The Significance of a Life of Faith

The Significance of a Life of Faith
John 4:43-54

Video Clip Introduction – A Leap of Faith – Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail.
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THAT is not necessarily faith. People use that phrase a lot, like, just take a leap of faith. We may even use the words, stepping out in faith, but more often than not, we can substitute the word HOPE or WISH, that something will happen.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether we are stepping out in faith or following some foolish impulse on our part.

First, I want to take a look at four things about true faith before we get into this passage:

Faith is COMMON – that means faith is universal. Everyone has faith. Atheists have faith, Buddhists have faith, Christians – everyone. You have never met anyone who was not a person of faith. However, what we have faith IN, well that’s the important difference.

Second, faith is CONVERSION. To have true faith in Jesus we have to switch our allegiances from old dependencies of this world and ourselves to Jesus. That is all about transformation. Those who have faith are transformed by the power of God. When you have faith, your Savior becomes Jesus rather than the false gods we embrace. Bud’s class on God’s at War is discussing all the false gods that we embrace and worship which prevents us from worshipping the true and living God.

Third, faith is CONTEMPLATIVE. This may seem to be a bit monk-ish, but here me out. Faith is a response to seeing and knowing Jesus. When we contemplate Christ, really dwell on him, mediate on him, we come to trust Him. Jesus said, “You may go, your son will live,” which is not what the man expected to hear. So, think about this for a moment. That which God speaks, happens. If you want greater faith, then contemplate Jesus.

Finally, faith is CONTINUAL. When we move out in faith, we find confirmation for our faith as we go through life. This is a continual and never-ending process of trusting Jesus, stepping out on the basis of that faith, finding confirmation, gaining more faith, and stepping out again. We begin to trust in the object of our faith, whom we know is totally trustworthy. This is the spiritual life and walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Faith is continual.

So, what is it about this story that involves faith?

Last week was all about the woman at the well, and the story ended with the Samaritan woman testifying that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and many believed in him. John adds a great statement, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42).

Now we come to this episode in the life of Jesus, healing the official’s son, which is the second major “sign” of seven miracles which John used to reinforce Jesus’ true identity, with the goal of producing belief or faith in his readers (John 4:54).

In this story, Jesus scolded the official’s unbelief in needing a miraculous sign to trust in Christ (John 4:48). While some believe that this story is the same as the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5–13; Luke 7:2–10), There are sufficient differences to determine that this story is different from the synoptic gospels’ account.

  1. There is no evidence that the official was a Gentile.
  2. It is the official’s son, not his servant, who was healed.
  3. Jesus was far more negative regarding the official’s faith (John 4:48 – Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe) than the centurion’s (Matthew 8:10 – Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel).

So, let’s walk through this story and discover some spiritual truth about the significance of a life of faith. This was the second miracle John records in his book, (there are seven signs in his gospel).

  1. The PLACES (John 4:43-46a) – Jesus considers several things here at the beginning of the passage: The text tells us that after two eventful days in Samaria (the women at the well and the teaching about evangelism to the disciples), Jesus continues toward Galilee. First came this seemingly odd statement…
    1. That a prophet has no honor in his own hometown – It seems odd that Jesus quotes this old proverb here (John 4:44, also in Matthew 13:57). The scolding appears to be directed toward Judea, which was also his own country. Here was the reason…
    2. That the people were NOT excited about HIM but rather for what he had done for them (John 4:45)
      1. His reception is contrasted (between Samaria and Judea); Jerusalem gave him no honor, and his messianic claim was unwelcome, so much so that he did not entrust himself to the Jews (John 2:24-25).
      2. Basically, many had believed in HIM, but he did not believe in THEM. He did not entrust himself to them. Believe / entrust are the same Greek word.
      3. While many people eventually followed, they loved the miracles rather than the Messiah. This sets up the rest of the story…
  2. The PREDICAMENT (John 4:46b) This father came to Cana concerned about his sick son in Capernaum.
    1. Positive side – the man knew that he needed Jesus.
    2. Negative side – the man put Jesus in a box, limiting how God will work in the lives of people.
  3. The PLEA (John 4:47) – he begs Jesus to heal his son (a CRISIS of faith). This is the plea of every parent for a child. We can identify with his desperation (my Stephen story as an example).
    1. But the description of the situation reveals the man’s limited faith. The text says that the man implored him to “come down” and heal his son. The man had a weak faith and believed that he needed the actual presence of Jesus for the healing to happen.
    2. Contrast this situation with that town in Samaria where they believed in Jesus because of his words (John 4:42), while here they “believe” based on his deeds/miracles. So, this helps us to understand the seemingly harsh response in John 4:48.
  4. The PROBLEM (John 4:48) – Jesus fires back, as if he laments the fact that people demand that he perform miracles before they will believe in him.
    1. Is this not the same today? Unless God opens the sky to reveal himself, I will never believe.
    2. Signs indicated that the miracles were intended to convey a larger spiritual truth. Wonders would just draw attention to the miracle itself. Authentic faith does not need to be bolstered by miracles, and the Samaritans believed without their faith being propped up by something miraculous.
    3. But Jesus knew this man’s love for his son, as well as his weak faith, and this man needed something to strengthen his faith. God finds us where we are and gently leads us toward maturity and strength.
  5. The PERSISTENCE (John 4:49) – out of desperation, the father continues to seek help from Jesus, using the words as before, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
    1. Literally, “before my little boy dies.” Desperation leads to persistence.
    2. How often are we much more deeply involved and committed to prayer when we are desperate? When we are desperate, we don’t care how this looks to other people, or how foolish we might look, we need God to intervene and answer, and the whole thing will fail unless God shows up.
    3. When was the last time that you poured out your heart to God, recognizing there was nowhere else to turn? Let’s not wait until we are desperate; let our prayer be a part of an everyday life of faith.
  6. The PROMISE (John 4:50) – Jesus says that “the boy will live” (a CONFIDENT faith). With the promise and assurance of Jesus, now the man has to make a choice; essentially, to choose his next steps carefully.
  7. The PATH (John 4:50) – Jesus says to “go your way,” meaning return to your home and to your people. Jesus is forcing this father to believe without a miraculous sign.
    1. Notice that the man said COME and Jesus said GO. We cannot tell Jesus how to do his work; is he in charge or not? The man had to lay aside his expectations and let Jesus handle the situation.
    2. This desperate father had to choose between DOUBTING the man whom he placed his trust and hope, or BELIEVE Jesus, what he said, and go back home.
    3. The man’s confidence was so secure that he did not hurry back home but took his time. The 22-mile journey from Cana to Capernaum could have been done in one day, but all was well, he had confidence that everything was okay, and traveled back the following day (John 4:52). So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
    4. When was the last time you had to make a tough decision? How do you know which path to choose? Maybe both choices are equally good and appropriate, but you still have to choose.
    5. I love Isaiah 30:20-21 – Although the Lord has given you bread of adversity and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. 21 Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
  8. The PAYOFF (John 4:51-54) the PROOF – I see two things happening here:
    1. The physical restoration of the heir (John 4:51-53a) (a CONFIRMED faith). When the father heard the report and saw his son totally healed, his weak faith had been confirmed. Sometimes just a small step of faith is all it takes for God to open our eyes and let us see the world from his perspective.
    2. The spiritual restoration of the household (John 4:53b-54) (a CONTAGIOUS faith).
      1. How often and how long have you prayed for a lost family member? Weeks? Months? Years? If you are a follower of Jesus, entrust the salvation of your family to him. You may see no way for that person’s heart to open up to the gospel of Christ; but aren’t you glad that their salvation does not depend upon you? God loves your friend or family member way more than you ever could. Trust, believe, have faith, and leave the results up to HIM.
      2. YOUR life of faith will speak loudly to those whom the gospel has yet to be revealed or embraced.
      3. Throughout the book of Acts, people come to faith, and then the entire household gets saved (Acts 11:14, 16:15, 31, 18:8). It may not be instantly, as in these stories, but pray that God will do wonders in your family through you. Live a gospel-empowered life in front of them every day. This is the significance of a life of faith.

The movement of this father’s faith…

  1. A man having faith in Jesus’ POWER.
  2. A man having faith in Jesus’ PROMISE.
  3. A man having faith in Jesus’ PERSON.

Faith is willful, dynamic, life-long, progressive, and at times not very easy. But following Jesus by faith is totally worth it.

Where are you today, in this story?

This story starts out with sickness, anxiety, desperation, and the shadow of death, but ends up with rejoicing, confidence, hope, and wholeness.

Maybe today is when you get on the right path, let Jesus into your life, follow him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Enter into the salvation of the Lord.

Or maybe you need to join this church, choose this path, after all, Jesus brought you here, and you have remained a part of this warm fellowship, but it is time to declare your commitment to Christ and this Church.

What are some elements of authentic faith?

2 Timothy 1:12 – For I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

  1. I KNOW = there is knowledge (head knowledge versus experiential knowledge) and there is assurance (one cannot be sold out to Jesus if you are not sure of several things, like, Jesus is the only way, that he can be trusted, that God’s Word is true and authoritative.
  2. WHOM = he did not believe in a set of principles or doctrines, but a person.
  3. I HAVE BELIEVED = there is confidence (perfect tense meaning action begun and completed in the past and the effects continue even now)
  4. I am CONVINCED = there is assent or approval (we can stake our whole life on the trustworthiness of Jesus and his word)
  5. I have COMMITTED or entrusted = there is volition (willfully putting my life into his care and protection). Paul was confident of God’s control and encouraged Timothy that while he was in prison, had lost everything, he had not lost his faith. Trust God when life is hard. Have unwavering confidence and boldness. Paul entrusted (put down a deposit) that God is able to keep us saved.

Hebrews. 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

How significant is faith? Without faith it is impossible to please God.

  1. We must BELIEVE.
    1. That he exists.
    2. That he is a rewarder.
  2. We must diligently SEEK him (see Jeremiah 29:13 – you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart).

So, faith is active, we exercise it, it is not something that we passively accept or simply believe.

It is willful, dynamic, life-long, progressive, and at times not very easy. But following Jesus by faith is totally worth it.

Where are you today, in this story?

This story starts out with sickness, anxiety, desperation, and the shadow of death, but ends up with rejoicing, confidence, hope, and wholeness.

Maybe today is when you get on the right path, let Jesus into your life, follow him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Enter into the salvation of the Lord.

Or maybe you need to join this church, choose this path, after all, Jesus brought you here, and you have remained a part of this warm fellowship, but it is time to declare your commitment to Christ and this Church.

Why We Don’t Witness

For years, I have heard church leaders bemoan the reality that the majority of Christians never or rarely share their faith with unbelievers. Though declaring the good new of Jesus to others is the responsibility of every Christ-follower, few people in our churches embrace the holy assignment. Why?

In his book, Contagious, author and professor, Jonathan Berger, writes about how thinking and social influence spread, or “why things catch on.” In one chapter, he shares insights from a study that sought to discover why some online articles are shared more than other articles.

Several insights were gleaned, but the strongest discovery was that articles that drove a sense of awe into readers were 30 times more likely to make the list of “most shared articles.” Readers are much more likely to share articles that evoke a sense of awe.

Quite simply, we can’t help but spread news that we find amazing.

Though the book is on every marketing professional’s shelf, the chapter was convicting for me as a believer in Jesus Christ.

According to the research, if I am not sharing the gospel, it is because I have lost my sense of awe and appreciation for it.

The reason the majority of the people in our churches don’t share the gospel is not because they haven’t been through a course. Nor is it because they failed to participate in a training seminar.

Not sharing the gospel reveals a loss of awe about the depths to which He plunged to rescue us. Not sharing the faith with others reveals a loss of amazement that He gave us His righteousness for our sin.

If we are still in awe that the holy and eternal God of the universe would pursue us in our sinfulness, humble Himself and suffer in our place, become the curse for our sin, and absorb our punishment to give us His peace, then we can’t help but share this news. If we are convinced that the news about Jesus is truly good news, we can’t help but spread it.

When the religious leaders asked Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, to stop speaking about Jesus, they replied, “We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Their hearts were filled with awe for Jesus and His work for them; thus, there was no way they could be silent.

When Jeremiah considered not speaking for the Lord, he realized he could not hold the message inside without exploding: “If I say, ‘I won’t mention Him or speak any longer in His name,” His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Whatever we find amazing, we share. We spread what we are in awe of.

By Eric Geiger

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Dealing with Disasters in Life

Kim is visiting her mom in weather-torn Alabama. I assume that many of you watched last week the story which unfold as killer tornadoes swept across the southern states. Don’t forget about the deadly fires that consumed millions of acres and destroyed lives in Texas.

Here’s the question, one which most Christians wonder about, but are sometimes afraid to ask: “God, where are you in all these catastrophes? Couldn’t you have simply spoken a word to still the tornadoes and quench the fires?”

And then there is THE question behind all others: “If God is all-powerful and loving, then why didn’t He stop the tragedies from happening? So He must either not be all-powerful, or not loving, end of story.”

When people experience calamity and heartbreak, is that the end of their story? Consider a man named Job in the Old Testament. He endured an onslaught of disasters that would have driven most people to despair. Try to put yourself into his world as you read about the tornado of adversity that stormed through every area of his life; he lost his business, family, future, kids, (check it out in Job 1:13-16). He was having a very bad day.

Things continued to spiral downward following these events. Job lost his health, was accused by his friends of being the sinner responsible for his losses, and though he valiantly kept his faith through nearly all the ordeal, the haunting questions about God’s goodness and love consumed his thoughts:

“How I wish we had an arbitrator
to step in and let me get on with life—
To break God’s death grip on me,
to free me from this terror so I could breathe again.
Then I’d speak up and state my case boldly.
As things stand, there is no way I can do it” (Job 9:33-35).

In effect, Job is saying, “God, I’d like to meet you in court so you can stand trial for not stopping the disasters. Either you are not all-powerful or not loving, so which is it?”

Much to Job’s surprise, God answers with a hurricane force series of questions that all fit under the category of “Are YOU talking to ME, Job?” It’s not that God was being cruel or evasive, but the answer to our question lies in another question, which is, “Is God in charge or not?”

The answer is a resounding YES, God is in charge! And because I can hold on to this truth like a ship’s mast in a violent storm, I can be sure that by allowing trials in my life He is acting in the most loving way possible for my ultimate good. It is not only possible but absolutely true that our all-powerful God allows tribulations because He is forming us into Christ’s image and has to tell a story of His love for the world, and the salvation of humanity.

That’s why He boldly declares this truth:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When we are walking through the storms of life and feel like innocent victims in this broken, fallen and sometimes evil world, it is easy to only be aware of the pain and loss, but we can trust and be certain that above the dark clouds is a loving Father who will redeem all evil and reshape it into His perfect plan.

Remember also that pain and trial are instruments that God can use to reach people who are far from Him. As C. S. Lewis brilliantly stated:

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

God is all-powerful and loving. Let’s trust in His plan and share the most powerful and loving message ever proclaimed, the Good News about Jesus Christ, the One who will “wipe every tear from our eyes and make all things new!” (Revelation 21:4).

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Faith Like Potatoes

Over a year ago I watched a film called Faith Like Potatoes. Weird title but a great film, based on a true story of a farmer turned preacher in South Africa.

Angus Buchan, a Zambian farmer of Scottish heritage, leaves his farm in the midst of political unrest and racially charged land travels south with his family to start a better life in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. With nothing more than a trailer on a patch of land, and help from his foreman, Simeon, the Buchan family struggles to settle in a new country. Faced with ever mounting challenges, hardships and personal turmoil, Angus quickly spirals down into a life consumed by anger, fear and destruction. This is a story that tells the moving life journey of a man who, like his potatoes, grows his faith, unseen until the harvest.

The Bible often brings up farming, for instance…

And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor (2 Timothy 2:6).

In this section, Paul brings up a farmer as one of three illustrations of a faithful minister of the gospel. The other two (soldier and athlete) probably sound more exciting. Although it’s not Paul’s intent, the truth is that a farmer leads quite an exciting life. He works one of the most dangerous careers a person can choose. Soldiers may face greater dangers from time to time, but a farmer lives and works between sky and earth every day. I recently discovered that in our time, farming outranks any other career in producing work-related injuries and death. Farming is not for dabblers, cowards, or the lazy. And farmers can teach us a lot about faith.

In comparison with athletics and soldiering, farming helps us understand the persistent and patient parts of faith. Action and results come fairly quickly for athletes and soldiers. Not for farmers. They place a seed in the ground and return to harvest the results, but it can be a long time between those two actions. Successful farmers know how to wait. They may not enjoy waiting; but they learn to do it. Waiting doesn’t usually mean doing nothing, but the hardest part of waiting is the waiting.

Farming comes up various times in scripture (sometimes the farmer represents God or the ministry of the gospel).

  1. Jesus used many farming situations in his parables (like Matthew 13:1-23).
  2. Paul discussed the parallels between farming and the development of believers (as in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9).

In 2 Timothy 2:6 we get to see ourselves as farmers. With that privilege comes responsibility. If we’re going to “enjoy the fruit” of our labors, then we better be “hardworking.” The farmer who is not hardworking will reap what he sows–little or nothing.

A wise farmer knows what he can’t do.

  1. He can’t put life in a seed.
  2. He can’t make it rain.
  3. He can’t force the seed to grow.

There’s much that’s out of his hands. But he does his part.

  1. He plants
  2. He waters
  3. He cultivates
  4. He waits

As believers, we plant seeds (acts of obedience to God) in one another’s lives. We deposit seeds (the gospel) in the lives of those who don’t know Christ. The actual results of these actions are in God’s hands. But we often get to be the first to enjoy those results because we’re there. If we recognize the way that we are farmers, we remember we’re in the field every day. Every moment becomes a new opportunity to persistently plant seeds and then patiently wait to see what God will do.

Application:

  1. Have you seen the film? It is well worth renting for your family movie night, and then discuss lessons seen in the film.
  2. How is your faith growing? Abundantly? Wonderful harvest? Bearing much fruit? Or is there a drought? Weeds springing up?
  3. What changes will you make to help cultivate your faith?
  4. How are you getting to know God better?
  5. What fruit do you see beginning to bud? Which fruit are ripe for harvest?
  6. What hired help do you need to farm better? To whom can you become accountable for your Christian growth and maturity?
  7. Can the Men of Steel help you to become a more productive farmer? (Next time we get together is April 30 at 7:30 am).

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Natalie Grant Sings Held

This Natalie Grant song has powerful lyrics; most of us can identify with the emotion of praying for healing or rescue and it did not come as we expected. God promises to go through the hurt with us. Many of the faithful in the Old Testament died before realizing the promise, but remained faithful until the end (Hebrews 11).