A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Faithful, but of what faith are you full?

Dear brothers and sisters, a short time ago I was considering the summation given to all Christians in regards to the extent we prospered the work of the Lord during our lives upon this Earth: the synopsis of “Well done My good and faithful servant.” It seems such a simple and short sentence to describe an entire lifetime of Christian effort. And this sentence is completely devoid of any gratifying expressions of speech. Where are the words such as great, superior, magnificent, awesome, marvelous, spectacular and incredible? But then I walked past a mirror and it quickly became clear that these words are best saved for the One who is deserving of such accolades. It takes a significant stretch of my imagination to consider myself “good”, and being faithful is such tiring work? So as I meditated on these words my thoughts revolved around loyalty, steadfastness, dependability, constancy, devotion, commitment and fidelity. Are these attributes not the very essence of the meaning of the word faithful in this verse?

But then a thought came on me, “What of the word faithful itself?” I thought of my good friend and mentor Roland Moore as he packs his five kids into the family van on a Sunday afternoon. One might say that that he has a car-full of family, as his van is most definitely packed. And when I go to his house for Sunday lunch he always serves me more than my share, a complete plate-full, and my tea, always a cup-full. I guess one could say that when something is filled to capacity it is full. Simple enough! So how wonder-full would it be if we were all faith-full? Oh how I pray we would all be utterly filled to capacity with faith.

So I set about to think of which type of faith I would pray for us all to be filled with. With all the types of faith available, the choice is very difficult. Certainly spurious faith is not a good choice, likewise for limited faith or conditional faith. But what was the best type of faith? I needed to know. So I turned to the Bible to search for examples of faith and ran across John 4:46-54 which says:

So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” 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. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” 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. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

When I read this text at least four types of faith jumped out at me, some are easily evident and some are less so and take a little geographical and time study to recognize. So let us delve deeply into the text and see what the Lord may reveal.

First we take note of the Nobleman’s condition. Everyone in his household is mourning and lamenting over his son who is very sick, all remedies at his disposal are obviously failing, and hope is fading as death and desperation fill the air. Possibly his wife, children and servants are all wailing in grief, being sinners without hope. He thinks frantically for any possible solution as his son slips ever closer to the grave. Perhaps someone in town has the answer? But a father does not leave the house of his dieing son. Then he remembers the story about the Galilean who performed signs and wonders, even changing water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, a mere 20 miles away. The boy’s father was in crisis and felt that he had little choice but to fetch this “Jesus” who performed signs and wonders. Perhaps He could save his son’s life. He inquires to find that this Jesus is indeed back in Galilee and upon hearing the news he immediately “went” to meet Him. Being a nobleman has its advantages, and in this hour of great need it is doubtful that a nobleman would walk or even run the required distance. A horse or donkey could easily make the trip in less than 2 hours. Perhaps before noon the nobleman had completed his journey and found Jesus.

But before we go further we must also take into account that this father had a much larger problem than the pending death of his son, because at this moment the nobleman’s entire household was spiritually dead. They were all sinners seemingly destined for Hell. The Nobleman did not believe in God, yet here he stood before God in the flesh who he hoped could save his son. This is a form a faith I shall call crisis faith. It’s a belief shared by sinner and saint alike. It is a faith in something higher and mightier than ourselves yet is not always grounded in faith in Jesus Christ, to the ultimate detriment of those who do not possess the good soil needed to prosper godly seed.

Which one of us does not remember the crisis faith this country experienced after the terrorist attack against our great nation on 9/11? We rallied together in one unified cry, we purchased Chinese made flags by the millions, churches were flooded with converts and bumper stickers across the land announced our newfound sentiment, “One nation under God”. But today the bumper stickers have peeled and faded, the flags rot in our dumps, or wave worn and tattered as a testament to our lack of honor toward our American symbol of independence. And what is to be said of the millions of new Christians that this national tragedy spawned? They quickly became visitors, then pretenders, and now they are as they were before, content to watch Billy Graham on the telly and wish the world was a better place. The seed sprouted, withered and died for the lack of good soil in which to grow. I wonder how many Americans actually remember the year we were attacked. But yet this crisis was not without its purpose as God used it to call and save the remnant elect.

And so we find our unsaved nobleman before Jesus, imploring Him to come to his home to heal his son, as if Jesus could not do the work of His Father from wherever He happened to be. Jesus was aware of the nobleman’s spiritual condition and his lack of saving faith, as well as the faith of the gathered crowd, and said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Perhaps changed but undeterred the father again asked Jesus to come to Capernaum and heal his son. Jesus had bigger plans than the simple healing of a sick boy and set about to save not only the child, but his father and family as well, so Jesus said exactly what the boy’s father wanted to hear “Go your way; your son lives.” It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

Now this is when things get interesting. The text says that the nobleman believed the word that Jesus had spoke to him. He had believed the word of God and had a newfound type of faith, a confident faith. With certainty he believed his son would be healed. How do we know this? Not only because the text indicates as much, but also because the actions of the father prove it to be the case.

The text says that the nobleman “went” to meet Jesus and later, after he believed the words that Jesus spoke, he “went” his way. But friends, these are entirely two different “wents.” On the way to meet Jesus this father most certainly, “urgently went”; after all, his son lay dying at home in Capernaum. But when the nobleman went his way, after he believed the word of Jesus, he most certainly did not go home with the same sense of urgency. In fact he did not go home at all. Without any means to verify his son’s condition, the father chose not to urgently proceed home, but rather he lingered throughout the rest of the day. The father’s newfound faith, a confident faith, allowed him to progress homeward at his leisure and without the anxiety he experienced on the way to Galilee.

Remember, Jesus preformed His miracle at 1 o’clock and Galilee is only 20 miles from the father’s house. The nobleman could have easily have been home for evening dinner. Yet he spent the night away from his home, his wife, his family and his, as yet unconfirmed, healthy boy. Why the father did not immediately go home, the text does not say. But surely the father’s newfound confident faith is a necessary reason for such behavior.

Nevertheless, the next day, as the father moseys home with no sense of urgency, he meets up with his own servants, sent by his family, who as yet do not know that the father was successful in meeting with the Miracle Worker. The servants tell the father that his boy was healed “yesterday.” But then, if the father had had any doubt, he would have “went” home yesterday instead of today. This new word brought by the servants concerning what the father already believed would happen, changed the father’s confident faith to a new type of faith. The father although still not home, having not yet seen his son, had received his sign and he believed with a new confirming faith.

When the nobleman finally made it home to find his son both alive and healthy, the family most certainly shared its experience of the son’s sickness miraculously leaving his body, and their desire to “tell dad all about it.” You can almost hear the wife saying, “What took you so long? Did your donkey end up in a ditch? Junior was well yesterday afternoon, so we sent the servants to find you. Did you ever meet up with that Jesus fellow?” And you can almost hear the nobleman as he gathers his whole household around the table to tell them about “Jesus, the Savior in Whom I now believe, has done this thing and saved my son.” And he and his whole household believed because of the father’s newfound contagious faith.

Shortly after I was saved my pastor saw something in me that I did not see in myself and he invited me along on his evangelism trips. In a very short time God was saving people all around me. It seemed as though everyone I met was either being saved or reviling me in public. My few remaining unsaved friends thought it most peculiar to be around me because of the reaction of total strangers to my presence. At times strangers would come up to me, even in public places, and in fits of rage they would say the most bizarre and hateful things against my Christian faith. How these strangers even knew I was a Christian was beyond my understanding. Yet at other times I would meet a person and simply knew “she’s next”, and sure enough, two weeks later that person would be begging me to hear what the Bible had to say. So confident was I in God, so confirming was He toward me, so contagious did Jesus make my faith, that at times I even tested these thoughts by purposefully avoiding speaking at all to a prospective person, only allowing myself to live before them. I would not even mention Jesus, God or even religion. And yet every one came to ask me what I had that they did not? It was an awesome time in my life as God used an idiot like me to reap souls for Himself. Yet, over much time, I have come to see that I was a very weak believer. You see, it doesn’t take a whole lot of faith when you see God in action and the Devil’s work all around you. When the war is so evident and the signs and wonders of Jesus are everywhere, you don’t really need to rely on faith. Certainly there has to be a deeper faith than that of contagious faith.

To that end, God doesn’t let me reap much these days preferring me to toil in harder soil, and increasing my faith and reliance in Him, by not allowing me to experience the signs and wonders He once showed me so often. It takes a great deal more faith to plant seeds in soil that you may never see sprout, and to water soil that may or may not even have a seed, requires still more faith. Yet we will never know if the nobleman ever went beyond a contagious faith, because his story ends with the salvation of his family.

But there was a another man in the nobleman’s own hometown of Capernaum that possessed a much greater faith, a faith that we all should desire, a faith greater than a crisis faith, greater than a confident faith, greater than a confirming faith and even greater than a contagious faith.

This man had a faith that saw Jesus not as a rabbi, not as a miracle worker, or performer of signs and wonders, but rather he had a faith that merely sought a Word from Christ and knew that that Word was truth, and would come to pass, because this man’s faith knew Jesus as “Lord”. This man was obviously a Christian as sinners cannot be saved unless they know Jesus as Lord. And do not think that I am saying a person can receive Christ as Savior, but not as Lord, as if we humans could wax short the arm of God. Nor I am saying that we in some way make Jesus Lord. Jesus alone is Savior of the saints and is Lord over sinner and saint alike, and whether the saint believes this or not, this truth remains unaltered.

It behooves us all to understand that as we grow in our faith, as we study the word, as we avail ourselves of the means of grace and take the word seriously, we can know more and more about Christ. As we know more about Him intellectually and experientially, we will know him with a fullness of faith that perhaps others do not. We know He is sovereign. We know He is King. We know these things and never doubt them. We have cognizant faith: a faith that is increasingly aware of the power of God in our lives, regardless of what we see, based upon a knowledge of God that many believers themselves reject: a knowledge of His absolute sovereignty. When you see God as Lord with all authority and power, over you and all things, you do not need your faith to be confirmed with signs and wonders. You simply trust that He will do what His word says He will do. This is why Abraham’s faith grew stronger while he was yet childless. This is why Samson killed more Philistines in his death than during his life and this is why the centurion’s servant lived to see another day. These men believed in God with a Cognizant faith, fully aware of who God truly is.

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a certain servant of a centurion, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” And they pleaded with Him saying, “The centurion’s servant is lying at home paralyzed and dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to them, “I will come and heal him.” Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to those who were sent, “Go your way; and as he has believed, so let it be done for him.” And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick. (Assemblage of Luke 7:1-9 & Matthew 8:5-13)

I pray that the Christians of this church body would be filled with this cognizant faith, being every moment, fully aware of who Jesus is, for He is Lord, Savior, Messiah and King. And from this day forth live every moment of the short life you have left becoming wise as defined by Proverbs 11:30 when it says “He that winneth souls is wise.” For if we are truly cognizant of who Christ is, we will be confident in our faith and our faith will not fail to be contagious.

But if you do not know Jesus as all four, and render under Him as much, then you likely don’t know Him at all and I beg you to see that Jesus is not far off, like the nobleman, you can be with Him while today is yet today, and remain with Him forever if you will repent and believe that He is Lord, Savior, Messiah and King, Amen.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina