Power & Praise

if you will

It was the final step in the process, demanding every ounce of coordination as I balanced on the arm of the sofa while attempting to drill in just the right place on the ceiling. Half an inch to the left or right and the project would be ruined, so I made the appropriate man-sounds and muttered some choice words for the dying battery my cordless drill, all of which lured the three-year-old onto the sofa with me. I didn’t even know he was there until I heard his sweet words, the faith of a child hanging in the air of our front room.

You can do it, Daddy!

I glanced over my shoulder and Isaiah was smiling up at me, full of confidence, rejoicing in my apparent omnipotence as a handyman. It was, at least, a pleasant distraction as I aimed for what I hoped was a stud on the other side of plaster.

They are words that every father needs to hear from the mouth of his toddler at least once. You can do it. Sometimes your little boy is the only one who thinks so. Revel in it, soak it up, because he’s not just a waist-high cheerleader — he is God’s gift, your arrow, the beginning of your strength.

He believes in you.

I could end here; you get the point, I’m sure. When was the last time you believed in your Heavenly Father like that? Are His power and His endless creative ability real things to you, or just abstract Bible-talk?

As scriptural as it sounds, the phrase “childlike faith” is not found anywhere in the Bible (though it may appear in certain amplified translations). In the memorable scene where Jesus exhorted His followers to “become like children,” He is teaching humility, not necessarily faith.

So what my son was articulating, besides his somewhat overconfident faith in my abilities, was what the Bible calls praise.

The Psalms are saturated with assurance of God’s power, His accomplishments and ability. In the songs of David and company, the natural cycle of faith and praise is on full display. Listen for hints of a childish confidence in these sophisticated lyrics:

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”   {9:1}

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”   {18:1–3}

“But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.”   {59:16}

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.”   {138:7}

Do you hear it? More of a rhythm than anything.

You can do it, Father.

If your praise never makes it past that solitary thought, you’re doing fine. In fact, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that Scripture is, among other things, a record of God’s abilities — creative, destructive, universal and personal. In the Old Testament, the emphasis is often on the grand and wondrous: creation, the flood, the Red Sea, the lion’s den.

But in the New Testament, we come around to the ultimate proof and objective of divine power: God’s ability to change a person, to renew the heart and to redeem.

“Lord, if you will, you can,” the leper tells Jesus.

“Only say the word,” the centurion follows up a few verses later.

The truth is that we serve a supremely capable God — the only capable God. If my response to His craftsmanship is anything but childlike wonder, if His might inspires in me anything less than joyful fascination, then I am doing it wrong.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.'”   {Matthew 18:1–6}