5. Scripture Testimonies, Part 3
Her great faith consisted not only in her persistency, in holding on until the last in importunate pleading, but in its ingenuity in finding some ground on which to plead and claim the blessing. Faith is a process of logic, an arguing our case with God, and it is always looking for something to rest upon. Her heart seemed to lean at first upon His grace and love as she somehow felt it instinctively. Something told her that calm, gentle face could not refuse her. But still she had no word from Him. One little word only, one whisper, one faint concession would do her. But he had spoken nothing but hard, inevitable words of exclusion, exclusion based upon the great principles and limitations of His coming, principles that seemed to make it wrong for Him to help her. At last He speaks a word that seems to close the door forever. Not only a Gentile, but a dog. It is NOT MEET. How can she surmount that? Wonderful! That becomes the very bridge on which she crosses the Jordan. A dog — that gives her a place. A dog — well, even a dog has some rights. She will claim hers. Only a crumb. This thing she asks is but a crumb to Him, so great that mighty deeds of power and love drop from His fingers like morsels, but oh, so much to her! Lord, I accept it. I lie down at Your feet, at Your children's feet; I ask not their fare, but this which is but their leaving; this which will not diminish anything for them; this which even now they in yonder Galilee have had to the surfeit, until they have refused to take more — this I humbly claim for myself and child, and You can not say me no.
No. He could not. Filled with love and wonder, He answers: "Oh woman, great is your faith; be it to you even as you will." And the mighty deed was done. "As you will." Here, again, we have the same element of decision, of fixed and concentrated will which is essential to all strong faith and action. It was the same will, in the negative form, as "I will not" which overcame at Peniel sixteen centuries before; and these two cases, both for a temporal deliverance, are companion pictures of overcoming faith.
THE DEMONIAC CHILD. (Matt. 17: 14.)
Immediately after the Transfiguration, Jesus was brought face to face with the power of Satan in the form of a case of demoniacal possession that resisted all the Disciples. The cause of their failure was their lack of faith, and the reason of their unbelief was their strife about personal ambition.
When Jesus comes to the multitude He rebukes the unbelief which He perceives on every side, and then calls the father and child into his presence. The moment the father begins to speak of the difficulties of the case, he falls into a paroxysm of discouragement and cries, "If You can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us." But the Lord's answer quickly brings him to see that it is not a matter of Christ's power but of his own faith. "If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes." He at once recognizes the tremendous responsibility which this places upon him, and meets it. "Lord, I believe; help You mine unbelief." These two words together — the Lord's great word to him, and his word to the Lord — are among the most wonderful teachings of the Bible about faith.
The first tells us the POSSIBILITIES of faith — all things; equal to God's own omnipotence, for the only one else to whom all things are possible is God. Faith does, indeed, take and use His own Omnipotence.
The second defines the POSSIBILITY of faith — that is, how far can we believe? Now, many spend their lives wondering if they can believe. Others, more wisely, like this man, put forth the effort and stretch forward the hand first, and then throw themselves on God to sustain and carry them in it. Had he said, "Lord, help my unbelief," without first saying "Lord, I believe," it would have been vain. Had he said, "Lord, I believe;" and stopped there, it would have been equally vain, for it would only have been his own will power. He put forth his will, and then he depended upon Christ for the strength. This is faith. It all comes from Christ, and is, indeed, His own faith in us, but it must be taken by us and used with a firm and resolute hand.
The healing power now comes, but it seems at first only to make matters worse, and develops such a desperate resistance from Satan, that in the conflict the child is thought by the spectators to be really dead. So, often, when God begins to heal us, we really seem to get worse, and the world tells us that we have destroyed ourselves. But the death must precede the life, the demolition the renovation. Let us not fear but trust Him who knows, and all will be well. He takes the child by the hand, and lifts him up, and the demon has left him forever.
THE BLIND MAN AT BETHSAIDA. (Mark 8: 22.)
The first thing Christ did with this man was to take him by the hand and lead him out of the town, separating him thus from the crowd, giving him time to think, and teaching him to walk. hand in hand with Jesus, and trust Him in the dark. So He first takes us all, and leads us out alone with Himself, long before we look in His face, or know that He is leading us.
Next He begins the work of healing him by a simple anointing, as a sign, and putting His hands upon his eyes. The result is a partial healing, but distorted and unsatisfactory. Thus would He teach us that sometimes our progress will be partial and by successive stages. Many never get beyond this first stage.
There is a third stage — perfect sight; and it comes from one cause: a look at Jesus. "I see men," he said the first time; and while he only saw men, he saw nothing clearly. But the second time the Lord made Him "look up," and now he saw clearly. That one look at Jesus, even through the dimness, made all things clear and whole.
THE BLIND MAN AT JERUSALEM. (John 9.)
The question of sin in connection with sickness receives a very important limitation in this incident. Christ teaches His disciples that there are cases of infirmity where there has been no special iniquity beyond the common guilt of all men, and the trouble has been permitted to afford an opportunity for God to show His love and power in restoring.
In the healing of this man, the Lord again used a simple sign. He anointed his eyes with spittle and clay. None will say that this could have any medicinal effect to cure eyes blind from birth. It was simply a sign of His touch. He then sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he came, seeing. If it be said that there was any virtue in the clay, it may be added, with equal force, that he did not receive his sight until the clay had been washed away in the pool of Siloam.
This pool was the type of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, Siloam, was the same as Shiloh, and it meant the Sent One. The water meant the Holy Spirit, also the Sent of the Father and Son.
The testimony of this man, subsequently, was most glorious. With a keen sarcasm, he exposed the inconsistencies of the Scribes and Pharisees who came to see him about it, and to draw out of him some evidence against Christ, who had again broken the Sabbath by this act of healing. But the humble peasant was more than a match for them, and the controversy which follows is intensely sharp and interesting. At last they resort to coarse force, and excommunicate him from the Synagogue. But he is a true martyr; and soon after Jesus appears to him again and reveals His true character and glory, and the man becomes a loving Disciple.
BLIND BARTIMEUS AND HIS COMPANION. (Luke 18.)
There was a deep insight in the cry of Bartimaeus, "You Son of David." Jesus was now coming to claim His throne, and the title by which He was to be known was "The Son of David." It was strange that His own people should be blind to His claim, and that a poor old blind man should be the first to see it. So still the wise are the blind — so the blind see still.
We see persistent faith. He cried aloud; he cried so much the more when they reprimanded him: he cried and threw away his garments, teaching us that we must put all hindrances out of the way. He had but one request: his earnest faith summed up all its intensity in one word, "Lord, that my eyes may be opened." There can be no strong faith without strong desire. The languid prayer has not motive power enough in it to ascend to God.
His healing was simple and glorious. There was a pause, a call, a question, an earnest reply; the word is spoken, the work is done: he gazes on the beautiful scene, the men around him, and the face of the Lord. And then he looks no further, but sends up his shouts of praise, and follows Jesus in the way.
THE WITHERING OF THE FIG TREE. (Mark 11: 20.)
This is Christ's one miracle of judgment, and it would seem to be a poor source of faith and comfort. But Christ made it the occasion of His highest teaching about faith, and it is indeed, a symbol of the deepest and tenderest operation of His Grace. The greatest principle of Scripture is SALVATION BY DESTRUCTION, Life by Death. The life of the world is the destruction of Satan, Sin and Death. The Sanctification of the Soul is the withering up of the natural life. The healing of the body is the death stroke at the root of an evil growth of disease. There are things that need God's Fire and God's Holiness. There are times when we want more than mercy and gentleness, and the whole spirit longs for the touch of the keen sword which slays utterly the foul thing that is crushing out our life and purity.
Oh, how glorious at such a time is the Consuming Holiness of the Living God? This is the meaning of the withered fig tree. "You shall do this which is done to the fig tree," He says to His Disciples. Yes, we can speak that mighty word of faith, and lo, the flesh withers and dies. We can speak it again, and lo, the poison tree of sickness is withered, and begins to dry up from the root. And although leaves and branches may for a while retain their form and color, we know that the death-blow has been struck at the root, and the real work is done.
The secret of all is this: "Have the Faith of God."
The marginal reading is as much higher than the text as heaven is above the earth. The faith of God is as different from faith in God as Christ's faith is from that of the Disciples who were laboring with the demoniac boy. Jesus does mean to teach us that no less than such a faith as His own will do these things, and that we can have it, and must take it.
THE LAME MAN AT THE BEAUTIFUL GATE. (Acts 3: 10.)
The first miracle of the Holy Ghost after Christ's ascension is marked by the most emphatic recognition of THE NAME OF JESUS only as the source of power in its performance, and the most DISTINCT REPUDIATION OF ALL HUMAN POWER OR GLORY IN IT. The Apostles distinctly use that Name as their first word to the man, and when the people come crowding around them, and the rulers summon them before them, they again and again disavow any part in it, further than merely to represent the Mighty Name and power of Him who had been crucified by the men before them. It is not now a present, but an absent Lord, represented by His ministers and His Name.
Again the very faith through which the miracle had been performed and received was as distinctly disavowed, as in any sense their own will-power, or the man's, for they distinctly say, "Yea, THE FAITH WHICH IS BY HIM has made this man stand before you whole." So that both the faith and the power are SIMPLY JESUS HIMSELF WORKING AND BELIEVING IN US.
Again THE MIRACLE ITSELF IS ONLY VALUED AS A TESTIMONY FOR JESUS, and AN OCCASION FOR MORE WIDELY AND EFFECTUALLY SPREADING HIS WORD. They do not wait to wonder over it. They do not let it monopolize their attention, but they quietly press on with their greater work, the preaching of the Gospel. The healing of the sick is simply accessory to the great and the whole work of the Gospel, and ought always to be associated with it. But the lame man was an unanswerable argument for the Gospel, a very buttress in the walls of the young Church. "Seeing the lame man with Peter and John, they could say nothing against it." That is fine. We need such testimonies still. The world, the secular, and the devil cannot answer them. We have seen the proudest secular put to shame by a poor woman coming up before the people who knew her, and telling him how God had made her whole.
ENEAS AT LYDDA. (Acts 9: 34.)
The miracle, by the hands of Peter, has the same features. First, Peter is most careful to recognize only the Master's Power and Name. "Aeneas, Jesus Christ makes you whole." Peter is wholly out of sight, and ever must be.
Next, the effect of it is to bring men to God; not to set them wondering, but to set them repenting. All Lydda and Saron saw it, and turned to the Lord. The true effect of a full Gospel of supernatural power and might is always spiritual results, and the salvation of men. And through these mighty signs and wonders will come, Joel tells us, the last great outpouring of the Spirit upon the world, and the awakening of men before the second coming of the Lord.
THE LAME MAN AT LYSTRA. (Acts 14: 10.)
This is one of the most instructive cases of healing in the Bible.
This was a purely heathen community and audience. They had no preconceived prejudices.
Paul preached to them "the Gospel." No doubt he told them of the healing and redeeming work of Jesus.
As he preached he perceived the light of faith and life irradiating the face of one of his most helpless hearers. We can see these things in men. God gives the spiritual mind instincts of discernment.
Paul evidently would not have gone farther unless he had "perceived" that this man had "faith to be healed." It is no use trying to push men on Christ who have not hands to touch Him. It was not Paul's faith that healed the man, BUT HIS OWN.
But he must be helped to act it out.
"STAND ON YOUR FEET," cries Paul; and as he rises and attempts in a hobbling, halting way, to stand, he cries "UPRIGHT," for this is the force of the word (see Young's translation). There must be no halting and half-believing. A bold step like this must be carried through audaciously. And lo! the man responds to the brave words, and now not only stands up, but begins to leap and walk. By works his faith is made perfect.
The effect of the miracle and the humble spirit of Paul need no additional word. God was glorified, and Paul gave Him all the glory.
PAUL'S OWN EXPERIENCE OF HEALING. (Acts 15: 19; 2 Cor. 1, 4.)
It was not long till the great Apostle had occasion to prove his own faith. The excited people first worshiped and then stoned him and, dragged out of the city by a mob infuriated by Jewish agitators, he was left for dead in the midst of the little band of disciples. But did he die? No. "As the disciples stood round him he rose up in their midst, and the next day he departed for Derbe, and there he preached the Gospel." Could there be anything more simply sublime or sublimely simple? Not a word of explanation, no utterance even of surprise, but a quiet defiance of pain, weakness and death itself, and going on about his work in the strength of the Lord.
In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians and the Fourth Chapter, he gives us the secret of his strength: "We which live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake;"–that was what happened at Lystra-" that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." That was the secret of the wondrous restoration at Lystra. In a later verse he gives it to us again, "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
In the First Chapter of Second Corinthians he gives us another instance of his healing.
It was a great trouble that came to him in Asia, and pressed him out of measure above strength, so that he despaired even of life. And, indeed; when he looked at himself, his condition and his feelings, the only answer he could get was death.
But even in that dark hour he had one confidence, the life of Christ, and "God who raises the dead." And this trust was not in vain. He did deliver from death, and had since been constantly delivering the Apostles, and he was sure would yet deliver him to the end. And he simply adds his thanks to them for the prayers which had so helped and comforted him, and which gave occasion for such wider thanksgiving on his behalf, to the glory and grace of God.
OUR SAVIOR'S EXPERIENCE OF PHYSICAL LIFE IN GOD. (Matt. 3.)
Jesus Himself had to learn, and leave to us, the great lesson of living physically not on natural strength and support, but on the life of God. This was the very meaning of His first temptation in the wilderness. It was addressed directly to His body. Weakened and worn by abstinence, the tempter came to Him and suggested that He should resort to the usual means of sustenance and strength, and make some earthly bread. The Lord answers him that the very reason of His trial and abstinence is to show that man's life can be sustained without earthly bread, by the life and word of God Himself. The words have a deep significance when we remember that they are quoted from Deuteronomy, and are first used of God's ancient people, to whom, He says, He tried to teach this same lesson, that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." So it is not only the Son of Man who was thus to live as a special evidence of His Divine power, but the lesson is for man, and we must all learn with Him to receive our life for the body as well as the soul, not by the exclusion of bread, but "not by bread ALONE," but also by God's word. This is exactly what our Savior meant when, two years later, he said in the Synagogue at Capernaum, "As the Living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father: so that he that eats Me even he shall live by Me."
So our Lord learned His physical lesson, refused the Devil's bread, and overcame in His body for us. The next two temptations were addressed to His soul and His spirit, and were, in like manner, overcome. And so He became for us the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Such are some of the witnesses. "Seeing, then, that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING TO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH."
From The Gospel of Healing by A. B. Simpson. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2013.
Reach for the Calling Creator
Gospel of Healing - A.B. Simpson
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your calling be the best.