All Things are Possible
How many of us believe that we can truly change? To change old habits and deeply rooted patterns of behavior? How many of us deeply believe that we overcome common vices that have been a part of our lives throughout all the years and trust that Christ-like virtues can replace them?
Do we sincerely believe it’s possible to overcome the vices that Saint John Climacus describes in his famous Ladder of Divine Ascent: to overcome our lustful desires, our greed and love of money and possessions, our anger and quick temper, our gluttony, our despondency and hopelessness to change, our loose tongue that too often gossips and slanders others, our fears, our vainglory and pride and egocentric passions? We may have struggled with these vices throughout our lives, and it may seem that these vices are simply a part of who we are. Do we believe it is possible to change now, and do we even want to change?
What about not only overcoming vices but actually growing in the divine virtues that Saint John reminds us to cultivate in our lives: humble obedience, repentance, a continual remembrance of death, simplicity, humility, discernment, stillness, prayer, and love. We’ve all heard about these vices and virtues, yet how many of us actually believe we can change at this stage of our lives, that we can overcome lifelong habits and vices while developing our character in new ways filled with divine virtues?
Today on this 4th Sunday of our Great Lenten journey, when we highlight Saint John of the Ladder and his classic work, I want us know that “all things are possible for the one who believes.” I want us to reflect on what we hear in the Gospel story together with St. John’s reminder of vices and virtues in the Ladder of Divine Ascent.
In the Gospel story, we hear about a father who brings his epileptic son first to the disciples and then to Jesus Himself. He is desperate to help his son. The father is close to despair. His child has suffered from childhood, coming close to a tragic death often by casting himself in the fire and into water. The father pleads with Christ, “If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”
Our Lord looks at the father with compassion and love, yet simply responds, “If I can? If YOU can! All things are possible to the one who believes." To which the father of the child cries out "I believe; help my unbelief!"
All things are possible to the one who believes.
What a powerful exchange between the father and our Lord Jesus. The father is desperate and close to despair. His son has suffered his entire life. No one has been able to help him, not even Christ’s disciples. The father believes yet he has doubt. He wants to hope in Jesus, yet he is unsure if he will be disappointed once again. He humbly comes before Christ asking for His help and in his humility, God sees the seeds of faith. “If YOU can have faith, all things are possible.” Your faith and hope in God can bring about change!
The father cries out one of the most profound and honest prayers in the entire Bible – “I believe. Help my unbelief!” This is the message I want all of us to hear and embrace. God only needs a tiny seed of faith from us. If we hold on to a glimmer of hope and offer a spark of faith, Christ can perform miracles in us!
Now think about whatever vices that we’ve struggled with our entire lives, the part of our personality we think will never change, the addictive and destructive behaviors that have become a part of who we are. For many of us, we believe the subtle deception of the devil that we can never change. We believe the lie that change is impossible.
Yet, here we see the danger of Satan’s deception that leads us to despair, despondency, and the belief that change will never happen.
The Good News from Christ today, however, is that all things are possible for anyone who believes. Change can actually happen if we offer up to God a seed of faith. Let us cry out “I believe Lord. Help my unbelief. I believe Lord that I can change. Forgive me for my doubts and help me overcome my uncertainty. Take my tiny seeds of faith and perform miracles in me. I do believe You can change me. Transform me into a new creation through You!”
Always remember Saint Paul’s words, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old passes away. Behold, everything has become new.”
With this in mind, let’s return to Saint John Climacus and his ladder of Divine Ascent. Saint John points to the most common vices that plague all of us. We all struggle with our pride, our egocentric desires, our greed, our lust, our anger, our envy, our inability to forgive, our laziness, our indifference, our despair. With whatever vices we struggle, we can bring our brokenness and spiritual illnesses before Christ and say, “If you can do anything, O Lord, have pity on us and help us.” And Jesus will respond to us, “Not me. If YOU have faith, all things are possible.” Believe and know that this change and transformation can happen in your life!
When we humbly come before Christ and confess, “I believe Lord, help my doubts and my unbelief,” He will take our tiny seed of faith and give us the strength and power to overcome all our vices, transforming our vices into virtues – the virtues of love, humility, obedience, courage, repentance, simplicity and stillness.
All things are possible for the one who believes and our tiny seeds of faith can lead us to become a new creation in Christ Jesus. Yet this journey of change and renewal of life comes when we nourish the tiny seeds of faith.
How do we nourish such faith? Well, when the disciples came to Jesus after the father and his son left, they asked the Lord, "Why could we not cast this demon out?" Why couldn’t we do the impossible? And Christ responded to his beloved friends, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting."
Our faith is nourished by prayer and fasting, by our spiritual disciples of Lent. When we offer our continual and heartfelt prayers and use the tool of fasting in a proper manner, our faith will grow.
So, let us always remember - all things are possible for the one who believes. Our tiny seeds of faith can lead us to overcome our vices, to develop divine virtues, and to become a new creation in Christ Jesus.
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith