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Feb 14, 2016

If You Are Willing

Speaker: Scott Jeffreys

Series: Mark: An Action Packed Gospel

If you are willing…

Perhaps the most difficult words one can pray in the face of a crisis. How about, “Lord make me clean! Heal me! Do it, Lord! You are God, you have the power!” But the man with leprosy did not do that. He said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

The reason those words are so hard to pray is because it is an acknowledgment by the one praying that it is at least within the realm of possibilities that it may not be God’s will to heal them, or at least not in the way they are asking.

Are We Wrong to Say, If You Are Willing?

Some people see it as a sign of weakness to pray “if you are willing” but they are wrong.

The people who see it that way are usually associated with a particular wing of charismatic Christianity. These folks are often known as the “Word of Faith Movement” or the “Prosperity Gospel” and they are quick to claim promises from Holy Scripture in ways that are isolated from their original context, and from the wider witness of Holy Scripture.

A few examples of this would be their usage of Isaiah 53, “By his stripes we are healed” or John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” Or III John v.2 “Dear friend I pray that you may enjoy good health and prosper, even as your soul is prospering.”

The problem with using these texts in this kind of way is that it fails to understand them in light of the texts like the one we have today. In our text today the man with leprosy shows us the right way to approach God with our needs. He says to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean. If you are willing… If it is your will…

When the leper does this he is staying in line with the Lord’s Prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray he said pray in this way… “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

We must always pray for and seek God’s will in our lives. In a way, that is the overarching goal for our lives as Christians, to seek and live into the will of God; and in pursuing that endeavor we must always acknowledge that what we will and what God wills for us could be two different things.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, the Scriptures tell us that he was under extreme duress (even to the point that his sweat became as drops of blood) and during that time he prayed on three different occasions, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”[i]    

We Are Not the Boss of God    

It is important that when we approach God with our requests that we not come into His presence bossing Him around, saying to Him that this is what you are obligated to do for me. Nor should we come into His presence presuming that we automatically know what God’s will is for us in our particular situation. Sometimes we may know in a broad sense, and maybe (on occasion) even in a specific sense, but often times we do not know what God’s will is; therefore we would do well to reflect this humble position that both the leper and Jesus shows us in our coming before God with our needs and requests.

The epistle of James also shows us the right approach to take when we come before the Lord.

James 4:13-15 says,  ‘“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there and carry on business and make money.” Why out do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then are gone. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”’[ii] 

That is the right approach and that is the approach that the man with leprosy took when he came to Jesus to be healed. This is the point that we need to remember, approach God properly in humility.

God Still Heals Today

The second point involves the healing itself and charismatics and Pentecostals get this, but sometimes we who are reformed Christians do not. We who are reformed Christians need to remember that God is still in the healing business today. Sometimes we think the healing stuff is just for charismatics or Pentecostals, but it is not. We can learn from them.

The same Jesus who healed the man with leprosy in our text is the same Jesus who is alive today, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. The Scriptures teach us to come to the Lord with our needs and our infirmities.

Again James is helpful. In James 5:13-15 it says, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer that is offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.”[iii]

Concerning the goodness of God in prayer, Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount, “Which of you, if your sons asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, who are evil (sinners) know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”[iv] One of those good gifts could be healing.

A Balancing Act

So what we have in Scripture is this balanced approach that we must hold together in tension.

On the one hand, we must always approach God with humility- knowing that God is sovereign, that His will must be desired by us and that ultimately His will will be done, one way or another; and that we are finite creatures who are not sovereign and that our wills will not always be done. So our wills must be subservient to His sovereign purposes for our lives.

Our prayers and our requests before God must reflect this reality. Yet on the other hand, God is still in the healing business today and He is still desirous of giving us good gifts; therefore it is appropriate for us to come to the Lord with all of our burdens and sickness, knowing that God can and still does still bring healing into our lives today.

I have seen miracles before, not many of them, but I have seen them. If they happened every time and every day they wouldn’t be miracles, but sometimes God does a miracle like the one that occurred in our text today, and as Christians we are free to ask for such a miracle in our lives, but we must do so with the humility that the leper had when he came to the Lord for his healing, and we must come knowing that God’s will for us may be that our cups not be removed.

Grace that Is Sufficient

In II Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul shares about an event in his life that has sort of become my favorite Bible passage. I know that one day (unless I leave this world suddenly) I am going to have to lean on it really hard. In II Corinthians 12:1-10 Paul talks about a “thorn in the flesh,” a messenger of Satan that was sent to torment him. On three occasions he prayed and pleaded that God would take it away (we don’t know what the throne was) but the Lord’s answer to him was no. The Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… When you are weak I will be strong.”

So even if God says no to our requests, He is always saying yes to us in another kind of way. Our job as Christians is to come to Jesus in humility and in faith with our requests, always cognizant of the fact that we need to pray for the Lord’s will; knowing that whether or not God says yes to our requests, His grace will always be sufficient for us and His power will always be made perfect, either in our healing or in our infirmities.  

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.      

                

 

[i] Matthew 26:39

[ii] James 4:13-15

[iii] James 5:13-15

[iv] Matthew 7:9-11