O You Of Little Faith
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied
by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and
many who heard him were amazed.
"Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's
this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the
carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and
Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his
relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." He could not do any
miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he
was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:1-6)
Of all the miraculous works of God, it seems like healing is
the most impressive to us. We pray
for a favorable outcome to some crisis real or imagined, and when we get it we
think it might have been just a coincidence.
The weather changes for the better before an important event, money
arrives in the mail just in time, an adversary is suddenly accomodating, a
parking place opens up where there was none, someone else is heavily favored for
the promotion but it goes to us. All
these leave room for “good fortune” or personal credit.
But when a sick person is suddenly well, it could only be God.
Perhaps it's because in many (dare I say most?) parts of the
Church supernatural healings are so rare. Most of what we know about them is
polluted by the quacks on cable TV to the point where many people dismiss the
idea out of hand. On the rare
occasion when we become cnvinced of a legitimate healing we stand in awe of the
faith it must have required.
But it wasn't always that way.
Back in the Lord's day people were apparently used to that sort of thing.
What got their attention was when the blind were given sight, twisted
crippled limbs were made straight and fully functional, or the dead were raised
to life. The Mark 6 passage
above is a case in point. Because
the people of the Lord's home town had known Him from childhood, their faith in
His supernatural power was weak, so weak in fact that “all” He could do was heal
a few sick people. No “real”
miracles for the people of Nazareth!
All through His minstry, wherever He went people wihout number
were healed. They followed Him on
foot for days, sometimes winding up 50-60 miles from home without food or
shelter. On two occasions that we
know of He fed them Himself because there wasn't anything for them to eat.
Another miracle! When people
heard He was coming to their town they brought their sick into the square where
they waited, expecting to be healed.
When He sent the disciples out the same things happened through them.
By the thousands people were healed.
They believed it, they expected it, they experienced it.
Supernatural healing was such an everyday experience that when He
couldn't do it, their lack of faith amazed Him.
Look at these examples.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their
synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease
and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people
brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe
pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he
healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the
region across the Jordan followed him.
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And
when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the
surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let
the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
And it wasn't just Jesus.
He gave this healing power to His disciples, too, to show us that He
could work these miracles through men of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority
over evil spirits. They went out and preached that people should repent. They
drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
(Mark 6:6-7, 12-13)
As a result, people brought the sick into the streets
and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on
some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around
Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of
them were healed. (Acts 5:15-16)
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that
even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and
their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:11-12)
Things sure are different today.
Now when our prayers aren't answered, we either make an excuse for God
(it wasn't His will or it wasn't His timing) or we blame Him (He doesn't heal
people any more). Why don't we ever place the responsibility with us? Hebrews
13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever and yet
our experiences are different from those of the first believers.
If He's the same then we, the believers, must be different.
No where in the Gospels, when asked to heal someone, did
Jesus say, “It's not God's timing.” The one time a man asked him if He was
willing, Jesus replied, “I am willing.” (Matt. 8:2-3)
The one time a man asked If He was able, Jesus replied, “If you believe,
I am able.” (Mark 9:23) The one time a man's friends tried to convince
him it was too late, because his daughter had died, Jesus said, “Don't be
afraid, just believe and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:50).
In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was
lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking.
Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out,
"Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. (Acts
And as for the opinion that healing (and other Spiritual
Gifts) were only for the 1st Century Church to help stimulate
membership, there isn't a single verse in the New Testament to support such a
claim. The fact that there are
documented cases of supernatural healing today puts that argument to naught.
I've told the story before about a woman with epilepsy who
came to our church one Sunday morning.
In the middle of the message she keeled over with a seizure right in
front of everyone. I called some
people up to help me pray over her and she was healed then and there.
After her doctor confirmed it she threw away her medicine and has never
had another seizure. Afterwards she
told me she had seen everything in a dream before it happened and although she
hadn't attended our church before, she believed that if she came she would he
healed. She had the faith to walk into that strange congregation knowing that
she might make a complete fool of herself, but believing that God would heal
her. He did.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and
be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34)
When you net out the duplicate accounts, some variation of
that phrase appears seven times in the Gospels.
Seven times, He credited the person's faith for their healing. Seven is
the number of divine completion. He
knows that His power to heal is constant.
The variable is our faith.
This has led me to conclude that a miraculous event is simply the
intersection of God's constant power with the faith of a believer.
Life was so much more tenuous in Biblical times than in ours that we
can't begin to imagine the difference.
Nor can we understand how much closer to God they were.
Their faith was real, the most critical component of their life.
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is
heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Those who could, read the Bible.
Those who couldn't, listened to those who could.
Their lives centered around the study of His word.
There wasn't any entertainment industry so they told the stories of
Biblical heroes to their children.
They discussed theology with each other.
Every male from the age of 12 knew the Torah by heart. All this was done
in obedience to God's word.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your strength. These
commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and
when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut.
There were no drug companies and no hospitals. Their
doctors were the priests. God
promised them that if they obeyed His commandments He would see to it that they
wouldn't get the diseases of the Egyptians. (Exodus 15:26)
God was their healer, and when they were obedient, they enjoyed healthy
secure lives equal to or longer than ours, and every bit as satisfying.
It was preventive medicine in its purest form.
All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if
you obey the LORD your God:
You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and
the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your
flocks. Your basket and your
kneading trough will be blessed. You
will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be
defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you
in seven. The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put
your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
A Tale Of Two Stories
The story of the Old Testament is one of obedience.
In fact you can summarize the entire Old Testament in one question from
God. “Israel, are you going to obey
me or not?” By obeying His
commandments they lived worry free lives, ate healthy food, lived long and
prosperous lives. When they got off
the track, their lives fell apart. Time after time they repeated the cycle of
obedience and blessing followed by disobedience and cursing. And then, to their
great shame, their final answer to God was, “No.”
Some Christians, having studied the history of Israel, try to
recreate their society of blessing by obeying the commandments.
They don't understand that the story of the New Testament is one of
faith. It can be summarized by a
single question too, but now God is asking us, “Church, are you going to believe
me or not?
Last time, I spoke of the Lord's promise to meet all of our
needs if we'll just seek His Kingdom and His righteousness.
These are both imputed to us by faith.
We're not to worry about our lives here because the Lord has sworn to
provide for us. Our job is to trust
Him. Even in times of trial we're to walk by faith, not by sight.
Paul admonished us not to focus on the things that can be seen because
they're temporary. We're to fix our eyes on the things that can't be seen
because they're eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18) God will take care of the rest.
Here are some examples.
Are you feeling down trodden or discouraged? Overcome by
the worries of life?
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again:
Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be
anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with
thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which
transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Jesus. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in
Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7, 19) Rejoice in faith.
Do you carry a burden of guilt because of your sins?
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will
forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9) Confess in faith.
Do you have money problems?
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure,
pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38)
Give in faith.
Or health problems?
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the
church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the
prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him
up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each
other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a
righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:14-16) Pray in
But for the most part we ignore these admonitions.
As a result we live lives filled with stress and worry because we spend
more than we earn. Our food and drink poison us so we pay outrageous health care
costs. Our medical profession
practices corrective medicine because doctors only prosper when their patients
are sick. Our hospitals are a
leading cause of death, second only to the heart problems caused by our
lifestyle and diet. Most of us are
only 2 major illnesses away from financial ruin, and after untold trillions of
dollars spent on research and 3000 years of experimentation, our lives are
neither longer nor more satisfying than the Jews of David and Solomon's day.
Israel was required to obey God's commandments to receive His
promise of health and prosperity.
The Church is called to believe His promises.
At this point in time it looks like we're not doing any better at our job
than they did at theirs. Unless we
correct that there's no way we can prepare for the days ahead.
As the apostles said to the Lord, our prayer should be "Increase our
faith!" Selah 09-27-08.