“Hey,” Stan said as I sat down, “you look kind of low this morning. Anything wrong?”
“You know, Stan,” I replied, “you’re really perceptive. Yeah, something’s wrong. My neighbor.”
“You want to talk about it?” he asked.
“He broke a promise to me,” I replied. “I really don’t want to talk about the details, but he promised that if I did such-and-such for him, he would do a different such-and-such for me.”
“Oh,” Stan said, “a conditional promise.”
“I don’t know what it’s called,” I replied. “All I know is that I held up my end of the bargain, he didn’t, and it hurt my feelings. And it’s made me wonder about whether he is really a friend.”
“Yeah,” Stan said, “those kind of things can be hurtful. I can’t say for certain whether or not God gets His feelings hurt, but I have sure seen a lot of times when people, including me, have not held up our end of the deal with God.”
“Simple example,” Stan replied, “is where a person says to God, ‘If you get me out of this situation, I will do whatever you want’.”
“Oh,” I said, “I’ve heard that sort of thing referred to as a ‘fox-hole conversion,’ like where a soldier is in a war situation and he tells God that if He will rescue him, he will dedicate his life to God. But as soon as God does His part the soldier forgets his end of the deal.”
“Exactly,” Stan replied. “I saw that sort of thing in John’s gospel the other day where Jesus was talking about conditional belief.”
“Conditional belief?” I said. “What was going on?”
“There’s a story where a guy asks Jesus to do something for him, in this case he asked Jesus to heal his son.”
“Sounds like a reasonable request,” I replied.
“It would seem so,” Stan agreed, “but, based on Jesus’ reply, it looks to me like something else may have been going on.”
“When the man asked Jesus to heal his son,” Stan replied, “Jesus said that ‘you people’, which included the man, wouldn’t believe unless they saw ‘signs and wonders.’ Seems to me that what Jesus was implying is that the ‘you people’ did not believe, and that they were saying they would if Jesus did such-and-such for them.”
“Okay,” I said, “I get it. This was about a conditional promise. The man was, in essence, saying to Jesus that if Jesus would heal his son he would believe, but that Jesus could see right through through the guy and know he probably wouldn’t hold up his end of the bargain. Is that it?”
“That’s it,” Stan replied. “And it’s a valuable lesson for me and my faith walk. I am to believe. Period. I’m not to base my belief on anything other than what God has already done, not say to Him that I will believe if He does such-and-such. He has already done everything worthy of my belief. Nothing else required.”
“But isn’t it sometimes hard to believe?” I said.
“That’s another story for another day,” Stan replied, “but in a nutshell, the Bible has another account of a father who asked Jesus to heal his son. The difference is that in this instance the father believed, but he went on to ask Jesus to help him with his unbelief.”
“Help with his unbelief,” I repeated. “Will Jesus will do that?”
“Indeed He will, my friend. Just ask.”
Bible verses to consider:
Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” John 4:48.
Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt? Matthew 14:30.
And Jesus said to him, “If You can! All things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Mark 9:23-24.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you do not put conditions on your love for me. Thank you, too, that you do not want me to put any conditions on my relationship with and love for you. I confess that there are times when I want you to do exactly what I want and, like a spoiled child, I try to put conditions on my relationship with you. Please forgive me of all of that foolishness. And please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead into an ever-deepening relationship that has no conditions, just unconditional love and obedience. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Have you ever had people not hold up their end of a bargain about something? If so, how did that make you feel? Have you ever put conditions on your obedience to God, such as by saying you will do something in return for God doing something first? If so, what was that all about? Do you agree that our belief in and relationship with God is to be without condition, and that He is perfectly willing to help our unbelief? Why or why not? If you sense the need to reexamine whether your belief in God is without condition, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?
S. Tory Teller’s book (Foreword by Josh McDowell), “Waiting for the Train: Biblical Food for Growing Before Going,” is available from Amazon.com and from the publisher at s-toryteller.com