FAITH GROWTH BY THE WORD OF GOD
By Ps. Paulus Budiono
Lemah Putro, Sunday, April 5, 2020
At school we learn from the lowest level of education then gradually build-up to a higher level learning with weightier material from year to year until we graduate. Likewise, the Word of God that we hear and meditate on from day to day should make us believe in God even further and make our faith grow. Thus, we will not doubt that every verse listed in the Bible is the Word of God. In the current situation related to pandemic Covid-19 with its aftermath of tragic death everywhere, unfortunately some believers – with an intention to strengthen the other believers’ faith – allegorically quoted a verse of the Bible and related it with other verses, without even reading the whole context in the Bible.
Illustration: Nowadays there is lots of various information on social media offering the best way to prevent us from being infected by the COVID-19 by taking certain kinds of drug and vitamin, carrying out a healthy lifestyle with exercises and sunbathing at particular hours, which actually make us even more confused to choose which one is accurate.
Introspection: We have been studying the Gospel of John for about four months starting with John chapter 1; to what extent has it made our faith grow? After studying several units, students are usually given a test to find out how far they master the material that has been given. Admittedly, children, youngsters, parents comprehend and believe the word of God differently.
How to get mature faith that produces hope? John 4: 46-54, “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. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”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.” 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.”
The city of Cana where Jesus performed the first miracle of water changed into wine (John 2:11) is mentioned again and it says He made the second miracle there. Does it mean that Jesus had performed only two miracles so far? The fact is He had performed many miracles. Proof? When Jesus arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed Him because they had seen everything He did in Jerusalem during the feast of the Passover (John 2: 23-25).
The Word of God that we read entirely from chapter to chapter is worthy to follow and believe to increase our faith; do not sort the verses hoping to look for faster solution to our problems. For example, we claim that we just received God’s promise to solve our problem through a pastor’s sermon, but later when we feel that the solution does not happen soon, we frantically look for another pastor who can give us more “effective” verses. Such action hinders our faith growth.
Jesus rebuked the palace officer (a father who was worried about his son's condition) for disbelieving before seeing miracles as done by a lot of people. This means that people followed Jesus only because they wanted to see (physical) miracles such as the sick healed after Jesus laid hands on them, the demon-possessed freed, etc. Jesus considered this kind of faith to be very fragile and likened such people to those who practiced shamanism.
Why did Apostle John write this story the second miracle performed by Jesus? To emphasize the progress/development. Illustration: When a student is studying a subject, he must start from chapter 1 then continues to chapter 2 and so on that contain weightier material so that he would make a good progress/development without forgetting the previous chapters mastered.
If we pay close attention, the first and second signs/miracles have similarities. At the wedding banquet in Cana, Jesus did not immediately perform a miracle but said, "My time has not yet arrived." (John 2: 4) But Mary trusted His words and then told the servants to do what Jesus said. They practiced Jesus' command to end with full joy.
How do we respond to the promise of God's Word that has not yet been realized? Do we still believe in Him? If we follow God to see miracles, we are misdirected. Remember, God's Word is "yes" and "amen" and He never fails to keep His promises (2 Peter 3: 9a).
Jesus rebuked the palace officer who asked him to come to his house to perform a healing miracle. His request seems understandable because he had just known Jesus at that time and it also shows that he actually had the seed of faith. If we have experienced the first miracle (marriage restoration), do we still not believe in His word by demanding (physical) miracle of physical family restoration (healing)?
Keep in mind, faith growth can surely be experienced by anyone – a decent man, a man of high position, rich, poor, adults, young children etc. This palace officer was not offended by Jesus' rebuke even though he had a high position in the government. Jesus wanted to change his paradigm and intention so as not to focus solely on miracles. Evidently he believed in Jesus’ words even though initially filled with anxiety. He obediently went home having faith that Jesus would certainly heal his son. Previously he only heard about Jesus from others, but after he himself encountered Jesus, he experienced faith growth.
Introspection: What is our motivation for coming to Jesus? If we focus on getting miracles of healing, recovery of marriage, household, work, etc., we will not focus on His Word. Conversely, if we experience recovery in all kinds of problems because of the Word, we will love the Word more. The problem is, are we (parents, the head of the family) after hearing the commands of God's Word willing to do it or instead, we procrastinate or even ignore it?
Are not parents often worried when their young childrean are “suffering from fever” – in mental or emotional instability due to their young age? Obviously, they still need parental guidance to be able to control their overwhelming emotions. How do parents handle this problem? Do not confuse the Word of God with culture and parents’ authoritative manner lest our children’s “fever” gets worse!
The palace officer was still in the middle of the road when he saw his servants coming to greet him joyfully and report that his son had recovered. Similar to the first miracle in Cana where Jesus used the servants, here the servants who cared about the condition of their master could also witness the miracle. Healthy household condition will make people at home feel joyful. When the palace officer asked his servants what time his son got healed, he found out that it happened at just the exact time when Jesus said, “Go your way; your son lives". So, it’s the proof that recovery happened at the same time when he believed and obeyed Jesus although he did not see his son right after that as it took one-day journey to reach his home.
Introspection: Do we still remember God's Word and do it when our faith is being tested? Or we forget about it because we are more concerned about the problem? Generally, man can do the Word because there is humility in their hearts and God knows man’s hearts (John 2:25). Honestly, we often forget the Word of God, but thanks to the Bible, we can be reminded of the strengthening verses. Do not depend entirely on the pastor or the elders to explain the Word of God to us, especially during this period of Covid-19 pandemic when – with God’s permission, we have to have on-line services. The early churches also persevered with the teaching of the apostles at home and it made their faith grow.
A father is responsible for his child’s spiritual life, so he has to lovingly nurture him. When – at God’s will – the child gets sick, the father should immediately approach the Lord and believe in His Word, then recovery will surely take place for God always gives strength and provides hope. However, faith growth also needs the support of the family members. Some stories in the Bible highlight the roles of a mother, a father, a child and so on but all of them aim at helping our faith grow.
The growing faith can give great impact on others. After his child was healed miraculously, the palace officer would surely share the story to his fellow officers at the palace and it absolutely made the child feel his father’s love and his servants respected him even more for he trusted them.
This palace officer and his whole family eventually became believers. This story took place before the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul preached the gospel making people and their families believe (Acts 2: 37-39,41; 16: 33-34). Obviously, growing faith is not centered on self-salvation. The faith of the palace officer was further strengthened when he heard the testimony of his servants who saw his son's recovery.
Let us increase our faith by quickly responding to the Word of God and do it without waiting for a miracle to happen first and then believe it because once we believe and do the Word, then miracle also happens. Remember, God is not limited by time, for example: as soon as He says, "Let there be light,” then light was there instantly. Make sure our faith does not grow alone but it has an impact on our family and friends around us too, making them believe in God through the testimonies of our lives. Amen.
Video selengkapnya ada di Ibadah Minggu Raya - 5 April 2020 - Pdt. Paulus Budiono.