“Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.”
The pleading leper – he was so desperate, he was begging Jesus on his knees. ‘If you are willing,’ the man said. James also teaches us to be aware of God’s will. He says in James 4:15:
“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'”
I was just talking to a friend last night about acknowledging God’s willing of things – we are not in control of our lives or our future. To act like we are and be so arrogant as to say for certain that we will do such and such is wrong (as James points out in the entirety of the passage there in chapter 4). We need to acknowledge that we are not in control. It is God who wills (Romans 9:16) and we need to submit to His will. Because God does know the future, He has a great plan, and when we are in the proper mindset when we ask things of Him, we will always submit our requests under His will and power. Like Jesus taught us to ask: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
Now, trusting and submitting to God’s will does not mean we can’t ask for great things. This leper asked God, if He wills, to cleanse him from an incurable disease. I’ve heard people say that they don’t feel they should pray for such and such because they don’t want to ‘ask amiss’ and be ‘outside of God’s will.’ That is totally misunderstanding this submission to the Father’s will and misusing James’ words where he speaks of wrongly asking for things (James 4:3): “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James is not addressing people who are submitting to God’s will and asking for big things – he’s confronting those people who are asking for the wrong reasons. The only reason to not bring a request before God is if you are not willing to submit to God’s ultimate plan, knowing He is in control, and submitting your request to His control.Philippians 4:6 says –
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”
When we are not willing to come to God and ask, we’re actually demonstrating false humility, which is stinky pride. The person who doesn’t bring their requests before God because ‘they don’t want to ask outside of God’s will’ is really thinking that they know better than God and can, by praying, if they pray for the wrong thing, will inevitably be forcing God’s hand to do what they are ‘requesting’ and they could cause the Almighty to go against His own will in granting their request. How ridiculous is this? You are not being meek and pious when you won’t ask great things of God. You are doing the exact opposite. But this man came humbly before the Savior, got on his knees, and asked Jesus for help only God could give – “If You are willing, You can…”
There is no doubt in this man’s mind that Jesus CAN do this. There are many examples I can think of where we shouldn’t doubt what God can do: Lord, if You are willing, You can heal my child from (autism, disease, whatever). Lord, if You are willing please help me accomplish ______. There are many great things we could ask of God. “You have not because you don’t ask.”
But what if God doesn’t do what I’m asking? What if I still live with my ‘leprosy’?
Let me ask you something….is the possibility that He will not ‘be moved with compassion to heal you’ going to stop you from asking the only One who could, if He is willing, grant you your prayer? I can’t see in the future and tell you if He will give you what you want to ask of Him. But I can tell you that God is able to do it, if He wills. Can you trust His will for you, and ask anyway? And then, just submit to His will. Because “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) So no matter His answer, He can give you peace – for when the miracle comes, or when the miracle is God’s peace in the midst of no healing.
(there is more that can be said about this passage, but it is taking me so long to get through this first chapter! Even though in my journal I’m halfway through chapter three, I’m not getting it up online as quickly as I’d like. So I’m going to just say a couple of points about the rest of this encounter: when Jesus heals, be sure to follow what He’s telling you to do about it. The man’s lack of obedience in following up being healed actually effected Jesus ‘presence’ in a way. There’s a lesson here for us: when we ask God for things, we need to follow what He’s telling us to do with His answer, whether that be silence or proclamation.)