The M.A.D. House Artists (Mom And Dad)

Grand Lake Artistic Chaos Foundation

Dr. Robert R. Ball

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Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball, March 7, 1971

              
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                                                              Scripture: Mark 9:14-29

                                                       A Sermon by
                                                   Dr. Robert R. Ball
                                      Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church
                                      Houston, Texas      March 7, 1971

           Probably you have never had an epileptic son. Probably you
     have never watched while one more dear to you than your own life
     threshed helplessly on the ground - his face distorted, his
     muscles binding, his mind obliterated with agony - and there is
     nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do to help. But that doesn't
     mean you have never known anxiety. In some shape or form,
     Anxiety belongs to all of us.

          Anxiety is an emotion we experience when we fear that
     something horrible is going to happen, and it seems to us that we
     are helpless to do anything about it. Anxiety is what a father feels
     when he can't make sense out of the junior high level of the new
     math although he has always prided himself in his mathematical
     ability. Anxiety is what a man feels when he has spent 25 years
     building a professional reputation and then a recession comes
     along and he can't find work. Anxiety is what a mother feels when
     she has worked at being a good mother, but her kids rise up to
     defy everything she holds precious. Anxiety is what a student feels
     when he has been told that he can never be anything without a
     good education, and he fears he can't make it in solid geometry.

          What is common to each of these illustrations is that the person
     involved is evaluating himself and his worth on the basis of what
     situations and persons around him seem to be indicating about
     him. These situations and persons make him feel unsafe and
     unable to cope with life. This way of looking at ourselves always
     breeds anxiety.

          When Jesus came down from the glorious spiritual experience
     which he and his disciples had shared on the Mount of
     Transfiguration, he was greeted by a scene that was overflowing
     with anxiety. The father was anxious because of his son's horrible
     illness and his total inability to do anything about it. The disciples
     were anxious because they had tried their best to help the boy,
     but they could do nothing. And besides, a jeering crowd had
     gathered to mock the disciples because of the apparent
     weakness of their religion.

                                                         I.

          It must have seemed to Jesus that all of his living with these
     disciples and all he had said to them meant nothing. They had it all
     exactly backwards.

                             "O faithless generation, how long am I to be
                              with you? How long am I to bear with you?"

          Jesus had tried so hard to show them. "Do not measure
     yourselves by the standards of the world! The only evaluation that
     will allow you to function at anywhere near your full capacity is the
     one you get from God, being who he says you are."

          This truth is so obvious that it is amazing that we miss it so
     consistently. My first pastorate was in a small town in Oklahoma.
     It was a warm and accepting congregation. They soon made me
     feel that I was wanted and appreciated. A year or so after my
     arrival, I was invited to preach one Sunday in the First Presbyterian
     Church in Tulsa, a congregation of more than 5,000 members.
     Talk about anxiety, I had it! What if I made a complete fool of
     myself? What if they were embarrassed that they had asked me?
     What if? What if? It's obvious that my confidence depended on
     my surroundings. In Bristow I was more or less at ease, but in
     Tulsa I was petrified. Did whatever capability I had leave me in the
     course of traveling those 40 miles?

          Fritz Perls, founder of the Gestalt system of therapy, writes:

                             "Maturity is the transcendence from
                             environmental support to self-support."

          My immaturity was certainly showing for I was stuck on my
     environmental support. But how can a realistic person move up to
     the level of continuing self-confidence in a world where epilepsy
     and rejection and all kinds of failure and death can happen at any
     moment - and there is little or nothing we can do to stop them?
     There is only one way: Believing!

          Our worth and capability is not determined by the apparent
     success or failure we are experiencing in the situation immediately
     around us. The confidence we need for living is found in our faith
     that we are who God says we are: capable and responsible
     persons through whom he works to accomplish his good
     purposes. The ONLY way we gain that confidence is by believing
     it.

          The parent who is stuck with how his children sometimes make
     him feel, the student who is stuck with how his teachers sometimes
     make him feel, the cripple who is stuck with how his infirmity
     sometimes makes him feel - all are stuck with a disabling anxiety.
     Even when we do seem to be successful by the world's standards,
     a voice inside of us whispers, "Next time you may not be, and then
     all your confidence and power will be gone." Even success can be
     anxiety-producing, making us fear we cannot do it again. Our faith in
     God's faithfulness is the only basis for real self-confidence.

                                                         II.

          But faith is not a cop-out! Those who give up on life and
     themselves and say, "I'm not going to try to do anything. God will
     provide," are not honoring God or themselves. Their religion has
     become a hiding place, very much like those who hide behind
     drugs or alcohol.

          William Carey who was to become the first English-speaking
     missionary to a foreign land, asked for financial support from his
     church. They refused, saying, "When God wants the people in
     India saved, he will do it." That's not faith, in spite of the fact that
     they used the name of God. That's ducking out on Christ's clear
     call to us to carry his gospel into all the world.

          God creates us to be responsible. Jesus made this very clear
     to the father in this scripture. His son's illness was destroying his
     own life as well as his son's, and there seemed to him nothing he
     could do about it. His anxiety had him paralyzed - unable to do
     even what he was capable of doing. He had given up. You can
     hear the total despair in the words he spoke to Jesus. "If you can
     do anything, have mercy on us and help us." Jesus said back to
     him immediately, "If YOU can! All things are possible to those who
     believe."

          The meaning is clear. Faith in God does not replace our ability
     or our responsibility. Faith in God gives us the strength and
     confidence to live and act as the responsible persons we are.

          To assume that we can handle life just fine all by ourselves is a
     lie, and life has a way of reminding us of that again and again. But
     to assume that we are to be passive nothings while God moves us
     around like checkers on a playing board is also a lie. God calls us
     to choose, to care, and to love, that his will be done through us.
     Everything within his purposes of love is possible to those who
     believe.

          Tragedy may come our way as it did to Jesus, but he was not
     destroyed by it because he did not allow what was happening
     around him to control him. Even in the midst of total despair on the
     cross, he addressed his cry of agony to the God on whom he
     depended to give his life meaning; and he was not defeated. Faith
     is not an escape from pain, but it does remove the anxiety that
     leaves us in paralyzed helplessness. Faith allows us to live and to
     act appropriately and creatively.

                                                        III.

          This faith which alone makes life possible is not an
     achievement won by those who have earned oit through spiritual
     success. Faith is trust in the faithfulness of God - in his power and
     in his good purposes for us and for his world.

          The father in this scripture was quite honest about how difficult
     it was for him to trust. he wanted to trust, yearned to trust; so much
     bad had happened in his life that all he could say was, "Lord, I
     believe; help my unbelief."

          But that was enough. His son was healed. The father's
     openness and honesty was a clear channel through which God's
     power could work. Notice how much trust there was even in his cry
     that his faith was weak. The father did not decide in advance what
     the outcome would have to be for his faith to be confirmed. His
     appeal to Jesus was, "If you can do ANYTHING..." He did not
     pretend that he had been so good or spiritual  that God owed him
     a miracle. When he spoke to Jesus what he asked for was
     "mercy." Neither did the father try to maintain a public image of
     himself as strong and confident. He openly confessed his need.
     "Please help us!" Did you catch that? "Help US!" The father knew
     that the problem was not just his son's illness. He needed healing
     too for his painful, paralyzing anxiety.
          
          Faith is trust - the trust that God can help and that he wants to
     help. When we are willing to admit that we can't cut it by ourselves,
     and willing to trust that the God who gives us life will also give us
     what we need to live it, then we put ourselves in a position where
     help can be given. AND IT IS GIVEN!

          Life opens up when our anxious mistrust is replaced by
     believing trust. Think of it! Picture it in your mind! See yourself
     living! God PROMISES to work for good in everything WITH those
     who love and trust him. It's a promise!

          We were not created to live without God, and our every effort to
     do so will only lead to increasing anxiety. But it doesn't need to be
     that way! Kenneth Phifer, pastor of the St. Charles Avenue
     Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, in the booklet he wrote for
     the Women of the Church to use in Bible study, says,

                              "Faith as trust it the place at which God
                              becomes real to us and where the kind
                              of relationship that is marked by creative
                              confidence in life itself comes into being."

          When the healing was over and the father and son had gone
     off to a new kind of life, and the crowd dispersed because all the
     excitement was over, Jesus' disciples were still worrying about
     why they had not been able to help the boy. Jesus had told them
     that they had the power to heal diseases, but they had tried every
     trick they knew and none of it worked. They wanted to know why
     not. Jesus told them,

                               "This kind cannot be driven out
                               by anything but prayer."

          Perhaps you have been sitting in church for years hearing all
     about this wonderful power but unable to find it. Maybe this is why
     not. How can we expect to get our signals as to who we are from
     God, rathe trthan from the world around us, if we never make the
     effort to spend some time with him? The world is so close and so
     loud that its evaluation of us is bound to dominate our thinking
     unless we consciously place our confidence somewhere else.
     What I am saying is this: If you want to live in God's evaluation of
     you and in his power, go to him and ask for it in whatever words you
     may have.

          If a little voice keeps saying, "But I don't believe," don't worry
     too much about that. Just keep going anyway. The best that any of
     us can do, really, is to say, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." But,
     thank God, that is enough.

          Fred Beuchner writes,
 
                                "Seek and you will find - this power of
                                God to heal, to give peace and, at last,
                                something like real life, so that little by
                                little, like the boy, you can get up. Yes,
                                get up. But we must seek - like a child
                                at first, like playing a kind of game at first
                                because prayer is so foreign to most of
                                us. It is so hard and it is so easy. And
                                everything depends on it. Seek. Ask. And
                                by God's grace we will find. In Christ's
                                name and with his power I can promise
                                you this."

          

      
        
 

LINKS TO OTHER SERMONS

YOU ARE MY CENTERFIELDER

January 26, 1969

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN?

Sermon from January 25, 1970

FOLK WORSHIP SERVICE

 from April 5, 1970

WHAT SALT IS FOR

Sermon from June 21, 1970

BOLD ENOUGH TO FAIL

Sermon from September 6, 1970

DON'T PUT ME DOWN

Sermon from September 13, 1970

I BELIEVE THAT GOD BELIEVES IN CLAUDE

Sermon from September 27, 1970

WHERE AUTHENTIC PEOPLE MEET

Sermon from December 13, 1970

 T H E    S E R P E N T    D I D    I T

Sermon from February 14, 1971

FROM: M O N O T O N Y

TO: M E A N I N G

Sermon from February 28, 1971

                         

                          Y E S,

                                      N O,

                                                and

                                                         W O W!

Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

May 23, 1971

                         

                          Y E S,

                                      N O,

                                                and

                                                         W O W!

Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

May 23, 1971                          CLICK HERE

                         

Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

July 11, 1971   

Here Come De Judge

Sermon from August 1, 1971

>SMILE GOD LOVES YOU

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented September 12, 1971

>Seriously But Not Literally

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented September 19, 1971

Authority Figures I Have Known

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon, September 26, 1971

I Give You Permission

DDr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon, October 10, 1971

>IT'S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS,

NOT RULES

DDr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon, JULY 31, 2011

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