Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Limits of Divine Power

Links: my other postings on Lent ; our church's reading plan
Today's reading includes Mark 5:21-6:6, which put me in mind of a message I heard over 30 years ago, at my first Christian conference, where LeRoy Eims talked us through this area of Scripture; it shows the power of Jesus over the wind and the waves (Mark 4:35-41), his power over demons from hell (Mark 5:1-20), over sickness (Mark 5:25-34), over death itself (Mark 5:35-43).

What an exciting passage! Now the people in the land of the Gadarenes demonstrate one limitation on the Lord -- well, it was self-imposed, actually; they asked him to leave (they wouldn't listen to him!) and he did.

Here's another limitation on the power of Jesus. Wait, don't pick up stones to throw at me quite yet -- tell me if this doesn't mean Jesus couldn't...:

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.
Mark 6:5
Right? Verse 6 says he was amazed at their lack of faith.

I think this an astounding truth. If I have no faith, I can actually limit the power of God to do things in my life. I can grieve his Holy Spirit (as Ephesians 4:30 says).

And on the positive side, I can bring him joy and delight when I take him at his word. Imagine that -- you and I can bring joy to the creator of the universe. We can please him by the way we live (Hebrews 11:6; Colossians 1:9-12).

A pastoral word

Does that mean if I pray and nothing seems to happen, it's because I don't have enough faith? No! And I can prove it.
  1. Look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; why didn't God grant Paul's request to be freed from his "thorn in the flesh"?
  2. Consider the girl who was raised from the dead in Mark 5:35-43: how much faith did she have? Zero!
  3. Finally, let me get mathematical. We observe that if I drop a rock on my foot, it hurts. Therefore if my foot hurts, I must have dropped a rock? Uh... no. Maybe I stepped on something sharp. Maybe an insect or some other animal bit it. Maybe something hot was spilled onto my foot, or maybe a golf ball just flew into my yard and hit my foot. That is, [P⇒Q] does not imply [Q⇒P]. Lack of faith may inhibit God's activity, but if God doesn't do something, it might not have anything to do with how much faith I have or haven't got.

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