Monday, September 1, 2008

Faith and Fear

“And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:22-24

One thing I admire about my kids is that they’re both great swimmers. My son is a certified lifeguard and on the swim team. My daughter would rather be in the water than anywhere else on earth! Me? The deep end of the pool is still off limits. I can’t go there. Oh, I can swim…as long as I can stand up when I’m done! I never caught on to the “doggie paddle” thing that you do when you’re finished moving around to keep you afloat.

Every summer I tell myself that I’m going to take lessons or I’m going to just get into the pool and do it. But as this summer passes, the goal again goes unachieved.

As much as I’d love to learn to swim better, when I think about the deep end, I think of going slowly to the bottom, water filling my mouth, and having to walk my way across to the ladder, struggling with the weight of the water, to get out. Even now as I think about it I’m only one more thought from a full-blown cold chill! Why? I fear the water.

Three hundred and sixty-five times in the Bible, it says “Do Not Fear”. 365! That’s one for each day of the year. God knew that fear would prevent us from achieving our goals, and that’s why he warns against it.

Some would say that the opposite of faith is unbelief. I believe it’s fear. Ultimately, whatever causes you not to belief has roots in fear. I don’t dare venture into the deep water because I don’t have faith in my swimming abilities, and I fear drowning.

I think a lot of us are stuck in the shallow end of life because we’ve let our fears hold us captive there. Instead of faith that we can achieve our goals, we hold on to the fear of failure and it’s consequences.

Mark 9 tells the story of a young man who was held captive by a mute spirit. It would come upon him and try to destroy him. It would throw him onto the ground or sometimes into the fire or the water to try to kill him. The disciples tried to free the young man from the spirit and failed. One look into the eyes of such an evil spirit no doubt took their faith to the floor!

But Jesus says, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

As Christians, can we believe that? It’s Bible. It’s God’s word. It was Jesus who spoke it. Sure, we can accept it with our minds, and state it as truth. But can we accept it into our hearts?

The father of the young man said something very profound to Jesus upon hearing these words. He said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Both belief and unbelief were in his heart. As much as he believed that God could save his son, his faith wavered when he was faced with his fear.

Perhaps the prayer of this father is one we should all adopt. If all things are indeed possible if we believe, and Jesus stated that they are, then is there anything we need more than unwavering faith?

Lord, help MY unbelief!

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