They say, seeing is believing...
Hesham Shehab: What is Faith?
Invocation: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
They say, seeing is believing, and for this reason, the world counts us as fools to have faith in what is not seen. Yet, if we’re honest we have to admit our world believes in a lot of things that are unseen as well.
Illustration from life #1:
For example, the world trusts in odd currencies of paper and plastic – not to mention cryptocurrency. And no one asks exactly what their true value is or what backs these currencies.
Illustration from life #2:
The world trusts in love to continue. The world trusts that the goodwill of neighbors and the love between family members and friends will continue. And yet the world cannot define love even though everybody talks about love all the time. “Love wins!” is the slogan I see all over my Facebook wall.
But, the only place that we Christians know where love wins is on the Cross.
We all have faith in someone or something, without ever thinking about what that actually means. But simply put, faith is nothing more than fearing God above all things, loving God, above all things, and trusting in God, above all things. As the first commandment says, you shall have no other gods – place our faith in anyone else – apart from the Lord.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. But in practice, we put our faith in tangible things, our trust in everything and everyone, other than God, in money, government, or in our own physical and mental prowess.
Maybe our God becomes our family, or our spouse, and as long as they’re around, as long as that is all held together, then life is just fine. But when we lose our spouse, family, or we lose our health and are unable to work, we lose hope, we despair, and before we know it, we literally lose our faith.
Martin Luther definition of gods in our lives:
That’s what Martin Luther says in his Large Catechism, when he says that if you look deep into your heart, and the thing that you fear the most, trust the most, and love the most in your heart… If you look to that thing, the one thing that you can’t go on without; there is your god.
So, I think we need to repent. We need to repent of all the little gods in our lives.
Let us look at two dramatic displays of faith as recounted in Mark chapter 5. Here we encounter two characters who are at the complete opposite sides of the social and religious spectrum; the rich and the powerful Jewish leader, vis-à-vis the helpless and the outcast woman.
The gospel lesson begins with Jairus, chief of the synagogue, surrounded with friends and family. He’s got all things going well for him except for one thing: his little girl is dying. He would spare no expense to save her, he’ll do anything, and that includes seeking out this new teacher, Jesus, that he has heard about. He goes to find Jesus.
And then there is the other person in the story, the woman with the flow of blood who has suffered under the hands of many physicians, who has spent every dime and penny that she has, trying to get relief. But there’s no hope for her.
She goes to find Jesus.
So, this woman was unclean, according to Jewish traditions, had no right to bring sacrifices with her family to the temple, and no rights of social standing in the community.
She was as good as dead in those Jewish traditions and she was willing to spend anything she had just for a chance to get it all back. She hears that Jesus is going through the town. Jairus’ daughter is ill and so they’re moving fast and the crowds are swelling around Jesus.
And this woman hopes beyond hope for a blessing. And so, as the crowds are pressing around Jesus, the woman sees her chance. The person who feels unworthy, unclean, and unimportant, reaches her hand out and touches God. This is a remarkable act, especially for a woman who was unable to go into the temple, into the presence of God. But then, she had the actual audacity to reach out and touch God.
This woman held out faith. She held out faith that this One was not only able to heal her, but also to forgive her.
As it is forbidden for an unclean person to touch another Jewish person’s body or clothes, she figured she’d sneak up on Jesus. “I’ll just touch the fringes of his robe,” she figured “he’ll never know.” She had faith that even touching the fringes of His garment would make her well.
Immediately her bleeding stopped.
The power of Jesus restored this woman to health. She had reached out to Jesus in faith and she was healed.
And so, the crowd comes to a dead stop. Jesus asked, who touched me? The disciples in turn ask Jesus, “What are you talking about?” Everybody is crowding you. What do you mean? Who touched you?
But the woman knows what He meant. And in fear and trembling, she comes before the Lord of all creation and kneels. And Jesus makes an example of her faith and calls her “daughter.” He makes her, His child. This one who was unworthy and unclean is now a child of the Most High God. And not only is she healed, but she becomes an heir of the Kingdom.
But this, the scene of overwhelming love, of Grace upon Grace, is immediately shattered as men from Jairus’ household arrive to say, “Your daughter is dead. There was nothing more we could do. Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
And what could Jesus do in such a situation? Jesus, overhearing the report, looks at Jairus and says, “Do not be afraid.”
Only believe. That is, only have faith. And Jairus believes.
Jairus has faith. He has faith that the one who was able to heal this woman who was the walking dead, will be able to revive his dead daughter… and the daughter rises and lives again.
These two persons in our text today are a picture of us in the future. We reach out to Jesus in faith trusting that he can and will heal us. Sometimes he provides miraculous healing of illness in the here and now. Sometimes his healing comes in the form of patience, comfort, and healing that he provides in times of illness. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).”
But for all of us, Jesus promises permanent eternal healing in the future. When we are taken by his loving hand, to be with him in heaven, he promises that there will be no more illness, and no more physical aliments. Through the restoring power of Jesus we will be given new glorious bodies. Jesus will say to us, “Your faith has made you well; live here with me in peace, healed from all your diseases.”
Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. If it is His will, physical healing may take place for His glory too.
Illustration from life #3:
Salam Christian Fellowship has been organizing monthly retreats at Walcamp Outdoor ministries. The last two retreats were uplifting.
A Messianic Jew was our guest speaker on May 22. He recounted a miracle that took place when he was in seminary. I would rather not mention where. Many seminarians were making fun of him because he believed that Jesus can still do miracles. So, they arranged a mock prayer meeting for him and brought the administrative assistant who suffered from severe arthritis and could barely walk, and asked him to pray for her. To their amazement, the woman was healed, and all the seminarians that night came to faith in Jesus’ power over sickness and death.
Illustration from life #4:
On June 12, we had another person, Tony, who surprised us with his visit to the camp. Tony rarely comes to Salam. He was a Pakistani in his 50s.
Tony recounted his story of conversion from Islam. Tony came to the US in the late 1980s when he was 20. After his arrival, he fell sick. His family was wealthy and was able to consult the best doctors, but all was in vain. He was told that his disease is rare and had no cure. Tony had no energy, could barely walk, and could not drive. Tony thought that he may not live long, and began to seek satisfaction in different religions, including his own religion of Islam. He memorized parts of the Quran, and became a devout Muslim. But he read in the Quran that Jesus did miracles of healing. So, he bought a copy of the Bible and read more about the miracles of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit worked faith in Tony’s heart, and he knew that the Bible is true. He prayed to Jesus and pledged that if He heals him from his incurable disease, he would serve Jesus all his life. Jesus did heal Tony. Tony declared his new faith to his Muslim family. The family disowned him, and he had to live homeless for months. Tony today drives for Uber and shares his testimony with Muslims.
Illustration from life #5:
In the LCMS, we have Pastor Paul Teske who shares his testimony and prays for healing. On May 7, 2004, while speaking to two hundred businessmen, Pastor Paul suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, immediately leaving his left side paralyzed. While in the hospital, God spoke to him and told him that he would be healed in twenty-one days. Upon leaving the hospital in a wheelchair, he was told by the medical staff that even after physical therapy, he would need to wear a leg brace and use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Paul’s wife, Rivers drove him to Baltimore, MD to attend a large healing crusade. On May 28, 2004, exactly twenty-one days after his stroke, exactly as the Lord had promised, Pastor Paul was completely healed.
God, creator of the world, sent His Son to redeem and die for the world. God also sent his Holy Spirit to bring you to faith, which Jesus has generously poured out on us all.
It is faith that satisfies the hunger in your soul. It is faith that gives you eternal salvation in Christ Jesus.
And this is faith, that one fears, loves and trusts in God, the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit above all things.
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