In the case of our text, what Jesus has to say about prayer and faith must be never be isolated from the larger story and used to justify some kind of hyper-faith doctrine, which argues that any of us can have anything we want, any time we want it if we just have enough faith and are willing to speak our miracle into existence. That is not what the Bible teaches, therefore, that cannot be what this passage teaches. With all that, said, look again at our passage.
Paul rejoiced in the faith of Timothy, and he credited both Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice for being influential examples in Timothy’s life. Every mother needs to know how important she is in her child’s life. Though some of you may have grown up without your mother in the home, and you have overcome incredible odds to become the person you are now, it still remains a biblical truth that mothers are God’s gift to children and the primary model for nurture and love.
Notice that Jesus loved this man. Jesus wasn’t trying to punish him, Jesus was offering him “treasure in heaven,” and nothing is worth more than that. The question now is whether this man’s wealth was a blessing or a curse. Everyone else would say, “This man is blessed, look at how much he has!” But as Jesus had already asked back in Mark 8:36, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Many churches only want positive confessions and testimonies of all the good things God has done. But sometimes we need to cry from the miry clay because some needs are noisy and ugly, punctuating our programs with opportunities to let the light of Jesus shine through us. Sometimes we try to quietly usher the need out of the sanctuary lest it disrupt our preplanned church service. But these are needs on display—a broken heart, a broken home, a broken spirit, a broken mind—and they must not be ignored.
It may be a nice sunny day when we are building our house of faith, but the tribulations, persecution, fiery trials, and afflictions are inevitable. The storm is coming and when the rain falls, the winds blow, and the floods flow, the substance of our faith will be revealed and the foundation will be exposed. That foundation will either sustain us or fail us depending upon how we have responded to the teaching of Jesus.
Mark recorded that Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them” (v. 5). Why so few? It is probably because only a few were willing to come to Jesus. The people could not set aside what they thought they knew about Jesus to believe that He could actually minister to them.
Sometimes it can feel like life is squeezing the joy and hope out of us. As we age and our bodies remind us of the effects of the Fall, as friends and family pass from this life, and as the years ahead of us are become much fewer than the behind us, it can be easy to lose hope. But the good news of Jesus Christ is that He has come to restore hope, bring healing, and restore dreams. If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable, but thanks be unto God that the suffering of this present life is not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed in us.
Once people realized how special Jesus was, everywhere Jesus went the people crowded around Him. Eventually some of the religious elites began to worry that Jesus might challenge their positions or their authority, so they also began to show up in order to critique and criticize Jesus. They were constantly watching with a critical eye and listening for something with which to accuse Jesus of, such as, fraud or blasphemy. Sadly, in process of their criticism, they likely deprived themselves of the ministry that could have been for them. People who come to church only to pick apart the sermon and criticize the preacher are rarely blessed.
In verses 14 through 16 James asks three rhetorical questions, followed in verse 17 with a conclusion. You know what a rhetorical question is don’t you? Men, it’s when your wife comes home with a new haircut and asks, “Do you think this haircut looks good?” That is not a real question. In a rhetorical question the answer is implied in the question. It’s like when a man asks his wife, “Don’t you think that ‘bigger’ flatscreen TV would look good in the family room?” It’s more of a statement than an actual question
If you could ask God for one, and only one thing, in your life, what would you ask for—more money, health, a long life? What would you ask? In fact, there’s an account in the Old Testament where God actually gave a man the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted, and this man asked for wisdom. You probably know the story from 2 Chronicles chapter 1—Solomon became king of Israel following his father David, and he became a great king because the Lord was him. One day Solomon went up to the tabernacle his father David set up for the ark of the covenant, and he offered a sacrifice on the bronze altar. That night, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”