Here is our church newsletter for October 2019. It contains an article about the woman with the issue of blood.
Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category
Associated with the account of the healing of the man who had been an invalid for thirty eight years in John 5:1-16 is some strangeness. What I refer to is the clearly implied recognition that through the stirring of the water at the pool of Bethesda, someone was actually healed when they were the first to get into the pool upon the stirring.
It is interesting that the Lord makes no comment at all upon this strange happening. And we simply have to accept it as a strange happening, with there being no explanation given. The Lord did not even rebuke the invalid for looking to get healing in the pool. Simply the account in John 5 leaves the whole happening as a mysterious event.
The important thing though, that the Lord does is to direct the man to look to Himself and Himself alone for help. He directs him away from the pool to Himself as Lord of this situation; Lord of his physical and spiritual welfare. The man must know that it is in the Lord himself that He will find transformation. So we read: Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked (John 5:8-9a).
There are many unexplained happenings that we might come across in life and ministry. Such occurrences are not to pre-occupy us though. Sometimes strange things happen; we might not now why; the Lord gives no explanation of what happened in this instance and very likely we might not be able to explain many things. What is important though is that we should not get diverted by seeking to dwell upon and investigate these strangenesses.
Rather we should always be pointing people to the Lord Jesus. I fear that many Christians if they had been eye-witnesses of this event would be thrown into a state of ferment, not by the Lord’s miracle, but by the pool’s stirring and all that happened as a result.
There are so many things that we can’t explain whether they be natural or supernatural. What really matters though is whether someone has embraced the transforming grace that is in Christ Jesus. Let us give up our fascinations with strange events and give our full embrace and attention to the mighty saving grace of our Lord.
Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. In Luke 1:5-12 we see him presented as a godly, God-sensitive man. He is:
- Of Godly Character: It is recorded of him, and his wife Elizabeth, that they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:6). Righteous very likely refers to their justified state on account of their faith. And they lived out their faith in full obedience to God’s commandment and statutes.
- Enduring Difficulty. His wife could not have children and therefore they had never had the joy of bringing forward a new generation to serve the Lord. Childlessness was culturally shameful as well and spoke of curse. The Word says that Elizabeth was the cause of their childless state (see v7). But Zechariah would not give her up for another. He was faithful to his commitment.
- Faithful He continued his ministerial call to be a priest in spite of the pain of having no children. Faith prevailed over his problems.
- God-sensitive. In v9-10 we see how Zechariah was granted the great privilege of presenting the incense offering in the temple. This was the high-point of his career. This could only ever happen once in a priest’s career and now he was undertaking it. Yet at that moment he was diverted by the intervention of God in the appearance of the angel. The remarkable thing is that Zechariah gave up his religious service to acknowledge that God had come. We observe how Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him (Luke 1:12). Experiencing the awareness of God was more significant than the high-point of his religious service. I fear many of us, and our churches, are more concerned with religious performance over and against a living awareness of the living God.
Pulling all this together here we find a man who was godly, persevering and faithful. Such people are sensitive to the workings of God. I wonder, and this is only speculation, if on previous occasions angelic messengers had appeared to an incense offering priest, but they had ignored such because of the thrill of religious service.
How easy it is for this to happen with us. Are we spiritually sensitive to discern the difference between keeping religious activities going, important as that might be in a church, and the Lord appearing among us?
Ultimately it is only those who are godly, persevering through difficulty and faithful in service that have the spiritual antennae to spot when God is coming through His Spirit. Oh that I might be of such a character.
As I mentioned here, one of the main experiences of depression, even in fact the one that surpasses all others, is that of feeling “I can’t cope”. Accordingly, whilst in the midst of suffering, there were times when I looked at situations and thought: I don’t know how I am going to get through this. There was a sense of feeling overwhelmed by what was ahead.
The experiencing of such perplexity has been painful, but has been beneficial in teaching me a vital lesson. That lesson is that I need to depend upon God in all situations in life. My testimony has been that when I faced those times of being overwhelmed I have cried to the Lord and he has met me in my need.
I want this lesson to be riveted on my heart. I want to be reminded of the Word of our Lord Jesus that apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5b). When faced with any situation in life I want to Nehemiah like who concerning a meeting with his boss King Artaxerxes said Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king (Neh. 2:4b-5a).
Oh Lord help me to depend upon You in all circumstances of life whether they be hard or easy. Help me never to think that I can cope with a situation on my own.
One of the lessons I have been learning through my being afflicted by depression is to depend totally on the Lord in everything. Alas, I have to confess it is my normal default position is to presume that I can handle a situation myself. I wrote here about the detail of my depression experience and how “I can’t cope” expresses the pervasive character of the experience.
Depression strips a person of a reliance on their own resources. So I have been taught I must rely upon the Lord; I cannot rely on myself or circumstances. I can think of times in the last few weeks where I have faced situations and thought that I don’t know how i am going to get through this. However, i look back and see how through the Lord’s grace I have been brought through.
In many ways this is such a precious lesson to learn because I am learning what should be at the kernel of our lives. To learn that I only truly live when God lives out His life through me is foundational to true living. It is what it is to live by faith; it means depending on the Lord.
Alas, I find it a common personal experience for me to feel frustrated if things do not work out in the way that I want them to. But surely if I believe in a sovereign God who is in control of all things then this is not a good response. Furthermore, when I consider that this God is my Father and in Romans 8:28 we are informed by Paul that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. In the light of these things it is even sinful for me to allow the fall-out that circumstances to frustrate me.
Recently I was given encouragement from the Lord on this issue. I had, last month, been referred to the hospital by my GP for physiotherapy. On contacting the physiotherapy department last week, I was a little disappointed that I only could have an appointment in a month’s time. Happily on Tuesday someone sought to contact me to offer me an appointment for yesterday. Alas they could not contact me whilst I was out. They spoke to my wife and left a message. I immediately contacted them when I found out but I could not speak to the lady and all the appointments apparently had been taken. I was feeling frustration and starting to bubble up inside. However, I sought to take myself in hand in the context of believing in a Father who is sovereign over all. Why should I fret when such is the case?
On Wednesday morning I decided to telephone just really to clarify, with the person who had phoned the previous day, about what had happened and what I should do in the future. Remarkably the lady, who was most helpful offered me an appointment for that morning at 10.30am!
This was an encouragement from the Lord to my soul. Now I don’t want to be overly seeing cause and effect in this. However, I perhaps do discern that when I have been frustrated in the past that has not led to a helpful resolution of a matter and has led to disturbance of my soul.
So I turn to Psalm 37 and see statements like these in verses 5-8
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret – it leads only to evil.
Hey Philip be encouraged to stop fretting and start trusting!
—-nobody’s problems. But I know someone who is the solution to everyone’s problems. I must remember this as I deal with people. And in doing so I will realise that it is not my wisdom that will be useful to anybody, but that which is from the Lord Almighty; the eternally Wise One.
So I will always be wanting to speak biblically when i am approached for advise or counsel about a situation. Very often this might mean asking for time to consider the matter that has been raised.
Also, always I will be praying to the Lord. In doing this we follow the exhortation of James in James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. Not only will I be praying before i speak, I will be dependent on Him whilst speaking to people as well. “Oh Lord give me wisdom and the right words to speak” will be my prayer.
So don’t forget, Philip, you are the solution to nobody’s problems.
I was somewhat euphoric some little while ago as regards to the outcome of a certain situation. I have pondered a little on that subsequently and wondered about what is the substance of our lives. I muse on this because if my life is based on circumstances and outcomes, and generally upon happenstances, then I am living a very precarious life. This is so because as good days come, so do bad days. There are times where all seems to flow swimmingly and there are days when everything seems to be a mess. One will make me happy and the other will make me sad.
This is really how so many people live unless they impose upon themselves some stoic indifference to circumstances. The Christian though is called to a better way; the way of the Christian is the way of faith. Whether all goes well or all goes badly, I am called to trust in the Lord. This reminds me of the incredible truth of Psalm 112:7 where we read They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Here are people who are truly living in a bigger way. This is not a detached way because there is an awareness of bad news. However, it is a more secure way because it is a way not dependent upon my circumstances. Such a way is a way of settled trust and joy. It is so because I am looking away to the God who does not change; I am looking to the One who is in control of good and bad news.
I am looking to the Lord God who is overseeing overall and as my soul is enfolded with Him by faith I am established in a settled way. This way is the mature way. It is the way of peace and hope and joy. Circumstances bring temporary hope and peace and joy. The faith way brings settled joy in God’s eternal purpose in Christ. A circumstance based Christianity is an infantile Christianity. A faith based Christianity is a mature Christianity.
What is the purpose of our sufferings in life? In 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9 we read the word of Paul concerning his experience in Achaia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Paul had gone through some really hard times, but these were not purposeless times. God was using his suffering to teach him the grand lesson that he must rely upon the Lord. This leads us into considering what it is to truly live. For so many true life is found in personal emancipation. To throw off all shackles of external control and be free to rely upon oneself and fulfill oneself is the desired goal advocated and advertised in our society.
However, this in the end produces a futile life. The true life is actually in a captive life. Life is found in a life of dependence. Of course this is not a dependence on just anyone or anything. Rather it is a dependence upon God our maker, redeemer and friend.
So we learn that God is working in all the hardships of life to teach us this lesson that we would depend upon the Lord and not ourselves.
Easy times in many ways are not the best times because they incline us to depend upon ourselves and our circumstances. When all is easy we conclude “I can handle this!” What terrible even frightening words those are.
In many ways the hard times are the best times because, when we use them well, they take us into the essence of life and that is to depend upon the Lord.