Grace For The Journey
What do Christians mean when they talk about faith? The word is often used simply to describe belief in general. Someone says he has “faith” that everything is going to be alright. He doesn’t say what substantiates his faith or upon what his faith is grounded. He just says, “Well, I have faith,” as though faith – in and of itself – were all that mattered.
Many Bible teachers have helped us understand biblical faith by asking us to imagine a man approaching a frozen pond. The man is going to walk across the ice. Picture a man weighing 250 pounds and he has faith that this pond of ice – just a half-inch thick – will support his 250 pounds as he walks across it. Surprised, you say to him, “You’re going to walk across that ice? You realize it is only a half-inch thick?!” The man says, “Oh, yes! I have great faith, lots of faith, that the ice will support my weight.” You respond, “Well, good luck with that,” and the 250 pound man immediately falls through the ice.
Contrast that scenario with another man weighing the same 250 pounds about to cross a frozen pond with ice 18 inches thick. This man approaches the ice with faith as well, but his faith is a tiny faith; about the size of a mustard seed. But . . .
All is well because it is not
The size of his faith
That is important,
The thickness of the ice.
That man can place his faith
On the sure and stable
Weightiness of the ice.
When we talk of faith, it is not simply faith, in and of itself, a merely subjective faith with no substance or foundation.
The Christian faith is
Primarily an objective faith,
A faith that rests upon
The stability of an actual object,
Namely the person of Jesus Christ
As revealed in the Gospels.
In John 4:46-54, we read about a man who moves from a rather shaky faith to a firm faith. He moves from crisis to calm as he rests upon the weightiness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Charles Spurgeon said this passage in John 4 demonstrates “the rise and progress of faith in the soul.” And I would agree with that statement. We see both . . .
The greatness of Jesus Christ
Progression of one man’s faith in Him.
As we look at the above passage, we learn about:
1) Crisis Faith.
A crisis faith is the kind of faith we have when something happens suddenly to us. It hits us, jars us, and it shakes us up. A life storm of some kind throws us into the critical tailspin of crisis.
The Bible says in verse 46 that there is a man who has a son who is sick. This is his crisis. The man is described as, “a certain nobleman.” Other translations have, “royal official,” or something similar. The nobleman travels from Capernaum to Cana in order to see Jesus. He’s traveling west some 16 miles and verse 47 says, “he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.”
The verb tense indicates that this man’s request was a repeated request, something he asked more than once, something like, “Jesus, please come down to Capernaum, my son is at the point of death, please, please come down!” “The point of death” is an interesting phrase. We all will die. We all will come to the point of death. As each day passes, we are closer to that point. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment.”
Young and old. It is not necessarily so that we all will reach a ripe old age of 90 or 100 and then die. The psalmist writes in Psalm 90:10, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years,” but even that is a general statement. We may reach 70, or 80, or older, but there is no guarantee. Or we may die young. Remember that the first grave dug in the Bible was not dug for an older mother, or father, but for a son (Genesis4:8).
More important than anything else in life
Is to be prepared for death.
The nobleman has a crisis. His son is sick. Here is a reminder that even noblemen have troubles in this life. Riches and royalty are no safeguards, no guarantees that life will be free from the world’s problems. You may be rich, you may be poor, but you live in a world that is fallen. So long as you have people in your life and family in your house, you will have problems similar to the Nobleman’s.
Verse 48 tells us, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” Not really what we’re expecting Jesus to say here. It’s actually a rebuke: “Unless you people (the pronoun is plural; Jesus is speaking both to the nobleman as well as to everyone else) see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Jesus is mildly reprimanding those who . . .
See Him as merely a miracle worker;
Fascinated with signs rather
Than the One to Whom
The signs pointed.
Signs are pointers to something else. Jesus performed many signs and wonders, but no sign was ever meant to be an end in and of itself. Signs were pointers to the greater thing behind the sign. The sign was meant to point to Jesus so people would love Jesus and trust in Jesus, rather than loving the miracles and wonders.
Verse 49 says, “The nobleman said to Him, Sir, come down before my child dies!’” This is a crisis faith, but at least it is faith. The nobleman does not deny that he sees Jesus as a worker of miracles. He doesn’t argue the point. He simply restates his plea: “Come down before my child dies.”
There is humility here. He does not say something like, “But of course I am a nobleman,” or, “I come as the king’s official,” or, “I deserve this!”
When we come to Christ,
We come clinging to Him only,
Bringing no merit of our own.
Rich or poor, educated or not,
We come empty-handed
When we come to Christ.
2) Confident Faith.
Verses 50 says, “Jesus said to him, .Go your way; your son lives.’ So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” He “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.” Like a man stepping out onto the frozen pond, the nobleman begins walking, trusting, depending, believing the word that Jesus spoke to him. “He went his way.” This is confident faith. By going his way . . .
The man now demonstrates
That he is not at all like
Those who needed to
See signs and wonders
First before believing.
He doesn’t need
To see the fireworks
Of miracles and wonders.
He doesn’t need to see the sign,
He believes the One
To whom the sign points,
He believes in Jesus,
Believing the word
That Jesus spoke to him.
Everyone has faith in something or someone. A skeptic may say your Christianity is just a crutch for you, something you’re leaning on the way a man with a broken leg leans upon a crutch. And there is truth in that statement. We are broken and we are leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus. We do well to ask our skeptic friend, “What are you leaning on?” Are you leaning on a god of your own imagination? Leaning on your own fallen reasoning? Leaning on something else?” We’re all leaning upon something or someone.
The Bible tells us “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” We need to do the same; we need to take Jesus at His word and go our way.
3) Confirmed Faith.
Verse 51 states, “And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” Imagine the excitement of these servants! They cannot wait for the nobleman to arrive home in Capernaum. They get on the road to meet him and give him the news, “Your son lives.” Now watch this as the nobleman’s faith, his confident faith in the word of Jesus, is confirmed. Look at verses 52-53, “Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives.’ And he himself believed, and his whole household.” The man asked the servants when his son began getting better and they answered, “Yesterday at the seventh hour.” By Jewish reckoning of time, the seventh hour is 1;00 P.M. (the Jewish day began at 6AM, so counting to the seventh hour would make it 1:00 P.M.). So the man thinks to himself, “Yesterday at the seventh hour – 1:00 P.M. – yeah, that’s precisely the time I was standing there talking to Jesus and He said to me, “Go your way; your Son lives.” Seventh hour. Right on the dot!
I am struck also by the growing calm of this man after his encounter with Christ. At first, he is running desperately to Jesus. Now, he is walking calmly home. Look at the map in the back of your Bible or search Google Maps and you will see the distance from Cana to Capernaum is just 16 miles. If the man were consumed with worry for his son, he would have rushed home at the very hour he left Jesus and probably would have arrived home late that evening, but that’s not what we read.
We read that when the servants meet up with the nobleman they tell him that his son began to get well “yesterday at the seventh hour.” Yesterday. Either the nobleman is a very slow walker or, more likely, the nobleman spent the night somewhere. He checked into the local Bed & Breakfast and went soundly to sleep, believing the word that Jesus spoke to him.
Confident, confirmed faith turns one from crisis to calm. The hymn-writer knew as much:
Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
There’s mercy with the Lord;
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His Word.
4) Contagious Faith.
Verse 53 says, “… And he himself believed, and his whole household.”
When a dad encounters Christ
And believes in Jesus,
It changes the whole family.
As the spiritual leader of his home, this nobleman believed Jesus and God graced the entire family with saving faith in Christ!
The Christian faith is a contagious faith.
If our faith is real,
Others become interested
In what we have.
If our faith is genuine,
It has an impact upon others.
It doesn’t always mean that everyone else will get saved and follow Christ as we have, but if our faith is authentic, there is a quality about it that inspires faith in others.
Think about this: What if the nobleman’s son had not gotten sick? Where would the nobleman be? Wouldn’t he just be going about his business as a nobleman, working in the king’s court, a lost man? A wealthy man, a royal man, but a lost man?
Charles Spurgeon says, “Had he been without trial, he might have lived forgetful of his God and Savior; but sorrow came to his house, and it was God’s angel in disguise.”
Sorrows are often a grace of God.
God often uses trials
To drive us to Himself.
C.S. Lewis said God speaks to us in our health but, “shouts to us in our pain.” It was a crisis in this man’s life (the sickness of his son) that led him to a direct encounter with Christ, and his encounter with Christ changed everything.
But what if Jesus had not healed the nobleman’s son? What if the boy died? To be sure, the nobleman would have grieved as much as you or I would grieve. Perhaps some of you have experienced similar grief. Death brings pain to loved ones and friends. And especially when it seems sudden and soon, it shakes us, hurts us, and unsettles us.
But even then . . .
We must do as the nobleman did:
We must go to Jesus.
We must take our crisis
To the One who always does right.
We must take our crisis
To the Good Shepherd
Who has information we don’t have;
The One who is fulfilling
A perfect plan for our good,
For the good of others,
And for the glory of God.
We must go to the One
Who turns crisis into calm.
Finding ourselves in a crisis from time to time is the byproduct of living in a fallen, sinful world.
We’re all in a storm,
Or we’ve just come
Through a storm,
We’re getting ready to
Head back into a storm.
That’s just the way it is.
But the Christian can take his concerns to Jesus and leave them with Him. And when we do that rightly, we have calm. The nobleman took Jesus at His word. He believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. He did not fret about anxiously. He simply trusted.
It is not always God’s will to heal the sickness. The nobleman’s son got well, but eventually he got sick again and died. Someone has said, “True faith is accepting whatever God gives us.” I agree. But we must believe in the character and integrity of God, that He is the God who always does right, every time without exception.
Our job is to take our concerns to Him in prayer and when we do that rightly, no matter how He answers our prayers, He will grant us peace. It is the promise of Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”