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SUFFERING MANY THINGS
(The Call to Faithfulness No Matter What)
By
Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, Ph.D.
Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference



    In response to liberalism’s sophisticated challenge to our beliefs and practices, the world church sponsored the First International Jerusalem Bible Conference, June 8-14, 1998. The goal of this convocation in Israel was to urge our Bible teachers and thought leaders around the world “to remain faithful to God’s holy Word and the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” I was invited to be one of the plenary speakers at the conference, apparently because of the impact of my book Receiving the Word. [1]

    My original objective was to describe candidly the theological situation in the church, showing the baneful impact of contemporary higher criticism on the church’s life and witness and suggesting a response to it. I chose my title (“Suffering Many Things”) from Mark 5:25-26, with the intent of drawing an analogy between the condition of the woman with an issue of blood and that of today’s Seventh-day Adventist church. However, upon arriving in Jerusalem I felt impressed to speak to the hearts of the church’s thought leaders, not just to their minds. But not wanting to deviate from the printed title, I preached a sermon from the same chapter of Mark 5, focusing this time on Jairus instead of the woman with the issue of blood.

    Perceptive readers of the following plenary address will recognize that the introductory comments preceding the sermon, “The Story Within the Story,” captured the essence of what I had originally set out to do. [2]

    Introduction

    1998 is “The Year of the Bible.” And at the request of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SDA), the Adventist Theological Society, the Institute of Archaeology at Andrews University, and other SDA institutions, we have gathered here in Jerusalem from different parts of the world for two major reasons:

(1) To reaffirm our whole-hearted commitment to the authority of Scripture, and

(2) To renew our pledge to uphold the message and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

    Although we refer to this meeting as the “First International Jerusalem Bible Conference,” perhaps it is worth remembering that exactly twelve years ago, in another part of the world, there was a similar convocation of the church’s foremost administrators and scholars.

    The year was 1986. The venue was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The purpose was to set forth the hermeneutical implications of our Fundamental Beliefs #1, by specifying the assumptions and principles of Bible study that are consistent with the teachings of Scripture itself. That Annual Council meeting has bequeathed to the church a historic document known as the “Rio Document” or the “Methods of Bible Study Report,” a document that has since been embraced by an overwhelming majority of Seventh-day Adventist Bible students around the world. [3]

    Ever since I was asked to be one of the plenary speakers at this 1998 Jerusalem Conference, I have asked myself two questions: Given the fact that the world church, as well as the organizers and sponsors of this International Conference whole-heartedly uphold the authority of Scripture and the principles of biblical interpretation outlined in the Rio Document,

(1) Why has the General Conference of the SDA church designated 1998 as “The Year of the Bible,” a year to emphasize and experience the power of the Word”?

(2) And why have the various SDA entities sponsoring this meeting invited our church’s scholars and leaders from around the world to attend another Bible Conference dedicated to upholding God’s Word?

    In seeking answers to the above questions, I reflected on the theological situation in the SDA church, especially during the past twelve years (1986-1998). After pondering over the direct correlation that exists between the health of the church and its attitude to God’s Word, [4]  I came to the conclusion that, perhaps, I should use this occasion to briefly, but candidly, describe the present theological situation in the church, and then suggest what we need to do.

    Why “Suffering Many Things”?


    Permit me to explain why I chose the title “Suffering Many Things” as a launching pad for my plenary address. Perceptive Bible students may probably recognize that this title is taken from Mark 5:25-26 (KJV):

“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse” (emphasis mine).

    My intention is to draw an analogy between the condition of the woman with an issue of blood and that of today’s Seventh-day Adventist church. It seems to me that our church is also slowly bleeding to death because the authority of Scripture, the church’s life-blood, has been infected by the deadly virus of contemporary higher criticism.

    On this analogy, the twelve years of the woman’s suffering correspond to the period between the 1986 Annual Council meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and this Jerusalem Conference of 1998.

    The “many physicians” at whose hands the woman had “suffered many things” may refer to the theological specialists and professional elite who shape the theological thinking of the church. Such “physicians” include the doctors in New and Old Testament theology, systematic theology, church history, Christian ministry, missions, etc. The “many physicians” also include experts in education, administration, psychology, anthropology, sociology, science, business, etc.

    At no time has the church boasted itself of so many academic and professional doctorates. In this auditorium alone we may be able to count at least one hundred “doctors” in one field or another. And yet, at no time has the church “suffered many things” at the hands of so “many physicians.” Thus:

--Our teaching of the Bible has suffered at the hands of “many physicians,” whose exegesis have created uncertainty about virtually every single Bible passage.

--Our distinctive doctrines (literal six-day creation and the seventh-day Sabbath, sanctuary, Spirit of Prophecy, second coming, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, etc) have also suffered at the hands of “many physicians,” whose subtle reinterpretations make of none effect our unique identity, message, and mission.

--Furthermore, our distinctive lifestyle practices have suffered at the hands of many physicians, who are suggesting that we should abandon certain historic Adventist practices (e.g., Sabbath observance, distinction between clean and unclean, bodily adornment, etc.) or embrace new ones (e.g. homosexuality, moderate use of alcohol, divorce and remarriage, etc.)

--Still, our worship and preaching have suffered at the hands of many physicians. As our preaching has become hazy and our worship insipid, we have staggered from one gimmick to another, nibbling at every fad in the shopping malls of today’s megachurches and charismatic fellowships so as to “meet the felt needs” of our congregations.

--Again, our mission and evangelism have suffered at the hands of many physicians, who are suggesting that we shift the focus of our soul-winning efforts to the “unchurched” instead of to the unsaved (whether churched or unchurched).

--And our publishing houses, publications, and book centers have also suffered many things at the hands of many physicians, who are producing and distributing materials that are not Bible-centered in content and unifying in effect.

    But it may be asked: What has been the cost to our church, and what has been the outcome of the painful surgeries endured by the church during the twelve years that she had “suffered many things” at the hands of our “many physicians”? [5]

    The Bible describes it best when it states that, having “suffered many things of many physicians,” and having “spent all that she had,” the woman “was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.”

    I will leave you to speculate on how this applies to the contemporary Seventh-day Adventist church. But one thing is certain: The woman needed a healing touch, not from “many physicians” but from the Master Physician. The anemic condition of the church can be cured only if we receive, reaffirm, and remain faithful to Christ’s inspired Word. This is the reason why we have gathered in Jerusalem this week.

    Message From GC President


    Perhaps it is fitting, at this time, to call your attention to Elder Folkenberg’s welcoming letter to participants to this conference. This letter from our GC president (printed on page 2 of the brochure for the Jerusalem Conference) describes what we need to do. It reads:

Dear Fellow Bible Student,

Welcome to the First International Jerusalem Bible Conference. Your church has encouraged you to come to this event to enrich your love of the Bible and, thus, enrich the church.

As the president of your church, I must tell you, the Seventh-day Adventist Church needs you. It needs you to remain faithful to God’s holy Word and the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At no time in the history of this world has the Bible been more needed than in this day and at no time has the Bible been more under attack, than at this time. Rightly studied, God’s Word always brings revival.

May this Conference renew and invigorate your faith. Please do not leave this Jerusalem Bible Conference without recommitting yourself to meet me, your fellow teachers, and your students in the New Jerusalem.

God bless you during this week! (italics mine)


    Note that, according to the president of our church, if we are to experience a true revival in God’s end time church, we must remain faithful to God’s holy Word and the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

        A Call to Faithfulness


    This evening, I will attempt to move beyond a mere theoretical adherence to the principles of interpretation outlined in the 1986 Rio Document. Consequently, I will not dwell upon the theological condition of the church and how it has “suffered many things” at the hands of its “many physicians” during the past twelve years. Instead, the message will call upon each one of us to remain faithful, even if we have to “suffer many things” on account of our commitment to Jesus Christ and His Word.

    We shall still be studying Mark 5. But rather than focusing on the condition of the woman with an issue of blood, we shall concentrate on the faith of Jairus. By the close of the sermon, we shall discover that we cannot separate the experience of Jairus from that of the woman. Thus, a more fitting title to my message tonight would be “The Story Within the Story.”

    As a prelude to the message, I’ve requested one of the Quartets in our Ghanaian SDA church in Tel Aviv to sing for us a special song. The song, titled Hwan Ne Wo Yehowah [translated, “Who Is Like Unto Thee, Jehovah?”], is in the Ashanti language of Ghana. It presents to us Jesus Christ as the Creator and Redeemer. Because Christ Himself suffered and died for us, the song urges us to remain faithful to Him, even if we also have to suffer many things for Him.

    [At this point, there was a song from the Ghanaian Quartet, followed by prayer]

 

    The Story within the Story


    Experience of Ellen Dipenaar. You may have read about the experience of Ellen Dipenaar, a dedicated Christian who lived in South Africa several years ago. Almost unannounced this fine Christian lady came down with leprosy and was sent into quarantine. While receiving treatment at the leprosarium, her only son died of polio, her husband succumbed to cancer, and her sister died in a car accident. As if these were not enough, she soon discovered that strange growths on her legs were actually gangrene, a condition that demanded and led to the amputation of both legs. Saddest of all, when Ellen’s doctor prescribed some eye drops to take care of problems in her eyes, the nurse who administered the medication made a serious mistake: Instead of eye drops, she dropped in Ellen’s eyes acid--a mistake that led to her becoming blind!

    Crucial Questions. Why is it that when one makes a commitment to be faithful to Christ, sometimes one’s situation goes from bad to worse?

    This afternoon, as we toured Yad Veshem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but think of many Seventh-day Adventists around the world, who today are also suffering many things on account of their faith.

    I think of some Adventists who are in prison or who have lost their jobs because they would not compromise their biblical convictions about Sabbath work, lying, or fighting in their tribes’ or nations’ wars.

    I also think of Adventist refugees who are literally starving to death in troubled regions of the world because they will not eat unclean foods, sometimes the only available provision to keep themselves alive.

    I think also of the plight of Adventists who have been disowned by their families, divorced by their spouses, and killed by their neighbors because of their religious convictions.

    As I think of such cases, I ask myself: Where is God when His children suffer many things? And what should Christians do when, after taking a stand for God, sometimes things go from bad to worse?

    An answer to these perplexing questions may be partly found in Mark 5. This chapter in the gospel of Mark may well be described as a chapter of sorrows.

    Mark 5: A Chapter of Sorrows


    Mark 5 begins with the painful account of a man living in a tomb, possessed by evil spirits. As you read further, we see another man emerge from his house brokenhearted, because his only daughter is seriously ill. A little further in the chapter, we are told of a woman who, for twelve years, had been slowly bleeding to death. And by the time the chapter closes, we are taken into a home where a young girl lies dead.

    Thus, Mark 5 is a chapter of sorrows. It describes the accounts of individuals who are suffering many things--demon possession, sudden/acute illness, chronic, incurable illness, poverty, ridicule/scorn, and death.

    Today we shall focus on verses 21 to 43. Turn to this section of your Bibles as we briefly look at how the account of the woman with an issue of blood is intricately woven together with Jairus’s experience.

    Structure of Mark 5:21-43. The Bible passage under consideration divides into three distinct parts:

    Part I (verses 21-24) begins on a note of urgency. In these verses we read of an emergency in the house of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. He comes to Jesus, pleading that He should go to his home and heal his dying daughter (cf. Lk 8:42-“only” daughter). Jesus responds immediately. As He moves towards the home of Jairus, a large crowd goes with Him.

    Part II (verses 25-34) opens abruptly. Almost unannounced there is a shift from the emergency situation of Jairus to an anonymous woman with an issue of blood. Her arrival on the scene causes a delay or interruption in the journey to the home of Jairus. For twelve years this woman had unsuccessfully tried everything. Finally, she decides to go to Jesus by pressing through the crowd and touching the hem of Christ’s garment. Just then, Jesus asks what seems to the disciples to be a rather ridiculous question: “Who touched my clothes?” At Christ’s persistence, the woman confessed what had happened and Jesus encourages her to go home in peace.

    In Part III (verses 35-43) the narrative shifts back again to Jairus. Here we read that messengers from Jairus’s house arrive with the bad news of the child’s death. Jesus ignores the news, urges Jairus to have faith, and goes to his home with Peter, James and John. In spite of the scorn and ridicule by professional mourners, Jesus raises the dead child back to life and charges the parents not to publicize the miracle.


    We see, therefore, that the Mark 5:21-43 passage consists of three segments. It initially focuses on Jairus, then shifts to the woman, and finally moves back again to Jairus. The passage under consideration sandwiches one story (the woman’s) within another story (Jairus’s).

    Because the passage begins and concludes with Jairus, we can say that Jairus is the principal focus of the entire passage. However, the key to understanding the Jairus story lies in the story of the woman with an issue of blood. This story within the story may offer to us some valuable lessons on what we must do when, after taking a stand for Jesus, our situations go from bad to worse.

    A Closer Look at “The Story Within the Story”


    A casual reading of Mark 5:21-43 will reveal some general parallels/similarities in the two stories of Jairus and the woman: Both had desperate needs; both went to Jesus for help; and both were helped by Jesus.

    However, the closer we study the accounts of Jairus and the Woman, the more contrasts we will discover:

    1. Names. Whereas Jairus is identified by name, in the case of the woman her name is not given; she is simply identified as “a certain woman” (v. 25). Thus, we have prominent/well-known person and an anonymous/unknown individual.

    2. Condition. The woman’s condition may be described as chronic (she was battling with an incurable illness for twelve years). On the other hand, Jairus daughter’s situation was acute (a sudden terminal illness that would soon lead to her death).

    3. Time/Duration. The woman had suffered in her condition for twelve years. This period of time captures the age of Jairus daughter (we are told that “she was of the age of twelve years,” v. 42). In other words, the year in which the child was born was the exact year in which the woman started getting sick Thus, while Jairus’s daughter experienced 12 years of vitality and health, the woman, on the other hand suffered twelve years of continuous death. Jairus experienced twelve years of progressive joy and hope, the woman suffered twelve years of deterioration and despair.

    4. Religious Status. We understand that Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue. But the woman, because of her issue of blood, would be an outcast of the synagogue. For according to Lev 15:25-33; Num 4, the woman’s condition made her unclean, and her contact with others made them also unclean.

    5. Social/Economic status. The woman was economically handicapped, having spent all that she had on many physicians. But Jairus was a man of means, one with servants and social respectability.

    6. Options. For the woman, Jesus was the last resort. She had unsuccessfully tried other remedies and options. But apparently, for Jairus, Jesus was His first choice; he went straight to Jesus when his child took ill.

    7. Advocate. The woman had no one to plead her case with Jesus, so she had to go herself. Jairus served as a mouthpiece to plead the case for his daughter.

    8. Manner of Coming. The woman went to Jesus secretly/anonymously. But Jairus went to Jesus publicly or openly.

    9. Direction of Approach. The woman approached Jesus from behind (v. 27), falling later at His feet at the end of her encounter with Him. On the other hand, Jairus came to Jesus face to face, falling at Jesus’s feet at the beginning of his encounter.

    10. Result of Delay. Because of Jesus’s delay in going to Jairus home, the woman was healed. But, because of the delay, Jairus’s daughter dies.

    11. Word from Jesus. Jesus speaks to the woman only after good news of her healing. But He speaks to Jairus only after bad news of his child’s death.

    12. Testimonies. Though the woman came to Jesus secretly, her healing was made public. On the other hand, though Jairus came publicly to Jesus, the healing of his child was to be kept a secret (v. 43).

    The above contrasts in the two stories will help us understand why the story of the woman is sandwiched within that of Jairus. Later on, we shall return to consider the significance of the differences. Right now we shall focus on Jairus, inasmuch as the passage begins and concludes with him.

    The Trial of Jairus’s Faith


    Jairus exercised great faith when he came publicly to Jesus. His act of coming publicly to Jesus was an unpopular decision that could cost him his job as a ruler of the synagogue. He could have come to Jesus secretly like the woman or like Nicodemus, another ruler of the synagogue (John 3). But Jairus took a stand for the Man of Galilee. He recognized that the Man who associated with sinners and tax collectors was non other than the Messiah.

    Jairus had come to a point in his life where nothing, not even his social standing, job or wealth, mattered any more to him. His child was dying. Only a Savior could save her. Every other earthly consideration paled into insignificance. Thus, he made a costly decision for Christ. He did right because it was right and left consequences with God. And God always honors those who take a stand with Him, regardless of foreboding circumstances.

    Christ rewarded his faith by immediately setting out to Jairus’s house. But since every true faith requires public testing, Jairus’s faith was also tried. Notice how Jesus allowed Jairus’s faith to be tested.

    1. Delay by the crowd. Jesus was on a life and death errand--an emergency situation in Jairus’s home, an emergency that did not need a crowd to impede his movement. Jesus could have driven away the throng that surrounded him (v. 21). But He deliberately chose not to do so. Later on, when the child dies, Christ would send away the crowd (cf. v. 37). But now, when we expect Him to do something about the crowd which is jostling and obstructing His movement, Christ does not do anything about it.

    Can you imagine the driver of an ambulance, caught in a trafficjam and yet refusing to sound his sirens? And can you imagine how Jairus may have felt when the crowd caused the delay in the movement of Jesus to his home? Why does the Lord often delay when we trust Him with our urgent cases?

    2. Silence and interruption. Jairus experienced another trial. Do you notice that besides not speaking to the crowd to give way, Jesus also did not speak a word of encouragement to Jairus, assuring him that all would be well? Instead, Jesus allows his movement to be interrupted by the woman (v.25-34).

    Why does the Lord often allow our cherished plans to be interrupted? Why did the Lord speak to others, but not to Jairus? Why does He sometimes seem to care about others but, often appears to be indifferent to our plight?

    And worse still, why did Jesus stop and ask a seemingly pointless question “Who touched my clothes” (v. 30)?

    To His disciples this was not logical since Jesus had been jostled and touched by a host of individuals (v.31). The fact, however, remains that what Jesus says may not always be logical to our rational minds. It is illogical to insist that we should never lie, steal, kill, or break any of God’s Ten Commandments to save life. The Christian does not always operate on human logic but by faith in God and His Word. We are urged to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path” (Prov 3:5, 6).

    But these questions still remain: Why is it that when we put our trust in the Lord, He sometimes allows our plans to be interrupted? Why does the Lord seem silent to us when, at the same time, He appears to pay attention to others? Why does He call on others while He appears to pass us by?

    To Jairus, the delay by the crowd, the interruption by the woman, and Christ’s silence and stopping were a real trial of his faith. I can imagine Jairus saying to himself: “Master, if we continue delaying, my child will die! Our immediate mission is to assist a dying girl. Why are you concerned about the insignificant question about who touched your clothes? Further delay will be catastrophic.”

    But Jesus still delays.

    3. Further Delay by the Woman. Jesus looks in direction of the woman and speaks to her (v. 32, 34). But not a word to Jairus. Can you imagine what was going through Jairus’s mind? I can hear him saying to himself: “Lord, this woman’s situation is chronic but not an emergency as mine!”

    In verse 33 we read that, “in fear and trembling,” the woman falls at Christ’s feet and tells all. She was afraid because: (a) she had broken the rules of the Torah (God’s law) regarding ritual uncleanness. By touching Jesus, she feared that she had made Him ritually unclean (Num 5:1-4; cf. Lev 15:25ff.). (b) Even more she would be acknowledging her uncleanness in the presence of a leader of her local synagogue. Besides the courage such a step would involve, Jesus was asking her to also do something humiliating: To talk about her problem in front of men. It is one thing for a woman to discuss this kind of problem with her fellow women in small groups or at home; it is another to declare the uncleanness before a large crowd, including the disciples of Christ and the ruler of the synagogue.

    Meanwhile, as the woman tells “all the truth” (v. 33). Jairus waits impatiently. Can you imagine what telling all the truth entailed? I can hear the woman saying to Jesus:

Master, when my problem started, I thought it was my normal monthly period. But it prolonged beyond the regular time. Therefore, I consulted with my family doctor, who also referred me to some brilliant Jewish specialists in a leading Tel Aviv hospital. When the specialists were unable to do anything about the situation, I was encouraged to try some alternative or non-traditional (read as New Age) medicine--acupuncture, hypnotism, yogi, biofeedback, homeopathy, massage therapy, therapeutic touch, etc. These were no help either. Then, I heard that I should go and swim in the Dead Sea. I tried it, but it didn’t work. Some friends of mine also urged me to try some African and Indian herbs. These helped a little bit. But I soon realized the situation was getting worse. Then I was told by some TV evangelist that by touching the TV screen the demons causing my ailment would be cast out. Master, I even sent a thank offering (“seed of faith money”) to the Televangelist. But it did not help. I also tried. . . . etc. My health insurance has been cancelled; I have exhausted my entire pension and social security funds; I am currently on welfare and food stamps; besides, I am . . ..”

    The Bible simply says that the woman “came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth” (v. 33). While she tells “all the truth,” Jairus is seemingly ignored by Christ. Jesus patiently listens and gives encouragement to the woman: “Daughter, your faith (not your superstitious touch of my garment) has saved you; go in peace.” But not a word to Jairus.

    4. From Bad to Worse.
Just then messengers from Jairus’s home arrive with bad news: “Thy daughter is dead” (v. 35). I can overhear Satan whispering into Jairus’ ears: “I told you so! I knew that with all these delays, this is what it would come up to. Your daughter is dead!”

    The account here is almost similar to the incident involving Lazarus. Jesus deliberately delays when news reached Him of Lazarus’s illness. He allows time for him to die, be buried, to decompose, before he goes there. Anyway, news reaches Jairus, “thy daughter is dead.”

    Have you ever heard those words?

“Your loved one is dead!”

 “Your job is ended!”

“Your career is over!”

“Your future is hopeless!”

“Your marriage is over!”

“Your cancer is terminal!”


    Often, these cruel words come when you’ve just committed or rededicated your life to Christ. The verdict is announced when you’re trying to do what is right, such as getting out of an immoral relationship or returning a faithful tithe.

    Why is it that when you are trying to do the right thing, it is then that things go from bad to worse? You do your best to honor God’s Sabbath only to lose your job; you try to do God’s will and your husband threatens divorce; you try to tell the truth under dire circumstances, and you are fired from your job.

    Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever been told: “Yours is a hopeless case. Don’t waste Christ’s time”? Jairus experienced this when he was told: “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Master.”

    5. More Trials. But Christ’s words and actions after the bad news may even have tested the faith of Jairus even more. Observe that when the situation became hopeless, Jesus then spoke some strange words to Jairus: “Be not afraid . . . only believe [i.e keep on believing.” (v. 36).

    To us, this may sound hopeful. But think of how it might have sounded to Jairus to be told, “Be not afraid. . .” “Afraid?” What was there to fear now? The worst has occurred. And “believe?” What was there to believe? The girl is dead!

    A friend of mine has said that whenever God says, “Don’t be afraid,” it is time to start worrying, because God is about to ask you to do the impossible (think of Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, Mary, etc.)

    But note that whenever Jesus says, “Be not afraid,” that command is also a promise. Someone has estimated that there are some 365 “Fear Nots” in the Bible--at least one for each day’s need. Therefore, when you’re told, “You are finished,” Jesus says “Fear not. It’s not the end.” When you’re told, “I’m sorry, that’s the end,” Jesus says “Fear not. It is the beginning; it is to be continued.”

    The real question for us to answer is: Do you trust God enough to believe in His word? Do you believe that He knows what is best for you? Do you believe He has power to save--even in difficult situations?

    Those words of Jesus, “Be not afraid...only believe [literally, keep on believing”] (v. 36), were calculated to encourage Jairus so that he would not give up. For just then Jesus does another strange thing.

    In verse 37, we are told that Jesus drives away the crowd save Peter, James and John. Why does he now send away the crowd? Why did He choose to do so now that all is lost? Why didn’t Christ send away the crowd earlier, when there was hope for the child to be healed?

    Perhaps Jesus was teaching Jairus that God’s ways are not our ways. His timing is always the best. All we have to do at all times is to trust Him.

    6. Trials at Home. The trial of Jairus was not over when he got nearer home (v. 38-40). He was greeted with the weeping of mourners, confirming that, indeed, the child was dead. What would Jesus do now that the situation had gone from bad to worse?

    Speaking to Jairus, whose faith was then wavering, Jesus declares that the child was not dead but only sleeping. You see, though death is the most hopeless condition in this life, Jesus calls it sleep. And if death is simply sleep, then there is hope for the most hopeless situation. That’s why we are to be “faithful unto death” (Rev 2:10). And this is why we must not attempt to save our jobs, positions, or even our lives at all cost.

    But Jairus’s faith was to be tried one last time. To the words of Jesus that the child was not dead but asleep, the mourners stop their weeping and laugh Him to scorn. Their ridicule was not so much directed to Christ as it was to Jairus. The funeral professionals seemed to say: “What does this man think? Doesn’t he know the difference between death and sleep? And, you Jairus, is this the kind of person you are willing to stake your career and child’s life on?”

    Have you ever experienced ridicule, derision, or scorn, on account of your faith? Have you experienced ridicule from the experts/specialists, family, friends, church members--people who should know better? And have you ever wondered why the wicked often mock the righteous? Jairus went through that experience. He may have asked: Why does the Lord delay in times of emergency? Why does He keep silent when His children need to hear from Him? Why does He allow other people to interrupt the plans of His children? Why does the Lord allow things to go from bad to worse? And why does He permit enemies to subject His children to scorn and ridicule?

    Reward of Faith


    I want to believe that in all these trials, Jesus is always very near. If we remain faithful He would honor our faith--even as He did for Jairus. For in verse 41, we are told that the One who once stood at Lazarus tomb and said “come forth” now goes to Jairus daughter’s room, takes the child by the hand and commands: “TALITHA CUMI.”

    Observe that by the phrase, “Talithah Cumi,” Jesus did not speak in some unintelligible ecstatic utterance. He spoke in a known human language--Aramaic–not some charismatic gibberish masquerading as the biblical “speaking in tongues.” For the sake of those who may not understand this human tongue, the gospel writer Mark translates it: “Damsel [or Little girl], I say unto thee arise” (v. 41).

    Jesus statement is emphatic in the Greek. He seemed to say: “Little girl, it is I who says unto thee, arise”

 --Some may say that you are dead, but “I say unto thee, arise.”

--Others may say that your case is hopeless, but “I am the resurrection and life. I say unto you arise.”

--Some may tell you your future is ended, but “I am the alpha and omega. I say unto you arise.”

--Others may think that I am delaying and silent, but “I am He that died and am alive. I say unto you arise.”

--Some may think there is no way out, but “I am the way, the truth and the life. I say unto you arise.”

--Others may think that no power on earth can save your situation, but “All power is given unto me. . . I say unto you arise.”


    The same Jesus who could bring life out of death can transform our hopeless situations today. Our responsibility is to remain faithful, no matter what.

    Perhaps we may be asking what Jesus was seeking to teach Jairus by the delay, silence, bad news, scorn, etc.? Let me call attention to four possible reasons:

    1. Divine Timing. One reason is to teach Jairus and us something about the mystery of Divine timing: despite what may appear as a delay or interruption in our plans and expectations. To the child of God, God’s timing is never late.

    Never talk about delay, unless you know of God’s arrival time. Let me illustrate: Sometime ago, my flight was scheduled to arrive at the Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC at 11:09 a.m. The one picking me up from the airport was waiting. But due to mechanical difficulties with the aircraft, I got there at 3:00 p.m.! In this instance, the friend who was waiting for me can legitimately speak of a delay. But we cannot speak about a delay when discussing the second coming of Christ. This is because Jesus has not given us His arrival time. In the same way, we cannot speak about delay in God’s plan for our lives--unless we fully know what He is seeking to do in our individual lives. Since God’s time never knows a delay, we must always trust Him, no matter how long it may seem to us.

To all who are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God, the moment of greatest discouragement is the time when divine help is nearest (The Desire of Ages, 528).

Jesus sees the end from the beginning. In every difficulty He has His way prepared to bring relief. Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme, will find perplexities vanish and a plain path before their feet (The Desire of Ages, 330).

When in faith we take hold of His strength, he will change, wonderfully change, the most hopeless, discouraging outlook. He will do this for the glory of His name (Prophets and Kings, 260).

    2. Nature of True Faith. Jesus was also teaching Jairus and us that true faith steps forward regardless of humiliation, intimidation, scorn, or even loss. It is the nature of true faith to take a stand--even in the face of obstacles. One cannot secretly hold to faith. Faith requires public testing--it calls for a public stand regardless of consequences.

    The woman with an issue of blood took a courageous and humiliating step of faith when she stepped forward publicly to talk about her uncleanness. Jairus took a courageous step of faith when he decided to come to Jesus publicly--even amidst derision and the risk of his job as ruler of the synagogue.

    We must also dare to take a stand for Christ and His truth, no matter what. If teachers can’t take a stand for unpopular theological truth, how would our students do so? If pastors and church leaders are unwilling to take unpopular stands, why would they expect their members and churches to do so? And if parents are unprepared to honor the Lord, how can their children be expected to make decisions of faith for the Lord?

    The days in which we live call for men and women who would dare to stand for truth, regardless of consequences. Ellen G. White wrote:

In deciding upon any course of action we are not to ask whether we can see that harm will result from it, but whether it is in keeping with the will of God (Patriarchs and Prophets, 634).

True Christian principle will not stop to weigh consequences. It does not ask, What will people think of me if I do this? or, How will it affect my worldly prospects if I do that? (The Sanctified Life, 39).

Christ’s ambassadors have nothing to do with consequences. They must perform their duty, and leave results with God (The Great Controversy, 609-610).

It is better to die than to sin; better to want [be in need] than to defraud; better to hunger than to lie (Testimonies for the Church, 4:495).


    3. Reward for Faithfulness. Jesus was also teaching Jairus and us that divine blessing will always attend those who are faithful to the Lord. He will never fail anyone who puts his/her trust in Him.

Those who take Christ at His word, and surrender their souls to His keeping, their lives to His ordering, will find peace and quietude. Nothing of the world can make them sad when Jesus makes them glad by His presence (Desire of Ages, 331).

Those who surrender their lives to His guidance and His service will never be placed in a position for which He has not made provision. Whatever our situation, if we are doers of His word, we have a Guide to direct our way; whatever our perplexity, we have a sure Counselor; whatever our sorrow, bereavement, or loneliness, we have a sympathizing Friend (The Ministry of Healing, 248-249).

    4. Not Alone in Suffering. Perhaps the most important reason why Jesus allowed the faith of Jairus to be tried was to instruct him through the experience of the woman. Though Jarius’s ordeal was bitter, he was not alone in his pain. There was another person also suffering (a woman, for twelve long years). Sometimes our trials are designed to help us appreciate others. Pains make us more sympathetic disappointments make us more humble; and hardships keep us dependent on God.

    Jesus was teaching Jairus from the experience of the woman. It is here that the contrasting characteristics we identified earlier, between the woman and Jairus, become most helpful. If Jesus was able to help the woman’s hopeless case, what about Jairus?

--If Jesus could help the woman’s chronic disease (twelve years of slow death), what about Jairus daughter’s recent illness after twelve years of full life?

--If Jesus could help a woman without a name, what about a person with a name (Jairus)?

--If Jesus could help an outcast of the synagogue, what about a ruler of the synagogue?

--If Jesus could help a woman who came secretly, what about Jairus, who came publicly/openly?

--If Jesus could help a woman who had no intercessor/advocate, what about Jairus’s child whose father was her advocate?

--If Jesus could help a woman who came from behind and superstitiously touched His garment, what about Jairus who exercised faith by coming face to face to Christ, kneeling and pleading?

--If Jesus could help a woman who came to Him as a last resort, what about Jairus who apparently made Jesus his first choice?

--If the one who made a silent request can give public testimony, what about Jairus, one who made a request in public?


    Jesus did not needlessly delay, keep silent, or utter ridiculous or strange words. Christ permitted the woman’s path to cross Jairus’s so He could instruct Jairus on faith. This is, perhaps, the most important message contained in the story within the story: If Jesus did it for the woman, how much more would He not do for Jairus?

    Some Lessons for Us Today


    What lessons then can we draw from the Story Within the Story? First, all of us have some pain. Yours may be similar to Jarius’s. Perhaps it is a loved one (child, husband, wife, parents, sister, relative, friend, etc.) who is in some serious difficulty. Or it may be that your situation is similar to the woman. You are the one actually bleeding to death. Perhaps it is your health, finances, or family situation that is slowly but hopelessly bleeding.

    Whatever our situation, we must go to Jesus with our burdens. We may choose to go to Him like the woman--secretly in the closets of our homes, or silently/anonymously in church (as Hannah, the mother of Samuel did, 1 Samuel 1:9-17). Or we may choose to go to Jesus like Jairus did--openly in church/prayer meeting, during the time for prayer request.

    Another lesson we learn is that we must not fear taking a stand for Jesus. The times in which we live call for men and women who dare to risk all for Jesus sake. If we do not stand up for something, we shall fall for anything. Fear of censure from our critics and fear of losing our jobs should not prevent us from doing the right thing. Neither should we wait until retirement before declaring where we stand on issues. Both the woman and Jairus took risks; and so must we.

Often the follower of Christ is brought where he cannot serve God and carry forward his worldly enterprises. Perhaps it appears that obedience to some plain requirement of God will cut off his means of support. Satan would make him believe that he must sacrifice his conscientious convictions. But the only thing in our world upon which we can rely is the word of God. . . Matt. 6:33. Even in this life it is not for our good to depart from the will of our Father in heaven. When we learn the power of His word, we shall not follow the suggestions of Satan in order to obtain food or to save our lives. Our only questions will be, What is God’s command? and what is His promise? Knowing these, we shall obey the one, and trust the other (Desire of Ages, 121).

    Finally, when we take a stand for the Lord and He seems to delay, and our prospects grow darker and darker, we are still to trust Him. Each of us should say with Job: “Though he slays me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). With the three Hebrew children, we must be able to say that, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Dan 3:17-18; emphasis mine).

As in the days of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so in the closing period of earth’s history the Lord will work mightily in behalf of those who stand steadfastly for the right. He who walked with the Hebrew worthies in the fiery furnace will be with His followers wherever they are. His abiding presence will comfort and sustain. In the midst of the time of trouble--trouble such as has not been since there was a nation--His chosen ones will stand unmoved (Prophets and Kings, 513).

The season of distress before God’s people will call for a faith that will not falter. His children must make it manifest that He is the only object of their worship, and that no consideration, not even that of life itself, can induce them to make the least concession to false worship. To the loyal heart, the commands of sinful, finite men will sink into insignificance beside the word of the eternal God. Truth will be obeyed though the result be imprisonment or exile or death (Prophets and Kings 512-513).

    Appeal


    Perhaps you are seated here tonite, and it appears that the Lord is delaying in answering your prayers.

--You have asked for light, but all you experience is darkness.

--You have asked for health, but you are experiencing more sickness.

--You’ve asked the Lord for companionship in life, but you are still experiencing loneliness.

--You have asked Him for success, but you see only failure.

--You asked Him for deliverance, yet you know only of distress.

--You asked him to clear your name, but no one seems to vindicate you.

--And you’ve asked for life, but death is what you get.


    The story within the story tells us that when we take a stand for Jesus and things go from bad to worse, we are still to trust Him. Trust Him still even if He delays, and even if our plans are interrupted.

    When you are told that because of your faith, your daughter is dead, tell them she is only asleep; she will rise again.

    When you are told your future is finished, tell them that your future is in God’s hands, and that He has better plans for your life. What may seem like the end may very well be the beginning of real life.

    When you are told that your prospects are bleak, tell them that as long as Jesus lives there is hope.

    And when you are ridiculed, and told “don’t trouble the Master,” its a waste of time, there’s no hope, tell them that no one who goes to Jesus is ever a trouble to Him.

    There is hope for everyone of us who makes a decision of faith to serve the Lord and do His will. Therefore, in all our afflictions, sorrows, pains, let us go to Jesus, and in the words of that familiar hymn plead: “Pass me not Oh gentle Savior; Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling do not pass me by.”

    Your situation may be desperate. You may have experienced sorrow after sorrow, trouble after trouble. You may have lost your health, wealth, job, friend, or family. You may have been misunderstood/persecuted. Whatever your situation, let’s remember that it was this same situation that Jesus dealt with when He met Jairus and the woman. Someone has said: “Every sorrow is a summons to us to go Jesus.”

    So when Jesus appears to delay, when He seems silent, or when things go from bad to worse, we must still keep trusting Him. Everything will be all right in the long run.

The Elder Brother of our race is by the eternal throne. He looks upon every soul who is turning his face toward Him as the Savior. He knows by experience what are the weaknesses of humanity, what are our wants, and where lies the strength of our temptations; for He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He is watching over you, trembling child of God. Are you tempted? He will deliver. Are you weak? He will strengthen. Are you ignorant? He will enlighten. Are you wounded? He will heal. The Lord ‘telleth the number of the stars;’ and yet ‘He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’ Ps. 147:4, 3. ‘Come unto Me,’ is His invitation. Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before the Lord. Your spirit will be braced for endurance. The way will be opened for you to disentangle yourself from embarrassment and difficulty. The weaker and more helpless you know yourself to be, the stronger will you become in His strength. The heavier your burdens, the more blessed the rest in casting them upon the Burden Bearer (The Desire of Ages, 329).

    May the Lord help us to remain faithful, even if we have to suffer many things. This is my prayer for each one of us gathered here at this First International Jerusalem Bible Conference.

    Endnotes


[1 ]    The following thought leaders were invited to be the plenary speakers at the 1998 Jerusalem Bible Conference: Robert S. Folkenberg (President, General Conference), George Reid (Director, Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference), Mark Finley (Speaker and Director, “It Is Written” Telecast), Alberto Timm (Director of the Ellen G. White & SDA Research Center, Brazil), Samuel Koranteng-Pipim (author of Receiving the Word), Angel Rodriguez (Associate Director, Biblical Research Institute of the GC), Randall W. Younker (Director, Institute of Archaeology, SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University), Walter L. Pearson, Jr. (Speaker and Director, Breath of Life Telecast), Norman R. Gulley (Professor, Southern Adventist University), Ed Zinke (Silver Spring, MD; Former Associate Director of Biblical Research Institute of the GC), and Dwight K. Nelson (Senior Pastor, Pioneer Memorial Church, Andrews University).

[2]    Though I have already published my sermon at the Jerusalem Bible Conference in the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, I did not include the introductory comments. See my “Suffering Many Things,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 9/1&2 (Spring-Autumn 1998):128-148. This chapter of Must We Be Silent? carries my unabridged address at the Conference.


[3]    At the 1986 Annual Council meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, church leaders representing all the world fields approved the report of the General Conference’s “Methods of Bible Study Committee (GCC-A).” This carefully worded document was published in the Adventist Review (January 22, 1987), pages 18-20. Generally, all Bible-believing conservatives embrace this report as reflective of the principles of interpretation that have been historically accepted by Seventh-day Adventists. The “Rio Document” is reproduced as appendix C in my Receiving the Word (Berrien Springs, MI: Berean Books, 1996). For a discussion of how Adventist scholars have related to this document, see Chapter 4 of Receiving the Word, 75-99.


[4]    As explained by John Albert Bengel, some two centuries ago (in 1742), “Scripture is the foundation of the Church: the Church is the guardian of Scripture. When the Church is in strong health, the light of Scripture shines bright [sic]; when the Church is sick, Scripture is corroded by neglect; . . . and as a rule the way in which Scripture is being treated is in exact correspondence with the condition of the Church” (John Albert Bengel, Gnomon of the New Testament, ed. Andrew R. Fausset, 5 vols. [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1857-1858], 1:7). For more on this see the General Conference document, “The Use of Scripture in the Life of the SDA Church,” a discussion paper at the 1995 General Conference Session, Utrecht, Netherlands. It is reproduced as Appendix B in my Receiving the Word, 349-354.

[5]    For more on this see the General Conference document, “The Use of Scripture in the Life of the SDA Church,” a discussion paper at the 1995 General Conference Session, Utrecht, Netherlands. It is reproduced as Appendix B in my Receiving the Word, 349-354.