The Struggle to Have Faith

I want to begin by inviting you to read with me from Mark 5:25-34.
A woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse--after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?" And His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction."

One of the ironies in our culture is our sense of control. For decades our culture has declared to us that we can change anything. We can change ourselves! We can change the world! For a long time, we believed we could do anything that needed doing. Want to place an American on the moon? We can do it! Want to bring a crippled space module to earth from the moon? We can do it! Want to replace a diseased heart? We can do it! Want to extend the human life span? We can do it!

Then, abruptly, we were forced to realize our vulnerability and limitations. 9/11 stated dramatically the impossible can happen. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq keep saying that there is a whole world out there that does not think like we think or follow our values. Here, long held jobs disappeared. Here, companies out-sourced jobs to places with cheaper labor. Here, the economy slowed. Here, the price of gasoline increased dramatically. Here, the harder we try to make things secure, the more we are reminded that we are surrounded by insecurity. As we watch, our society is changing in some dramatic ways.

The result: we are increasingly humbled as we realized how little we actually control. More and more we become aware of a truth: Christianity is not about what we can do for God, but about what God can do for us. Our whole understanding of what it means to have faith is changing.

This evening I want us to let a sick woman teach us more about what it means to have faith.

  1. Let me begin by setting the context of the situation.
    1. A synagogue official came to Jesus imploring him to come heal his daughter who was at the point of death.
    2. Jesus agreed to go with the man and heal his daughter.
      1. As they were making the trip to the man's house, word came to the man that his daughter had died.
      2. Jesus urged the man not to be afraid but to believe, and the trip continued.
    3. Mark wrote that at some point between the synagogue official's request and the news that the girl died, the sick woman in the crowd touched Jesus.

  2. Consider the context of the incident.
    1. It centered around a woman who had been hemorrhaging blood for twelve years.
      1. She had gone to doctors, suffered through numerous treatments, but no one had helped her.
      2. Not only had she not been helped, but:
        1. Her condition was worse.
        2. She was broke.
    2. She heard about Jesus and the powerful deeds he performed.
      1. She was in the crowd.
      2. She believed that just touching his clothing would heal her--amazing when you consider how much failure she endured.
      3. The key to destroying her disease was touching Jesus!

  3. She acted on her faith--she did as she planned to do! (And that was difficult!)
    1. We think nothing about a woman touching a man in public, but not so then!
      1. First, consider Leviticus 15:25-30:
        Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean. Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and every thing on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time. Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. When she becomes clean from her discharge, she shall count off for herself seven days; and afterward she will be clean. Then on the eighth day she shall take for herself two turtledoves or two young pigeons and bring them in to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting. The priest shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the Lord because of her impure discharge.
      2. The poor woman confronted two enormous risks.
        1. First, because she had a hemorrhage, she was supposed to stay at home where she had contact with no one!
        2. Second, a healthy woman was not supposed to touch a man in public--even speaking to a man in public was strictly forbidden (Mishnah, Ketuboth 7:6).
        3. No wonder the woman was so afraid when her act was caught!
      3. For her in her condition, she had a bold plan.
        1. She would blend in with the crowd following Jesus.
        2. She would get close enough to him to touch the helm of his outer clothing (the tassels on his outer garment--Matthew 9:20, Numbers 15:38).
        3. She was convinced if she could just do that--no speaking, no plea, no ceremony, no attention--she would be healed.
      4. She was correct!
        1. She worked her way close enough to Jesus to bow and touch the bottom of his garment.
        2. Instantly, when she touched the bottom of his outer garment, she physically felt the healing.
        3. There was just one thing she did not expect--she did not expect for Jesus to be aware that she touched him.

  4. The result of her touch of faith:
    1. Immediately, the woman is healed.
    2. Immediately, Jesus knew someone with faith touched him.
      1. He turned to the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
      2. The disciples thought that was a ridiculous question--he was followed by a crowd of people, and the crowd constantly contacted him.
      3. He promptly looked at the woman who had touched him, and she knew he had caught her.
    3. With so much fear that the woman was shaking, she came before Jesus and knelt--expecting the worse for "being presumptuous and out of place."
      1. She confessed what had happened, telling Jesus everything.
        1. In my mind, I can see a disapproving crowd of men thinking or saying, "Woman, how could you do that?"
        2. In my mind, I can hear her thinking, "I am in serious trouble now!"
      2. Jesus did not condemn her.
        1. He did not take the miracle back.
        2. He merely said, "Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your affliction."

  5. May I call your attention to two truths.
    1. There was an incredible difference in touching Jesus in faith and merely touching Jesus.
    2. Though this unclean woman touched Jesus, she did not make him unclean--rather he healed her.

  6. In some ways I feel Christians are being reintroduced to the importance and the power of faith.
    1. In recent decades we have been so focused on disagreements about issues we have forgotten about faith.
      1. The stress has been on procedures rather than motives.
      2. The cry has been "do it right!" rather than do it for the right reason.
      3. We have been so focused on issues that we easily create the impression that the key is in procedure, not in motive.
    2. It is very difficult to structure one's life on faith in this society.
      1. One of the conscious dreads I had when we returned from the foreign mission field was the realization that the lessons of faith are much clearer there than in this society.
        1. I had two conscious prayers.
        2. The first: "Never let me forget who I am"--I learned a lot about me in foreign work.
        3. The second: "Help me remember how to depend on You."
        4. This culture encourages us to depend on ourselves, not on God.
      2. Why is it so hard to live by faith in this culture?
        1. We are deceived into thinking that we are in control.
        2. Too often our demands "make trial of God."
        3. We know too much about depending on people, and too little about depending on God.
          1. As a result, when we face a personal faith crisis, we turn to people for answers.
          2. We are afraid to trust God for answers.
        4. Too often our Lord is inactive instead of alive.

If you do not live by faith, you will never know what faith is. If people do not see you living by faith, they will think the gospel is about an invitation to church instead of an invitation to a life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 27 January 2005

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