Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 3

“Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.’ ” John 11:9

We are learning from the seventh miraculous sign of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John (John 11:1-44) why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. So far we have learned the Lord does this to display more of His glory (John 11:1-4) and to declare His love toward us (John 11:5-6). Today we learn the Lord also delays His answers to our prayers to DEEPEN OUR SENSITIVITY TO HIS WILL (John 11:7-10).

John tells us, after waiting two days, Jesus wanted to return to Bethany of Judea where His life would be in danger. “The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?’ ” (John 11:8). The disciples are saying, “Are you serious, Lord?! You were just there and they attempted to kill you! It would be suicide to go back there now!”

While we can understand their concern for the Lord, the disciples apparently had not noticed that a lot of people were having difficulty seizing Jesus (cf. John 7:30-32, 44-46; 8:20; 10:39). The Son of God – not the angry religious leaders—was in control over His ministry timetable. In all honesty, the disciples were not as concerned about Jesus’ safety as they were their own.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We are no different than the disciples when the Lord’s way is not our way. Especially when He asks us to do something risky. We try to rationalize and avoid what He is asking us to do. How many of us have had God ask us to do something risky and immediately we complain or try to convince ourselves that we cannot do it? “It is not logical or realistic!” we tell ourselves. But God asks us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

9 Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9-10). Jesus told His disciples that “the day” – the time of His public ministry on earth – was the opportunity for action. While Jesus, “the light of this world,” was with them, they could walk and “not stumble” (John 11:9). Later, they would have the light of the Holy Spirit’s presence (John 14:16-18, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15). But to function apart from Jesus is like walking around at night (John 11:10). Operating without His guidance and illumination will cause us to trip and fall on our face.

If you walk during the day while the sun is shining you won’t stumble because you can see the obstacles and avoid running into them. If you walk at night, you are more likely to stumble because you cannot see the obstacles. If you walk in the light of God’s will, you will not stumble. But if you walk in the darkness against God’s will, you will trip yourself up.

Jesus was saying He could safely return to Judea if He was walking in the light of His Father’s will. No harm would come to Him until the Father’s appointed hour. And if His disciples go with Him, who is the Light, they will not be in any danger either.

The Lord may delay His answers to our prayers to teach us to be more sensitive to His will. Jesus was teaching His fearful disciples a lesson about walking in the light of God’s will. When they follow Jesus, Who is the Light, they will be safe in the Father’s will and love. But to turn away from the Father’s will and love, invites all kinds of trouble. Likewise, when we walk in darkness and do things our way instead of God’s way, we get into all kinds of problems. But if we walk in the light of God’s Word and love, we will grow closer to Him and He will reveal His glory to us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for allowing situations to get worse after I pray about them to nudge me closer to You and Your love. When I feel out of control, I often try to be in control to give myself a sense of feeling safe. I seek to do things my way as if that gives me a greater sense of control. Yet this often leads to isolation and more pain. Lord, I want to learn to yield to Your control when I feel out of control because it is then that I am most safe. Thank You for helping me to recognize this so I can turn this area of my life over to You. Walking in the light of Your love dispels the darkness that can so easily overwhelm me when I feel out of control. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

Why is there pain and suffering? Part 3

“When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” John 9:6

A third reason why God allows pain and suffering is TO DISCLOSE HIS PITY OR COMPASSION  (John 9:6-12). After Jesus reaffirmed His identity as the Light of the world (John 9:5), we read, “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.“ (John 9:6). As He did with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:6b, 8), Jesus stooped down to the dirt. But instead of writing in it, “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva.” Why did Jesus heal the blind man in this way? Why didn’t He just say the word like He did with the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:8-9) or with Lazarus at his grave (John 11:43-44)?

Saliva was a well-known Jewish remedy for eye trouble. Clay was the same substance from which man was created (Genesis 2:7). “Thus the word of God (i.e., spit from Jesus’s mouth) mixed with humanity (i.e., dirt from which man was created) provided the basis for the miracle. By using His saliva, Jesus was imparting divine DNA to the human defect in order to bring about a supernatural transformation of his humanity. This was to serve as a physical illustration of the supernatural spiritual transformation Jesus came to bring (see Isa 35:4-5).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, p. 1782).

This was a creation miracle since this man’s blindness was congenital. Jesus used the clay as a tool to develop the blind man’s faith. The touch of a friendly hand would be reassuring to this man who had known darkness all his life. While the disciples showed insensitivity toward the blind man when they asked Jesus within earshot “Who sinned?” Jesus showed great compassion or pity toward this blind man by providing a gentle and soothing touch.

When Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath with clay He had made, He broke two man-made laws of the Jewish people. Making clay and healing were both forbidden by the Pharisees on the Sabbath. This would cause more tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders.

“And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7). After anointing the blind man’s eyes, Jesus instructs him to go wash at the pool of Siloam. The man’s healing required an act of faith on his part. “The pool of Siloam” was originally built by King Hezekiah to provide a reservoir for water flowing through the Siloam tunnel from the Gihon Spring (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2-4). Rabbinic teaching associated this free-flowing fountain with God’s fountain during the Messianic kingdom. John informs his readers that the word “Siloam” is translated “sent.” The blind man was “sent” by the One “sent” by the Father.

Jesus did not promise he would be healed. He just told him to go wash. Christ did not give a speech about accepting your lot in life or taking the medicine that God has given you. Jesus was especially sensitive to the groans of suffering people. He cared more about His relationships with hurting people than He did about the rules and regulations of the religious establishment. The Bible says, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18). The prophet Isaiah reminds us concerning the Messiah, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3). The Messiah would not deal harshly with those who are already hurting nor would He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He uses His supernatural power to heal, not to punish. Jesus spent much of His ministry fighting disease and despair, not asking “Why?” or condemning with “Who sinned?”

When you hear about another’s misfortune, how do you react? Like the disciples – questioning and condemning? Or like Jesus with compassion to treat the problem?

John tells us that the blind man “went and washed and came back seeing.” His obedience to Christ’s command to wash in the “Sent” Pool enabled him to experience supernatural healing and gain his sight physically. This is a beautiful picture of salvation. When a spiritually blind person obeys the command to believe in the Son of God (I John 3:23), he or she is WASHED by the One “sent” by God, the Holy Spirit, who washes us clean with the waters of regeneration so we can SEE spiritually (John 7:37-39; Titus 3:5).

There is also an important lesson here for Christians. The blind man’s obedience to Christ enabled him to experience the blessing of physical sight. Likewise, OBEDIENCE to Christ is necessary for believers to see Jesus more FULLY. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” The pursuit of holiness is the prerequisite for seeing the Lord. Without holiness, no one can see God now or in the future.

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity of heart is necessary to see or perceive God. If a Christian is not pursuing holiness, there is a sense in which he or she cannot see God (I John 3:6). But when a believer’s eyes are enlightened, he can see many different facets of God (cf. Ephesians 1:17-21; 3:17-19; Colossians 3:9-11). Since all Christians will be without sin when they stand in God’s presence (I John 3:2), they should pursue holiness here and now. As we already learned in John 2:23-25 (cf. John 14:21; 15:14), Jesus will reveal Himself in a more intimate way to believers who obey Him.

This miracle raised the question about the man’s identity. 8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, ‘Is not this he who sat and begged?’ 9 Some said, ‘This is he.’ Others said, ‘He is like him.’” (John 9:8-9a). But the former blind man said something that Jesus often said, “He said, ‘I am he.’ ” (John 9:9b). This healing of the blind man was another proof that Jesus was the Messiah-God. Those who knew this blind man best, his “neighbors,” were amazed at the remarkable change they saw in him. To see this man, whom they knew so well, walk with normal sight was so incredible they thought it must be a case of mistaken identity.

“Therefore they said to him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ ” (John 9:10). To deny the miracle, certain ones raised the question of how this miracle took place. “He answered and said, ‘A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.’ ” (John 9:11). The man’s matter of fact report explains what happened. There is no exaggeration in his personal testimony. His reply indicates his faith – he accepted the miracle as fact. At this point he does not know who Jesus is – “A Man called Jesus.” “Then they said to him, ‘Where is He?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ ” (John 9:12). Since he was blind at the time of the miracle, he had no idea where Jesus went. What is disturbing, however, is that no one celebrates with this formerly blind man regarding his restoration of sight. They can only ask, “Where is He?”

Jesus did not perform this miracle because of this man’s faith in Him to heal since the man did not know Jesus’ identity yet. This miracle was an incredible expression of God’s grace toward him. Supernatural healing does not take a special kind of FAITH. It requires the GRACE of God to intervene and heal.

Why is there pain and suffering in the world? We learn from Jesus’ encounter with a man born blind that God allows pain and suffering…

1. To demonstrate His power. He may not perform a dramatic miracle as with the man born blind. But He may transform our attitude or heal a broken relationship. He may lift burdens of guilt and legalism off our shoulders so we can serve Him.

2. To display His promise. God allows pain and suffering to display His promise of hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Christ can bring light to the spiritually blind. He offers the promise of eternal life to those without hope.

3. To disclose His pity or compassion. In the midst of much pain and suffering, Jesus’ reveals His gentle and healing touch in order to bring glory back to God. He is a gentle Savior with an abundance of grace for those in need of His healing touch.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are far more concerned about relationships with people than You are about keeping man-made rules and regulations. Thank You for pursuing me when I was spiritually blind and under the burden of religious rules and regulations. Thank You for using Your supernatural power to heal instead of to punish. I am very grateful that You gently touched me with Your Word when I was spiritually blind and without hope so I could see You for Who You truly are – the Christ, the Son of God –  Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him! Forgive me for the many times I have been insensitive to others who are in need of Your life-giving touch. Help me to see other people as You do – as broken and blind sinners who need the gentle and loving touch of the Savior. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 4

“Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.” John 8:55

A fourth way we can overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus is to APPEAL TO OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (John 8:54-55). Jesus explains “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.” (John 8:54). Christ was not trying to glorify Himself when He claimed to be able to deliver from death those who keep His words (John 8:51) because self-testimony alone is not valid. Although Jesus does not seek to glorify Himself, that does not mean He is without glory. His Father “honors” or glorifies Him. Ironically, Jesus’ opponents, who claimed to know God, did not perceive that this is how God was working in their midst. Their relationship with God was formal, but Jesus’ relationship with God was personal.

Jesus says, “Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.” (John 8:55). In reality, they did not know God the Father, but Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Father. Christ is saying, “You have not come to know God by your personal experience or observation (ginosko), but I know (oida) Him inherently and intuitively.” For Jesus to deny knowing God would reduce Him to being a liar like they were liars. If Jesus’ audience would keep Jesus’ word by believing in Him for everlasting life, they would come to know God the Father.

When Jesus says, “But I do know Him and keep His word,” we learn that Christ’s knowledge of the Father results from keeping His Word. Likewise, as believers in Jesus learn to obey Christ’s Word, they will come to know Him in a deeper, more personal way. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). As we demonstrate our trustworthiness to Jesus by obeying His Word, He will manifest or reveal more of Himself to us. Friendship with Christ requires obedience to Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). The closer we grow to Christ, the more boldness we will have when facing opposition to the truth about Him. We see this in Acts 4 when the apostles boldly preached Jesus to their persecutors who were their educational superiors.          

As Peter and John boldly spoke of Jesus before this educated crowd, their listeners could discern that these men had spent time with the Savior. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13). These two, lowly fisherman were not intimidated by all the intellectual knowledge and training of these men. They were more impressed with Jesus and they wanted this group to know Him in a personal way. This elite religious group acknowledges the boldness of Peter and John while noting their lack of education.

Often a person’s boldness for Christ shrinks as his education increases. He or she becomes “too sophisticated” to be excited for Christ!! It is better to possess boldness and lack learning, than to possess learning and lack boldness. And it is one thing to be bold with our social equals, but it is an entirely different thing to be bold – as Peter and John were – with our social and educational superiors. True boldness knows no respect of persons.

Boldness does not arise from having a theological degree or a vast knowledge of the Bible. The key to boldness is spending time with Jesus Christ. Peter and John had been in a discipleship relationship with Jesus for over three years. His heart became theirs. So, the closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died.

Jesus’ heart bleeds for the lost. Luke 19:10 explains: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out. Look at God’s heart in I Timothy 2:3-4: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God created hell for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven regardless of their background, education, culture or color of skin, and He wants to use you and I to introduce them to the Savior who can get them there.

Are we willing to go to the people who need Jesus even if they do not know they need Him and are hostile to the truth? I believe the more we know Jesus’ heart for the lost, the more we will love those for whom He died. And the more we love them, the more motivated we will be to introduce them to the Savior.

Prayer: Lord God, I can relate to Jesus’ audience approaching Him formally instead of personally. Before I became a Christian, this was the way I approached You through my religion. But the moment You rescued me from my own sin and gave me everlasting life, You began a new work with me that was internal, not external; it was relational, not religious; it was personal, not formal. I can still engage in the formalities of religion. But that only leaves me empty and without direction. But the closer I grow to You, Lord Jesus, the more Your heart for unbelievers becomes my heart as well. When I face opposition from people whether they be unbelieving or believing, help me to see them through Your eyes as broken and wounded sinners who need You more than anything or anyone else. Only You can understand and meet their deepest needs. Please use me to point them to You so You can show Yourself to them in ways that will enrich their lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 2

“And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.” John 8:50

From Jesus’ interaction with His opponents in John 8:48-59, we are learning how to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus in our own lives. The second way we can do this is to AIM FOR THE FATHER’S APPROVAL (John 8:50). Jesus said, “And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.” (John 8:50). Jesus denies seeking glory for Himself and asserts that there is One who seeks His glory and judges His opponents. Jesus is not concerned about people giving Him the glory that He deserves because His Father in heaven is looking after that. The Father seeks to glorify His Son and judges those who reject Him. The Jews were continually “seeking” Jesus in their mistaken zeal for God’s glory, but their seeking actually resulted in Jesus’ death. Ironically, Christ’s death would turn out to be His ultimate glory (cf. John 12:23, 28; 17:1-5).

Christ was not concerned about pleasing people because His ultimate concern was the approval of His Father in heaven who “judges.” Even though Jesus lived a perfect life, He could not please everyone. So, it is foolish of us to try to do something that even God could not do!

If we are to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus, we must make it our aim to live for God’s approval and not peoples’. When people reject the truth about Jesus, we do not have to take it personally as though they are rejecting us. But even if they do reject us, we can rejoice because they are rejecting the truth about Jesus. Sometimes we may fear rejection because we are seeking the approval of others. But when we seek God’s approval, His Holy Spirit will enable us to overcome the fear of rejection (cf. Acts 4:29-31).

For example, I think back about my mission trip to an island in the southern Philippines in October 2015 with my pastor friend. On one morning after preaching the gospel at an elementary school, I asked one of the teachers if there were any other schools nearby. He hesitated and then said, “Yes there is another school about a 40-minute hike from here but you don’t want to go there.” “Really?” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because it is all Muslim and it is not safe for Christians to go there.” For the next two hours, several Christians tried to persuade us not to go to this school, but I kept asking them if they had gone there and they had not. So, I said, “Who will go if we do not go to them?” They had no answer. At this juncture, we had a choice to make – do we seek to please these believers who do not want us to go or do we seek to please our Father in heaven who desires that all people be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4)?

Eventually my translator and a local Christian tribal leader made the 40-minute hike with me through the mountainous jungle toward the all-Muslim village. With each step, I anticipated what the Lord would do when we got there. What are You going to do when we arrive at this village, Lord? How are You going to protect us? How will these people respond? When we arrived at the Muslim village we were warmly welcomed by the teachers and Muslim principal. One of the teachers said they expected us. “Why?” I asked. She told me it was because she saw pictures of us on Facebook when we were on a nearby island at a school. God used Facebook to prepare this village for our arrival. As we shared the gospel with the students and teachers, they were very attentive to the message.All one-hundred twenty students and teachers indicated that they believed in Jesus alone for His gift of salvation at the end of the gospel presentation. 

Afterward we had a concert, with individual students praising our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I got goose bumps listening to these newly saved children fill the jungle with songs of praise to their Savior! As these children sang, I thought to myself, “This is why we are in the Philippines. If we don’t go to these unreached villagers, who will go?” Had we sought to please people we would not have gone to that village. But because our aim was to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, we went to the village that God had already prepared to hear and believe the gospel.

How many times do we forfeit God’s blessings because we are trying to please someone else besides the Lord? How many people have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ because Christians listened to their peers instead of listening to the Lord? Yes, there is wisdom in listening to counselors, but if that counsel does not reflect God’s leading, we are in big trouble!

To be balanced, I do want to acknowledge that we could have have been killed going to that village, but God in His grace, permitted us to see a wonderful harvest. Even when we seek God’s approval, He does not guarantee there will be no suffering or death.

For example, in anticipation of the world’s hatred, Jesus warned His disciples that they would experience the same hostility from the world that He had experienced. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18). The phrase, “If the world hates you…” is a first class condition in the Greek language and means that the world does actually hate the disciples. Jesus did not promise a painless, effortless experience as a disciple. He says, “If the world hates you (and it does), then it should come as no surprise to you because it hated Me first.” From His birth when king Herod sought to kill Him, to His death on the cross, Jesus experienced opposition from the world. Therefore, a person cannot be intimately related to Christ without being hated by His enemies. The main issue here is not whether we will experience rejection and persecution as Christ followers, but how will we respond to it?

The world does not hate disciples of Christ because they are better; it hates disciples because they are servants of Christ whom the world has rejected. The world loves its own as long as you commend and follow its ways (John 15:19a), but when a believer decides to turn their back on the world to follow Jesus, the world will hate him or her.

In summary, will we seek God’s approval when the fury of the world is directed at us or will we seek the world’s approval and miss out on the many blessings God wants to bestow upon His disciples both now and in eternity? If you are like me, you may be quick to say you want God’s approval. But for us to live that way consistently, we must daily surrender everything to Him. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24). Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ daily no matter what the cost, will reap eternal rewards.

Prayer: Precious Lord and Savior, I am tested every day regarding my loyalties. It is so easy for me to want the approval of people instead of Yours. But even then, it is impossible to please everyone. You know this much better than I do. Please forgive me for being so fickle. I want to live for the audience of One. I long to hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” For that to happen, I need Your grace  –  lots of grace to change me from the inside out. So often I want to be in control because I think that is when I will feel safe. But the truth is I am most safe when I seek Your approval and yield to Your control. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I stay focused on what is important to God? Part 1

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ ” John 7:16

God wants us to major on what is important. He wants us to focus on relationships, especially with Him, and internal attitudes, not ourselves and external appearances. But how do we do that? How do we major on the majors? How do we stay focused on what is important to God – our relationship with Him and doing His will during this season of chaos and uncertainty? Let’s look at John 7:14-24 the next few days and find out.

The first way to stay focused on what is important to God is to AVOID HIDING BEHIND FOOLISH STEREOTYPES (John 7:14-16). In John 7:1-13, Jesus’ half-brothers tried to persuade Him to go up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles to make Himself known as the Messiah. Jesus refused to follow His unbelieving brothers’ advice. Instead, He waited until the Feast was half over before going up to it. 14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’ ” (John 7:14-15). The word “letters” refers to the Scriptures. The crowd was amazed that Jesus could teach with such authority since He had no formal education. He had not gone to the proper rabbinical schools. Yet, He took the ancient prophecies, and expounded and explained them. This was so different from the other rabbis. They taught from authorities, but Jesus taught with authority. Christ was a refreshing difference.

These people were not admiring Jesus – they were finding ways to avoid the impact of His message. They were doing what many of us do today – they were hiding behind foolish stereotypes. That way they would not have to deal with what Jesus was saying. We can often dismiss uncomfortable teaching because the teacher is either: not very educated (and so couldn’t possibly have anything to teach me) or, they are too educated (and surely parroting what they have been taught rather than making an informed decision based on the scriptures). Have you ever done that? I know I have. We stop listening to people because of their incorrect grammar, background, their past failures, their appearance, and a host of other reasons.

Jesus tells the people –  “Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ ” (John 7:16). Jesus did not receive His message from men nor make it up Himself. Many people who have not gone to school are still proud of their knowledge. They say, “I studied and taught myself.” There is a lot of pride lurking beneath such a statement. But Jesus does not say that. “I am not even self-taught. My teaching is from Him who sent me.” In other words, the issue is not the Person who is speaking, but the message that is spoken.

God can and does speak to us in a number of different ways. He can speak to us through the words of a child, a grandparent, even a new believer. However, we must be open to instruction. We must stop hindering God’s Spirit by refusing to listen to someone because of our foolish stereotypes. I believe that most people today want to hear from someone who has been taught by God. Isn’t that true? Hopefully you didn’t start reading this article to hear from me. You have come to this article because you wanted to get a word from the Lord. That’s why those of us who teach God’s Word need your prayers. Pray for us to hear from God each day – to get fresh insight from His Word.

Prayer: Father God, I am certain I have often missed out on Your message in the past because of my foolish stereotypes. I have stopped listening to Your messengers because of their incorrect grammar, background, their past failures, their appearance, and a host of other reasons. Oh how I regret hiding behind such stereotypes to avoid the impact of Your Word in my life. I have forgotten how You use unexpected people to communicate Your message of grace and truth. During this time of great chaos and uncertainty in our world, I desperately need to hear from You, my Lord and my God. Please open my eyes and heart to see wonderful jewels in Your Word. Holy Spirit, please give me the ability to understand and apply the truth of God’s Word to my life. Please give me an open heart to those whom You have raised up to speak to this current generation. Help me discern fake news from Your news. In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 4

“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.’” John 4:53

The final way to experience the life-giving word of Christ is THROUGH TRUSTING IN CHRIST’S PERSON (John 4:51-54). Jesus and His disciples remained in Cana that night, but the nobleman did not. He started back to Capernaum alone that evening over the Galilean hills. After dark, he probably stopped to sleep, then arose early the next morning and started on his way. He then noticed some travelers coming his way. “And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, ‘Your son lives!’”(John 4:51). Momentarily shaken, the nobleman realizes that these words were similar to Jesus’s words the night before.

Recovering his composure, he thought of a question. Perhaps his son’s healing was a coincidence. Perhaps when he left home his son had begun to get better by himself. If that were the case, his trip to see Jesus would have been needless. There’s one way to find out. “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.’” (John 4:52). The seventh hour would have been 1 p.m. when the fever left his son. Fever left him? So, it wasn’t a matter of beginning to get better, but of getting well all at once. Jesus’s words were not the start of a process of healing, but the point at which his son’s health was completely restored.

The Person who spoke these words with such a miraculous result, unhindered by the hills and valleys that separated Him from the nobleman’s sick son, was no ordinary man. After all, had it not been the word of the Creator God that caused all things to leap from nothingness into existence?! 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth… 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:6, 9).

This was the Messiah-God, the Christ. The nobleman believed in Jesus at this moment for eternal life. “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.” (John 4:53-54). What did the nobleman do after he believed in Christ alone for eternal life? He “ate his food” as we learned in the last chapter – he led his whole “household” (family and servants) to believe in Christ. It probably didn’t take long for the family to be convinced of their need to believe in Christ. The power of Jesus’s Word was the same from Samaria to Galilee, from Sychar to Capernaum. The power of Jesus’s word creates life in every believing heart.

And His Word does the same thing today. Wouldn’t it be great to see people like the royal official come to Christ today? To see people in high places put their faith in Jesus for their salvation? To see our governor, state representatives and senators, mayor, and city council members all come to faith in Christ (if they have not already), and then lead their family and friends to do the same?! That’s what it is all about, isn’t it?!

This second miracle that John records pictures salvation in the following ways:

1. Like the miracle, salvation takes place at a POINT in time, and is not a PROCESS. Just as the nobleman’s son was healed at the moment Jesus spoke, so Christ gives eternal life the moment a person believes in Him for it (John 3:15-16).

2. Like the miracle, salvation is a TOTAL transformation. The healing of the nobleman’s son was complete, not partial. Likewise, when a person trusts Christ for eternal life, they undergo a complete transformation. They have passed from spiritual sickness to spiritual health, from death into life (John 5:24). They are completely forgiven, never to come under judgment again to determine their eternal destiny.

3. Like the miracle, salvation is a total work OF GRACE. Just as the nobleman did not contribute to the healing of his son, so we cannot contribute to our own salvation. “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a gift that we receive by grace through faith in Christ. We can do nothing to make ourselves deserving of heaven. Only Christ can save us. 

A few years ago, our minivan broke down 1.5 miles from my parent’s home the day before Christmas. I was helpless to move the van. Fortunately, my nephew-in-law had a flatbed tow truck. So I trusted him – a person – to take me and my van to our destination using his tow truck. God is asking us to trust a Person, His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins and take us to heaven. The moment we do, He instantly gives us the gift of eternal life and guarantees to take us to heaven in the future.

God wants us to experience His life-giving word. We can do that through the TESTIMONY of His People… TRUSTING CHRIST’S POWER… PROMISE… and His PERSON. Maybe you feel like the nobleman. You feel hopeless and afraid. The wrong things you have done have separated you from God and you have nowhere else to turn but to Jesus now. He loves you, and died in your place on a cross and rose from the dead. And He wants to give you His life-giving Word if you will trust Him to do so. Jesus said: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). Only Jesus’s word can give us life that never ends and guarantee a future resurrection to all who believe in Him!

Prayer:  Only Your Word, Lord Jesus, can give me life that never ends. Your Word is not limited by distance nor the condition of its recipient. In this world filled with chaos and hatred, I pray my Lord and my God, that You will bring people in higher places (like the nobleman in this second miracle recorded in John’s gospel) to trust in You alone for everlasting life. I also pray they will share this good news of everlasting life with their family, friends, and countrymen. Please turn this world upside down with Your message of grace so that more people can experience Your life-giving Word. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 2

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” John 4:48

Another way we can experience God’s life-giving Word is THROUGH TRUSTING CHRIST’S POWER (John 4:43-48). “Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him.” (John 4:43-45a). Christ wasn’t born in Galilee, but He was raised there in Nazareth and now made His home in the lakeside town of Capernaum in Galilee. So, He was somewhat surprised by the hospitality of the Galileans. He never received any honor in His own country. He was trained at home as a carpenter with no formal theological education. He had received very little recognition as a qualified Rabbi; much less a prophet of God. But now these Galileans were very receptive to Him. Why?

“…Having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.” (John 4:45b). They had witnessed the power of Christ through the miracles He had performed at the Passover in Jerusalem. They welcomed Jesus as the Miracle-Worker. But He was more than that – He was the Messiah-God, the Savior of the world, whose Word could create an inexhaustible well of life in every heart that believed in Him (John 4:10-14). The Samaritans learned this by listening to Him talk. But the Galileans (Jews) had to see miracles first before they could trust in Him.

“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.” (John 4:46-47). There was a lot of talk about Jesus in Cana of Galilee because of the spectacular miracle whereby “He made water wine.”(John 2:1-11). And a certain royal official heard about Jesus’ miracles, and so he approached Christ after traveling eighteen miles from his home in Capernaum. His son was desperately sick. He was afraid that his son would die at any moment, so he begged Jesus to make the eighteen miles journey to heal his son.

But look at Jesus’ response. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” (John 4:48). This seems harsh at first, doesn’t it? The “you” (idēte) is plural. He’s talking to a group of people, not just the nobleman. The Galileans were unlike the Samaritans. They needed to see a miracle before they would believe Jesus’ Word. In Sychar, Jesus’ Word had been enough. But in Galilee, the Jews could not believe in Christ without miracles (cf. I Corinthians 1:22-23).

There are people like that all around the world. It is not enough for them to hear the Word of God.They need to see the power of God. And the greatest display of God’s power is a changed life. God calls all believers to live a life that honors Him. But you know what? It’s impossible for you to live the Christian life in and of yourself. You can’t do it in your own strength. But the good news is that God doesn’t expect you to. Instead, He wants to live through you. Only through Christ’s power can we love our enemies… forgive… practice self-control…. and be a positive witness. Only through His power can we find hope and healing.

Prayer: Lord God, there are many people around the world like the Galileans who need to see Your power before they believe in Jesus alone for eternal life. But there are also people like the Samaritans who only need Your Word to believe in Christ alone for salvation. Please use Your word and my actions to influence non-Christians to come to faith in Jesus alone. I cannot live a God-honoring life in my own strength, Lord. I need You to live Your life through me so others will be drawn to Christ in me. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 1

“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” John 4:39

I believe more than ever that the church in America and around the world, needs to come back to the sufficiency of God’s Word. What we need more than anything as a church is the Word of God. Not words about God’s Word, not man-made rules and regulations, but the Word of God Itself. God’s Word imparts life to those who receive it. When we gather on Sunday mornings, it is to hear from God, not from the pastor or anyone else. We need a word from the Lord. How can we experience His life-giving Word?

THROUGH THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST’S PEOPLE (John 4:39-42). As the sun was setting and darkness began to set in, Jesus’ conversations at the well with the Samaritan woman had predictable results. The villagers of Sychar were coming out to Jesus and His disciples – to hear from Jesus Himself. They had an intense interest in what Jesus had to say. These people were unlike any Jews the disciples had ever seen. There were no miracles performed in Sychar. All the Samaritans needed to convince them was the Word of God. After all Jesus’ Word is what convinced the Samaritan woman at the well.

“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” (John 4:39). Many Samaritans believed in Christ for salvation because of the testimony of the woman at the well. This perfect Stranger knew all about her life – five failed marriages, and now she is living with a man who was not even her husband. Yet Jesus still loved and accepted her. She needed no miracle. His Word was enough as He told her about her life and true worship, so she trusted Him for the gift of eternal life.

The villagers were equally impressed with His Word to her. Some waited to believe until they heard from Christ first hand. So, they went out to Him. “So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.” (John 4:40). The villagers had an intense interest in Jesus. They clung to every word that came out of His mouth. During those two days at Sychar they probably questioned Him and listened. He answered the questions they asked and did not ask – as He was able to read their hearts.

“And many more believed because of His own word.” (John 4:41). Jesus reaped more rapidly than the woman did. And the villagers were unkind to her. “Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:42). They had no respect for her immoral lifestyle, so they didn’t want her to think she had led them to the greatest discovery of their lives. So those who had believed Jesus’ Word through her testimony and those who had just now believed after hearing Jesus personally, were united in their attitude toward her. Their words stung, but not too bad. After all, her heart was too full of joy having received the gift of eternal life, to brood over their rejection. Besides, it was Jesus’ Word that had convinced the villagers, not hers. It was Christ’s Word that had produced new life in them, not hers.

These new Samaritan believers now believe that Jesus “is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John wants his readers to know that the Samaritans, who were regarded as spiritual outcasts by the Jews, were the first to call Jesus “Savior” in the gospel of John. Although Jesus initially came to save “His people [Jews] from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), He is also the “Savior” for the Samaritans and all Gentiles in addition to the Jews. This designation, “Savior of the world” does not mean everyone will be saved, but that the entire world is savable because of the sufficient sacrifice of Christ on the cross (cf. John 1:29; 12:32; 19:30; I Timothy 2:6; I John 2:2). Of course, only those who believe in Him will receive His gift of salvation and eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; Acts 16:31).

When sharing your testimony with non-Christians, be sure to include Bible verses so God’s Word can give life to them. Your words and mine are not what give life to unbelievers. It is God’s Word that imparts eternal life. Unfortunately, when I hear testimonies of Christians today, many of them do not include any Scriptures. They emphasize their own experience, but say nothing about God’s Word. We have got to come back to the life-giving Word of God. The Samaritan woman told the villagers what Christ said to her, and we must tell non-Christians what Christ has said to us in His Word. Then and only then, can they receive the life that only God’s Word can impart.

Prayer: Lord Almighty, forgive me for sharing my experiences with lost people more than Your Word. I realize now, that only Your Word can impart eternal life to those who believe in You. Only Your Word can transform a person’s life from the inside out. Thank You for entrusting me with Your Word so I may share it with a lost world. Please prepare the lost to hear and believe Your gospel message through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11). In Jesus’ name. Amen.