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Is It If or Will? By Pastor Thomas Engel

As you began this past week, what was your confidence level? What were you thinking and feeling about all that you had to get done this week?

Were you that little train chugging up the steep hill? Were you of a mindset of “I think I can, “I know I can, or “I’m going back down and tale a nap?”

Not knowing all the details about your week, I know some general things about you of the past several days.

I will start with this morning. When you woke-up, you knew it was Sunday, so you followed through with your plans to come to church. From seeing that you are here today, those plans worked out. You did wake-up, got out of bed, ate breakfast, drank coffee, took a shower, got dress, and drove here to St Philip.

Because you did all those things to get here, I’m assuming that you are not facing a disaster, tragedy, or hard loss in your life.

Maybe you had a tough week, but you got through it enough to get here today.

I also know how you started this past week. You were here last Sunday, and I know you heard God’s Word and participated in the Lord’s Supper.

In last Sunday’s worship, you heard God’s Word of forgiveness, instruction, encouragement, and hope. By eating the bread and drinking the wine, Jesus came fully into you with all of his love and strength.

When you and I left here last Sunday, we were more than good to go to meet anything that would come our way this week-our confidence level was high as it can get because of what God had done for us, and by knowing what He has done for us, we know what He will do for us.

This all is happening today, again.

God is always present and active in our lives.


But this is Sunday, and woe for us because Monday always comes after Sunday with all of its demands.

I like Lou Rawl’s version of the blues song “Stormy Monday.”

Here’s the first verse:

They call it Stormy Monday But Tuesday's just as bad. They call it Stormy Monday But Tuesday's just as bad. Lord, and Wednesday's worse And Thursday's all so sad.

I hope that doesn’t describe this past week for you.

We are always praying for good days, but, at least in any week after Sunday, we go back to work with deadlines, back to school with tests and homework, and back to our homes with cleaning and cooking-that same old stuff that has got to get done.

Every day that comes wants something from us. Every person that we meet wants something from us.

Every situation that comes wants something from us.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about all the demands. Living a life means participation in that life of all that it dishes out to us.

Putting the best construction on a busy life-style, we can say that a day, people, and situations wanting something from us gives us meaning and purpose.

Life is not meant to be sitting around twiddling our thumbs.

But, we have to admit all that fulfilling of all that meaning and purpose can sure get tiring.

With so much to do, it seems it’s not fulfilling but draining.

We feel at times that we can’t take another step for it’s seems like one thing after another is piling up on us.

We feel at times finding solutions to our problems is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

We feel at times that we may break with one more demand like it will be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We feel so worn out at times because the well seems like it has about gone dry.

We feel like we are spinning our wheels because it doesn’t seem like our life is going anywhere.

Using some Sunday School lessons here as examples of what we feel at times-we can feel like Noah facing the huge task of building an ark, we feel like Moses leading a bunch of stubborn and hard to please people who complain at every corner through the wilderness, we feel like David facing a mean giant who is deadly serious about taking him out, we feel like Daniel looking at a lion face to face with no where to run, or we feel like the disciples in a boat in a storm of big waves and high winds that is looking like it will capsize them.

Or from today’s Gospel reading we are feeling like a father who had a son who was suffering. He came before Jesus because he thought Jesus could help him.

This man’s son was possessed by a demon. When it comes to demons, only God has power over demons.

This man didn’t know what to do to help his son, so he thought he would try Jesus.

When a person comes to the end of their rope, he will try anything for help.

Why not try Jesus?

One little word tripped up his belief that Jesus could help his son-in asking Jesus for help, the father asked, “If you are able?”

It’s that word “if” that will get us every time.

Going back to the beginning when I asked what your confidence level is. Does your faith start with, “Lord, if you are able?” or “I know, Lord, you will help me.”

Did you hear Jesus’ reply to the man’s “if?” Didn’t Jesus sound a little annoyed with the man’s confidence level?

This man didn’t fully believe that Jesus could help him with this demon.

He had some doubts. He thought he would Jesus a try. What could it hurt?

From Jesus’ point of view, this man should’ve believed that he could help his son.

This man came to Jesus because he had been hearing about Jesus’ ability to do miracles.

Let’s do a little spiritual reasoning. Miracles can only be done by God like the casting out of a demon. Jesus has done miracles, so that must mean that Jesus the power of God in him, or even better yet, Jesus is God himself.

The news had been spreading about Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God. Jesus taught with authority like no one has ever done before. He was the expert of all experts on teaching about God.

We have to remember as we look back at the people in Jesus’ day that they were just getting to know Jesus. They didn’t have the New Testament as we do to explain everything.

But, like for this man, he knew Jesus had performed miracles like the feeding of the five thousand from a little bit of food, making the lame walk and the blind see, and had cast out demons.

As we are standing back over two thousand years hearing of this situation of a man who has a child who is possessed by a demon, we are left with asking, “Why does this man have his doubts about how Jesus can help him?

With the information that we have about this man, I’m not sure how much we can know just what he was thinking and feeling.

But, we can know about ourselves. We can ask about the doubts that we have about Jesus’ care for us.

I wonder if Jesus has these thoughts about me.

“Tom,” Jesus is saying in heaven looking down at me, “how long am I’m to put up with you and your lack of confidence? Have I not helped you so many time before? Have I not been there for in you every teardrop? Have I not been there for you in every anxious moment? Have I not been there in your fears? Have I not been there for you when you were tired? Have I not always helped you to move the next step forward when you thought you couldn’t take the next step?”

What about you and your doubts? If you don’t mind, I will go back to the beginning again. What is your confidence level of this past week?

Are doubts, fears, stress, and worry occupying too much on your thoughts and feelings?

Do you think Jesus has a tone of frustration with you as he did with that man who asked, “If you can?” and not a faith statement of, “Lord, I know you will.”

Do you think Jesus is up in heaven looking down at you and asking a lot of questions as I think he does with me?

I don’t think Jesus is asking those questions or has times of frustration with us because I am sure that he just cares for us all the time in every way.

But, I think going through those questions is good for us because we have to admit that we do have our doubts, fears, stresses, and worries.

After all we also are seeing a lot out in their in our lives and the world to cause us concern.

As you look at your list and sadly it is a list of many things in these days that can cause us to be anxious, we want to be confident that all is okay and will be okay.

The father did admit his faith was weak, and he asked Jesus to help make his faith stronger.

In seeing that this father wanted a stronger faith, Jesus helped his son.

It’s not that Jesus’ help was conditional. Jesus always helps us and helps those who do not believe in him at all.

But, those who don’t beleive in Jesus don’t have the confidence in a Lord and Savior. They will always be looking for something in themselves or in the world for courage and strength, and they will always come up short.

At the end of the Gospel reading, we hear how the father went to Jesus’ disciples first for them to cast out the demon.

They couldn’t do it, for their faith was not quite there.

We come here knowing we have lacked confidence in our Lord and Savior, so we come here again and will keep coming because life can overwhelm us with all that it dishes out.

It’s here in only God’s Word that we hear of Jesus who taught with authority, did miracles, and most of all, died and rose again defeating all that wants to harm us-sin, Satan, and eternal death.

Who Jesus is and what he has done as our Lord and Savior is our confidence in everything.

Going back to the disciples, they were able to perform miracles after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

Their faith did grow and found that only by pray, that only by heaven, only by God, only by the Spirit, only by God’s Word, only by faith can we have confidence that all things will work for the good.

And you know what! We have all these things that can only will give us confidence in all of our moments of all of our days.

It’s in this time in worship our faith has grown to the point where we don’t say “If you can,” but we say, “Lord, I know you will.”

Let me know what happens in this week coming up with that kind of confidence.

I’m sure, and you can be sure, too, that all things will work for the good, for we believe, “Lord, I know you will, for your good will is always done.”

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