23rd July 2023

Asking with an experimental faith

Passage: Mark 5:21-53, Luke 11:1-13
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Sermon

In the evenings here we have been visiting in the Gospel of Mark and part of my rationale is that in the mornings we're going through the Gospel of Matthew and that there will be some overlap in the material that will be useful for those who do happen to come twice on the Sunday, Matthew in the morning and Mark in the evening. Not that I felt committed to have to do Mark in the evening but it's not a bad thing to chase down topics which are in more than one Gospel. And one of the things that we're finding very visible in the Gospel Record is the healing ministry of Jesus. It's actually in the Gospel of Matthew that the very spot we've been up to recently where it tells about Jesus moving from Nazareth down to Galilee and part of the purpose is for him to start his ministry. And then the text goes on to say about in that region of Caesarea on the lake side Jesus does a number of miracles. And one of the little comments there in Matthew is that all of the people who had diseases came and he healed them all.

In that spot at least in the Gospel Jesus is healing all of the people who come sick and his reputation spreads far and wide in that he's not only preaching the Gospel but he's also healing. And this is the ministry of Jesus and it sort of begs a question, the question about healing for us today. Now we can only see people healed. I'm referring to not just the fact of medicine. It's interesting in the book of Acts that when Luke travels, and Luke was a trained doctor of his day, when he travelled with Paul there'll be some things done which a miracle will cause there to be a healing. But also there would be some work of Luke bringing release from traditional medicine and he did healing as well but not by way of miracle. But actually the word in the Greek for healing is therapeuia I think it is. And we get our idea of therapy of they're bringing release from some problem. And so there in the book of Acts you'll find that the Bible records of both a supernatural miracle happening and people being healed but also there being the actions that Luke engaged in in bringing relief in what was the traditional way of his times.

Now as we come here to these two Gospels Matthew and Mark and we're looking at incidents we have one of them here in Mark's Gospel where across the chapter there's quite a number of different styles of needs that Jesus meets. In fact in the passage we're looking at here and we have it on the screen there's several people who get healed along the way. At least two that are in our focus at the moment. And so just going through Jesus crossed again by boat to the other side of the lake. The crowd gathered around him. He was beside the sea. And then came one of the rulers of the synagogue Jairus by name. So it's going to be about Jairus's daughter the first part I think. And he fell at Jesus feet, his feet as Jesus feet and implored him earnestly saying my little daughter is at the point of death come and lay your hands on her so that she may be made well and live. And he went with him. Now what is of interest immediately to me if you've got in your mind all the various spots where Jesus does some healing is a question mark that arises.

Is it always necessary for Jesus to lay hands on people for there to be healing? Clearly in some occasions yes. But other occasions just the opposite happens such as the ruler, the man who had I think it was a son at the point of death. And Jesus comments about the people wanting to see a miracle and then he says to the man your son as well go your ways well. And Jesus doesn't go back and lay hands on him. He just gives the command. And the man being a bit of an expert about being in authority understands that Jesus has spiritual authority. He doesn't have to be present. He goes in his way and the servant meets him and tells him in the exact moment the boy became better. And it was the same time that Jesus said go your way your son as well. He's getting better. I'm not sure of his exact words. But so you've got a bit of a clash of methodology or of whether there is necessity in the methodology that something special like laying on of hands happens. Now in this particular episode the woman who has the problem has a woman of a flow of blood. I've taken that to be menstrual flow of some sort that something is going wrong and she can't stop herself bleeding and she's been that way for years.

And so Jairus has asked him to come to his home and Jesus is going to the home not just making a comment. Again that's different. And as he's on the way then this woman seeing the great crowd comes up and seeks to touch him. And this particular part of it, the woman we're reading of it now on the screen as she spent all her money going to the doctors, you can well imagine that happens because the medical people can only do what their knowledge has brought them to. And there are people who are in the business of helping people but they can't always succeed and people when they're desperate are willing to pay anything to have something happen. And so there is a lot of people trying to use their funds to get healing to happen or a medical person to give aid. And she spent all her money and she's got nothing left as it were. And so in desperation verse 28 look at it there she says if I touch even his garments I will be made well. Now where did she get that methodology? I think you'd have to agree with me although we can't be certain that there's nothing in no certainty about her method. It's in desperation someone just believes this is going to work. And immediately the flow of blood dried up and she felt it in her body that she was healed of the disease of her disease.

And so the question that's in my mind gets even more ringing bells. Is there something special about believing for a touch? What is the element that brings the healing actually? Well verse 30 Jesus perceiving that in himself the power has gone out of him immediately turned around in the crowd and said who touched my garments? So he knew someone touched him and he knew something had gone out of him that caused it. I've listened to people who've been involved in different styles of ministry and often they're different one from another but it is a thing you do hear again and again that sometimes people recognize as the vessel of conduit of power that it often drains them. And even our world of celluloid film the imagination of the filmmakers picks up on that. So there are films you can watch where there's someone who just has some gift and when they're invited into different scenes and I'm thinking of one particular film which I don't mind who the actors were but there's this fellow that when he does it he gets really drained.

And some of our other missionaries also come back from overseas and sometimes there are some who've had a ministry of healing but again when that happens it drains them. Now what is going on? There's some mediumistic happening of the power going out of the healer person. Well it did happen with Jesus. But how is it that other people could be healed and there's no needing to touch, no needing to go to the home? What is the common denominator of all of this? Well I think the Bible itself gives us a hint. He looked around to see who had done it but the woman, knowing that what had happened to her, she came in fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him the whole truth. It's the best way to deal with Jesus. And he said to her, daughter your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your disease.

So he confirms that she's been healed. And what I take for this and I can't be certain I'm just giving you what appears to me it's up to you to to read and ask the Lord to tell you you know what is the truth that's here. The way I've arrived at thus far is that if you have faith God will answer the faith without it meaning that you have to land on the right method. And as many a person who's had a problem a need a difficulty and they've been praying and praying and praying they end up saying Lord I'm just going to trust you about this that you'll bring it about and something happens. It's an answer to the faith. And I think the generalisation we can make is that God answers faith as the most important thing of all. And particularly if it is faith in Jesus. And his reputation as one who had been healing as we read in Matthew and all the people coming were getting healed and it was an awe. That reputation had given her the thought that she only has to get in contact with him. And she has the faith. It's not the correctness of her assumptions.

It is simply that God sees faith and rewards it. Now I know that isn't a tight formulation or explanation but it's where I've arrived at on this question. That God sometimes reserves in his sovereignty not to answer all our queries or to specify exactly how it's always going to work. But when you want to give room to God by believing he does something that still is not completely making me satisfied because how's it going to help me to know how to believe God will do it? The woman had in the idea that she snuck up behind in the crowd and just touched his garment. Now if you had been believing that you want him to lay hands on that's not a thorough job is it? Just getting up in the crowd and touching the garment. But nonetheless that's what she did.

I don't think God necessarily gives out instructions how to get me to do the healing and always applies. I think that you can leave room for God to lead you what is in your case how to go without making a rule on it. I have great sympathy with people who are looking for God to get healing particularly if they've got a problem that's persistent and it's one that's causing a lot of heartache and maybe approaching death or whatever. God does today heal people and sometimes he does it in this case and doesn't do it in that. And that is a very big question at least in Matthew's Gospel for the start of Jesus' ministry. Everybody who has the sickness gets healed in that as it's recorded in Matthew's Gospel. But that's not the truth of what happens with healing in the Christian church after Jesus has gone back to heaven. Now if you look at the passages that promise that healing shall be exhibited amongst Christians and you look carefully at the wording of it and I'm thinking of Mark's Gospel right at the end where it talks about healings.

It's connected to the great commission Mark's version thereof of that's the one which is go and preach the Gospel to every creature that parallels Matthew says go and make disciples of all nations. Mark says preach the Gospel to every creature adds up to the same thing. But in Mark's case a few verses down it says and these Jesus says about accompanying this whole idea he says these signs will follow those who believe. And the way it's mentioned about believing is those who have faith in him. In other words the Christian group who believe there will be this attenuation there will be this adding on to miracles happening. But it doesn't say to them everyone will be healed. It just says miracles of healing is going to happen. And surely all of us would have if you've been a Christian for long enough you've had folk friends that you knew or you've had people who've had diseases who've prayed and nothing happened.

Even in the Scriptures the Apostle Paul had his hassles with some problem he doesn't say exactly what it is but he prayed three times that God would take it away. And God kept answering the same answer, ‘my grace is sufficient for you’. meaning I'll help you get through it but not saying any more. And he concludes he wasn't healed of it but he concludes that God had heard him. And so the fact of Jesus healing everybody might have been true while he was here on earth doing his ministry and exhibiting that he was the Messiah and being a specialty Jesus in his healing. But I don't know that God has ever promised that everything that we bring to him as Christians will necessarily get healed. What he does say is if you have faith it will be answered.

Now how much of a help is that? The best place in the Bible to go to if you're looking for some way to deal with whether the miracle happens or not or whether your prayer is answered or not is Luke chapter 11. And in Luke chapter 11 is that spot where he's talking about prayer and the power of prayer and following Jesus' example as I think there's another illustration there of the Lord's prayer and and the power of prayer. And he goes on to say that if you really pray hard then God will do various things. But it's that passage that says ask and go on asking you shall receive. Seek and go on seeking and you shall find. Knock and go on knocking it will be open to you. And what you can hear there is that we're called on to be persistent in our request. So one thing I do learn that whereas a need this is something, maybe a health issue that you have that to be persistent is a very good way to start. But there is a difference between knocking until it opens or asking until you receive and seeking until you find. And what the difference is is the style of thing that you're needing. The asking the way it's worded, the person that goes on asking is going to go on receiving. So I take that to be saying is that in our prayer life if you're prayerful about all things and the Bible tells us to be prayerful about all matters that amongst the things that you pray for you're going to be receiving.

So the person who in their prayer life is asking for a lot of things will find a lot of things. You've probably run across Christians who have told you in their prayer life they pray for parking metres. They have an appointment. It's a difficult spot. They haven't got much time. Confession. I've done this where you knew how much time you had. You didn't want to risk getting more tickets so you drive slowly but you know it's going to make you late and you want to arrive at the place and someone will just pull out and you pull in and you won't be late. And I've been in that position and so I pray for a parking metre. Some person to just leave at the right time and although it hasn't happened every time that has happened enough times for me for me to have great respect to the fact that God likes us asking for difficult things. And he hasn't always answered that prayer but he has enough times for me to know something's going on. And if you're a type of Christian who asks for a lot you're someone who's getting a lot. Not everything. That's how I interpret anyway the asking being somewhat subtly different from the knocking and the third one, excuse me, the asking, the knocking, and the seeking.

In the case of knocking, knocking is what you do when there's something you know is God's well or you believe God is God's will but there's roadblocks in the way and you ask and nothing happens but it seems wrong that nothing has happened. So you don't give up. You go on knocking. And that used to puzzle me a lot, really puzzled me a lot as to how that worked out practically until in one of my trips to study overseas some friends from Australia promised that they would meet with me and take me out for a Christmas dinner. And this is in Chicago. I was resident in Dallas but I'd come up to Chicago. Part of the purpose was to go to this special event with them. And I was staying in someone's house and we were to go and this knocking was on my mind. How to interpret that Luke 11 passage about the knocking. Anyway the person who's going to pick me up to go to the special dinner arrived and you began to knock American style. Have we got any Americans here to confirm what I'm about to say? Anybody been over there? Well this person came outside the door downstairs. I'd been sleeping and started knocking. In America you keep on knocking. It's annoying. And I was sort of tempted whoever it was who mightn't have even been for me. I just ignore it.

You know, leave them knocking. But you can't go on sleeping when this is carrying on. So eventually I get up and sure enough it's the person to take me on by car to where the dinner was. And now in Australia and I get my training from when I was little is when you go and knock on someone's door you go. Then you step back and you turn and look away. So I won't open the door and have you go like this. You're meant to be just letting them know you're there and if they want to they come and open up. But the Americans are more brusque or down-to-earth. I don't know what word to use but that's the difference. And I think that was perhaps the culture where Jesus was talking knock and go on knocking. And eventually in the rest of the storyline he gives of how because of their annoyance or impropriety I don't know how that's not the right word. Because of their being you know want to get rid of you from knocking they come and answer. And Jesus used that as what we should do for something.

And how that applies is if it's not God's will and you're only hoping then I don't think he has to come and open to you anyway. But if there's something that's been revealed to you either because of the nature of its character that it is the right thing then you just keep on knocking in your prayer. That's the difference. You asking is for things that he's already promised. I'll give you an illustration of asking is as if you've made a sin or done a sin and you want to get forgiven but you still feel guilty about it. And so you ask. And I think that would teach you that you ask and just trust him you've got it. And so you go on asking for things that you know is his will. And if you're a person who asks for a lot you'll have a lot happening. And sometimes it will even be a parking metre that you need. Or it might be you you're asking for you to confirm what you suspect to be his will. This is a good one to do because we I don't know about you but I have lots of suspects is what I think God wants. They may not turn out to be right. But you should ask him to confirm it. There's nothing wrong with your saying to him God put it in writing please.

Meaning that it'll be in the Bible it will speak to you. And God loves to do that. He loves for you to get busy searching through the Word. He loves for you to have your life open to him speaking to you through the Bible. I find that a miraculous moment and a great great privilege if God does that to you. And that's where you ask and receive because you think it is the will of God. And then you knock and if it is his purpose though you may not know he may come and open for you. The last one seek and you will find is where you really don't know what's right or wrong about it. There may be an issue where you someone rings you up and says look, I want you to come and join our firm. And it's in Darwin and you don't like crocodiles. And your family are down here. You'd always been planning to gain your studies to stay at Griffith University. I'm just making up a scene. Then you don't want to go to Darwin. So you say Lord I want your will but you've got to show me your will. Show me your way, you know. And you keep on looking for God to open the right door and to tell you show you something you don't know. And I think a good thing to do is where there's something that's perplexed you and you can't understand what God is doing. Just keep asking about it. Leave it to him in his own time to reveal his purposes for you. And they may be quite different. And there's been many a person in their biography of their Christian life reveals of how they expected to be doing one thing to serve the Lord but yet something stepped in. The ship got sunk and they got rescued and they ended up in another country. Some dramatic difference. And I know some of the things my dad went through in his life of finding where God wanted him wasn't where he expected straight away. And you just have to trust God. But if you keep on praying about it he will show you.

And if you don't know his will keep on asking. Asking him to tell you. So the various aspects of the, some people explain them slightly differently from maybe how I have, but the asking and the knocking and the seeking, or is it asking, seeking and knocking. Those through, three, if you think them through will give you the hint as to how to go about expecting God to work. But in all of those the having of faith is what brings him into action. And I look through this passage, can we go back to our passage in Mark and chapter 5? When you look through these incidents in the three of them that we're going to see, we haven't seen the final one of him getting to the house where someone was, where he was meant to go. The one where the child was, appeared to be dead. Jesus gives the interpretation she's not dead but she's just sleeping.

I don't know whether he meant that whatever her being dead is, it's not a dead that's going to continue because he makes her come to life again. I can't know for sure quite how to interpret but Jesus is talking about the fact that he's going to act. And the one thing I find right across this chapter with the healings that happen is the presence or the absence of faith. When someone really believes God will do something, and sometimes he lets you think about reasons why he did that may not be theologically correct. But God rewards faith. As a matter of fact there are people who God has blessed with a number of miracles of healings that you don't always get the theology straight. But I hope God will teach them a bit better along the way. But faith is what he rewards and sometimes he's prepared to deal with the way you construct it ought to be. And this woman just said if I can touch his garment, she's not even wanting her hands laid on, if I can touch his garment I'll be healed. And because God gave her the capacity to believe, that's what faith is, a God-given ability to believe, it did happen. So faith for something that's in God's will because he has to give you the faith, that certainty in your heart that God will give you what you ask, that is what faith is. It's not trying to talk yourself into it. It's not stressing yourself so that by asking hard enough or getting in a prayer meeting where you whip up the atmosphere. I used to have an American friend in our prayer meetings, he used to beat the chair, he'd get down on his knees and he'd beat the chairs as he demanded of heaven what should happen. But that's not necessarily making it faith, it's just his pressure, trying to believe. I'm not criticising him, he is a lovely fellow who serves the Lord and as far as I know still is. But faith is when he gives some certainty and you just believe. Where I saw that illustrated was one of my singers who used to go around in our ministry and whose fiance had a motorbike accident and was in hospital. And she went in to visit with him and in there they had prayer and they just knew he'd get healed. He had what could be a bad outcome but they prayed and his leg or whatever it was, I don't remember the details, just got better.

And when that certainty comes, it's not because you're a wonderful person who can have a special type of faith, it is that God gives you the faith to believe the things he wants to do. And she just knew if I can touch his garment I'll be healed. I don't think it absolutized the method of touching a healer's clothes. I think it was just that she was believing as God was leading her. If I touch his garments I will be made well. And immediately the flow of blood dried up and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Believe that God can do that. Don't be angry with him if your experience is not as dramatic as some story you've read in a book. Don't believe God always does things the same way. Leave yourself in his hands. He is sovereign after all. And if the person who's sovereign really loves you, don't you think he'll do what's best? And that trust in God to do what is best for you is a part of the faith involvement as well. So eventually in Jairus' daughter's house, if I've got the right person here, down in verse 42, immediately the girl got up and began walking. She was 12 years of age.

Imagine how anxious you'd be as a parent having a young child and looking like she's either passed away or about to pass away. And immediately overcome with amazement they were. Now why he strictly charged them that they should not let anybody know this and told them to give her something to eat. Well the giving of something to eat is because she's been not having any processing going on in her intestine that she needs. That's practical. But the strictly charging them not that no one should know this, I can only guess. But my guess is that Jesus doesn't want us to elevate healings to more than what it is. It's not the chief thing. It is people coming to love Christ and know that he is the Messiah. That's important. And he didn't want there to be this whipping up of enthusiasm just because he was healing. That's my guess. He wants us to concentrate on him, not the things that we get from him or the miraculous things that make a good testimony or something like that. And this is a fantastic passage in Mark. And I love the fact that it's there.

Somewhat parallel to Matthew. Matthew is saying how in Galilee as he began his ministry he healed every sickness, every disease, every demonic problem. But elsewhere it depends upon whether a person has faith. You've got to put all those facts together to come to your doctrine on healing and have a balanced one that doesn't get it too out of step or insisting on one way. Because there's lots of different groups who all have different things that they think must happen. And they're not all biblical. We had a person in our church who used to come and sit in a wheelchair over there in the corner. And when Benny Hinn came through town, he had some hip problem or leg problem. It was very painful. Benny Hinn has healing meetings. And he said to me, can we go? Because he wanted to know, here's the media saying about these meetings and the idea that he could get healed. He was prepared to investigate. I respected him. So I said we'll go together. We went to the other side of town and we went and found a car park and got inside. And because there was a great crowd there, the people letting us in showed they sort of, he was on crutches, they led us to two seats in the aisles. Now that was good and bad. Good that he had access to go down the front. Bad for me. I didn't want to get seen there. But as the meeting went on, Benny Hinn gave a good message on the gospel.

I have to commend him. He gave a straight message on the gospel. And then he gave, I think I got the order right, there was three aspects. The second part was that he gave a talk about giving you money. And it was really off-colour in my opinion. And he had people writing checks and giving the idea that if you give to God, he'll give back to you. And I did not like it at all. And then the third part was where they had people come down and get in a row for him to come and pray over them. And my friend from sitting up in the back of our church, he was watching all this. And as we watched, because they did put us a good spot in the aisle, we could see what was happening. And they would direct the people who had problems that were somewhat more easily fixed to be the ones that quickly got in. And then Benny Hinn would sort of pray over them. But he really, I could see giving a push. And then they fell over backwards and they could be made to think that they were healed. Anyway, it was such that our friend, he didn't believe what he was seeing.

And he said to me, I've seen enough, let's go. So much to the annoyance of the ashes, we got up and he hopped out rather than going down the front. Because I think there's an awful lot of hoodwinking going on. And there are meetings where people have what's called a repression of symptoms. And they don't really, because the problem comes back later on. But you psychologically can be convinced that you're healed of your sore knee. But if you investigate some of the records of so-called healings, there's not many who in that scene have legs that lengthened. There are records of that sometimes happening, to be fair to the whole storyline, the whole issue. But most often the types of things people get healed from are sore backs and aches and pains and things. It's not that God cannot heal those things, but I don't think the people who assert their hands laying on or their giving a push or their falling over backwards and speaking in tongues has done the trick. I think there's an awful lot of convincing yourself against what actually happens. However, that being the case with what happens today, I do think it was the role of Jesus as the expected Messiah to do the miracles that were expected of him as the Messiah. And I think his case is different from how it is for us who get healing sometimes in his name. And the proper thing is that you get on with the Gospel and preach the Gospel and then there will be healings that follow. What you don't do is set up healing meetings to get the crowds and try and make that the thing that gets them in.

God doesn't give over his sovereignty as to who gets healed and who doesn't. And the healings follow those who believe, the community of those who believe will see healings. If you get a revival time happening and people get right with God and the Gospel is centre place in it, evangelism is your chief purpose, then there will be healings that happen as well. Well, let's have a word of prayer, shall we pray? Heavenly Father, it's quite a big topic I ventured on tonight and I know I don't have all the necessary answers if I could put it that way. I have my considered opinions and I know that you call on us to search your Word to know what the Word of God says. That's what counts. And Father, help us two things. One, not to be assuming what the Bible doesn't really say. Not reading into it what we want it to say. The second thing, Father, is would you help us not to be so cynical and so looking at the failures to do what the Bible says or looking at groups that are believing too much without really getting to the truth that we don't leave open the opportunity of having faith. And Lord, even if it looked like I was stupid or looked like I was believing too much, I would count it a great privilege if you led me to believe something that you then did. I'll consider that, Father, a privilege to have been a part of. And help us to be people, Father, who go on believing, who go on giving God the room to do a miracle, Father, if you really wanted to. Let that be for us how it is we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

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