithful disciples. When Jesus casts out a demon which the disciples were unable to cast out, Jesus tells them that “This kind can come out by nothing but praying and fasting.” The implication is not that “I’m God and you’re not, so of course you could never cast out a demon.” In fact, the disciples had cast out demons earlier. But this kind was different. The implication seems to be that while Jesus had been fasting and praying, the disciples had not been.
The difference between them, in this case, was not just that He was God and they were mere men, but that He had been faithfully fasting and praying, and they had not.
Fasting and prayer are two means that the Lord has given us for increasing our faith and drawing closer to Him. Put simply, God more perfectly accomplishes His holy will through a disciple who is fasting and praying than one who is not.
And now it’s your turn. Are there “demons,” difficulties, in your life that will not go away? Maybe the problem is your lack of faith. This lack of faith is not just a lack of belief that God can heal but involves much more: it involves a life of faithfulness. Are you fasting from sin and everything that distracts you from God? Are you faithfully praying? Not just praying about the one great difficulty in your life but praying, by which I mean praying without ceasing and praying for all things?
There are three godly disciplines that Jesus teaches about in the Sermon on the Mount: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. It’s curious that of these three, often the only one we pay any attention to is prayer. Maybe a reconsideration of the place of fasting in our lives is in order.
God is calling you to greater faith and faithfulness. Begin wherever you are, but make a new beginning today. Turn to God more fully than you did yesterday. If you want to draw nearer to God in faith, then be faithful in fasting and prayer, as He has commanded.
Prayer: Lord, I believe: help my unbelief. I love You and want to serve You, but I know that I am weak and fail You often. Help me in my weakness. Help me to love You more and serve You more faithfully. Since I believe that You can do all things, I pray that You would help me in my great difficulty. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. Reflect on your prayer life. How strong and faithful has it been? What’s one thing you could do to be more faithful in prayer?
2. Make a study of fasting. Is God calling you to some kind of fast?
Resolution: I resolve to turn to God more fervently in prayer today, especially regarding the one greatest difficulty I face in life. If I have been concerned about this for a long time, I will consider fasting as well, so that my faith may be nourished and so that I may draw closer to God.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day