LORD, GRANT ME COMMON SENSE
Faith says, “We can,” but logic says, “You can’t.” Whom are we going to trust, faith or logic? Common sense is a combination of faith and logic. The truth is, we need both. The disciples could not help an epileptic boy and when Jesus did, they asked why they had failed. Jesus gave them this answer, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). James, half-brother to Jesus, had an idea why we fail, “If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he would receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:5-8).
Faith and logic are bread and butter to prayer. Logic is common sense or knowing (sophias) what one is capable of. Before we ask for an answer, we need to ask for logic how to deal with our problem. We must first understand what we ask for. It is the lack of knowing what we are facing that creates doubt and fear. Doubt and fear disable us and we lose confidence in ourselves. Like the disciples, our faith becomes less than a mustard seed. For me, the mountain is not in my way; the inability to trust in my ability is the larger problem. Both, Jesus and James, say to me, “Before I begin seeking answers and help, find out what is bothering me?” Without understanding my problem, I turn it into a larger one than it really is. I do have a tendency to expect the worst and so do most human beings. Eighteen years ago, my Oncologist send me home with these discouraging words, “We cannot cure you.” The Oncologist expected the worst, while my wife and I believed in the possibility of becoming free of cancer cells. Once, we understood what we had to do, we helped ourselves with diets and vitamins and clean living. Obviously, the Lord answered our prayers.
We need stability in all that we do if faith is to get us where we are going. Stability comes from understanding what we, not the Lord, have to do in order resolve the difficulties we face. Prayer is asking what we must do to become stable and under gird our faith. Our needs begin with us and not with God. Until we have analyzed and determined what we need, we should not expect a premature answer from heaven; especially, one when heaven knows that our request will do more harm than good. We do tend to ask for favors that do not benefit others. Heaven is neutral and cannot favor one over another. Jesus showed no partiality (Luke 20:21) and neither does God (Acts 10:34). The reason we want favors is because we are unstable. We constantly reason and tell ourselves that we need help from heaven to complete or win what we are doing. We end up loosing or doing nothing. Then, we feel rejected by God for not having answered our prayers. The truth is, God was busier than we were. When I was drowning as a boy, God send a stranger to pull me out and resuscitate me. When I was burned all over my body, He sent doctors, nurses and many strangers to keep me alive and when I had cancer, God used a physician and his nurse, a urologist and his assistance and an Oncologist and his technicians to restore me to health so I can continue to instill confidence in the Lord’s presence with us (Matthew 28:20).
Prayer has to be logical and practical, even reasonable. It has to be possible and not impossible. In fact, Jesus said that all things are possible. Faith sets the possibilities and logic determines what is possible. Then reasoning decides whether it is feasible. Paul, the Apostle, made this distinction, “Everything is permissible for me –- but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible –- but I will not be mastered by anything” (I Corinthians 6:12). “Everything is permissible –- but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (I Corinthians 10:23-24). James, the expert on being practical left these words for us, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17). “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: ‘to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world'” (James 1:27). Jesus uttered these words, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). And what exactly is that will? There is a long list of deeds that can all be summarized in, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” and “do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
I have one more experience and that is, “My eyes are bigger than my needs.” I have always had the problem when things appeared too small. I have prayed for God to increase things for me. He did not bury me under a pile of Gold or put me on a mountaintop. He led me through the valley and the shadow of death and brought me back to what I was capable of handling. I had to begin with the A B C or with little things. Jesus disciples had a similar problem. They did not know what they could do with five buns and two small fish that a boy had with him for his lunch (John 6:1-13). From the lad they learned to carry their own lunch and they had seven loaves and a few fish for Jesus to feed four thousand more hungry people (Matthew 15:29-39).
I, too, plead guilty for praying that God would give me bigger jobs and larger churches. I did move up and got buried in activities that went nowhere. I began to move down from a seven hundred members church to three hundred-fifty. But when my father became very ill, we decided to move from New York State to the State of Washington and took over a thirty-five members church. A new world opened up. We made less money and felt less pressure. We made a home for ourselves and so did our children. For the first time, our children spend some time with their grandparents and cousins. My ministry is marked by two periods. The first thirty years, it was all about making a name for myself; the second thirty-three years, advancements began to fade. It was not about me anymore. I learned to work with the little I had, than with the more that I wanted. The search for “being great” hindered me from “being myself.” I tried to compensate for being handicapped. I was unreasonable with myself. It was easier to love God and others, than myself. To accept myself has been my earnest prayer. For me, it is simple logic. If I am not content with myself, I shall be of little use to anyone else.