It is Always Too Soon to Give Up on God

Topical Scripture: John 3:1–8

Super Bowl LIV will be played this evening. To celebrate, Americans will eat 1.3 billion chicken wings and eight million pounds of guacamole. In fact, we will consume more food today than on any day of the year except Thanksgiving. But beware: antacid sales will increase by 20 percent tomorrow, and 1.5 million Americans will call in sick.

And when the game is over, the “real world” will be waiting.

President Trump’s impeachment trial will continue this week. Whatever your position on impeachment and your thoughts regarding Mr. Trump, he is our president and we are called to pray for him (1 Timothy 2:2).

The other figure dominating the news has been Kobe Bryant. Coverage has focused on his basketball brilliance and his personal failings. Few have noted his Catholic faith, a commitment that became much stronger in recent years.

Last Sunday, two hours before he boarded the helicopter on which he died, Bryant prayed before the 7 am Mass at his parish church in Newport Beach, California.

Are you concerned for someone who does not seem to be moving in the right direction personally? Someone who is making the wrong choices, someone who seems to be retreating from God rather than moving closer to him?

Are you dealing with an area in your life that is not what God wants for you? The Puritans spoke of “besetting sins,” those areas of recurring spiritual failures in our lives. Are you struggling with such a sin and wondering if you’ll ever defeat it?

As we continue watching Jesus change lives, today we’ll meet a man who was a combination of political leader and celebrity. We’ll see what happened when he first talked with our Lord. Then we’ll see what happened years later. And we’ll learn that it is always too soon to give up on God.

Meeting Nicodemus

Our story begins: “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who a member of the Jewish ruling council” (John 3:1). This man had done everything his society deemed necessary for success. He was everything most of us want to be.

Nicodemus was powerful—in fact, he achieved more power than it is possible to possess in our society today. His name meant “conqueror of the people.” Clearly his parents envisioned great power for their baby boy. Imagine naming your infant son Napoleon or Alexander the Great. He was born with a gavel in his hand, bred for success, raised to conquer.

And he fulfilled his parents’ wildest dreams and fondest hopes. How many of us want our son or daughter to be president of the United States? A member of the Supreme Court? A senator or representative? Nicodemus did all that and more.

He was a ruler of the Jews, otherwise translated as a “member of the Jewish ruling council” (v. 1b). This group was known as the “Sanhedrin”—seventy men who constituted the Supreme Court of their nation. They possessed ruling authority over every Jew anywhere in the world. They were the court of final appeal. Even the High Priest was subject to their rulings.

If our nation had one ruling body which combined the power of the Supreme Court and the House and Senate, and also possessed authority over the president and the military, that body would be their Sanhedrin. And Nicodemus was one of its members. There was no more powerful position in all the land.

Nicodemus was wealthy as well. After Jesus’ assassination, he donated seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes to help bury his crucified body (John 19:38–40.). This was the kind and amount of burial material normally used only for a king and a very expensive gift.

He was part of the Jewish aristocracy, a very wealthy man. If Forbes magazine had run a profile on Israel’s richest men, his picture would have been in the article. Probably on its cover.

And Nicodemus was spiritual—one of the most religious men in the nation, in fact. He was a Pharisee (John 3:1). There were never more than six thousand of them in ancient Israel. Their name meant “Separated Ones,” for that’s what they were—separated from all ordinary life to keep every detail of the Jewish law. The dietary codes, Sabbath regulations, everything. They were the Marine Corp of ancient Israel, the holiest men on earth in the eyes of their culture.

And Nicodemus wasn’t just any Pharisee. He was “Israel’s teacher” (v. 10), a special kind of religious scholar, the man who taught other Pharisees their theology. Dean of the School of Theology, we would call him. We can find no more religious man in all the Scriptures.

If believing in God and being good could lead us to eternal life, it would have worked for Nicodemus. But it didn’t, because it can’t. Good works and intellectual belief are the wrong present to unwrap if you’re looking for heaven today.

Meeting Jesus

Our text continues: “This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (v. 2). This is a remarkable statement and seems to be an amazing opportunity for Jesus to recruit this man to his movement.

However, our Lord’s response to Nicodemus would have made any political strategist cringe. After this powerful, wealthy, religious leader has complimented him on his miraculous works and divine inspiration, we’d expect the Galilean carpenter to be pleased, to affirm his admirer’s faith and faithfulness. His response is just the opposite: “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God'” (v. 3).

Why did Jesus reply to Nicodemus in such blunt terms? How does his response help us find God and the eternal life he alone can give?

Admit your need of grace

The simple truth is that no one can “see the kingdom of God” in his or her own abilities. The “kingdom of God” is that place where God is king. Jesus defined the kingdom best in the Model Prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). God’s kingdom comes wherever and whenever his will is done.

Our problem is simple: none of us can do the will of God in our strength. None of us is powerful, wealthy, or religious enough to be perfect. God says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Like Nicodemus, we need to be “born again.” We need a new life and a fresh start. We need to begin again, to get to that place of innocence which was ours when we were first born and had not yet sinned against God. We need to be as innocent as a baby, or we cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Ask for the new birth of God

Nicodemus was confused, asking Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). Jesus responded: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5). Then he explained, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (v. 6).

In other words, “water” refers to our physical birth, just as being born of the Spirit refers to our spiritual birth. Such a gift cannot be quantified or manufactured by human effort any more than the wind can be controlled or predicted by human wisdom.

Jesus was clear on this: “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (vv. 7–8).

Three things God cannot do

John 3:16, the most famous verse in Scripture, summarizes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

A fellow student in my college preaching class delivered a sermon on this text under the title, “Three things God cannot do.” You thought God could do everything, correct? According to my friend, there are three things he cannot do.

One: He loves us so much that he cannot love us any more than he already does: “For God so loved the world.” Two: He has given us so much that he cannot give us any more than he already has: “that he gave his only Son.” Three: He has made salvation so simple that he cannot make it any simpler: “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

My friend was right. What was true for Nicodemus is true for any of us today.

Burying and serving his king

The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus ends without an ending. We aren’t told how Nicodemus responded or what he did next.

But fast forward. Later in Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders sought to arrest Jesus. Nicodemus responded to them: “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:51).

After our Lord’s death, a wealthy man named Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for his body. Then we read: “Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19:39–40).

This was an extravagant act, one typically given to a king. Nicodemus’ sacrifice shows that he truly saw Jesus as the King of kings.

With this, Nicodemus leaves the pages of Scripture. Later tradition added that he testified on Jesus’ behalf before Pilate, that he was deprived of office and banished from Jerusalem as a result, and that he was baptized by Peter and John. Some say he was beaten to death by hostile crowds for testifying to his faith. It is also said that he was buried in the same grave as Stephen.


We cannot know any of that as historical fact. But we can know that a man who came to Jesus by night eventually testified for him by day and paid a high price to honor the one he came to serve as his king.

Nicodemus proves that Jesus can change any heart that is willing to be changed.

George Mueller was a great evangelist and orphanage director. At one point, he began to pray for the conversion of five men. He prayed for the first for eighteen months before he came to faith. He prayed another five years before the second man was converted.

Mueller prayed another six years before the third came to Christ. He prayed for the other two men for another forty years, fifty-two years in total, until both came to faith.

It is always too soon to give up on God.

How is this fact relevant to your soul today?

The Man Who Left Jesus Sad

Topical Scripture: Matthew 19:16–26

National Pizza Day is today. Americans should celebrate this day, since we eat one hundred acres of pizza a day, 350 slices a second.

In less fattening news, this morning we were treated to the first supermoon of 2020 as well. Native Americans called it the “snow” moon because it usually coincides with heavy snow.

Pizza won’t cost you much and looking at the moon won’t cost you anything. But a somewhat more expensive news item caught my eye this week: six homes sold in the United States last year for more than $100 million.

That’s the highest number of sales at that price for any given year in US history. One of them sold for $150 million. It’s known as the Beverly Hillbillies mansion, since its exterior was used to film the show’s credits.

About twice that number are on the market today. One goes for $165 million, with a twenty-thousand-square-foot main house and two additional two-story structures for guests. Another house for sale at $115 million was once owned by Sonny and Cher. A $110 million listing has a workout area described as a sports complex, complete with a chandelier.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau noted in 1750, “Money buys everything, except morality and citizens.” By contrast, Gertrude Stein said, “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”

Today, we’ll decide who was right.

If the world were a village of one hundred people, sixty-one of us would be Asian, fourteen would be African, eleven would be European, nine would be from Latin or South America, and five would be from North America. At least eighteen of us would be unable to read or write. Thirty-three of us would have cellular phones; sixteen of us would be on the internet. There would be eighteen cars in our village. Sixty-three of us would have inadequate sanitation.

You and I are members of the wealthiest generation in history. But research shows that our emotional well-being levels off once we achieve an annual income of $75,000. Additional income does not produce additional happiness. We need something more than money.

We’re watching Jesus changes lives of people who are willing to be changed. Today we meet a man known to history as the Rich Young Ruler. We’ll listen to their conversation and watch the man leave Jesus “sorrowful” (Matthew 19:22). Then we’ll decide if we’ll do the same.

Leaving Jesus “sorrowful”

Our story begins, “And behold, a man came to him [Jesus]” (v. 16). What do we know about him? Matthew tells us he’s young, Luke says he’s a ruler, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that he is wealthy. Let’s explore further.

Luke 18:18 tells us that he was a “ruler,” someone in charge of a Jewish synagogue. A layman elected by his peers to this position. He governed the affairs of their local synagogue, selected the preachers and readers for the services, presided over the elders (a kind of board of directors), and generally ran the institution. A tremendous honor and great religious accomplishment.

Matthew 19:20 says that he is “young.” He had to be at least thirty to be a synagogue ruler; he’s probably just that, most likely the age of Jesus. He’s successful at an early age, with his whole life before him.

And he’s wealthy. In fact, Matthew 19:22 says that he had “great possessions.” The word means that he possessed fields, houses, and other property as well as great financial means. A real estate tycoon, we would say today.

In the eyes of the world, he’s just like us.

  • We’re religious. In fact, your attendance at church puts you in the top 36 percent of America, the average weekly church attendance. If you go to Bible study weekly, this puts you in the top 14 percent.
  • We’re not all young, but the median age of Americans is 38.2 years.

We may not think we’re wealthy, but we are. The average household income in America is $59,039.

Like this rich young ruler, most of the world would consider us to be religious, young, and wealthy as well.

But all his success is not enough for his soul: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:19).

Like most Americans, he thinks that eternal life is something we get from the things we do. If you’re good and believe in God, that’s enough. So, Jesus shows him that this won’t work. “Keep the commandments,” he tells him. He lists the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and fifth, then he summarizes them with Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The man says that he’s kept all these. So Jesus shows him that he has not: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (v. 21). If you truly, perfectly, completely love your neighbor as yourself, you would sell what you have and give it to him. If you want to get eternal life through what you do, this is what you must do.

But the man won’t do it: “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 22). He was the only man in all the Scriptures who came to Jesus in faith and left sad.

Jesus’ actions must have astonished his disciples. Here, at long last, is one of the elite ready to follow him. Someone with means and influence. Someone who can advance Jesus’ movement enormously. But Jesus sends him away sad.

Now he shocks them even further: “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 23). They thought just the opposite—wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and favor; the wealthy have the best chance of heaven. But they don’t.

In fact, it’s impossible: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 24). Some have suggested that the “eye of a needle” meant a small door in the city wall through which a camel could crawl. Others say that by changing one letter in “camel” we get “rope,” and that’s Jesus’ point. But it’s not.

When the bewildered disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 25). Jesus is blunt: “With man this is impossible” (v. 26a).

As impossible as shoving a camel through the eye of a needle. We cannot do it. We cannot keep the commandments and get to God. No matter our wealth or prosperity, our religious accomplishment or social status, our youth or energy. With man it is impossible to “get eternal life.”

But here’s the good news: “but with God all things are possible” (v. 26b).

How to leave Jesus happy

Now, what does this story say to us today? Let’s apply God’s word through two questions.

First, are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere? Can he send you anywhere, to do anything, to talk to anyone, to give anything you have to anyone in need?

If you will, be encouraged. You are doing exactly what Jesus wanted this rich young ruler to do, and all of us as well. You will leave Jesus happy today. If you will follow Jesus anywhere, and do anything for him, then for you the message is done today.

But if you’re not there yet, let me ask a second question: what is keeping you from complete commitment to Christ?

For this man, it was his money. Note that this was the only person Jesus ever asked to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. Not Nicodemus, or Zacchaeus, or Joseph of Arimathea, three famous wealthy men of the gospels. Just this man.

The reason was simple: his possessions possessed him. He had to sell them to gain his soul. This is not a condition for everyone to follow Jesus. But it was essential for this man, since his possessions possessed him..

Would you sell your possessions? If not, they possess you. Let them go today. Give them over to Jesus. Tell him that you’ll sell anything he wants you to sell, do with them whatever he says. Give them to him, right now.

Perhaps the issue keeping you from complete commitment to Jesus isn’t your possessions. Then, what is it? What possesses you?

Is it your career? Your vocational ambitions, which you are afraid will be compromised if you fully follow Jesus? Do you fear that you won’t get the promotion, or the position, or the status you want so much? If so, ask yourself: is it really wise to trade a forty-year career for the eternal rewards reserved only for those who fully follow Jesus? Is this a good career move?

Is it your time? I don’t need to sell my possessions, but I do need to sell my calendar. I must occasionally remember that the One who died for my sins loves me and knows far better than I do how to make my life significant. Every day I must surrender that day’s plans and agendas to his Lordship. What about you?

Is it your friends? When you have to choose between popularity with them and pleasing Jesus, does Jesus lose? Remember that Jesus died for you—did they? Would they? Remember that he knows the future, and all that is best for you—do they? Remember that he will be there for you through the hardest times of your life—will they? Remember that your eternal reward in heaven is based on pleasing Jesus, not popularity with your friends. Is putting friends before Jesus the right thing to do?

Is it your family? Under God, my family is my first priority. I will put them before my work, my ambitions, my friends. But will I put them before God? Will you? Can God ask you to do something which would appear to hurt your family? To make a sacrifice which will cause them to sacrifice as well? Know that he loves your family more even than you do. But know also that following him means putting him before everyone else, even them. Have you done this?


Giving everything to follow Jesus is worth the decision. He wants your best, every time. And he can give you a significance and joy in living which no possessions, career, ambitions, friends, or family can offer. Others will see Christ in you, if Christ is truly your Lord.

John Stott was one of the most effective pastors and theologians of our generation. Consider his observation:

“When we meet some people, we know immediately and instinctively that they are different. We are anxious to learn their secret. It is not the way they dress or talk or behave, although it influences these things. It is not that they have affixed a name tag to themselves and proclaimed themselves the adherent of a particular religion or ideology. It is not even that they have a strict moral code which they faithfully follow. It is that they know Jesus Christ, and that he is a living reality to them. They dwell in him and he dwells in them. He is the source of their life and it shows in everything they do.

“These people have an inner serenity which adversity cannot disturb; it is the peace of Christ. They have a spiritual power that physical weakness cannot destroy; it is the power of Christ. They have a hidden vitality that even the process of dying and death cannot quench; it is the life of Christ.”

I want this. Don’t you?

Touching the Garment of God

Topical Scripture: Mark 5:24–34

A woman finished shopping, went to her car, and found four men sitting inside. She dropped her bags, pulled her handgun, and yelled: “Get out of the car. I have a gun and know how to use it!” The men scrambled out of the car and ran off.

Relieved, she set her bags in the back seat, sat down behind the wheel, and pushed the button to start the car. But it wouldn’t start, no matter how many times she tried. She then looked around and realized this was not her car. It was the same color and model as hers, but four cars down the row.

Chagrined, she got in her car and drove straight to the police station to turn herself in. She explained to the sergeant what had happened. Laughing, he pointed to four men at another desk who were reporting that their car had been stolen by a lady with a handgun.

No charges were filed.

The woman thought the car was hers when it was not. This is a parable for creatures who think that the creation belongs to us when it does not.

Self-reliance is the path to success in our culture, or so we think. We are rewarded for initiative and self-sufficiency. The more we can do for ourselves, by ourselves, the more our culture applauds.

By contrast, the Bible commends the person who trusts God to be God, the sheep who follow their Shepherd, the sick who seek the Great Physician.

Why do you need to believe that “the deepest desires of your heart will be fulfilled” when you trust them to the Lord? Is there a problem you’ve been trying to solve yourself? Pain you’ve been trying to heal? A burden you’ve been trying to carry?

Today we’ll meet a woman who turned to everyone she could find before she turned to the one Person who could heal her.

Let’s learn how to make her faith our own.

“I will be made well” (vv. 24–28)

Our story begins: “A great crowd followed [Jesus] and thronged about him” (Mark 5:24). In their midst was “a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years” (v. 25). “Discharge of blood” translates rhysei, the typical word for menstrual flow. Hers had not stopped in more than a decade, however, leaving her anemic and severely weakened. Mark will later describe her condition as a mastix, which means “scourge, whip, lash, torment” (v. 29).

In addition, she “had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse” (v. 26). She “suffered much” (polys pascho, to experience much evil) and “spent” (dapanesasa, to waste, destroy, wear out) all her money, but her health continued to decline. The cures prescribed in the Jewish Talmud—carrying the ashes of an ostrich egg in a cloth, for instance—only made things worse.

In addition, her condition rendered her ritually unclean (Leviticus 15:19–27). She had not been to a house of worship in twelve years and likely had never been able to marry or have children. Imagine her feelings of isolation, helplessness, and hopelessness.

While she could not go to the temple of God, she could go to the God of the temple: “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment” (v. 27). Some see this as a sign of humility, not wanting to stop or disturb the Master. More likely, it was the only way this “unclean” outcast thought she could approach a noted rabbi and healer.

She was confident in Jesus’ abilities: “For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well'” (v. 28). Her intention was to touch just the edge of his garment (Matthew 9:20; Luke 8:44), perhaps one of the four tassels at the corners of his prayer shawl (the tallit). She knew that by touching Jesus, she would defile him as well (Leviticus 15:26–27); perhaps she believed that she could brush the hem of his cloak in the crowd without detection.

The unnamed woman did the right thing—she brought her pain to Jesus. Like any physician, he can heal only those who submit to him. James warned us that “you do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2 NIV). What pain is he waiting to touch in your life today?

“Your faith has made you well” (vv. 29–34)

Mark’s narrative continues: “And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (v. 29). “Immediately” (euthys) is one of Mark’s favorite words, indicating the swift action for which his Gospel is known. The woman’s “bleeding” (pege, spring, menstrual flow) “stopped” (exeranthe, dried up, withered, analogous to a spring drying up) and she “felt” (ginosko, knew, comprehended, understood) that she was “freed” (iaomai, cured, healed) from her “suffering” (mastix, whip, torment). Mastix was used to describe the whip which Paul endured (Acts 22:24).

The woman probably wanted to fade into the crowd, but “Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?'” (v. 30).

Interpreters over the centuries have wondered about the meaning of this question. Some suggest that the Father healed this woman without the knowledge of the Son, whose knowledge of some issues (such as the timing of his return; cf. Matthew 24:36) was limited during his incarnation. More likely, he asked the question in order to engage the woman in further ministry. Just as God asked Adam and Eve questions to which he knew the answer (Genesis 3:9, 11, 13), Jesus asked for the woman to identify herself.

In a moment, we’ll see why.

His disciples did not understand his motives, however: “And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” (v. 31). Perhaps they were remarking at his sensitiveness in feeling a touch in such a crowded situation, but more likely they were objecting to the logic of his question. With so many pressing around him, why would he ask his question?

Jesus ignored their response, perhaps indicating that his question was not directed at them: “And he looked around to see who had done it” (v. 32). He “kept looking around” (periblepo, looking after, to hunt) for the person who had touched him and been healed.

As a result of his persistence, “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth” (v. 33). She was “trembling with fear” (tremousa, to quiver with awe) as she fell at his feet and told him what she had done. Perhaps she was afraid that he would be angry with her for touching him and rendering him ritually unclean. Perhaps she was even more afraid that he would take back her healing.

Now our Lord came to the gift he had wanted to give the woman: “He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease'” (v. 34). “Daughter” translates thygater, found only here in the New Testament. Her faith had “healed” (sozo, to save) her; whenever this word is found in conjunction with “faith” (pistis), it conveys spiritual as well as physical healing (cf. Luke 17:19) and is the normal word for saving from sin.

Jesus had healed her body, but he wanted to heal her soul. When she came to him in honesty and humility, her faith positioned her to receive the eternal gift he wanted to bestow.

Note that the spoken Hebrew and Aramaic term translated by Mark into sozo was yashaw, a variant of Yeshua, Jesus. He had fulfilled his name, the One who would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). He then told her to “go in peace,” a blessing which meant that she was right with God, others, and herself. After twelve long years, she had been restored to life in all its fullness.

The woman’s faith did not save her. Rather, it positioned her to receive what Jesus intended to give by grace. This pattern is repeated throughout Scripture: The priests’ faith in stepping into the flooded Jordan River (Joshua 3:15–17) did not cause the river to stop; it positioned them to receive the miraculous grace of God. The Jews’ marching around Jericho did not cause the fortified city to collapse; it positioned them to experience the power of God in its destruction (Joshua 6:20).

So it is with us: we are saved not by faith but by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). When we bring our pain and problems to God, believing that he can help us, we then receive all that he intends to give.

Is God waiting on a step of faith in your life today?

Five obstacles to God’s best

So long as the woman trusted in the doctors or in herself, she remained sick. When she turned to Jesus in faith and dependence, she received his best for her.

What is keeping you from bringing your pain to him today?

One answer is pride, our desire to do for ourselves what we need done. From the proverbial men who won’t ask for directions when we’re lost to the patient who trusts a self-diagnosis based on the internet rather than her physician, we all want to solve our problems ourselves. We don’t want to admit that we need what only God can supply.

Conversely, shame is a second answer. We’re not sure God would want to hear us or help us. Especially when our suffering results from our own sins and failures, we’re not sure that God wants to forgive us and heal us.

A third obstacle is a lack of faith. Perhaps God doesn’t work miracles anymore; perhaps he never really did. We live in a scientific day that dismisses the supernatural. It’s easy to wonder whether God will do what we cannot.

A fourth problem is a lack of persistence. Perhaps we’re different from the woman in that we’ve been touching the garment of God for days and perhaps even years, but he doesn’t seem to have helped us. Power has not gone out from him yet. He hasn’t turned and taken notice of us. Or so we think.

A fifth obstacle is insistence on our way. Perhaps God’s best for us is not what we wanted. Rather than healing our body, he seeks to heal our soul. Rather than give us what we want, he is giving us what we need.

When the Apostle Paul prayed three times for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord refused. Instead, he taught Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul testified: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.

The solution is to do what this unnamed woman did—bring our pain to our Lord and trust him for what is best. Keep praying, trusting, and depending. And know that he hears us and loves us and grieves with us and will always do what is for his glory and our good.

His timing is seldom ours, but his grace is amazing and his love is undefeated.


An anonymous Confederate soldier wrote:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak, that I might learn to serve. I asked for health, that I might do great things; I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for wealth, that I might be happy; I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for power, that I might earn the praise of men; I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life; I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing I asked for, but all I hoped for. Despite myself, my prayers were answered. And I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

So can we be. This is the promise, and the invitation, of God.