The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

If you are willing or If you can? (PDF) PDF version

"If you are willing" or "If you can"?

In Mark 1:40 we read:

Mark 1:40
"Now a leper came to him [Jesus], imploring him, kneeling down to him and saying to him, "If YOU are willing, you can make me clean."

Going now to chapter 9 of the same gospel, we read:

Mark 9:21-23
"So he [Jesus] asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus said to him, "IF YOU CAN BELIEVE ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE TO HIM WHO BELIEVES"

In both cases, a suffering man came to Jesus for help, starting his petition with an "if". Yet, each man's "if" was different, as different was also the reaction of the Lord. Thus, the leper said: "IF YOU ARE WILLING, YOU CAN". If Jesus was willing, if it was God's will for this man to be healed, if the Lord desired it, this man had no doubt that He could do it. He was sure that what he asked for was not a matter of the Lord's ability but a matter of the Lord's willingness. It is never a question of whether the Lord is able but is always a question of whether He is willing. It is not faith to believe the Lord will do whatever you may want, regardless of whether He wants it too. What is faith is to believe that "if the Lord is willing, He can". Faith puts the weight on the will of the Lord and never on His ability. This is considered as given. "IF YOU ARE WILLING, YOU CAN". Yes, the "if" is absolutely right. IF THE LORD IS WILLING, HE CAN. You may not have an answer over a matter. You may not have everything clear. Yet do this: go to the Lord as the leper went, having faith that if it is His will, He can. Ask Him for His will to be done and accept the outcome as coming from His own hand. This is what Christ also did in the night of Gesthemane:

Luke 22:41-42
"And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and he knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done.""

Jesus knew that his crucifixion was not in the hand of Satan or the Jews. If it was God's will, he could avoid it. When he was drinking the cup, he knew that he was getting it from the Father's hand ("the cup that THE FATHER gave me, will I not drink it? (John 18:11)). He had prayed about it. When you pray to the Lord and believe that if He is willing He can, and what you pray does not happen, it is not because God did not hear you but because that was His will. For everything that you ask in your prayer having the faith that says, "if you are willing you can" be sure that, if it is indeed God's will, you will receive it. The leper went to the Lord like this, having faith that if the Lord was willing then He could heal him, which is what finally happened.

However, this did not happen in the second case. Really, going there, we see that the respective man in need also started his petition with an "if". However, what followed his "if" was entirely different from what followed the "if" of the leper. Thus his "if" was not "if you are willing you can", but "IF YOU CAN DO ANYTHING......". Contrary to the leper, this man did not put the question on the willingness of the Lord but on HIS ABILITY. That's why what followed His phrase, was not the action of the Lord but His rebuke:

Mark 9:23

The Lord replied to "if you can" of this man with another "IF YOU CAN". "IF YOU CAN BELIEVE". Believe what? What the leper also believed i.e. "IF YOU ARE WILLING, YOU CAN". The distance between belief and unbelief is as much as is the distance between "if you are willing, you can" and "if you can do anything...". In the first case, if it is His will, the Lord takes action. However, in the second case He answers: "If you can believe, all things are possible". Nonetheless, He does not stop there, but, if something is His will, He moves to help those who honestly seek Him, as he also moved for this man:

Mark 9:24-27
"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief!" When Jesus saw that people came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "Deaf and dump spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!" Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose."

The Lord helps, heals, strengthens. He does not overlook the unbelief. In contrast, he rebukes it, helping however everyone that honestly seeks Him. Thus he healed the kid, as he had earlier caught Peter when he was sinking in the middle of the sea (Matthew 14:28-31), and as he also helped the terrified disciples the night of the great storm of wind (Mark 4:37-41). Can you really imagine him, leaving Peter to sink because he was lacking faith? But he did not leave him. When he cried to him , he immediately stretched forth his hand and caught him, and then he rebuked him for his little faith. The Lord will never send away anyone that honestly seeks Him for help. When someone honestly calls Him, the Lord stretches forth His hand for help. Really what a wonderful Lord! It is not a matter of His ability but of His will. It is this will that should take the emphasis in our prayers. "IF YOU ARE WILLING, YOU CAN". If not "your will be done" (Matthew 26:42). The phrase "if you can do anything" is a phrase of unbelief that the Lord rebukes. However, even if someone feels having little faith, even if he is nearly wrecked as Peter, yet turns truly to Him, the Lord will not leave him. What is needed is to call for His help and the Lord will caught him. He will not permit the loss of any soul that honestly seeks Him for help.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou