I was surprised to learn that there were people who were disinclined to believe in what I spoke of in my Sunday posts that still read them, rather than just saying, "I can skip this one," and moving on. Reading, and then considering themselves "bashed in the head" by my religious beliefs. Or perhaps scrolling past and considering the mere fact that I wrote of my faith "bashing them in the head", I don't know.
I don't spend a lot of time trying to lead horses to water here. I plant a seed, and pray that the Spirit will lead those who are looking for something to it. What I want to accomplish is the encouragement of others- and to let God touch who He will with it. But I have still prayed for those I know to be resistant, that the Spirit might crack open their hard hearts and open them to life beyond their selfish shell, their blindness to the call. But with a certain person, God basically told me to lay off.
Why?, I wondered.
Because we have a tendency to look at things all wrong. I had an old church friend that never could get that people could be saved on their deathbed, despite quoting to him the parable about the lord who paid workers hired at different times the same pay. How could they get the same benefit as he, who believed his whole life? Because God doesn't look through the lens of time, like we do.
And this other person I was referencing, he had made a choice long ago. And such a person who makes that choice, well, he doesn't make that choice at the END of his life, Somewhere in his life, in some measure of finality that we cannot understand- and he refuses to- he makes an irrevocable choice, and God takes Him at His word. And we can't tell when that is. We are IN time, and we look for signs that something has suddenly changed. But God looks OUT of time, and the things He might do for the man who is saved on His deathbed, they don't EVER happen for the man whose made the choice. And though we are told to pray for all men, those prayers won't ever do that man any good.
And sometimes, God just tells us to stop.
Today, I was listening to a sermon on two passages that I had never before considered to be that closely connected- the story in Mark about the Transfiguration, and immediately after the father who had the demon possessed son. I can't honestly say I connected with what the preacher was trying to connect in the two, but what I did connect with was that both parts of the story start with a basic misconception.
In the Transfiguration, the passage starts with Jesus explaining that some listening to Him would not die "until they saw the Kingdom of God coming in power." So everyone starts wondering, "What? are you telling me that there is someone from 2,000 years ago that's still around, waiting for the end of the age? But then you go to the NEXT chapter, and see that just six days later, Peter, James and John DO see that in the Transfiguration. Then in the next story, they come down the mountain and see the rest of the disciples getting heckled by the scribes because they couldn't heal this man's son, who was daemon-possessed.
Jesus asks what's going on, they man explains what was happening to the boy- and adds that the disciples couldn't cure Him. At this point Jesus exclaims, "Oh faithless and perverse generation! How long must I put up with you?" And I at least have always figured He was addressing the disciples in particular there.
But I was wrong. Look at what REALLY happens next:
...If you can do anything, please have pity on us and help us."
Mar 9:23 Jesus said to the father, "Why did you say 'if you can'? All things are possible for the one who believes."
Mar 9:24 Immediately the father shouted, "I do believe. Help me to believe more!"
The reason the boy wasn't being healed wasn't because the disciples didn't have faith- although the AMOUNT of that faith later comes into question- but that the FATHER didn't have the faith! It was when the father admitted his failing- and prayed for help- that healing became possible.
Now, what do these things have to do with the topic?
Well, first it's a lesson in misconceptions. We put ourselves in a certain part of "the story"- and that part might not be the one containing the point. We blame the disciples because, well, shouldn't they have known better? But the interaction was between Jesus and the father.
But at another level, the father wouldn't have even come to the disciples had he not had SOME faith, however misdirected. The scribes, who had NO faith, could have healed him just as well if they HAD any faith, but wasted their time chastising the disciples for not being able to do what they had no desire to. I stumbled on to a chat board in researching this post in which some atheist was chastising Christians for "not being able to defend their faith", an argument I ceased fighting long ago, having learned that in order to discuss the topic, both sides have to be willing to hear the other, and no atheist I've ever come across has enough courage of his convictions to say, "what if." But one person put that very thought in the wisest possible way:
thats what i ve been saying of recent. We ve argued enough with all these atheists. It is the holy spirit that does the work of soul winning and not our arguments. lets discuss other important things that will inspire us. Satan is deceitful, he can cage us in useless arguements so that we wont have time for other things that will help us grow spiritually.
"Satan is deceitful, he can cage us in useless arguments". Exactly. And one of those useless arguments CAN be praying to God for a soul that chose his path long ago. And sometimes, God tells us to give it up. It isn't "abandoning someone before the deathbed", even if it feels like it to us. There was something in Deuteronomy that caught my eye about understanding these things. It was 29:29-
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.