Good morning! Welcome to Hope City… My name is Peter and today we are continuing in our series called Miracles. We are spending the rest of this series looking at how God breaks into our world in miraculous ways. God does this in different ways… He puts His power on display in ways that are unique, and uniquely showcase His love for humanity.
How many of you have found yourself in a situation where you felt like there was no human way to overcome it or navigate it. It became bigger than you. Bigger than your abilities. These moments cause you to start looking around for a way through it. A way to navigate the uncertainty, and the fear, or the heartache…
2004 was a stretching year for me. It’s kind of like this rubber band. I married my wife Tiffany… that was the first miracle of that year… I started in my first full time role as a pastor, another miracle, that God could use some young punk kid in the lives of others… and then when everything looked good, it took a tragic turn.
In 2004, my dad became sick, eventually being diagnosed with Lewey Bodies disease. We were put in a position that we had no idea how to navigate. I was looking for a way through it. I wanted to see my dad healthy and strong again. He was 54 years old when he got sick, and my son was less than 6 months old! I wanted my dad to go camping with us, to go fishing, to see him graduate high school… There were all of these desires I had for myself and my family. I wanted him to be healed. I had every natural desire that you would have for someone you love. Those are normal feelings…
All of these feelings left me overwhelmed and scared. I experienced every emotion. And found that the only thing that made sense was bringing all of my emotion and all of my fears to Jesus. I did exactly what the Bible tells us to do in 1 Peter 5:7
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 (nlt)
I prayed and asked God to heal my dad. Alongside of countless other people. We were asking for a Miracle. We knew that the damage and deterioration in his mind was significant, that it would have to be a miracle to turn this around. It would have to be A Miracle is when God in heaven intervenes here on earth.
And yet, my Dad was not healed.
I know that my story isn’t the only story out there. It’s not even that unique. You have family members, that need a miraculous touch of God in their life for them to defeat the disease. Or you’ve been longing to have a baby, and the doctors have told you that medically it seems impossible…. You’ve got friends, neighbors, your kids teacher, or the waitress at your favorite restaurant who is currently walking through the darkest day of their life. This is where we experience the most TENSION. This is what happens when what we feel pulls in the opposite direction of what we feel. Some of you may find yourself in this position today. We know that God can, and yet for whatever reason, He doesn’t. It’s confusing, it leaves us with more questions than we thought we had, and this TENSION can fill us with doubts.
This TENSION has existed for thousands of years. In fact, from the beginning of time we have seen countless people who are heartbroken over their situation. This is not new to you, or to me. God has spoken to the TENSION they experienced in the past, and He will speak to the TENSION you are experiencing today…
God has shown up in the lives of people and put His power on display through miracles of healing way back in the Old Testament. Hannah, a woman who could not have children, cried out to the Lord and miraculously gave birth to Samuel. God answered Elijah’s prayers and brought a boy back to life after he had died. In the book of Daniel, we see King Nebuchadnezzar went insane for a period of time, and God healed his Insanity. Good new women, there is still hope for your husbands. 😉
The N.T. gospels share 30 different miracles of healing that Jesus did while here on earth. Which the book of John acknowledges that they couldn’t even write down everything that Jesus did. “The entire world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
Jesus healed the blind, he opened deaf ears, People who once couldn’t walk were able to walk again, he healed the Lepers, and He raised the dead. In fact, a few chapters before John writes these words that the world couldn’t hold the written stories of what Jesus has done, John records Jesus saying:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these… John 14:12
Like, greater things? Actually greater things? Or sort of similar things…. Do you believe that Jesus meant what He said? Or are you tempted to say, Oh well, this is where Jesus gets a little too excited about what He’s up to. He didn’t really mean that. If you do take Jesus seriously, and you take Him at His word as I do, then you are put in a position of TENSION. The Rubber Band gets stretched again we feel the TENSION!
What do you do when you’re stretched like this? God if you can, why don’t you? You may have chronic back pain, why doesn’t God heal that! You may live life under a cloud of depression that doesn’t seem to lift. Why doesn’t God heal that? You may have a secret addiction that you want more than anything to kick. Why doesn’t God remove that?
What happens when the person you love the most is experiencing the TENSION of what the truth of what they know and what they are feeling?
The TENSION is to think that God isn’t real. That God isn’t good. And that God doesn’t care! If God was real, I wouldn’t feel this TENSION. Or if God was good, then I wouldn’t be stretched like this. If God cared for me He wouldn’t allow me to feel this bad.
These are lies from the enemy of God. Our God heals, but He doesn’t heal everyone all the time. If anyone had a right to feel that way, I think it would be the Apostle Paul, a guy who authored almost half of the New Testament. A guy who God used in incredible ways, and yet still Paul cried out to God to heal him, to remove what he called a Thorn in the Flesh. And God said to Him, Paul… My grace is enough for you.
Or if Paul didn’t deserve this for himself, what about Paul’s spiritual protégé’ Timothy. We know that Timothy had frequent issues with his stomach and was regularly ill. Paul tells him in 1 Tim 5:23
Use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1 Tim 5:23
I know of a friend who was taught that if you were sick it was because there was sin in your life. That somehow, somewhere you had done something wrong and God was punishing you. They went through life fearful that every cold, every flu symptom was God’s anger for their imperfection.
The problem with this thinking is that it makes your relationship with God about what you have done. Did you pray right? Well, you’re healthy. Did you hold the door for the elderly? Did you do your good deeds? Well, then another month of health for you. Or, you looked at porn, or you cursed out your boss, well then you get Bronchitis. Now, I’m not suggesting those are good behaviors… but When you search through scripture, it has never been about humans getting themselves cleaned up and going to God. It has always been from the beginning of Genesis through the end of Revelation about God seeing the mess that humanity has made and moving towards them! God is a God who moves towards the brokenhearted, and meets us in our mess. Because God wants more for you than your mess. God loves you so much that in your mess he enters your mess to help you find a way out of the mess. God is not punishing you, He is brokenhearted with you.
We know that not everything Jesus did was written down for us. But there were a few times that were recorded where Jesus DIDN’T do a miracle.
In fact, there are three reasons that Jesus didn’t do a miracle. Look with me today at Mark 8:11-12
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Mark 8:11-12
The Pharisees were a religious bunch of people. They were some of the religious elite in fact. And they were putting Jesus to the test. They wanted to know are you really who you say you are. Because if you’re who you say you are, you’ll be able to prove it. Well, Jesus doesn’t perform to prove Himself. He said, No sign will be given to you!
When I was a kid, I used to love the show the Little Rascals. I’m talking the old school little rascals. None of this remake stuff… You know the He Man Woman Haters Club… Alf Alfa, Spanky, and the whole gang… Well there’s one scene in particular that would always make me laugh. Stymie was sitting on a curb outside of a house where a kid was in a second story window eating a box of donuts. Stymie looks up at the kid and you can tell he would love one of those donuts. Well, he looks back down and then gets a bit of a grin on his face. He looks back up at the kid and says, “I bet you can’t throw that donut on my finger.” And wouldn’t you know it. The kid tried! He threw the donut to PROVE that he could do it. Something so ridiculous as that.
Jesus doesn’t perform to prove Himself. And yet this is exactly what the Pharisees were looking to do to Jesus. PROVE IT JESUS. Prove yourself to us. It’s easy to fall into that trap of trying to convince God to Prove Himself. We’d love to have God do the impossible in our lives by throwing down the Ultimatum. God if you would only heal me, than I would believe in you. Some of you in this room are angry with God, and have walked away from God because He hasn’t responded to your challenge.
Another reason that Jesus never performed a miracle was because Jesus won’t interfere with God’s plan. Jesus’ friends were so protective of him. There were times when they wouldn’t let little kids near Him because they were afraid of it bothering Jesus. And then there was the time that Jesus was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemene and Peter, one of His disciples, decides to take matters into his own hands. He couldn’t watch Jesus be arrested! The TENSION was getting to him. So he took out a sword and cut a guard name Malchus’ ear off! Jesus looks at him and says,
3 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? 54 But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” Mt 26:53
Jesus is like, DUDE! Don’t you think I could have proved myself? Don’t you think I could have taken care of myself? I could have had thousands of angels here to protect us. Snap my fingers, and they would have surrounded us. But NO! I’m not going to do that… why? Because how would the Scriptures be fulfilled… How would what needs to happen take place?
In other words, Jesus won’t interfere with God’s Plan.
Sometimes because we can’t handle the TENSION, we buckle and we start to find other ways to solve the situation at hand. We start to meddle with the plan, and work around the plan. When I was a kid, I had a few good friends… we were pretty ridiculous, kind of like the Little Rascals. Always building something, doing something ridiculous, and riding our bikes through the woods to go somewhere…. Well, there was nothing better than the Friday night Sleepover at Rob’s house. We’d scheme all day about the tree fort that we were going to build in the woods, and how we’d sleep out there all night protected by our home made bow and arrows. Well I’d step off the bus and run home and ask one of my parents, can I spend the night at Rob’s house? And if they said No, I’d race over to the next parent and ask them. “Can I spend the Night at Rob’s House?” And jackpot… They Said YES! See maybe one of them didn’t know the plan for that night. Or maybe one of them needed a break from me. 😉 This didn’t really work out well. I can remember getting in trouble because I went around my parents. I bucked the system. I avoided the TENSION by creating my own system.
Jesus was unwilling to do a miracle that would go against God’s plan.
But that wasn’t the only reason Jesus wouldn’t do a miracle. In Matthew 13 Jesus returns to His hometown or Nazareth. And as He’s walking the streets he can’t find anyone there with faith. Look how Matthew summarizes His experience there.
58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. Matt 13:58
Jesus is in His hometown, the place where everyone knew His story… They’re like “wait… isn’t that Joseph’s son? Oh boy… that kid. He’s the Rabbi’s Pet, the Teacher’s Pet. He’s a mere carpenter. Boy does he have everyone fooled.” Jesus didn’t do miracles where there was no faith. Faith was a key component in Jesus miracles. Again, this is a tremendous TENSION. Wouldn’t it feel great if you were Jesus to walk into town and start showing off in front of all your friends, all your peers, your nosy neighbor. The guy that used to yell at you for playing too loudly in the backyard. UGH! It would be so good. But why not? Because in that moment, it is about self. It is about vindication. It’s about promoting and proving value. Jesus didn’t do miracles where there was no faith.
But there are so many examples of people whose faith has moved Jesus and Miracles happened.
There was the woman who didn’t stop bleeding for 12 years. This would have meant that she was ceremonially unclean (TENSION). She couldn’t go to temple, she couldn’t be touched by people, she was on the outskirts of society. And yet she gets near Jesus and she is miraculously healed. Look at what Mark 5 says,
34 Daughter, your faith has healed you. Mark 5:34
Then there is the man who had a terrible skin disease called leprosy and Jesus healed him and 9 other of his buddies. And after he was healed he came running back to Jesus and fell at His feet and worshiped Him. Jesus says,
19 “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19
Jesus says it was about this man’s faith! It wasn’t the washing in the river… it wasn’t going to the temple… it was his faith that made him well.
Or there was a blind man who was screaming out “Jesus have mercy on me!” Look again what Jesus says in Mark 10:52
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Mark 10:52
Again it wasn’t anything that this man said, it wasn’t that he was persistently calling out that moved the heart of Jesus to miraculously heal this man. It was his faith that moved Jesus. That is because Your faith moves the heart of God. If you want to know what impresses Jesus it was faith. He would look at people and was moved by compassion, He was moved by their faith!
Jesus encountered a Roman centurioun. He was a roman official and his servant was incredibly sick. This Roman leader comes running to Jesus and says, Jesus I don’t deserve to have you come to my house, to be under my roof. But I know that I’m a man with people who are under my authority. I tell them to go and they do. If you say the word, I know that my servant can be healed. Say the word Jesus! And Jesus was AMAZED! He said, I’ve not seen such great faith in Israel. WOW!!!
But then when Jesus walked into His hometown of Nazareth, and everyone was talking about him as the carpenters son, Jesus said wow… amazed at their lack of faith.
When it comes to your faith do you have a WOW type faith, or a wow type of faith.
When Tiffany and I got married, we knew that we wanted to have the type of marriage that would be more than roommates, we wanted the type of marriage that did more than pay the bills, make a few kids, and call it a life. We wanted to have a marriage that was intentionally growing. That was red hot in love for one another and experienced all that life had to offer. We knew that there were things that could sideline us, and even destroy this relationship. And from the very beginning we made it our goal, our priority, even our VOW to work on this. We wanted our love to be a WOW type of love. We’d seen enough couples that left us saying “wow, do they even like one another.” And we’d seen a few that we could legitimately say WOW about their love for each other. So, do you think that on August 8th, 2004 the day after I was married that we had a WOW type of relationship? NO… we didn’t. On our honeymoon we got in an argument… we weren’t even 10 days into our marriage and we were already arguing. Do you want to know why? Because I was trying to repack my new brides suitcase. I’m a bit of an OCD person when it comes to packing… and she didn’t know how to do pack. Well, she looked at me like I was nuts… Which I was. And then we had a heated discussion over the proper way to pack a suitcase.
Were we where we wanted to be in our “RED HOT, WOW Relationship Goals”? NO! But we had a picture of where we wanted to be, and we pushed and prayed, talked and forgave our way towards getting there. Are we perfect now? No! I’m still a bit of a bone headed OCD freak. But we have our sights set on something else.
Your faith moves the heart of God. Do a quick analysis of your faith right now. As I’m talking… what is the status of your faith. Is it WOW or wow.
Listen to me, though. I didn’t say that only BIG FAITH moves the heart of God, but FAITH… moves the heart of God. There is good news for every one of us today… what does Jesus say to his disciples about this. We looked at this last week. He says, Even if you have faith the size of a mustard seed. (Which was the smallest of seeds known to man). If you don’t have big faith— Pray with what you do have. Don’t believe the lie that because you’re not as good as someone else that means you are no good for anything. So because you’re not Mother Theresa, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help others. So you can’t help EVERYBODY, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, or couldn’t help SOMEBODY! Go to God in faith today, even if you’re clinging to a shred of it… God can do more with a shred of faith than you’d ever believe. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE with God!
When my dad was sick, I believed that nothing was impossible for God… and yet, after 4 years of living in this TENSION, my dad lost his fight with Lewey Bodies Disease. I prayed. I read scripture. I asked God to heal my dad. And yet it never happened.
This is the TENSION point. This is where we have to figure out what happens next. You may be in this moment right now. You may be stuck between what you feel and what you know. And it can either shake your faith or galvanize it.
So while Nothing is impossible with God, let me remind you our Faith isn’t because God does the impossible. Or another way of saying it is Our Faith isn’t based on what God DOES. Our Faith is based on who God IS! Our faith is based on God’s character.
And what do we know about God’s character… His Character was proved on the cross. That when we were still sinners, when our backs were turned on him, when we were cursing his name. When we wanted nothing to do with Him, He died for us. God’s love for you was the driving force that brought Jesus to the cross. God didn’t want to watch His people suffer far from Him, out of relationship with Him. So He made a way for us to be brought back in relationship.
Let me remind you that Jesus highest purpose here on Earth wasn’t to heal bodies, it wasn’t to restore sight to the blind. It wasn’t to do any of those things. His highest purpose was to Save our Souls!
Every person that God ever healed in Scripture eventually died. Have you thought about that? God healed them and then they still died. The reason Jesus came is so that we would be truly healed after we die. That when we leave this earth, and we meet God in heaven, that we would be forgiven of our sin, and we would be made whole and healed once and for all.
So let me ask you, what in your life do you need God to heal? Where in your life are you experiencing the most TENSION? The TENSION can either cause you to CATAPULT away from Christ, or it can draw you in closer. It’s your choice.
In your pain, in your heart ache, you can either allow your faith to grow in the midst of this, or you can allow it to create bitterness and anger in you. Start with the end in mind. What kind of a faith do you want to have? God can take the little faith you have now and multiply it over and over again… that it would grow from something as small as a mustard seed into something far greater.
Maybe the TENSION will bring you to your Bible. To read scripture, if you’re in heart ache, a great place to read is in the Psalms.
Maybe the TENSION you are experiencing will draw you closer in prayer. Times of communicating with God when you feel like there is no one else you can say the things you are feeling to.
Maybe the TENSION will cause you to fast from something physical so that you can encounter something spiritual in a new way.
This morning will you let the TENSION draw you closer to Christ. Closer to His Holy Spirit, Closer to His love and affection for you.
Remember, We BELIEVE GOD CAN. WE BELIEVE GOD WILL. EVEN IF HE DOESN’T.