John 4:43-54 43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. 54 This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
This morning I want to you about the progression of faith as is seen in the story of this royal official. Can we give him a name just for fun? Any suggestions for the name of a royal official? (Haggai, alright. Haggai, it is.)
Haggai began his interaction with Jesus with what I would call a “Crisis Faith.”
There is nothing more important to a parent than their children. My heart breaks for parents who have lost children through illness or some kind of tragic accident. If I could think of anything that would be crushing, debilitating or unbearable, it would be the loss of a child. There was a desperate need in this man’s life.
Lots of people get in touch with Jesus during a crisis. That’s not a bad thing. The royal official didn’t come to Jesus because he had a special interest in Jesus. He came because he had a desperate need. It is what it is at that point, but crises have a way of positioning us so that we can see God or experience God when we wouldn’t ordinarily be open to doing so.
Occasionally I am asked to do a funeral for families I have never met. I try very hard to work it out in my schedule because I know it presents a great opportunity for people to interact with Jesus and to think about their eternal destiny. When there is an accident, a health scare, or something that threatens someone’s personal or financial security there seems to be an openness to talk about spiritual things. I think people in that situation have the attitude that Jesus couldn’t hurt, that they have nothing to lose by receiving prayer or even by praying themselves. It’s a starting point.
Sadly, many people never move beyond Crisis Faith so Jesus is just Someone to talk to in a moment in time and never becomes Someone to get to know and trust for every moment of life. A lot of people make bargains with God in those moments of crisis that are really just empty promises; just words of desperation. I’m not sure you could even call it the exercising of faith because no follow through happens for many later. “God, if you will just heal my mom, I will come to church.” “God, if you just help my son get this job, I will live for You.” “God, if you just save my marriage, I promise I will quit edging you out of my life.” “God, if you just heal me or grant whatever request I have, I will be Your witness.”
God’s grace truly is special because I have seen many people receive the answer or miracle they prayed for with their “crisis faith,” and when God delivered something to them in power and in mercy, He knew they wouldn’t be following through on their end of the bargain. In those instances, God didn’t answer because He felt compelled to or like His back was to the wall or that His name or character were on the line. He does what He does because He is gracious and merciful. He does things for people who have faith and He does things for people who have no real faith. That is His prerogative. That is part of His privilege because He is God.
Just because someone goes to God in a crisis and asks for God’s help doesn’t mean that person is exercising faith in Jesus. It may mean that, but it may not. Crisis Faith isn’t a dependence upon Jesus as much as it is a cry for someone to help in a situation where they can’t do anything to help themselves. It’s a start, but if a person never progresses past crisis faith, they will never truly come to know Jesus. Crisis Faith says, “Help me. Heal me.” It’s not faith to live by, but faith for the moment. God knows what is in a person’s heart when they cry out to Him.
Look at this passage two chapters earlier. John 2:23-25 23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.
While in Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus performed miracles that are not given in detail in any of the Gospels. It must have been these signs that especially attracted Nicodemus to have a conversation about eternal life with Jesus in John 3. Because of those many early miracles, people started professing to believe in Jesus, but John tells us here in chapter two that Jesus didn’t accept their profession. That’s a radical thought, isn’t it?
It didn’t matter what they said about Jesus, even if it was glowing and positive. He didn’t accept their testimony because He knew what was in their hearts. He knew what was in their minds. Jesus was a novelty to them. They weren’t interested in placing their faith in Him as the Messiah. They were just curious to watch Him work, to be spellbound by His power. These people believed in Jesus, but He didn’t believe in them. It’s one thing to become interested in Christ in response to a miracle, but it is something else to commit yourself to Jesus and to continue in His ways through His Word. In other words, If you never move from the works of Jesus to the Word of Jesus, I’m not sure you can say you know Him.
In a passage in John chapter 8 where people were listening to Jesus teach and He was explaining why He had come and what He would do for them, verse 30 says, “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.” Those in attendance that day were willing to take Jesus at His Word. They moved on in their faith journey, beyond the demonstration of God’s power and began to trust God’s will for them as was expressed in His Word.
A crisis is helpful in pointing us to Jesus as the One we need to turn to. Miracles are helpful in pointing us to the authority and power Jesus has, but it is His Word we need to receive, trust and respond to.
God understands that our human hearts are tied to the sensational, to the thrill, to the excitement that can be pursued in life. When Jesus fed the 5000 it was huge. It was an epic miracle. People would talk about it for days, decades and decades after that, but when Jesus preached a sermon on how He was the Bread of Life and what it meant to take part of the life of Jesus and be sustained every day by Him, people were like, “I’m out.” They were “in” for the miracle, but “out” for following the Word of God. That isn’t a relationship with God by faith for His glory. That is the using of God for personal gain.
As one commentator said, In grace, Jesus fed the hungry. In truth, He taught the Word. The people wanted the physical food but not the spiritual truth, so they abandoned Him. Many people want the grace of God, but they aren’t interested in the truth that is needed in order to truly follow Jesus.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, it was easy for people to get swept up into the crowd to watch His miracles. Jesus was the most exciting thing to hit their town. But then, when His words started to penetrate hearts, to convict people of the way they were living, many opted out.
It is more than OK to seek the Lord out in a crisis, but God wants a relationship with us beyond our crisis. He wants us to walk with Him and listen to Him and reach for Him and believe Him and follow Him every day.
We see a shift in Haggai’s faith from Crisis Faith to Confident Faith in verses 49 and 50. The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
Haggai wanted Jesus to come with him, to go to his house, a 20 mile hike. Jesus didn’t comply with the request. He didn’t go to Capernaum with the man. Instead, Jesus answered the man’s plea with a command. This royal official who was used to giving orders was going to receive one. Jesus told him to go and his child would live, and he did. He let go of demanding the miracle on his terms. He let go of telling Jesus how things were going to go down. He gave up on the expectation that Jesus had to be physically present in order to impact his son’s situation. That’s part of taking God at His Word, isn’t it? Allowing God to do things His way and in His time?
Jesus had just sort of rebuked everyone in the crowd in verse 48 when He said, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” As I have pointed out, ever since Jesus had begun performing public miracles, people followed to see what they could see. Jesus told Haggai to believe without seeing. Jesus was helping him transition from seeing and believing to believing Jesus’ words by faith. He had to believe something without seeing anything. This was a different kind of experience with Jesus. At that moment, the royal official had to entrust his son’s life to the power of Jesus’ words and not just the power of His works. That is faith. Believing without seeing. That is followship. Going at Jesus’ Word.
Haggai would have to entrust his son’s life to the power of Jesus’ word. To take Jesus at his word was a matter of life or death for his sick son. That sounds too risky. But Jesus knew this was the only way for the man to truly have faith in Him. If Jesus had gone with the man, the man could have referred people to Jesus whenever they needed a miracle. Jesus didn’t want to just be on stand-by for people as they had a need. Jesus wanted more for the man than a healing for Haggai’s son. He wanted the man to place his confidence in Jesus as the authority for his entire life. He wanted to impact the man’s family. He wanted to change the way the royal official did his job. He wanted to transform his mind. He wanted to give him a new heart. It could never happen unless the man would take Jesus at His Word.
Taking someone at their word can be tough to do. We have a lot of reasons to distrust people, don’t we. Think about the pilot who can’t take the word of the air traffic controller who is guiding the pilot’s plane in for a landing. If the pilot were to be disoriented because of cloud cover or maybe a thick and violent storm, as long as the pilot takes the word of the air traffic controller, all will go well. The ability of the pilot to be able to rely on someone else’s word will be the difference between a safe landing or the crashing of the plane and the loss of all life.
Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation, is someone who was able to take God at His Word. He believed what God told Him when God said in Genesis 12 to leave his country and to go where God would show him. He believed God would make his descendants into a great nation. He believed he and Sarah would have a child in their old age though well were beyond accomplishing that feat in the natural realm. They believed God would give them land so that his descendants could prosper. Abraham believed what God said. Abraham couldn’t put his eyes on the situation because what was promised was still out in his future. He had to believe God’s Word for his future in the now. We need to believe God’s Word for our futures in the now.
Somebody here today, probably several people, need to transition from Crisis Faith to Confident Faith. Several of us need to start taking God as His Word. We need to start following His commands and resting on His promises. I am 50 years old. I have walked with Jesus for 45 years, and I have never seen God disregard one of His promises. I have never been disappointed by God. I have never regretted reading His Word and trying to live my life by it. Because it has been in the exercising of my faith that God has revealed Himself to me, and more than I need a healing, more than I need financial stability, more than I need a new car or assistance to deal with relational tensions, I need Him! You want to know God? Don’t look for the hype. Don’t race toward the miracle. Take Him at His Word.
There is no greater evidence for God than the evidence you will see when you take Him at His Word. When you take God at His Word, you are affirming His authority and when you do, you will experience the magnitude of what Jesus can do. What Jesus speaks comes to pass. Taking Him at His Word will increase your confidence to see Him move in your everyday life whether it is something you would think is small or something you would consider to be huge. You will come to lean so heavily on Him that when you read, “Your sins are forgiven,” you will believe it and walk free. When you read, “Lazarus, come forth,” you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life and that death has no final say over those who trust in Christ. When you hear the Word of God that says, “Nothing shall separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus,” you will know that if you are trusting Christ in your heart that no matter what happens, God has got you.
Haggai’s Crisis Faith led him to Confident Faith which produced a “Contagious Faith.”
The end of verse 53 says that he and all of his household believed. The man and his entire household put their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the One to live by, the Word to live by. Jesus is the “logos,” the Word to live by. This man’s faith developed to the point where he didn’t only believe Jesus could do miracles, but he believed Jesus was God. Having seen a long-distance miracle, if you will, a miracle where Jesus wasn’t standing right there, where he didn’t see Jesus physically touch his son, but where a long-distance miracle occurred, he was able to conclude that if Jesus’ Words are sovereign and all-powerful even long-distance, He must be God.
What began as a moment of crisis moved to a moment of confidence that led to the conversion of his entire family. This is a beautiful portrayal of what God can do through one person who will take Him at His Word. That is the kind of faith I want to be on display in my life; faith that brings other people to Jesus.
So, God uses all kinds of happenings in our lives to begin a work of grace in us. Lots of you know that from your own experience. The death of a loved one could be the beginning of spiritual life for you. Bad news could lead you to the best news a person could ever receive. You know why I got saved? Someone dared me to. That’s right. A little girl I was sitting with at church dared me to go to the altar when the invitation was given. I was just ornery enough to go. But when the pastor’s wife knelt beside me and explained what Jesus had done for me, those words, the words of life, brought conviction to my heart, and I knew I needed to accept what Jesus had to offer. It was easy to believe He wanted me to be with Him in heaven forever. It was a simple moment. It wasn’t the most mature decision. I didn’t understand what that would mean for the rest of my life. My decision hadn’t even been prompted by my own will. I was just acting on a dare, but God used it. God spoke through it.
Maybe you will come today just because you are desperate. Totally OK. It doesn’t matter how you get to Jesus. What matters is that you do. Faith starts somewhere, but once the crisis takes you to Jesus, allow the Word to take you to faith in Him. You don’t have to understand all of the Bible in order to follow Jesus. You just have to follow Him one Word at a time. Belief only becomes faith when you obey the Words God gives you.
Maybe you will come today because you need a specific Word from God to be spoken over your situation. You trust Him, but you need to hear from Him. And when you hear from Him, you intend to follow what He says and leave every result and every detail in His hands. Maybe you have already heard Him speak to you through the Word that has been proclaimed. Responding to it is the exercising of faith, and faith will please God (Hebrews 11:6).
One final nugget for thought. Haggai’s faith began with humility. It didn’t matter that he was a royal official and was used to giving orders. He wasn’t concerned with who watched him beg Jesus for a miracle. He had a need, and he didn’t allow anything or anyone keep him from expressing it and asking for help. Here’s what we need to consider: Our pride can keep us not only from our miracle, but it can keep us from following Jesus and gaining eternity in Heaven. You can’t exercise faith without first exercising humility. And it’s time. You have put off this Jesus-thing for far too long. You have watched from afar. You have hung around in curiosity long enough. You have witnessed other people getting help and having life-change for too long. You’ve sat on the sidelines long enough. It’s your turn to walk to Jesus and ask Him to speak to you.
Allow the crisis to lead you to Jesus. Allow His Word to give you confidence in Christ alone, and allow the experience you have with His Word to become a contagious witness to lead others into a saving relationship with Him.
Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Just to take Him at His Word.
Just to rest upon His promise. Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him. How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. Oh for grace, oh for grace, oh for grace to trust Him more.