Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Persistent Faith

A few days ago I was pondering over the story of the ill woman who followed Jesus through the crowds, waiting for just the right moment so she could touch the hem of his garment. Matthew 9, Mark 8 and Luke 5 all record the story of this woman's remarkable faith. According to Matthew, Jesus had been called to go to the house of a synagogue leader because his daughter was dying. I don't know much about the social implications of this time period, so I'm going to make a couple of assumptions here.

 First, I'm assuming that the synagogue leader was a pretty important person. Probably one who, when he said jump, people would ask how high. So it may have been just assumed that when the leader asked Jesus to come to His house, He would come. Immediately. And not stop. I'm also going to assume that a woman who had been "subject to bleeding for twelve years" (what?!) was a little lower on the social totem pole. Probably because she was a woman. And probably because she wasn't in perfect health. It doesn't really give any details about this woman. She doesn't even have a name. She's just known as "the woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years". She had been under the care of doctors and had spent all she had, but in Mark, instead of getting better, she only got worse.

We have precious few other details about that day. Only that a large crowd was pressing around Him (Mark 5)--and Luke says that the crowds almost crushed Him.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I attended a Virginia Tech football game in Blacksburg, VA. It was a night game, and the atmosphere was electric, the air was heavy, and the crowd was huge. We didn't have enough seats in the section we normally sat in, and since his brother was in town to see the game also, we decided that I would go across the stadium to sit in an extra seat. By myself.

Have I ever told you that I don't like doing things like that by myself?

When the weather turned ugly, the sky that was so heavy started shooting out massive sparks of lightning that lit up the sky, and the game got cancelled, that huge crowd turned into a chaotic mess. People were everywhere, trying to get out of the few stadium exits. There was nothing else to do but go along with the throng of people, swaying this way or that way toward what I hoped was an exit. The crowds were pressing, almost crushing, and I had no way to find my husband. It was claustrophobic. And had something frightening startled that crowd--well, it could have been terrifying.

I've read that people really liked seeing the miracles that Jesus performed. I'm guessing that's true because to be honest, I'd love to see a miracle of that caliber. To see a paralyzed man get up and walk (also in Matthew 9) would be amazing. To see Him heal the blind man and the leper, raise the dead--Mind. Blown. So I'm assuming that the crowds were so thick because they wanted to see what I want to see--a full-blown, all-out miracle of God.

In a crowd that thick, it probably would have been near impossible to actually get to Jesus, but the amazing thing is that this woman--this woman who was ill, who had spent all she had on doctors, who didn't really have much social standing--she wasn't going to let that stop her. It says in Matthew the she said to herself, "If only I touch His clock, I will be healed."

Faith. The confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11). I am astounded by this woman's true faith in a teacher she hadn't even had the chance to meet or research. All she knew was that she was in desperate need of help, and help was in the form of a man right in front of her, almost within reach.

So she persisted. And she was just able to touch the hem of His cloak as He walked away.

Matthew records that He knew when she touched His hem, and He turned and saw her, saying, ""Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment." Her bleeding stopped.

In Luke 18, Jesus talks about praying and never giving up. Persistence. Faith.

The things I want to be made of.

On most days, when I'm caught up in life, I don't live out a persistent faith. I might pray once or twice, and then forget about it or just give up. Not so much a prayer warrior, as it were.

When I first got married, I prayed every single solitary night for a Chihuahua. Every night for like 2 or 3 solid years I prayed. And all these years later, if I were to invite you over to my house, you'd see nary a Chihuahua or any other small, yippy dog in sight. Because I don't have one. I gave up.

Maybe it's not meant to be for me to have a Chihuahua. Maybe I like the idea of having a dog much more than I would like actually having one (people are forever telling me how much work dogs are, which if I were to be honest with you, bursts my bubble a little bit). But here's the thing: just because I haven't seen an answer to this prayer, no matter how silly or insignificant it is, doesn't mean I should just give up.

My second lifetime goal is to live a life of persistent faith. A faith that never gives up, never gives in, and in the words of Natalie Grant, "will not be moved". A faith that doesn't stop asking, doesn't stop believing. A faith that believes a new heart is possible and that a renewed mind is a reality. A faith that hopes for an abundant life, that knows that the desires of my heart are achievable. A faith that brings freedom, that endures past the doubts and frustrations. A faith that is strong, despite what everyone else says or does, a faith that knows the true source of joy and peace, a faith that shines forth, speaking the truth that is undeniable:

"If only I touch His cloak,
I will be healed." 

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