God loves to help us to grow in our faith. Often God will use hardship and difficulty to help us to trust Him. (Rom 5:3-5) But, sometimes He uses “No” in answer to a prayer, because He wants to teach us just to trust him and learn to live by faith rather than by sight.
As we work with these new families, something that we want them to learn is how to stop thinking like a “westerner” and start thinking like a PNGian. But, in order to do that, they have to “say no” to some of the things that are comfortable for them, like living according to tasks and schedules.
This weekend, we took the men on a “transportation scavenger hunt.” They were responsible to figure out how to use the public transport system to get from where we live out to an island close to town and back again. Part of that experience was also to get used to living divorced from dependence on a clock. The adventure took us all day, with lots of waiting around, wandering around trying to find someone who would understand where they were trying to go, and a lot of walking. It was a great experience.. and hopefully they learned to see things a little better through a PNGian lens instead of a western lens.
This is what God wants to do in our spiritual life as well. He wants to help us see life through the lens of faith, rather than the lens of sight.
The Passage: John 4:43-54
- Why do you think John makes a point (v45) to mention that these Galileans welcomed him, having seen all he had done at the feast in Jerusalem?
- The “you” in verse 48 is plural, which means it is not referring just to the royal official. Who do you think Jesus was addressing?
- Why do you think the official insisted so strongly that Jesus come with him to heal his son? (v49)
- How did the official respond to what Jesus told him? (v50-52) When did he return home? (v52)
- What do we learn about Jesus objective for his interaction with this man? (v52-53)
Jesus has just returned from a teaching campaign in the Judean country side. He spent a few days in Samaria, after confronting the woman at the well. He is now back in Cana, where he turned water into wine not too long ago.
In Capernaum, about 25 miles away, there was a royal official who’s son lay dying in his bed. Ken Gire notes that, “The word translated “royal official” literally means king’s man. He is one of Herod’s most trusted officials. He resides in the town of Capernaum, probably in a well-manicured villa on a chalky cliff overlooking the scalloped blue sparkle of the Galilean Sea. His is a soft-cushioned life with servants padding around the estate to attend to his every need.He has wealth and rank and privilege. But none of these can help him now. Not even Herod, with all his imperial jurisdiction, can help. A high temperature has reduced his little boy of boundless energy to a limp rag doll, melting feverishly away into the bed sheets.”
The journey from Capernaum to Cana is 20-25 miles. It’s all uphill. Capernaum sits about about 600 feet elevation, and Cana is about 1500 feet. The fact that the official made the journey himself, shows he had faith that Jesus could heal the boy. But, what was his faith based on?
He went to Jesus and asked Jesus to come down to Capernaum with him to heal his son. But, after the conversation with Jesus, “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke and went on his way.” His faith was now so strong, he didn’t rush off to Capernaum to make sure of what Jesus said. He rested in his new found faith, spent the night, then returned to Capernaum the next day. (John 4:52) The next day, one of his servants met him with the news of his son’s recovery. Upon inquiring of the hour in which he was healed, he discovered it was the very hour in which Jesus had spoken the words!
The royal official certainly had faith that Jesus could heal his boy. But, it appears that his faith was based on sight. He believed that if Jesus would just come with him, stand beside his son, and take him by the hand, then the boy would be healed. But, Jesus desired greater faith. Jesus desired faith that was based simply on the Word of God, without seeing the result of it.
Because Jesus had turned water into wine in that very town, many were there who would have known what Jesus had done. Many were there who longed to see Jesus perform another public sign. But, Jesus wasn’t about making a name for himself nor displaying his power for his own glory. Jesus’ desire was to stretch this man’s faith! So, Jesus addresses the crowd and confronts them with the vary thing he is wanting to help this man to grow in. “Unless you SEE signs and wonders, you will not believe.” (John 4:48)
In response to Jesus, the royal official simply says, “Sir, I just want my son to live! If you will just come with me, that’s all I am asking.” Jesus responds with a command. “Go; your son will live.” (John 4:50) The word go is imperative. The man has been commanded by the Savior of the world with a promise of life for his son. Jesus demanded that his faith be desperate enough to trust his word, not just his visible works.
God isn’t content with “weak” faith. He longs for us to believe what we can’t see, to be confident of what we do not see (Heb 11:1). He will lead us toward that kind of faith, even if it means denying a request or prayer. God will lead us to a different way of thinking. Just like what we are working to do in orientation, moving our new missionaries away from a “western” way of thinking to a “PNGian” way of thinking, God wants to move us from living by sight to living by faith. (2 Cor 5:7)
That’s my prayer for you today, that you will embrace the opportunities God gives you to walk by faith, and that God will continue to remove the things (things of sight) that prevent you from walking by faith.