Enduring and Miraculous Faith Series (Part 2)
While these messages in this series have different emphasis, they are a foundational mind-set on faith that I believe the Lord has established in my own heart. Approaching faith from the perspective of using it to open a wrapping on a gift is not what it is given to us to do. Faith is not the tool to power, it is the only way to receive and to know Christ and through Him the Father. In this message presented in this blog, Jesus is first challenging us to believe into Him and when we establish ourselves as believers in the Savior/Deliverer we position ourselves in way that anything is possible. This idea does not mean that anything is ours to possess by faith, but that when we have Him, He is capable of doing anything that is within His pleasure. I also do not believe that His will or His pleasure should ever be presuptuously assumed. In every instance the possibilities of His will are endless. Why wait for Lazarus to die? Surely, that could never be the will of God! We can never know all that God is designing in delay or in refusal. What we can know is that His will is always the best and wisest choice.
“And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
In this second story on faith, I want to address one primary point concerning the concept that faith rooted in trust in Jesus and focused on the moment is the key to miraculous faith. I have experienced 2 short seasons in my life where I saw God do instant healing miracles. The first was initiated in a Pentecostal meeting where I witnessed the instant healing of a little 3- or 4-year-old little girl. I was a young husband and father attending a “holiness, oneness Pentecostal” church in Granite City, Illinois. We had an elderly pastor from Louisiana in for a Sunday night service and my pastor had asked me if I would be willing to walk with this visiting pastor while he prayed for the sick. He was well known in our denomination as a man who often saw the sick healed and I was privileged to walk with him and carry the anointing oil while he prayed for the sick. I don’t know how many came forward for prayer at the end of his message, but it was a good-sized crowd. I still have a copy of the cassette message from that night. He entitled it “The Healer is Coming Down the Road” and it was about Blind Bartimaeus crying out for mercy from Jesus.
As the pastor began praying for people, it seemed that many were blessed, but no one had a visible disability that would indicate a miracle. But then, we were standing in front of a mother holding her little girl. Pardon the cliché, but the little girl was wearing glasses that did have lenses that looked like the bottom of a soda bottle. And, her eyes were crossed! This was my moment to witness a miracle and yet I confess I didn’t think it was possible. The pastor took the little glasses off of the girl and then asked for the oil to anoint her. He then placed his giant hands on her little face. She didn’t draw back or cry as he prayed a fervent prayer and then loudly commanded her eyes to be healed. I was watching intently and I remember thinking, ‘I know God can, but would God do this?’ As the pastor very slowly lowered his hands, the first thing I realized was the little girl’s eyes were no longer crossed. When her mom saw it, she began to cry and shake and kept saying, ‘I don’t believe it. The pastor told her, “Momma believe it, He’s a mighty God”.
The rest of the story concerns my little boy who was about 1 when this event occurred. He was born with his feet turned in and the doctors said that he had to have surgery. I had been reading a book that someone had given me about healing and the writers were a husband and wife who were coming to St. Louis for a day and night of meetings. This was happening at a charismatic church and our denomination did not approve of that group because they didn’t hold to our holiness standards. I was working a 3rd shift job at the time with my best friend. We decided that he and I would go to the morning service and determine if this husband-and-wife team were legitimate. My friend had a really bad neck pain and we decided that he would get prayed for and we would decide if my wife should take the baby to night service to get prayed for. When the morning service was ending and the invitation was given, my friend and I went forward to “test the spirits”. When they prayed for my friend, he fell and when he got up his neck pain was gone. Ok, all seemed right for a miracle for my baby boy. We went on to work and I called my wife and told her that my friend’s dad would pick her and the baby up that evening for the service.
My friend and I kept talking about the expected miracle all through work and all the way home when we got off early in the morning. This was before cell phones, so we didn’t know what had happened but we were believing. When we pulled up at the house, my friend said he was coming in to see the miracle. It was early in the morning and my wife and the baby were asleep but it didn’t matter he wanted to see the miracle. We walked into the house and my wife heard us and came out to tell us that when they got to the service the ushers refused to let her in with the baby. No children are allowed in the auditorium not even for prayer. So, they returned home without prayer. We couldn’t believe it. And then my friend suggested that we should pray for the baby. All I remember my wife saying was, ‘Just don’t wake up the baby! We went in and she lowered the baby bed rails and I laid my hands on his hip and began to pray. As I prayed, his hip started shaking. At first, I thought it was just me, but when I removed my hand, his hip kept shaking. As we kept praying without anyone touching the baby he kept shaking and then his legs started swinging back and forth and then we heard a loud snap. I thought that he had kicked the bedrail, but then he woke up and reached out for me. When I picked him up, my friend and my wife checked his feet and they had turned and were straight.
That was the beginning of the first season of miracles. Within days I started getting invitations to preach in churches. I had been trying for months to go into ministry but all the doors seemed shut and then doors began to open. In every meeting for a year we saw many instant healing miracles. I can also tell you that many times I was shocked and had not believed that God was going to do what we were asking. I knew God could, but many times I did not believe God would, and yet He did. That may mess with your understanding of faith, but it seemed to be enough that we were willing to risk the humiliation of nothing happening by praying and asking for miracles.
In our story in Mark 9, I think that there is a message to us about seeking a deeper trust and also about believing in God to do what we believe He can. In the story, I think that Jesus first challenges the father to believe that He can do all things if there is trust in him. But notice that once again Jesus is faced with the deep seeded unbelief of a generation. I find it interesting how often Jesus seemed to have to deal with unbelief in cities and at times with his own disciples. In a similar way in our own time, I suppose that America has gone from one generation of unbelief to another until it just might be that we have moved from not believing God can, to a generation that doesn’t even believe in God at all. Whether the church realizes it or not, the depth of unbelief in recent generations has deeply influenced our unbelief. The church today is in a time of deep confusion and in many ways we are in a time when the church declares that God can, but seldom believes that God will. We are a desperate church that would flock to a miracle service just because our faith so needs a shot of adrenaline. We talk about ‘What would Jesus do?’, but I mostly wonder, ‘What would Jesus say? Would it be, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” Is the declaration of the crowd in Jesus time, ‘we brought our need to your disciples but they could not’, the same declaration of the crowd today?
After Jesus challenges the father that He is capable of doing all things, the man cries out that he believes, but help my unbelief! What does that mean? I think I have experienced this myself and probably you have too. We know that God can but in the moment of miraculous need, we are confronted by our unbelief. The real question then becomes, ‘But will He? and what if He doesn’t? Over the years the Lord has put me in situation after situation that demanded true miraculous faith. And, usually, the demand, more than anything else, challenged my ego. If I step out, I might look dumb.
I have also been in situations where others were walking in self-zeal and even pride and I knew that an embarrassing event was about to happen and that it might end up hurting the faith of the people witnessing the event. I have cringed on behalf of others and I have trembled at my times of challenge. There is a term I have chosen to best explain true faith that is unshakeable and filled with the peace that passes understanding, in my own heart that term is “certainty”. A man I greatly admired and named my oldest son after, used to say that “Faith does not follow a feeling, but feelings follow faith”. I found that to be so true. Many walk with a heart filled with fear and are afraid to believe because they don’t know if their faith in a God who can will be shaken by a God who doesn’t. There also many who believe in the supernatural and have associated their feelings with faith. They have to constantly find a way to stir their feelings to excitement so that they can maintain faith. My experience is that when God is preparing to do the supernatural a deep, strong, atmosphere of peace and certainty descends on my heart. Often, I am trembling with fear and uncertainty in the realm of my emotions, but something much deeper takes hold that can only be described as expectation. Do we need emotions? Absolutely! But I have usually found that the excitement, joy, and yes, even astonishment follow faith when it is accompanied by obedience, which is simply choosing to step out of the boat! Next, we want to talk about a walk on water and what we might learn from that. Blessings until then.