A Roman Centurion's servant was seriously ill. The Centurion sought out Jesus (which is interesting, since as a Roman he probably did not adhere to the Jewish faith) and asked him to heal his servant. Jesus offered to go to his house, but the Centurion declined and said, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8). Jesus praised him for his faith, said there was none in Israel with greater faith, and healed the servant.
Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were siblings and very good friends of Jesus. Lazarus fell ill to the point of death. Martha and Mary sent for Jesus to come and heal him, knowing that He had the power to do so. Jesus tarried in Jerusalem, and Lazarus died. When He finally arrived in Bethany, both Mary and Martha let him have it. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21, 32).
Two stories, both containing great faith in Jesus. In both cases, Jesus didn't show up at the scene. In one, He heals. In the other, He doesn't. There is more to the story of Lazarus (which I will address in the following days), but what I want to emphasize here is this: there are no magic formulas to faith.
We like formulas, don't we? We like certainty and the ability to depend on that which is known. "If this... then this." Life is uncertain, however, and faith, perhaps, even more so. And while the Church is quick to have answers to the point of domesticating God, things don't always happen the way we'd like them.
I begin to realise how a sense of entitlement has crept into my Christianity. I want God to give me what I think I deserve. I also begin to realise how much American politics has shaped my faith to the point where I view it as a democracy - I vote God in, He sticks to an agenda that is agreeable to me, and when/if He doesn't, I throw a temper tantrum and remind Him that I "voted for Him".
It is tempting to say that I'm not really like this, that I'm "mature" in my faith, that I have an answer for every life challenge that comes my way, and that I trust God no matter what. It is even more tempting to say this as I work for a Christian NGO and am supposed to be the "expert" in faith and trust. The truth is, I am as human as the next person. It hurts when Jesus doesn't show up and heal.
In my next post I'll tell you why I still love Him, even when He doesn't pitch up.