I don’t like to feel needy. I don’t like it when life squeezes all the comfort and confidence out of me that I’ve come to rely on from day to day. I don’t like pain. My pastor recently preached on John 4, where we are introduced to a desperate man, in a lot of pain, who wasn’t afraid to confess his need.
John tells us:
So [Jesus] came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was 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.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” – John 4:46-50 ESV
This official’s son was dying. He heard Jesus was coming to a town nearly 20 miles from where he lived. He traveled those 20 miles – probably on horse and on foot – in order to bring his need to the only One who could help him. This man was desperate.
We don’t like being in a place of desperation. We don’t like to feel our need. But 1 Peter 1:6-7 tells us it is in the place of need that our faith is most clearly shown to be either genuine or false. How do we know if our faith is genuine? It is a sad reality that many of us believe that having strong faith means we soar above the chaos and pain unfolding in our lives so that we are unmoved by it, untouched by it. We think having faith looks like not feeling distress or grief or uncertainty. We think it looks like serenity and calm and confidence. But this man shows us that genuine faith shows itself most truly when we acknowledge our pain and inadequacy and bring it to the only One who can help.
Faith does not dismiss difficulty. Faith does not negate feelings. Faith is bringing everything that’s too big for us to the only One who’s bigger. This means you know your faith is genuine when your response to trials is to bring the things that trouble and bother you most, the things that most shame and expose you, to Christ.
And it is in the place of need that we meet Christ our Savior. The city was not empty that day. John 4:45 tells us the people of that city had seen Jesus perform miracles before, and they wanted to see more. But the only person who caught Jesus’ attention that day was the one with a need. The only one who caught Jesus’ attention was the one convinced enough of his own need and convinced enough of Jesus’ love to ask him for what only Jesus could and would do. And Jesus did exactly what that man needed.
This man shows us true faith. It has no pretense. It makes no claims of self-sufficiency or worthiness. Rather, it clings desperately to the only One who can do anything to help.
This might be you today. You feel weak, needy, or exposed. Maybe you’re even ashamed of your own limitations and inadequacies. Maybe you are feeling the weight of your failures. It could be that the cumulative effect of life’s disappointments is crushing you. Wherever you are, whatever you carry, Christ is calling you to exercise the kind of faith that tells him your need and asks him to do something about it. More than that, he’s calling you to exercise the kind of faith that believes he cares enough about you to not only listen, but act on your behalf. Let this official’s faith show you how to call on the One who helps those who cannot help themselves.