THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
1 There was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. He went unto Jesus, and besought Him that Ho would come down and heal his son ; for he was at the point of death.'—John iv. 46, 47.
HERE is an experience that almost every parent passes through. In the wonderful training of the parent through the child, God uses a child's sickness as one of His special means of blessing. And in the parent's training of the child, the sick-room has often been the place when the parent first fully found his way to the child's heart, to guide it to Jesus and the distinct confession of faith in Him. Let us prepare ourselves for the children's sick-rooms by the lessons the beautiful story of the nobleman of Capernaum teaches us as to how sickness is to be met, to be healed, to be blessed.
How sickness is to be met? God's great gift to sinful men is Jesus; in His Son He meets our every need. And the one great thing God asks of in us, as the spirit in which we are to meet Him in Christ, is, faith—the trustful surrender to let this blessed Jesus be to us all that the Father would have Him be. And because He has been given to us, not only as individuals, but as parents, for us to accept and to use on behalf of our children, until we can lead them to accept Him for themselves, the one thing that God asks of the parent is, faith—trust in Jesus. As faith in God was the one thing by which the saints of old pleased God, and did all that was pleasing to Him, and to which God therefore sought to train them, so faith in His Son is the one supreme grace by which the Christian parent can please God, and obtain His blessings on his children. And all God's leadings and dealings have this one object and purpose, to make us strong in faith, giving glory to God.
When God allows sickness to come upon the child of one of His believing people, perhaps still young or an infant, and the parents' hearts are agonized by the sight of its pain or the fear of losing it, the question comes with terrible force, Why God permits all this suffering? The answer Scripture gives is, for the trial and so for the purifying and the strengthening of faith. God's one purpose with parent and child is to work and increase faith in them. By faith they become capable of receiving the revelation of God's glory, and showing it forth again; by faith God can dwell in them, and work through them. God's one desire is that they should more fully believe in His Son; and our one desire should be to meet the sickness by faith in Jesus.
This is the one great lesson the story of the nobleman teaches us,—the growth and increase of faith in the dealing with Christ. It begins as a general faith in what he has heard of Christ's compassion and power; this brings him into contact with Christ. He believes in Jesus as a healer. It becomes a distinct faith in the promise he received of healing: 'the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him.' He believes in Jesus as the Healer of his child. And then the faith in Jesus the Healer is perfected in the faith in Him as Saviour and Lord: 'himself believed and his whole house.' This is God's one purpose with sickness; let it be ours too. Let the chastisement discover to us our unbelief, and that fleshly and worldly spirit, that unholy life, in which unbelief has its root and its strength. Let us look from the hand that holds the rod to the face of Him whose is the hand; to see that face in truth makes trust easy and real.
How the sickness is to be healed? This is the second question our story suggests. The answer it gives is very simple: By the power of Jesus. In Matthew Christ's healing work is spoken of as the natural result of His atoning work of which Isaiah had spoken (Isa. liii.; Matt, viii.) as a bearing of our sickness. He took upon Him our human nature in the flesh, and, having redeemed it, lifted it into the glory of the eternal life in heaven. When on earth, He delighted in healing the sick, as something His loving heart could do for them even when He could not save their souls. In His Word He left among the heritage of the exceeding great and precious promises which are the riches of His Church, the assurance that the prayer of faith would save the sick, because the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. He has a thousand times over by His Spirit led His children, applying the promise of an answer to believing prayer, the promise of His doing whatsoever we will if we abide in Him, to believe and receive the healing of a sick child. His great desire in sickness is to educate us into that simple, childlike faith, which, while it cannot give account of its assurance to reason, yet through the Holy Spirit has the assurance that its petition is granted, that it has what it asks. Let us but see that the lesson of the chastisement has been accepted, that the sin, or the want of entire harmony of our life with God's will, has been confessed and pardoned, has been cast out and conquered; let us claim the life of the beloved sick one for God's glory in him and in us as parents: the word of Jesus can come to us as real as to the nobleman: thy son liveth.
And we shall learn how sickness is to become a blessing. The Lord Jesus used it as a means of drawing to Himself; when it had done this He took it away, that the healing might bind to Himself. "When the sickness had done its work, the healing perfected what had been begun. The sickness had brought the nobleman to Jesus in hope and expectancy; the healing left him a confirmed believer, with his household. There is a very prevalent opinion that sickness is better than health for true piety; in the life of Christ and in His work we see no token of this. Health obtained direct from Jesus in the prayer of faith, health received consciously as a gift of redeeming love, is one of the most wonderful spiritual blessings: a bearing in the body the mark of the hand of Jesus. Let each parent, whom our Lord leads into this school of sickness, realize this fully, that health, indeed asked and received in faith, may be a token of even more intimate contact with Jesus than the blessing of the sick-bed ever has been. As this is understood, we shall feel courage to make known our desire for a health iD which there is to be power for God's glory. The new revelation of the power and the love of Jesus may make us and our household believers as never before—full of faith and devotion to Him who has blessed us.
Parents! our sick children are God's messengers to lead us to Jesus and to faith in Him. The sickness has a message and a blessing. It calls us to remember parental sin, and to confess it. It calls us to search the heart and life and home as to whether we have held our children wholly for God, trained them as holy to the Lord. It comes to make the heart tender and humble, and to draw it out to Jesus. Oh, let us beware lest in all the care or sorrow the sickness occasions, in all the means to which we flee to seek deliverance, in all the fear of losing our child, we miss God's purpose. He wants to bring us, subdued and quiet, in faith and hope to Jesus. Let us pray God very earnestly that we may not miss the blessing of the sickness.
And, much more, let us accept the greater blessing of the healing. The exercise of faith honours God more than anything. The availing ourselves of our privilege, the trusting of Jesus' word and power, the learning to know Him as indeed our Helper, the experience of His healing power in distinct answer to our faith,—it is this that binds to Christ. We learn to know Him as the Living One. We have the token of the acceptance of our surrender and our trust. Our home has become the scene of the display of His kingly power. It has sealed afresh the parental covenant. We and our home become the Lord's as never before.
Blessed Eedeemer! we come to Thee to learn the lesson that sickness has but this one purpose— to draw us to Thyself. When Thou wert on earth, the sickness of a child was one of the cords with which the Father drew men to Thee. And still He takes parents into the sick-room of their little ones, that there they may learn to seek and find Thee, to wait for and to receive the revelation of Thy power and love.
Lord Jesus! teach us, we pray Thee, in all the time of our children's sickness to learn the blessed lesson of coming to Thee and trusting Thee. We may be most sure that Thou art watching over us to teach, to comfort, to sanctify, and to heal. Teach us especially that Thou art still the same as when on earth, mighty to bid the sickness depart, and to free from the power of death. To spare the life of a child for Thy service, to gladden and sanctify a parent's heart by Thy grace, and for the Father's glory, Thou art still ready to hear the prayer of faith and raise up the child. Oh, grant us this faith, that we may honour Thee, and not lander Thee from proving with what compassion thou hearest a parent's cry.
And grant, Lord, when Thou graciously hast heard, and given back a child to the parent's faith, that the blessed fruit may be that the parents with their whole house believe in Thee as never before. May all see that Jesus is now Lord and Master, the beloved Friend of the home. As the sickness leads to seek Thee, may the healing bind to Thee and Thy blessed service. Amen.