5 October 26 - November 1
The Act of Faith
Read For This Week's Study: Mark 5:21-43; 9:14-29; Matt. 8:5-13; John 5:1-8, 14.
Memory Text: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. . . . . And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:1, 6, NIV).
Key Thought: Faith is practiced, it acts, and results follow.
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Sabbath Afternoon October 25
FAITH DEFINED. Faith has been defined as unquestioning belief, complete trust, confidence, loyalty, expectation. Faith is being certain our of hopes even when we cannot visualize their fulfillment.
This week we will investigate faith and the act of faith with regard to healing. On several occasions, Jesus made statements to this effect, "Your faith has made you well." It seems to imply that the intensity of belief or certainty made it so. Is that what Jesus meant?
How much faith must I have to be healed? If my faith is lacking, can God still heal me? How much is our part and how much is God's? Would a loving God not heal me just because I wasn't certain enough?
Let us see how Jesus' ministry supplies some answers for us as we investigate the act of faith this week.
The Act of Faith From a Distance (Matt. 8:5-13).
"The Centurion was the backbone of the Roman military. This officer was responsible for leadership, discipline, and the morale of 100 soldiers. But this was a soldier who cared. The gentleness of the man is evidenced by his request. His concern, appeal, and the expression of faith isn't for himself but for a slave who is 'paralyzed and in terrible suffering.' While this may seem a normal humane act, it wasn't common in Roman society. Masters had absolute control, life and death, over their slaves who were considered no different from a useful tool. This centurion was a man who cared for other men. William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster, 1975), p.302.
How did the centurion demonstrate his faith? Matt. 8:8, 9; Luke 7:7, 8.
Jesus was willing to break the cultural taboos and enter the home of a Gentile, but the centurion's faith made that unnecessary. In Matthew 8:10-12, Jesus taught that the only passport into His kingdom is faith. While the Jewish leaders would have been appalled to see Jesus enter a Gentile home, here was a Gentile whose act of faith was greater than all that Jesus had witnessed in Israel.
What Bible truth does the centurion's attitude teach us about faith, privilege, and prejudice? Acts 10:34, 35; Luke 12:48.
"The centurion said of himself, 'I am not worthy.' His heart had been
touched by the grace of Christ. He saw his own unworthiness; yet he
feared not to ask help. He trusted not to his own goodness; his argument
was his great need. His faith took hold upon Christ in His true character.
He did not believe in Him merely as a worker of miracles, but as the
friend and Saviour of mankind. . . We have nothing to recommend us
to God; but the plea that we may urge now and ever is our utterly helpless
condition that makes His redeeming power a necessity. Renouncing all
self-dependence, we may look to the cross of Calvary and say--
'Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling.'" --The Desire of Ages, p 317.
When you extend your faith and ask for God to heal, what do you expect him to do?
The Act of Faith Interrupted (Mark 5:21-36).
Jairus was a synagogue ruler; today we might call him the "head elder." He was over the administration of the local synagogue--both the physical plant and the schedule of services--and probably one of the most respected leaders in his town. His faith reached out to Jesus for help; nothing else held any hope; his 12-year-old daughter was dying. It must have been a humbling act of faith. Normally Jairus would not put faith in an unrecognized itinerant like Jesus.
What emotions do you think Jairus experienced
1. when he left his daughter to look for Jesus,
2. when he fell at Jesus' feet, and
3. when Jesus agreed to go with him?
When our expectations are blocked, it is often a source of anger, frustration, and disappointment. We expect God to protect us from life's major calamities. When that expectation is not realized, our faith often sags, and we question the mercy of God.
Jairus anxiously tried to move Jesus and the accompanying crowd to his home. He was acting on his faith, but then his expectations were blocked. Jesus stopped, the whole crowd stopped with him, and Jesus asked the unusual question, "Who touched me?"
How do you think Jairus felt about Jesus' question? What was the response of the disciples? Mark 5:30, 31; Luke 8:45-47.
The woman got her miracle, but Jairus's hopes were dashed. A messenger arrived with the news that his daughter was dead. When the dream is dead, when you have extended your faith and your world still crashes down, why bother the Teacher any further? The girl was dead. Jesus sought to reinspire hope by saying, "Don't be afraid; just believe" (Mark 5:36. NIV). The joy of his life, his little girl, was dead. But Jesus' words offered a ray of hope.
How do you have hope, and practice faith, when all hope is gone? What problems are you facing right now that seem bigger than life? Is your God bigger than your problem? (See Matthew 19:26.)
The Act of Faith--Jesus' Confidence (Mark 5:35-43; Matt. 9:23-26; Luke 8:50-56).
How are we to ask God for what we need? James 1:5-8.
Jesus' instruction to Jairus "Don't be afraid; just believe" was a statement of His own confidence in His Father. It was an encouragement for Jairus not to give up hope, a call to endure even in this moment, and to cling to belief. Sensitive to the family's needs, Jesus dismissed the crowd and nine of His disciples. Only Peter, James, and John traveled with Him to Jairus' home.
What scene did they encounter at this home? Mark 5:38.
Professional mourners were wailing. The soulful sounds of the mourner's flute were being played. Neighbors had gathered. "The mourners hung over the dead body, begging for a response from the silent lips. They beat their breasts; they tore their hair; and they rent their garments. . . This made a Jewish house a poignant and pathetic place on the day of mourning."--Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, p. 134. And Jesus said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep" (Mark 5:39, NIV). They laughed. They knew she was dead.
Why do you think Jesus refers to death as sleep? Matt. 9:24; John 11:11, 25, 26.
Jesus sent everyone out of the house except the girl's parents and His three disciples. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don't yet see, and Jesus acted in faith. No prayer is recorded. Jesus' union with His father was so close that He had complete assurance that He could raise the dead girl to life. As the source of all life, He could call one back from the jaws of death.
What was Jesus' command and the little girl's response? Mark 5:41, 42. What keeps us from exercising that kind of faith? Ps. 66:18; John 12:26; 14:13, 14 (compare 1 John 5:14).
Why did Jesus want the story kept secret? Can public relations sometimes hinder God's work? Can it block God's continued efforts on our behalf? Matt. 6:3-6.
The Act of Faith in a Touch (Mark 5:24-34; Luke 8:43-48).
For twelve years the sick woman had motivation to pray. Sickness had plagued her. She had fluctuated between despair and hope. She would go to a doctor or herbalist or healer and find herself no better off.
She had no insurance plan or government assistance program, and now she was bankrupt. Not just financially bankrupt, but her emotions, her body, her relationships were bankrupt. Her disease not only debilitated her physically, but her condition made her "unclean" according to the law in Leviticus 5:25-27. This isolated her from her church, social circles, her husband, and children.
What do you do when you've prayed and acted in faith for twelve years and nothing is better? Rom. 8:26-28, 35-39; Luke 22:42. What are the risks of being more infatuated with being healed than in love with the Healer?
Her cycle of hope and failure may have initially discouraged her from seeking Jesus, but finally she determined to cross paths with Him. She believed that if she just touched His clothes she would be healed. And when she touched His coat, she was immediately healed. Undoubtedly, she would have liked to slip away anonymously to enjoy her newfound health, but faith's results aren't only for the recipient. When she came forward, Jesus declared, "Your faith has healed you" (Mark 5:34, NIV).
Why were the little girl's parents asked to keep the miracle secret (Mark 5:43), while Jesus insisted on making public the sick woman's healing? (verses 30-34).
"After healing the woman, Jesus desired her to acknowledge the blessing she had received. The gifts which the gospel offers are not to be secured by stealth or enjoyed in secret. So the Lord calls upon us for confession of His goodness. 'Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.' Isa. 43:12."--The Desire of Ages, p.347.
On other occasions Jesus asked persons he had healed not to make the miracle known (Mark 1:43, 44; Matt. 9:30). Too much publicity could have hindered His ministry by awakening a popular movement in His favor and by arousing the deep enmity of the nation's religious leaders.
What benefits for yourself and for others is your testimony to the healing power of Christ, both spiritually and physically?
The Act of Faith (Mark 9:14-29; Matt. 17:14-21).
While Jesus, Peter, James, and John were witnessing Jesus' transfiguration, a man brought his boy to he healed by Jesus' disciples. His journey there and presentation of his son for healing were acts of faith. The disciples had been given power to "drive out all demons and to cure diseases" (Luke 9:1, NIV), but now they appeared helpless. The father's faith had been shaken. After explaining his predicament to Jesus he begged "But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us" (Mark 9:22, NIV).
Why did the healing, of the son depend on the faith of the father? Mark 9:23, 24. How may our self-reliance and lack of belief block what God wants to do for us?
When the father recognized his own weakness, he could extend his faith and ask for help toward greater faith. Jesus knew that there is an incredible link between the mind and body. In this story, there is a link between one person's faith and someone else's body. While we don't fully understand it. the link is undeniable.
In a clinical trial of a new form of chemotherapy for cancer patients, some patients were given sterile salt water. Even though salt water does not cause hair loss, 30 percent of this group lost their hair! They expected chemotherapy to produce hair loss, and their bodies responded to the expectation.
While belief is important and the mind can significantly influence the body, acts of faith aren't simply self-help, a "conjure-up-enough-belief-and-be-well" technique. It is faith in a God who can heal.
Right now, do you need to practice faith? What is keeping you from your act of faith?
The only problem too big for God is one we won't give Him! Here are some steps to help you act in faith:
1. Accept that God is able. "With God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).
2. Accept God's wisdom to face your problem (James 1:5).
3. Accept counsel from Christian friends (Prov. 11:14).
4. Act. Believing God is able, accepting His wisdom, and good counsel, choose a course of action and ACT in faith (Heb. 11:8).
Friday October 31
Further Study: What does Jesus' healing the man at the pool of Bethesda teach us about faith in relation to spiritual healing? John 5:1-8, 14.
"Through the same faith we may receive spiritual healing. . . Of ourselves we are no more capable of living a holy life than was the impotent man capable of walking. There are many who realize their helplessness, and who long for that spiritual life which will bring them into harmony with God; they are vainly striving to obtain it. In despair they cry, 'O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?' Rom. 7:24, margin. Let these desponding, struggling ones look up. The Saviour is bending over the purchase of his blood, saying with inexpressible tenderness and pity, 'Wilt thou be made whole?' He bids you arise in health and peace. Do not wait to feel that you are made whole. Believe His word, and it will be fulfilled. Put your will on the side of Christ. Will to serve Him, and in acting upon His word you will receive strength. Whatever may be the evil practice, the master passion which through long indulgence binds both soul and body, Christ is able and longs to deliver. He will impart life to the soul that is 'dead in trespasses.' Eph. 2:1. He will set free the captive that is held by weakness and misfortune and the chains of sin."--The Desire of Ages, p.203.
1. What is your responsibility to the sick and suffering in your community? In what ways is a separation of body healing and spiritual healing an unreal separation?
2. How do we fulfill the "act of faith" in a healing ministry today? What is the proper relation between faith and health science? Is there any act of faith in using modern medicine? (See The Ministry of Healing, pp.230-233.)
3. How can you act in faith for the benefit of your word? For whom will you act in faith, be it physically, socially, or spiritually?
Summary: Faith is God's gift to those who seek it. Faith is also our choice to act according to Christ's will. We must exercise the gift that God bestows. Spiritual healing always results; physical healing results for us or others when God sees that it is for our or their best good.
The Hidden Book, Part 1
Konde Sered [Seh-RED] grew up during wartime in Uganda. He lived in i large family near the shore of Lake Victoria. When he was 13 years old, his father left and married another woman. His mother could not afford to keep all the children, so Konde went to live with his older sister while he attended school. But at age 15 he fell sick and had to leave school. Sadly, Konde returned to his home village.
Because of the war, soldiers often raided villages looking for able-bodied men to fight. When word came that the soldiers were on their way, Konde's uncle fled into the bush to avoid being taken. Konde helped hide his uncle's possessions in the bush, where they would be safe from the soldiers.
Among his uncle's things, Konde found a book titled The Great Controversy. The title intrigued him, and he took the book home to read. As he read, he found a chapter on the Sabbath. Konde showed the chapter to his older brother, who became interested too. The brothers were surprised that so many verses in the Bible mentioned the Sabbath, yet they had never heard of it. They decided to ask their father about it, for he was an important leader in his church. But their father was not interested in the book or its teaching on the Sabbath. The boys were disappointed, but they continued reading The Great Controversy and comparing it with texts in their Bible.
Konde's brother heard about some Christians who worshiped on Saturday. He went to town to ask whether they knew the book the boys were reading. He returned with an excited "They are the ones!"
The brothers attended the Adventist church and found it different from their family's church. In their church, the priests read printed prayers and did not give detailed sermons. But the Adventist pastor preached carefully prepared sermons and prayed spontaneous prayers!
Konde and his brother were convinced that the Adventist Church was God's true church. They decided to be baptized. But when their father learned of their plans, he was angry and threatened to disown them.
(Continued next week)
Konde Sered attends Bugema Secondary School near Kampala, Uganda. Charlotte lshkanian is editor of Mission.
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