Going through Acts, I came across a phrase that, though I didn’t spend a ton of time on it when I preached the passage, for some reason I can’t stop thinking about it. See if you can guess what it is...
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well... (Acts 14:8-9)
“Is it ‘Paul looking intently at him’?” No.
“How about ‘the man could not use his feet’?” Not that one.
It’s the part at the end there. Paul saw that the lame man “had faith to be made well”.
What does that mean? I don’t know.
I mean, I could give the Sunday School answer or the Bible College Theological dissertation answer. But sometimes when God’s Word intersects our lives in a certain way, maybe we can explain it in our heads but still have a hard time wrestling it down in our hearts. And quite honestly, in my heart, this verse raises a lot of questions...
What does it mean that he had faith to be made well? He literally just heard the Gospel for the first time – how could he have a ton of faith already? Did he just have a simple, child-like faith like Jesus talked about (Matthew 18:3)? What if the man didn’t have the faith at this point? Would he have not been healed?
Truth be told - those weren’t the questions that lingered. Those weren’t the questions that I have been rolling over and over in my mind. Really, there’s only one big question that is the stone in my shoe: What about people who need healed but are unable to truly believe?
In other words, What about someone who is sick, but lacks even the mental capacity to receive the truth in such a way to “have faith to be made well”?
What about someone with autism?
It hits home. And this is no doubt regarding God’s power (settled at Creation) or God’s love (settled at Calvary). I mean, I’ve seen babies healed. Why not my son? He is out of the baby-stage, age-wise. But he seems far from understanding the Gospel (believe me, I’ve shared it with him many times).
Is he incapable of having “faith to be made well”? And you say, “Well, you’re the pastor, you tell me.” It’s times like this I wish I did have all the answers. I don’t. But there’s something I do know, that I need reminded of in times like this:
“Faith to be made well” isn’t the only kind of faith that’s needed.
We also need:
-Faith to trust that God uses illness to accomplish His purposes. Galatians 4:13 says that it was because of a “bodily ailment” that resulted in Paul preaching the Gospel to the Galatians. That might not seem “fair” to Paul, but for many people to receive eternal life as a result, well, I am sure we will see some Galatians in heaven who were happy. So we need this faith – I need this faith – that God may have a bigger agenda than we can see and He even uses illness to accomplish His purposes.
-Faith to believe that Jesus’ power is made perfect in weakness. Oh, poor Paul. He also had that thorn in the flesh. I am not going to try to guess what it is – if God had wanted us to know, He would have told us. And that’s not the point anyways. This thorn resulted in Paul understanding in experience that the power of Christ is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul didn’t even seem to evaluate if it was “fair” - in the same verse he proclaimed how this weakness was an occasion for him to boast – because it resulted in the power of Christ being upon him. Do I have faith that Jesus’ power is made perfect in weakness? Some days it may not feel like it, but it’s a truth I have to accept regardless.
Do these “answers” settle the matter in our hearts and minds so that they no longer confound and perplex? My experience is “no, not always”. But God doesn’t owe me an explanation. In His grace, these answers actually give me what my soul really longs for: the faith to embrace that which I need most...
Like Job, I don’t need “answers”. I just need to rest my soul in the glorious comfort that God is in control, even when things don’t make sense. He has a purpose and He provides the power. I must have the faith to believe these. And I will discover that is more than enough.
-He is God, and I am... not.