In our previous blog post, we have discussed the fundamental difference between trials and temptation. Out of which we gathered the following main points

1. Trials are from God, Temptation Are From Devil
2. Trials Are Meant To Benefit While Temptations Are Meant To Stumble
3. Trial produces faith and temptation destroys faith

We also went on to think about 2 question

1. Can Temptation Come In A Midst of a Trial? 
2. Can Trials come in the midst of temptation? ?

This lead to the first concept that James teaches regarding trials and temptation.

Concept No 1 : The Importance Of Discerning Trials And Temptation

Let us learn to be  submissive to God and be patient in a trial. But let us learn to resist and overcome our temptation. Since we now know the difference between the two, let us consider the first concept about facing trials and temptation.

“Let no one say when he is tempted,
  “I am tempted by God”; for God
  cannot be tempted by evil, nor does
  He Himself tempt anyone. “ – James (Jas 1:13)

James here tells us the need to differentiate between trials and temptation. He tells us not to say things like, “I am tempted by God” for God does not tempt anyone, but yet we say that God can trial a person. But then are there any between trials and temptation? 

Is it possible that In the midst of Gods trial, can the devil tempt a person?

The answer is yes Let us consider the incident in the garden of Eden.

The Trial And Temptation In The Garden Of Eden

Let us consider one example of a temptation happening in the midst of a trial.

“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 
  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil 
you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of 
it you shall surely die.” – YHWH (Gen 2:16-17)

The story of the garden of Eden often clause many Christians to debate and question God. Why then did God make a forbidden tree laced with forbidden fruit? Why is it that God allow all the fruits to be good for food except for this one? Why did God call this tree tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

There are some Christian who thinks that the fruit of the tree will allow man to be like God who knows good and evil. They think that God  did not allow Adam to eat it for he did not want Adam to know good and evil. But these people did not notice that those are the words of the devil.

“You will not surely die.
  
For God knows that in the day
  you eat of it your eyes will be
  opened, and you will be like God,
  knowing good and evil.”- serpent  (Gen 3:4-5)

Those were the words of the devil, he claims that God prevented them from eating it so that they cannot be like him. God wanted to prevent them from becoming like him. But that is what the devil said and is that really true?

Many of these people believed that it is true because of Gen 3:6. For “the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise,”

But is that a true statement? Perhaps it is true that the tree was good for food and was pleasant to the eyes. But it certainly did not make one wise. It was Eve who thinks that’s the fruit can make one wise. It was the perspective of Eve that was deceived by the devil.

Those words are not from God and God clearly said that if one were to eat of the fruit they will surely die.  God warning is meant to protect lives but the devil twisted the explanation of God.

His point is “God is threatening you, he did not one you to eat it so that you can be like him to know good and evil.” Unfortunately Eve fell for the words of the devil and she allowed her perspective of God to change. That is why she thinks that the fruit could make one wise.

Those words of deception are the words of the devil. He used it as a method to tempt the victim so that they will doubt the love of God and interpret the words of God wrongly.

The Trial Of the Garden Of Eden

Therefore, let us not be deceived by the words of the devil and believe that Adam and Eve received the knowledge of Good and evil by eating from the tree. But yet this leaves us with another question “Why is the fruit forbidden?”

The tree is in fact a trial from God, he wanted to see if Adam and Eve will keep his commandment. God applied that same concept when he led the children of Israel in the wilderness .

“Every commandment which I command
  you today you must be careful to observe,
  that you may live and multiply, and go in
  and possess the land of which the Lord swore
  to your fathers. And you shall remember that
  the Lord your God led you all the way these
  forty years in the wilderness, to humble you
  and test you, to know what was in your heart,
  whether you would keep His commandments or
  not. “- Moses (Deut 8:1-2)

Moses told the people to keep the commandments given by the Lord. For they are good and they are meant to preserve life, in fact God trialled them to see if they will keep this commandment. God indeed test the people to see if they will keep his commandment.

When God gave a absolute command to Adam and Eve, they could freely eat from any of the trees in the garden, except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is the tree that could determine if one is good or evil.

If they believe in he words of God , they will not eat it, than they will be good in the eyes of god. For they regard the commands od God as good and they will keep them and be willing to remain on the side of God

On the other hand, if they ate of the fruit, then that means that they agree with the devil and they choose to listen to him. By eating the fruit, they are choosing to believe that God is not good, and God wanted to prevent them from becoming like him. This is evil.

he English bible called the tree “The Tree of the knowledge of good and evil”  but the word of knowledge    הדעת (H1847) . Can also means to know or to be aware. Therefore it is also fair to say that it is “A Tree That Can Discern Good And Evil” 

The tree is able to tell if one is good from evil .If one do not eat the fruit from this tree, he is able to keep the commands of God. He will be good in the eyes of the Lord. But if one eats of it, he is evil, for he choose to disobey God.

That is the trial that God had given to Adam and Eve. While God is giving them the trial, the devil chooses to deceive them at the same time, as the result of that deception, Eve though that the devil is telling the truth, and that God gave the rule so that he could prevent them from becoming like him. 

Are We Persuaded By God Or the Others?

I hope that by now we can see how the devil twisted the words of God and allow man to have a misconception. God commands are clear and direct, if we choose to believe in the words of God, we will choose to listen and we will not be swayed no matter what others say.

But if we choose to be persuaded by the words of others, we will doubt God, we will think that if what they say is true, than we would choose to disobey and we would rather die than to submit to the tyranny of God.

But actually the case for the garden of Eden is obvious. Assuming if its true that the fruit can make one wise and our God knew it, why then will he leave it there so that man can find it? Why even create the risk where  his creation to become like him? That would have been silly and impossible.

The Result Of Disobeying God

Adam and Eve only knew that they had been deceived when they ate of the fruit. After eating, they did not know good and evil, nor were they like God? But in fact they can see their own evilness and they can see it plainly.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
  and they knew that they were naked; and
  they sewed fig leaves together and made
  themselves coverings.” – Moses (Gen 3:7)

that is when they knew the concept of shame, they are ashamed because they knew the deed they did were shameful and it is something evil. Their conscience told them of their sin. They used to be naked and they are not ashamed (Gen 2:25)

But after eating the fruit, they started to know shame and they wanted to cover themselves, for they knew that had done evil.

Secondly when they heard the sound of God in the garden, they were afraid and they hid from the presence of God. They did something wrong and they were afraid that God knew about it.

That is when they realise they are deceived, and they knew that they are evil. But that regret came too late.

Let us learn to be diligent to keep the word of God. Let us believe in his words and not believe in the lies of the devil. Let us not listen to those  who wanted to twist the words of God.

Can Trial Comes In the Midst Of Temptation?

What would we think when we ponder over the question above? Can God make use of a temptation to bring forth a trial?  The Answer is yes we read it in Matt 4:1

“Then Jesus was led up by the 
  Spirit into the wilderness to be
  tempted by the devil.” –Matthew (Matt 4:1)

We are often told to run away from temptation, it is a good way to avoid temptation no doubt. But here the Holy Spirit led Jesus to be tempted by the devil. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit did not bring Jesus away from this temptation, but yet we know that God does not tempt man. In fact God is using this as a opportunity to trial man.

Job is a good example as well,  the devil wanted to tempt Job and God allowed it to happen. Why then will God allow it since he does not tempt anyone? Likewise God wanted to make use of that opportunity to start his trials for Job.

But yet there is one difficulty that most will find it hard to accept

So Do God And Devil Collaborate With Each Other?

Sometimes man will make use of their own intelligence and propose the idea that God and Devil are in fact working together. Then they think that in this case a temptation can be a trial and vice versa.  Then they started to mock God claiming that he is cooperating with the devil.

But is this a correct view? James in fact gave a warning not to say that God is tempting them. But we cannot run away from the fact that God allowed the Devil to tempt Job and it appears as if they are working together.

This seem reasonable in mans mind, but James say that God will not be tempted by evil. God will not tempt anyone nor will he collaborate with the devil to tempt anyone. God simply allow the devil to carry out his temptation as he wanted.

God is in fact not collaborating with the devil, he wanted to work together with his people to overcome the temptation of the devil. God wanted to make use of the temptation from the devil to help make his children a more complete believer. He wanted them to mature in faith just like in the case of Job.

Concluding The First Concept

In the end we see God cooperating with Job, and God turn this temptation into a trial to allow Job to be more complete in his faith and more perfect in his character.

The first concept from James is an important concept which is why we are spending so much effort into looking at it. There is a need for us to differentiate between a trial and a temptation. We need to believe in Gods word and to endure in faith during the times of trial. But in temptation we need to rely on God to overcome it.

By doing so we can be victorious in faith and overcome all the difficultly in life. May God help us

Introduction

“And truly Jesus did many other signs
  in the presence of His disciples, which
  are not written in this book;  but these
  are written that you may believe that
  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
  that believing you may have life
  in His name.”- John (Jn 20:30-31)

John tells us that there are many miracles performed by Jesus which were not recorded in the gospel. But He had specially chosen 7 for us to read. He did that so that we can believe that Jesus is indeed the Christ and we can have life through his name.

So far we have taken a look at his first miracle

1. Jesus turning water into wine (Part 1, Part 2)
2. Jesus Healing The Nobleman’s son (Part 3, Part 4)

Let us continue the study by looking at the 3rd Miracle

The Miracle By The Pool Of Bethesda

 

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the
  Sheep Gate a pool, which is called
  in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five
  porches.

   In these lay a great multitude of
  sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed,
  waiting for the moving of the water.

  For an angel went down at a certain
  time into the pool and stirred up the
  water; then whoever stepped in first,
  after the stirring of the water, was
  made well of whatever disease he had” – John (Jn 5:2-4)

The legend of pool of Bethesda is a hope for the sick, that is why many gathered in. But is this legend a true legend? Will God send an angel to stir the pool to heal someone?

I believe God will not do that for that would not conform to his teaching. Such healing does not confirm to the teaching of God and it makes no distinction in faith. It does not matter if one is good or evil as long as he fights to get in first, he can be healed.

Such healing cannot be the will of God, and one could easily picture the scene at the pool. The moment the water stir, the strong will fight with the weak and the weak and little would never had a chance to get near the water.

Such healing does not agree with Gods mercy and righteousness. Therefore God would not have sent angels to stir water to heal a person. But the fact is that the water did stir and there are people who recovered. Many historian tried to identify the location, but most of the locations listed are mere speculations.

It is possible that it is a pool that springs up sulphuric water and its water is good for people with skin diseases. But i guess its healing properties are overrated and not all illnesses can be healed there. These legends are probably born after exaggeration.

The Hope And Pain At The Pool Of Bethesda

For the poor who cannot afford a doctor, the pool of Bethesda is an opportunity , that is why many come to the pool with a hope that they can be healed. But it is also a place of weeping and disappointment for some. For if the legend is true, than there will not be  many sick people waiting around it

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool
  when the water is stirred up; but while I am
  coming, another steps down before me.” – Man by the pool (Jn 5:7)

Over here is a man who was sick for 38 years, and from his words we can hear his hopelessness. For when the water stirs, no one would put him into the water.  He had hope that someone would help him, especially from those who are healed from the pool.

But no one is willing to help him all 38 years of his life, he had to bear with the pain and that feeling of abandonment.

One would imagine that since all who gathered at Bethesda were sick, they should have empathy and pity for each other, but the truth is, those around the pool need to fight in order to get into the water first. For the legend says that only the man who step in first receive the healing.

Therefore it is a place where its “Every man for himself”  and one need to fight with others in order to be healed. Whenever the water stir there will be crying, shouting and swearing.

Assuming if a lucky man receive the healing, how would the others react to him?

Bethesda is a place of hope as well as a place for grief for many people.

Jesus Coming to The Pool On His Own Accord

“Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 
  And immediately the man was made well, took up 
  his bed, and walked.”- John (Jn 5:8-9)

Jesus perform many miracles and wonders, those miracles proved his power and authority as well as the fact that he is the Messiah. It tells us that he is God coming in the form of flesh.

But sadly, many would rather believe in their superstitions and legends, they would rather wait for the water to stir then to believe in Jesus. Yet Jesus was full of grace and mercy, he went to Bethesda to heal this man.

The truth is that this man did not even know Jesus, and he is not with good conduct. If we were to continue reading the chapter, we will see this man doing something bad. But yet we wonder why did God give his grace to such a man.

In fact, this man did not even approach Jesus to help him, but it was Jesus who asked “Do you want to be healed?”

This story tells us about that the grace of salvation is from the Lord, it was not given to man because of his good works. Paul tells us that while we are still sinners, Christ came to prepare salvation for all of us. He came into our world, and died for our sins, he did it so that whoever who believe in him will have their sin forgiven. They could receive eternal life and enter the kingdom of God.

It is God who came to save us through his own initiative, he did it even when we did not know him, he did it even though our actions are unworthy. We have nothing that makes us worthy for his salvation. The Grace of salvation is given to us for free.

Even though grace is free, but sinners must be willing to accept this grace. It is our choice whether to cling to our own superstitions or to hear the gospel.

Introduction

Sometimes in our daily walk of faith,it is inevitable that we will run into trials as well as temptation. Therefore it is important for Christians to understand trails and temptation and knowledge of it can give us the strength to overcome trials and temptation

The book of James contains important concept that a Christian need to know regarding trails and temptation, these series of blog entries will cover them bit by bit.

The Fundamental Difference Between Trials And Temptation

I believe that the first approach to the question is first to understand the fundamental difference between Trials and Temptation. From the bible,we could find  3 differences between Trials and Temptations. Let us take a look at them

1. Trials Are From God, Temptations are From the Devil

God had once spoken through Prophet Zechariah

“I will bring the one–third through the fire,
  Will refine them as silver is refined,
  And test them as gold is tested.
  They will call on My name,
  And I will answer them.
  I will say, ‘This is My people’;
  And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’””-YHWH (Zech 13:9)

Over here God tells us that he will trial his people like a man refining silver and gold. Yet we see that temptation is clearly from the devil. 

Now when the tempter came to Him,
  he said, “If You are the Son of God,
  command that these stones become
  bread.”  – Matthew (Matt 4:1,3)

Here the tempter is obviously Satan and we need to differentiate between the two. Trials are from God and temptation is from the devil.

2. Trials Are Meant To Benefit While Temptations Are Meant To Stumble

Trials are meant to provide a good outcome, Trials are good because they originated from a God that is good. When God trial a person that trial was done out of a good intent. For God will not do it for the sake of torturing someone.

If we understood the fact that trials are good, we will subject ourselves under it, but if we think that God is sadistic and he wants to torture us, than we will not subject ourselves to it.  But yet sometime we wonder, even though Trials are good, but yet the suffering that comes with it are bad. How then can one see the benefits of it?

Let us consider an operation, it is indeed full of pain and suffering, at the same time it costs us an arm and a leg.  But yet man willingly go through the suffering for we know that the doctor did not perform the operation so as to be sadistic towards us. It is a type of bodily harm done so that our lives will be preserved.

We will even be willing to pay the price and suffer, at the end of it we would even give the doctor our gratitude for we know that the suffering is meant to help us. 

The same attitude must be adopted when Christian  undergo trials for we know that our God is good, he had a good intention to put us into trials, perhaps it is true that suffering comes alongside the trial but we know it is for our good, and our attitude towards it will be different.

Temptation on another hand, is meant to stumble us and to harm us. The devil had an ill intent when he temps us, he wanted us to doubt God and to leave him. He wanted us to go against God. That is why we should reject temptation

3. Trial produces faith and temptation destroys faith

God’s purpose is to trial his children so that he can produce believers that are perfect. He wanted these believers to be more matured with a complete faith. On the other hand the devil tempts us so that he can destroy the faith of the believers. It will make us disobey God and eventually to leave the faith. The end result of temptation is that our souls will be faced with judgement and it will perish eventually.

 A Short Conclusion

So far we have looked into the differences between Trials and Temptation. Before we start looking at the first concept on dealing with the issues of Trial and temptation I would like all the readers to consider a few question

1. Can Temptation Come In A Midst of a Trial? 
2. Can Trials come in the midst of temptation? ?

If we were to think about these two question, one will inevitably arrive at a difficulty. The 3rd question is for those who manage to go to that level.

3.So Does God collaborate with the devil to bring forth trials and temptation?

Introduction

I remember hearing this song when i was a kid, during that time, it was sang by Teresa Teng and recently when i check her discography, that tune was almost as old as me.

Yet later on in my teens I heard it sang by Faye Wong as a tribute to Teresa Teng.

As a teen, I actually did not do very well for my Chinese language and I couldn’t really under understand the lyrics very well. During that time I thought that it was meant to be a love song.

Later on as an adult I read it up and found a interesting information about the song.

Facts About Su Shi and The Song

The original lyrics dated to the song Dynasty by a man known as . I guess most Chinese would have known him as Su Dongpo out of which the famous dish 东坡肉 is named after.

He was a writer, poet, painter, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and a statesman of the Song Dynasty. He was eventually exiled from office. The lyrics of the song known as 水调歌头 and it was a poem that was written to be sung with a melody.

However the melody was lost over time and in the 1980s there were some musicians that reconstructed a new tune for the poem. That is the tune that we are familiar with now.

However, the modern singers omitted the very first few lines of the poem. Later on in life I realised that the song was actually written by Su Shi for his brother 子由 (AKA 苏辙) at the time the poem was written the brothers had not met for 7 years.

My Recent Encounter With The Lyrics

Recently I came across the lyrics while preparing some notes and in it i quoted 2 lines from the poem

“人有悲欢离合
月有阴晴圆缺”

Translated :
Man would encounter  Sorrow and Joy, meeting and parting.
Just like the moon which could appear in clouds and clear, full or in crescent”

There are many changes in life and they bring a lot Indeed there are many things in life we encounter, there are joys, tears, happiness and sadness. Just as what King Solomon once shared at the end of his life

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven;
……..

What profit has the worker from that in
which he labors?   I have seen the God-given
task with which the sons of men are to
be occupied.” – Solomon (Ecc 3:1, 9-10)

So how should Christians react to all these things that we have encounter? How can we find peace in the times of sorrow? King Solomon tells us that sometimes God allow us to encounter them to keep us occupied, so that we will understand that nothing on earth last forever.

That is why we ought to hold on to what is good and the thing that will never change. That is God.

But nonetheless. All I wanted to do is to share the lyrics. so here goes

Lyrics

Title : 但愿人长久
Artist: Teresa Teng, Faye Wong ,Jacky Chueng, China Flowers
Lyrics :苏轼

明月几时有?
把酒问青天.
不知天上宫阙.
今夕是何年?
míng ​yuè​ jǐ ​shí​ yǒu​
bǎ ​jiǔ​ wèn​ qīng ​tiān​
bù ​zhī​ tiān ​shàng​ gōng​ què​
jīn​ xī​ shì​ hé​ nián​
*
我欲乘风归去,
唯恐琼楼玉宇,
高处不胜寒.
起舞弄清影,
何似在人间!
*
wǒ​ yù​ chéng ​fēng​ guī​ qù​
wéi​ kǒng​ qióng​ lóu​ yù​ yǔ​
gāo​ chù​ bù​ shèng​ hán​
qǐ​ wǔ​ nòng ​qīng​ yǐng​
Hé​ sì​ zài​ rén ​jiān​
转朱阁,
低绮户,
照无眠.
不应有恨,
何事长向别时圆?
zhuàn​ zhū​ gé
dī​ qǐ​ hù​
zhào​ wú​ mián​
bù​ yīng ​yǒu​ hèn​
hé​ shì​ cháng xiàng​ bié shí yuán​
人有悲欢离合,
月有阴晴圆缺,
此事古难全.
但愿人长久
千里共婵娟
rén​ yǒu​ bēi ​huān ​lí ​hé​
yuè​ yǒu​ yīn​ qíng​ yuán​ quē​
cǐ​ shì​ gǔ​ nán quán​
dàn ​yuàn​ rén​ cháng​ jiǔ
qiān ​lǐ​ gòng​ chán​ juān​​
Repeat *

 

Translation:
How frequent does the moon appears bright?
Raising my cup I asked the heavens.
Not knowing the grand palaces in heavens.
Which year is it tonight?

For I desire to return with the winds
But I fear for this jade palace which I dwell.
For it is lonely at the top
So I begin my dance with my clear shadow
Can anything on earth compare to that!

Twirling around the vermilion pavilion
Beneath the silk gate
shining through my sleeplessness
not having regrets
But why must the moon be full when we are parted?

For man encounters sorrow and joy, meeting and parting.
Like the moon appears in clouds and clear, full or in crescent
For this had never been perfect
I wish that that we will meet forever
For we share the moon even when miles apart

Personally with my low standard of Chinese  it would be impossible for me to translate the song fully. But I found a translation that i like from a YouTube clip but I reworded some of them on this blog.

 

This is the version I hear in my teens
This is the original clip sang by Teresa Teng

Introduction

In our previous study, we had looked into the second miracle performed by Jesus in the book of John. We have begin looking at the various teaching that we can learn from this incident.

So far we have discussed 2 lessons 

Lesson 1 : He Learnt To Stop Relying On Himself And To Rely on Jesus 
Lesson 2 : He Learnt To Approach Jesus In Person 

As we have tried to look deeper into the issue of faith, now let us consider what is a true faith.

Understanding True Faith

Often when we approach someone for help, its natural that we would stand back and see what the person can do. This is natural as we are all human beings and there is a limit to what we can do. Assuming if the person is unable to help us, we may have to approach others for

But sadly, sometimes we adopt the same attitude when we are dealing with God.We rely on others to pray for us and we approach God with an attitude to test and  see if we can receive healing or not.

But if we choose to keep that attitude, we would never receive grace from Jesus . For Elder James tell us

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,
  for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea
  driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not
  that man suppose that he will receive
  anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded
  man, unstable in all his ways.”- James ( Jas 1:6-8)

True faith is one that does not have doubt, and there is no middle ground between the 2. It is not possible to choose to believe and doubt at the same time. For one who practice that does not have faith. He is in fact double minded.

There is a need for us to choose not to be double minded, for it is up to us to choose whether to believe in God or not. That is a choice that no one can make for us.

We have heard what Jesus can do and we have read what he said. It is our choice to believe them or not. If we choose to believe in him, we will pray to him and receive grace from him.

Therefore we need to establish our faith in God. Even though we first knew of Jesus through our friends and relative, even though they prayed for us when we are still too weak to pray. But we need to develop our faith and build it upon the Lord. Let us learn to be firm and not be double minded

Lesson 3 : He Chose To Obey Jesus Instead of Telling Jesus What To Do

As you go through the story of this miracle, you will realise how the faith of the nobleman grew as the story progressed. His faith was first built when he heard how Jesus turning water into wine. That is why he chose to come to Jesus personally to plead with him to save his son.

His faith can be seen in his action of coming personally and inviting Jesus to his house. However, Jesus did not do according to what he wanted, instead Jesus sent the nobleman back to his house.

Lets consider what would the nobleman feel at that point of time. I think we would all react in this similar fashion

1. “Its unbelievable, Jesus did nothing to help me”  
2. “All I wanted is that he follow me, lay hand on my son and pray for him”
3. “Am I asking for too much? Did Jesus not heal the sick like this all the time?”
4. “Why did Jesus give me such strange instruction?”

It may appear as if we have pleaded and Jesus had decline our requests. All he did is to ask us to go home. 

In fact Jesus wanted the man to listen to him and go home. Jesus told the man

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,
  you will by no means believe.”- Jesus (Jn 4:48)

Indeed, the nobleman did not see his son recovering, so he reacted quickly saying “Sir, come down before my son dies” . At that point of time, Jesus told him

“Go you way, your son lives” .”- Jesus (Jn 4:50)

So now, how would we react when Jesus tell us this? That is when we need to consider, “Do we believe in the miracles or the person who perform the miracle?”

For if we choose to believe in the words of Jesus, he will trust that his son had fully recovered. But if we choose only to believe in the miracle, then there was no miracle before his very eyes. So are we going to believe just because we saw the miracle? 

At that point, the faith of the nobleman improved, that is the time he chose to believe in Jesus, he did not tell Jesus what he wants him to do, but he is willing to follow the instruction of Jesus.

He left Cana , empty handed but with faith in his heart.  Along the way he met his servant who told him that his son lives, and calculated back and discovered that his son was heal at the moment when Jesus said “Your son lives”

To Follow Or Not To Follow

Let us consider how our faith is like. Let us consider this question carefully

“Do you want God to listen to us and follow our orders?”

Whenever we approach God and make our supplications, there are many thoughts that go through our heads. We often wish that Jesus would do this and that, according to our whims and fancies.

That is when we forget that we cannot instruct God and tell him what we want him to do. Even though our request can be reasonable, just like what the nobleman wanted Jesus to do.

All he wanted is that Jesus to come to his house and lay hand on his son. We know from the bible that Jesus indeed did that to heal the sick, but even if our request are reasonable, we tend to forget that God has his will and his time.

We cannot ask God to follow our orders but instead we ought to listen to him. For we believe that God timing is better than ours and his foolishness is wiser than man.

So when Jesus does not heed our request, will we continue to believe in him? If Jesus sends us back empty handed, will we go home quietly? Are we willing to do as he instructed?

True faith is one that knows how to plead with God personally, it is also one that is willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord

Lesson 4: He Advanced From Praying For Physical Need To Spiritual Needs  

The faith of the nobleman grew from praying for his physical need to praying for his spiritual needs. This can be seen in the conclusion of that story. For John had written

“He himself believed, and his whole household.”- John (Jn 4:53)

The nobleman faith is now different, it is not just a faith that believes that Jesus can cure illness. It became a faith that believes that Jesus is able to save him and his household.

The nobleman witness Jesus healing his son but his faith did not stop there, in fact he understood Jesus even more. He understood that even though Jesus healed his son now, he will fall sick again in the future. Even if he does not fall sick again, his son will die one day.

That is why he realise the importance of believing in Jesus for eternal life. For only Jesus has eternal life. By believing in Jesus one could enter into eternal life.

The nobleman had heard the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine, he knew that Jesus had the power of God to create things, and now he experience how Jesus could transcend the limitation of time and space. He can heal his son who is 33 km away just by speaking.  The nobleman knew that these are abilities that no man can have as the result he believe that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh

Conclusion

Jesus performed miracles not solely for the need to provide for the physical need of the people. The miracles are done to prove that he is indeed the Christ, the anointed one of God. They are down to prove that Jesus could lead man into everlasting life

The nobleman saw Jesus showing his authority as God. Which is why he believed in the gospel preached by Jesus. He is convince that the gospel preached by Jesus is the true Gospel that can bring one into salvation

The nobleman did not just keep that belief to himself, he led his entire household to believe.

This is important because we will all pass away one day, so everyone needs to enter into eternal life. The only way to receive it is to believe in Jesus. Let us learn to be like the nobleman who led his family to believe, for Jesus had more to offer than just physical benefits.

We may receive healing as a grace from Jesus, but even as we are made well we will fall sick again. The main point is not about having our sickness healed, for Jesus is here to give us eternal life. That is something far more important and far more precious

John had recorded 7 miracles to help us understand that Jesus is the Christ, and we have only covered 2 of the miracles. But are these enough to help us see the fact that he is God?

May God guide us and help us understand it, may we be like this nobleman

Today during sharing there was a topic written on the white board, the words that are written on it is used as the title of this blog entry.

The Two Opposing View About Pestilences and Famine

View No 1: These are Judgement From God

Generally the message shared can be summarised like this

God is love, at the same time he is also judgment. Therefore there are many things that are example of judgement from God.

1. Aids is an example of punishment to the sexually immoral
2. God has used pestilences as punishment (Deut 28:58-61, Lev 26:16-15 )
         a. King Jehoram (2 Chron 21) is used as an example of this punishment
3. God uses the judgement as a way to turn people back (Rev 16:7-11, 2 Chron 7:14)
4. God did not use it as a way to make life difficult, but for one to turn back (Tit 3:5)

According to him, makes use of many forms of disasters as punishment against people who sin against him  (EG : Fire and Brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah , the great flood at the times of Noah ,  the 7 bowls of wrath poured during revelations)

View No 2: That’s is Life

At the same time, I remember another discussion we have with a CG group of a church where there are people who thinks that bad things happens to people simply because “That is life”. The concept of man having to suffer for the wrong for sin is because of our “Asian Upbringing” (AKA Karma in Buddhism and Hinduism) .. and in fact God of the bible does not do that

The Initial Thoughts

Since the beginning of Mankind, man had often encounters ups and down, good things and bad things. The question of why Bad things happen had been a topic of discussion for thousands of years. In order to tackle that question, mankind had came up with numerous religions and philosophy, they discuss about the existence of God and the reason for sufferings. For me, I would like to look at this from a Christian perspective.

As we see in view 1 and 2, even Christians had differing views about why misfortune befall on man. Hence it is important for us to take a look at what the bible says about Suffering.

The Truth Behind View No 1

As Christians we read the bible often, and it is undeniable that God indeed uses difficulties such as famine and pestilences to call back the children of Israel. This is evident throughout the period of judges and all the way to the period of the kings.

At the same time, we cannot deny the fact that God indeed sent 10 plagues to Egypt, overthrow the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, ordered the killing of the Amalekites and the Canaanites. God even make use of the Babylonians as his instrument to punish the Israelites when they disobeyed him (Jer 25:8-9)

Indeed, many a times God make use of difficulties as a way to turn the children of Israel back to him. At the same time, during the New Testament, the apostolic church is made to undergo much sufferings and it resulted to them having a stronger faith at the end.

It is important for Christians to consider when encountering tough time, and see if God was trying to teach them something, it is important for them to repent and return to the Lord. 

This view, however is incomplete. For it does not answer many difficult questions that people encounter. Take for example

1. Assuming that Aids is a pestilences from God, and it is meant to punish the sexually immoral (Which i do not agree completely) . How about the people who encounter the disease through no fault on their own? (Blood transfusion, Children born from Parents suffering from Aids)

Is it fair for us to therefore judge and say that it is a “punishment from God”?

Does God Uses Famines , Earthquakes and Pestilences For Punishment Only?

It would be very simple to just say yes when one is not suffering. We can see these words spoken the friends of Job

“Remember now, who ever
  perished being innocent?
  Or where were the upright
  ever cut off? ”- Eliphaz (Job 4 : 7-9)

“Behold, God will not cast away
  the blameless, Nor will He uphold
   the evildoers.”- Bildad (Job 8:20)

“ If he (God)  comes along and confines you in prison
   and convenes a court, who can oppose him?
   Surely he recognizes deceivers;
  and when he sees evil, does he
  not take note?”- Zophar (Job 11:10-11)

It looks as if their points was full of righteousness. That the sickness and suffering that Job encountered was the result of his sin But what was God’s response to their speech?

“My wrath is aroused against you
  and your two friends, for you have
  not spoken of Me what is right, as
  My servant Job has.”- YHWH (Job 42:7)

Sometimes when we encounter difficulties and troubles, and when we often think that it is a result of sin. Just like the time when the disciples encounter a blind man in the book of John

(Jn 9:2-3)
Disciples :“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or
                     his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus :“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, 
               but that the works of God should be 
               revealed in him.

Whenever we witness a disaster and something bad, we too often think that the cities that are suffering from it deserved it and it is because of sin. But Jesus had something to say about that too.

A Christian Response To Calamity And News Of Misfortune

Luke 13 records of a time where there were some people who came to Jesus with some of the news  of their time. There was some Galileans who was killed by Pilate .  Jesus asked them.

“Do you suppose that these Galileans
  were worse sinners than all other
  Galileans, because they suffered
  such things?  I tell you, no; but
  unless you repent you will all
  likewise perish

  Or those eighteen on whom the
  tower in Siloam fell and killed them,
  do you think that they were worse 
  sinners than all other men who dwelt
  in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless
  you repent you will all likewise perish.”- Jesus (Lk 13:2-4)

Over here Jesus taught us how Christians should react to this news. Let us not be too quick to judge and say that calamities are a result of the sins of others. But rather Let us be reminded that God has given us one more day to live and one more day to repent and return to him.

Concluding Words

so far, in our discussed we can conclude the following points.

1. God does use disasters such as famine, pestilences and earthquakes as punishment
            a. When it happens, let us take the chance and repent quickly
2. However, it would be unfair to say that whenever it happens, its a punishment
       a. For there are times where troubles came as a lesson from God 
3. Let us not suppose that we are better then those who were suffering

Let us know that whatever events that happen, be it good or be it bad all came from God. Sometimes God give us trials so that we would be able to return back to him just as what the Psalmist once said

“Before I was afflicted I went astray,
  But now I keep Your word. ……
  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
  That I may learn Your statutes.” – Psalmist (Ps 119:67-71)

Sometimes he does that to help us know him better. Just as what Job says at the end of the suffering.

“I have heard of You by the
  hearing of the ear,
  But now my eye sees You.”-Job (Job 42:5)

Sometimes it is difficult for us to find out the reason behind our suffering. But if one were to maintain his faith and rely on Gods guidance. He may be able to see the beautiful will of God behind what that has happen.

“And we know that all things work
  together for good to those who love God,
  to those who are the called according to
  His purpose” – Paul (Rom 8:28)

That is why Christians ought to adopt the right attitude when faced with difficulties and calamities. As a conclusion, let us take a look at the words of King Solomon as a reminder for the lessons learnt today.

“In the day of prosperity be joyful,
  But in the day of adversity consider:
  Surely God has appointed the one as
  well as the other,So that man can find
  out nothing that will come after him.” – Solomon (Eccl 7:14)

Introduction

“And truly Jesus did many other signs
  in the presence of His disciples, which
  are not written in this book;  but these
  are written that you may believe that
  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
  that believing you may have life
  in His name.”- John (Jn 20:30-31)

John tells us that there are many miracles performed by Jesus which were not recorded in the gospel. But He had specially chosen 7 for us to read. He did that so that we can believe that Jesus is indeed the Christ and we can have life through his name.

So far we have taken a look at his first miracle

1. Jesus turning water into wine (Part 1 , Part 2)

now lets continue and take a look at the second miracle recorded by John

Jesus Healing The Nobleman’s Son

Jn 4:46-54. We had all read that the first miracle perform by Jesus was in Cana, but this time, he pass by Cana in Galilee once again.

In this miracle, he cured the son of a nobleman, the boy was gravely ill in the city of Capernaum. I have managed to find a map that could give everyone an idea how far apart they are.

The distance is about 33 KM and this map featured the areas around the sea of Galilee. The town of Nazareth (Jesus’s hometown) is in the left hand bottom and Cana is slightly north of there beyond Sepphoris. Capernaum is found near the sea of Galilee

It takes around 8 hours to walk that distance on foot from Capernaum to Cana. But when Jesus told the nobleman that his sons lives, Jesus did not need to travel that distance to heal his son.

As the result, the noble man believed in Jesus, and his entire household believed as well.

The Chinese had a saying that goes 远水救不了近火 translated “A Faraway spring cannot put out a nearby fire”. Man devises such saying because they knew that they are unable to work around the limitation of time and space. The power to transcend time and space belongs exclusively to God.

This miracles testify that Jesus is indeed God who came in the form of flesh, he is the messiah, the anointed saviour sent by God to save  us. From this miracle, we can see the grow in the faith of the nobleman. That is a quality that Christian should strive after as well.  Let us look at the lessons that he had learnt

Lesson 1 : He Learnt To Stop Relying On Himself And To Rely on Jesus 

We know that the nobleman is one with power , authority and riches. He would have many man under his command and servants that obey him. It will not be surprising if he had used his power and riches to deal with the problems he encountered in life.

But today we see him helpless trying to save his dying son. I am sure he must have used all his wealth to get the best doctor one could get for him, but it seems that it cannot solve his problem.

I believe that is is then when he realise that his wealth and authority is limited, even though he can provide the best environment for his son to grow up in, but he unable to provide life to his son. If the boy were to pass away, everything that the noble man prepared would have been in vain.

Only God has the power to grant life to a person, and Jesus could do this because he is God who came in the form of flesh. Just as he once said

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears
  My word and believes in Him who sent Me
  has everlasting life, and shall not come into
  judgment, but has passed from death into life.” – Jesus(Jn 5:25)

Jesus told us that those who believe in him will have eternal life, he will pass from death to life and his soul could enter into everlasting life in heaven. We know that it is appointed for man to die once and after that to face judgement.

We may be healthy now but we all know that one day we will pass away, therefore we need to understand that we need eternal life. Only Jesus can give us this eternal life he had said it to us plainly and he had used his power to testify of it. 

We learn of how Jesus demonstrated his power to create, how he turn water into wine. That is an ability that belongs to God, the nobleman must have heard of the miracles he  performed  in Cana. When he heard that Jesus is going to Cana again, he seize the opportunity to ask Jesus to heal his son.

He learn to put aside his wealth , power and status to come before Jesus. He humbly admit to his limitation and asked Jesus to heal his son. The result of his action is great, he brought healing to his son and he also witness how Jesus transcended between time and space.

That is why he choose to believe , to stop relying on himself and to begin trusting Jesus . Are we able to learn from this nobleman and to admit our limitation? We need to learn from him to seize the opportunity to rely in Jesus.

Lesson 2 : He Learnt To Approach Jesus In Person  

The nobleman turn from sending his servant to find Jesus on his behalf to  coming to Jesus personally. For we read of how he came from Capernaum to Cana just to meet Jesus.

We know that a man of his status can easily send his workers to look for Jesus, I believe that he must have done that for many of the doctors that he invited to his house. But he knew that Jesus is no ordinary man, for he had an authority that no other doctors had. For Jesus had the power to cast out demons as well as to heal the sick.

He is able to recognise that Jesus is God coming in the form of flesh, since he believe that Jesus had all the power and authority, he chose to come down to Cana personally to plead with Jesus to help him.

A  person with true faith is  someone that can make supplication and request by themselves. He will never rely on the help of others to bring your supplications before God. Indeed there are some instances where it is inconvenient for us to come before God, but most of the time the problem lies with us not having the faith to come before Jesus.

Lets take a look at an example 

An Example from Mark Chapter 9

Mk 99:17-19, 23-24

Man : “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 
               And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he 
               foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes
               rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should 
               cast it out, but they could not.”

Jesus : “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?
                How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”
               “If you can believe, all things are possible to him 
                who believes.”

Man : “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Here we read of a father who had a demon possessed son. He brought the son to the disciples, but yet there was no miracles. So in the end they brought him before Jesus.

Jesus called our generation a faithless generation and indeed it is true. For our generation claims that they have no religion but yet they are full of superstitions, they choose not to ask God for help yet they wish for miracles.  They choose not to fear God but yet are afraid of ghost and spirits. They choose not to believe in God but yet they blame God for every calamity that befall them.

The same thing goes for this man with a demon process son. He did not believe in Jesus yet he wanted to bring his son before the disciples. He did not ask for a miracle, he merely hoped that it happens. He came with a heart of unbelief and he just wanted to test Jesus. He wants to know if Jesus could heal his son or not. His action is not a display of faith, but a test , he would only believe when he see his son healed. He wanted to test water before diving in.

In the eyes of man that is reasonable, but in the eyes of God that is unacceptable.

Assuming today we meet a martial arts master and we think that he had the skill. Will you now send him to defeat your champion before believing that he is a master? Now if we were to think from another perspective, if you are an expert in your field, will you accept a challenge just to prove your own skills.

A true master will not need to prove his skill before anyone, and if this applies to man, the same principle should apply to God.

That is why when the main claim that “Your disciples cannot heal him” Jesus was quick to point out that the problem lies with him and not his disciples. For the disciples are just humans, but the only difference was that they choose to believe in Jesus

That is why Jesus conclude by saying “All things are possible for those who believe”

Faith is one that does not doubt, and the man realise his mistake and he understood what Jesus was telling him. He responded by saying “Lord I believe, help my unbelief“. Jesus being full of mercy, helped him, he cured his son and the evil spirit left the child.

True faith is not about getting others to plead to God on your behalf, for we must plead with God personally.

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