““O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?””
This week as I have been preparing for a message on Mark 8:31 to 9:32 I came across the following quotations which deal with the need for real faith as we engage in ministry in our communities. The first is from Lewis B. Smedes, in How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong? (New York: Harper and Row, 1982)
“They came to my Church on Sunday, ordinary people did, but I did not recognize them in the early days. I know now why I did not recognize them; I did not want them to be ordinary people…. I wanted them to be spiritual athletes, shoulders strong to bear the burdens of global justice that my prophetic words laid upon them. But while I was offering them the precious promises and walloping them with the heroic mandates of the Word of God, many of them were secretly praying, “O God, I don’t think I can get through this week – HELP ME!” … What they have in common is a sense that everything is all wrong where it matters to them most. What they desperately need is a miracle of faith to know that life at the centre is all right.”
The Second is from Henri J. M. Nouwen, in The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ (New York: Seabury, 1977)
“We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer. Our demons say: “We are too busy to pray, we have too many needs to attend to, too many people to respond to, too many wounds to heal.” Prayer is a luxury, something to do during a free hour, a day away from work or on a retreat.”
The final quote is from John Calvin in A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Vol. 2, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972)
“The man declares that he believes, and yet he acknowledges himself to have unbelief. These two statements appear to contradict each other, but there is none of us that does not experience both of them in himself. As our faith is never perfect, if follows that we are partly unbelievers; for God forgives us, and exercises such forbearance towards us, as to reckon us believers on account of a small portion of faith”
The text in Mark’s Gospel points to the means by which such Biblical faith is created. It is through a Cross-centred communion with God in prayer. When we separate such fellowship with God from our service of God then we become powerless.