Jack Graham - A Father's Faith
Today is a story of a desperate dad and a dying son, in John chapter 4. It's the story about a man who came to experience genuine faith and the power of that faith in his life and in his family. And, dads, this message in great part is to you. If you are a dad, your highest and noblest ambition and your most holy ambition should be to lead your family well. Caring, compassionate, loving fathers, you are the core of your family, for its strength, especially in times of crisis.
There is a physician, a pediatric doctor and counselor by the name of Dr. Meg Meeker. She's written a really good book on becoming a hero dad. I like that, because every child is looking for a hero, and dad, that should be you. But Dr. Meeker, a mother herself, writes this: "There is a misconception that mothers are the center of a child's world. Mothers are vitally important. I'm the mother of four children myself. But too often we have the idea that fathers are optional, and that often the best thing for them to do is just say out of the way. They might need to be a bread-winner or to take care of the honey-do list, or maybe to discipline the children occasionally, but for the most part many people assume that it is mom who is and should be center stage. But the fact is that the human family was meant to have mothers and fathers working together. And when they work together as they were designed to do, their children's lives are enriched emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and I can say as a pediatrician, even physically. Children from intact families have a much better chance to be healthy and happy children".
Dads, God made you, He gave you the DNA, especially if you are a believer in Christ, a born-again dad, God has given you the ability not just to father children, but to father a child. To be a real dad to your kids. Your kids are looking to you and expecting you to be a hero in their lives according to Meg Meeker. You are the one that God especially adapted and equipped as a man to handle crisis, to meet challenges, to provide for and protect and again, as a believer to pray for your children. And when you do, when you're there, when you are present, no one expects a perfect father. There's only one perfect Father and He is in heaven. But you can be a praying father, and you can be a present father; a father who is present in the lives of your children.
Because Meg Meeker goes on to quote some statistics that identify the effectiveness of a dad in a family's life, and it is written that children with stable, involved fathers have much higher levels of self-control, the children have much higher levels of self-control, confidence and social ability when Dad is involved. And they are less likely to engage in risky behavior as adolescents. Are far less likely to have behavior or psychological problems, are far less likely to be delinquent. They do better on cognitive tests and get better grades. These are children, they are more likely to become young adults with higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success, occupational competency and psychological well-being.
Studies suggest that fathers who are involved nurturing and playful with their infants have children with higher IQ's as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities. And what's true on a physical and psychological level is certainly true on a spiritual level, because dads who know and love Jesus, dads who have a true walk with God, who have faith are able to live that faith and give that faith away to their children. That's what our story is about here in John chapter 4. As a pastor I can tell you, I've been a pastor now for over forty years and I've seen thousands of children grow up by now. Some with fathers and some without fathers in their lives. And I can tell you that it's clear that children who grow up with a father present in their life, the difference is immeasurable as compared to those who have no father.
Now I should push pause on this message right now and say if you are a single mom and you're going it alone because your husband is gone, the father of your children is gone, we salute you, we pray for you, we commend you. It must be the hardest job on earth to be a single mom, and we love you and pray for you. But with that said, it works better. That's good. But that said, God's design, God's plan and God's Word tells us that it's so much better when it's done God's way, and that means a father present and accounted for in the lives of their children. And that means you, dad! You should have a clear picture of what a godly dad should be and do. You should have goals in your life as to how you will love and lead your children.
John 4, beginning in verse 46: "So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official (a nobleman) an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, 'Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.' The official said to him, 'Sir, come down before my child dies.' So Jesus said to him, 'Go; your son will live.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. And as he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, 'Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.'" And watch this. Don't miss this. "The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live.' And he himself believed, and all his household".
A father's faith. The father's faith began in a simple way, a simple faith. Who is this man? He's described as an official. He was a government official or a nobleman. It's the word basilica. Maybe you connect the word basilica with a church or a church building, a medieval church. We were just on our Journey's of Paul trip in Rome and we saw a number of church buildings called basilicas. And often in the medieval period in particular government buildings were transferred to becoming church buildings. When Constantine named the Christian faith the faith of the Roman Empire, many of these government buildings were turned into basilicas and so they were government buildings that became basilicas, or we know them as churches. But this man is known as a basilica which literally means a man of the king. He was a king's man, working as a high level government official.
Again, described as royalty, a nobleman. We don't his name but let's just call him Lord Basilica, all right? Lord Basil. And he had this high powered job. Most likely he lived in Tiberias which was the headquarters of the Roman government in the Galilee region, where Herod was the king. So in one sense you surmise that he most likely left Tiberias, we've been there many times, and sailed across the Sea of Galilee, several miles to Capernaum which is known as the town of Jesus. When you go there to this very day there's a sign on the fence greeting you at the town of Jesus of Nazareth. So Jesus had made Capernaum His headquarters. So this man knew that Jesus must be in Capernaum, so he gets to Capernaum and he discovers that Jesus isn't there; that He had gone to Cana which was twenty or twenty-five miles away. So he either runs, walks or rides to Cana of Galilee just to get to Jesus! Why? He was a desperate dad who had a dying son. He had a problem that he couldn't solve.
You know, we dads, we like to think that we can fix most everything in the lives of our children. We can fix that. But in this case this dad, even though he had wealth and power, nobility and royalty, he couldn't fix this. His son was dying! The boy had contracted a fever. He couldn't pay, there wasn't enough medicine, there wasn't enough money. His son was in a fever, comatose, perhaps, on life support, dying! But he had heard about Jesus; that Jesus performed miracles and healed the sick. And so he thought I've got to try it. And he was despairing; he was desperate. And he goes across the water to see Him at Capernaum and finds out He's not there, so he hustles over to Cana of Galilee-again, twenty-twenty-five miles, just to get near to Jesus because his boy was near death. His precious one was dying.
You know our children desperately need Jesus. Every child is born dying. We're all mortal. Young people, you think you've got a long time to live. I hope you do. You may not. Sickness and death and disease, the devil attacks our kids. He's on the prowl. And we desperately need to be interceding and intervening on behalf of our children. It's going to take some hero dads to do that; men of faith to do that. Our children are in desperate need. I'll give you one reason, one big reason, dad, and all of us to get to Jesus as fast as you can, and that's because of your children. Your children need Jesus. Our children, as young as they may be are ultimately dying, and they cannot die without Christ. They just can't! We can't let the devil have our children!
Someone said, "we are only as happy as our least happy child". Our children can break our hearts, especially when a child is a prodigal child, away from God and away from the family. Some of you are facing that today. What can you do? You need to get yourself, you, dad, you, mom, to Jesus as fast as possible. You need to find your way and relentlessly pursue Christ. That's what this man did. His faith was initially small. He didn't know much about Jesus; he just knew he needed a miracle for his son. He was more interested in a miracle and the healing of his son than anything. That's why Jesus called him on that. You may look at that verse when he's so desperate and getting to Jesus, and Jesus said, it seems out of place, verse 48, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe". You may be put off that Jesus was putting off this man at this point. Here's a desperate man who's just praying for his son, and Jesus is saying, "You're just looking for a sign and a wonder".
Jesus wanted to show him what real faith was about and was more than the miracle. Jesus already had a lot of people following Him just because of the miracles, for the signs and the wonders and the excitement. It's always been that way. Jesus has always had more fans than followers. But Jesus is not looking for fans, is He? He's looking for followers. In fact, there's a scripture in John chapter 2 that Jesus did not commit to those fans, those people who were just following Him for the "show" or for the miracles, but truly were not trusting Him as Messiah and Lord. And so Jesus wanted more out of this man. And Jesus, Dad, wants more out of you! More than just being a fan of Jesus, but to be a follower of Jesus; to commit your life to Jesus. This man was wealthy, he had power, he had access to royalty, and yet he comes to this poor Galilean carpenter by the name of Jesus who is the Messiah, and he finds there a simple faith at the feet of Jesus. He brings his problem, he brings his son to the Lord. He is in effect, verse 47, pleading, praying, begging for his child's life.
Are you doing that? Are you praying for your children? Are you pleading for the lives and the souls, the future of your family? This dad was. More and more parenthood is spiritual warfare, and we have two tools in spiritual, two weapons in spiritual warfare: the Word of God which is the sword of the spirit and prayer in this spiritual battle. Keep praying like this man. He wouldn't stop. He just kept coming to Jesus and he kept on interceding. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Pray and don't quit! Pray for your children!
You say, "Well, they're gone now. They're out of the house. It's too late". No, it isn't! Pray for them! Pray over them! Pray with them! So here's a man who simply came to Jesus. It's a fledgling faith but it's a good start. So his faith moves from simple to submissive because if you're going to have a strong and dynamic faith for your family, if you're going to have the faith a father needs for your family, then it needs to move from a simple, maybe even superficial faith to a submissive, surrendered faith.
Faith, what is it? It's a good time just to talk about what faith is because there's a lot of confusion about faith. Faith in what? Faith in faith? Just believe? No, faith in God! Faith in Christ! Hebrews 11:6 says that: "Without faith it is impossible to please God". No matter what else you may do, no matter what else you may have accomplished in your life, "Without faith it is impossible to please God". Faith! And ultimately your faith will grow when your faith is truly in Him! And so often our faith not only begins with our children.
I know as a young dad, Deb and I had our first child Jason 44 years ago. I was just 22 years of age. I had no clue as to what to do. I remember holding him in my arms and praying, "God, show me what to do. Show me how to be a good dad; the best dad this boy could ever have". I said, "Lord, I don't care what kind of preacher I may be, what kind of church I may serve, but Lord, I want my children, I want this child, our children to know that I love You". And that was a surrender that I made that day. And our children will drive us to Jesus. No kidding! They'll drive you to your knees like crazy, right? They'll drive you to Jesus. And because we don't know what to do! But a crisis will also drive us to Jesus, right? Whatever the crisis may be.
In this case the crisis was a dying son. It may be a lost opportunity, a lost job. Your career is exploded. It may be a divorce in your home; your marriage. It could be a sickness, and you may be dying yourself! But a crisis drives us to Jesus. And that's what happened to this man. And faith grows. The flower of faith grows in the seed and in the soil of darkness many times. So he had faith. He had faith that Jesus could heal his son, but when Jesus said to him, "Go, your son lives" the man believed, the scripture says. Verse 50: "Go, your son will live". This man came at a position of authority. He's in effect commanding Jesus. He's saying, "Come to my house. My son is dying! Come, Jesus"! And Jesus said, "No, go. You go; your son is alive. Your son will be well".
He said come; Jesus said go. And that man had a decision to make. "Will I try to do it my way or God's way". And he chose to submit his way and his will to the will of God. He said I surrender all. You know what faith is? Faith is believing and trusting in God in spite of the circumstances and in spite of the consequences. Simply put, faith is taking Jesus at His word. Trusting God's word. Romans chapter 10 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". Hear the word of God, believe the word of God and activate the word of God in your life! He began to do what Jesus told him to do. He started home.
Now interestingly enough, this is one of the coolest parts of this story. He's on his way home and the servants come out to meet him, and they say, "Your son is getting better; your son's getting well". And he thought to check. "Say what time was it? When did the boy start getting better"? And they said, "It was at the seventh hour". And at that point he knew that Jesus had healed his son. Same time. But it was 24 hours later. Think about that! Seventh hour yesterday, he checked his sundial and he said that's 24 hours. It happened this time yesterday.
Now I've already told you that by, there was probably a five or six hour walk back to his home or shorter than that, by horse, and yet, I don't know about you but if I'm in New York, and I'm somewhere else, and my son's home sick and somebody says he's well, I'm getting there as fast as I can to see it's true. Right? You probably would, too. Not this guy. I don't know what he was doing for 24 hours. Maybe he was hanging out with the disciples, getting discipled, maybe he was spending time with Jesus or going about some business while he was in the area, but he hung out there in Cana of Galilee and went home the next day. Amazing! He trusted and submitted his child to Jesus. He gave it over to Jesus. And that's what God has called us to do, to trust Him like that.
Dads, this is on you and me. The church is there to be our partners in ministry, whether it's children's ministry, student ministry, Prestonwood Academy, sports ministry. We got a lot of things going on for kids and families and it's all good, and we're gonna keep doing it. But, dads, listen to me. There is no substitute for you. There's no substitute for this dad who went to Jesus in behalf of his dying son. And his son is alive because this dad intervened and interceded and wouldn't stop. And he humbled himself and submitted himself, and depended upon the Lord. He believed the Word of God.
Verse 50, He believed the word of God, and he acted on it in obedience. The Bible speaks of the obedience of faith. "Faith without works is dead". You say, "I'm really not a believer. I can't believe; I've got intellectual problems". No, you don't! You just don't! Jesus spoke about an evil heart of unbelief. The problem with unbelief is not your head; it's your heart! You got a moral problem, not a mental problem. Every man, every woman has been given the capacity to believe God! To trust in Jesus. Don't tell me you can't believe! There's plenty of evidence. You've got enough evidence to save the world right now.
The case for Christ is clear! Yes, you can believe. You must be willing to believe, and humble yourself. And lay aside your pride and your arrogance and your intellectualism, and like this dad, desperate for his son, follow Jesus and believe Jesus! It was a superficial, small faith to begin, then it became a strong and growing faith as he believed and submitted his life to the Lord. And then it became a saving faith for his entire family. We'll close it this way. This is a great way to close this story. Verse 53, the father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live". And he himself believed.
Wait a minute! I thought he already believed. He believed the word, he believed for the miracle, but now he believes in Christ Himself. You see that? He believed! It's now personal. He believed. And not only that, but now his entire household believes in Jesus! That's the way to start a living legacy in your family! A legacy of faith It's starts with you, sir. Men, dads, it begins with you! Husbands! As you lead your family. It's starts, as in this case, with this man. It can go other ways, of course.
But I'm telling you, the best way for your family to come to Jesus is because it starts with you, when you come to Jesus. And when he got home, when that boy embraced him and his wife comes to him and she says, "What happened"? He said, "I trusted in Jesus and Jesus healed our boy"! And Mrs. Lord Basil said, "I want Jesus in my life, too". And she got saved. And the servants of the household, they all came to Jesus; they got saved! And then the boy, if he was old enough, he got saved! Maybe other children! The entire household believes! It's a household of faith now because one man had the heart and the soul to bring himself and to bring his boy to Jesus.