The dead baby’s name was Maruel.
Maruel is not like the old man on the cycle path. The old man was advanced in years. Apparently the old man had told his wife that he was just popping out for a walk. I think he knew it was his time. It was not Maruel’s time to go. Holding him in my arms he looks like he is just sleeping. It was not hard to think that God could do a miracle and bring him back to life. Who wouldn’t want to save a baby, right? I repeated the words of Elijah “O Lord my God, return this boy’s life back to him.” I thought I saw him move, but it was just my imagination. I am convinced that God did not want the child to die and that something else was preventing a miracle.
Everything is possible for the one who believes.
Jesus spent his entire ministry teaching people two things: holiness and faith. “Repent and believe.” It’s the gospel in three words. Without holiness, no-one will see God. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
I’m not beating myself up about it. Occassionaly I am remorseful when I look back over how I handled the situation, when I think of the things I could have done but did not do, but I comfort myself with the fact that this is the first time I’ve tried to raise a dead person. God is good and reminds me that there is no condemnation for me. No-one is expecting me to have that kind of faith and that no-one is disappointed in me. Except me. And also God. Yeah, I think God is disappointed. My belief is that Maruel is still dead because I didn’t have enough faith to bring him back to life.
God is a God of comfort. That’s a biblical truth. But it would be wrong to deny another biblical truth for the sake of my comfort. Many people have said to me that it must have been God’s will. It’s a kind and well-meaning thing to say. But it’s just not true. Jesus’ words to Peter as he faltered in his faith were not “it’s ok” but “Why did you doubt?” God expects us to believe for the impossible to happen.
John was a minister in Australia where he endured the deaths of forty of his congregation to a cholera epidemic. When others would have revised their faith downward, this disaster became a spur for John to dig deeper into God. God worked with John to strengthen his resolve to see the miraculous. In spite of this terrible disaster, John G Lake went on to become a renowned man of faith and saw many miracles of healing. Bill Johnson wrote about a time when he was ministering in Southern California:
..a mother brought me a child who was tormented by devils. The child scratched and clawed at me while I prayed and bound and did what I knew to do – and yet my prayers had no apparent effect. The mother looked at me and said words I will never forget: “Isn’t there anyone here who can help me?”¹
In his account of this event, Bill refuses to accept that this was God’s will and calls out his own failure. He accepted personal responsibility for the absence of a miracle. Failure is not to be covered up or denied because in God’s kingdom even failure can be made useful and given purpose. Disaster and failure can move us to seek greater faith equally as well as success.
When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not deliver a boy from an evil spirit, He did not pat them on the back and comfort them. He did not say, “it’s ok, you‘re just not as special as me.” He said, “Because you have so little faith.” God is disappointed when we don’t do miracles. In other accounts of the story of the boy delivered from an evil spirit, Jesus says, “this kind can only be removed by prayer and fasting.” Let’s not be distracted by the differences in these two reports. Both of them place the responsibility for the miracle on the disciples, not on God. Notice this: In Mark’s account Jesus says “You unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you?”. In other words “When will you learn? How long will it take before you get this?” It’s a clear indication that a central objective of His ministry was to train the disciples in miracles. When miracles don’t happen for us, let’s put the words of Jesus above anyone else’s words of comfort. Let’s pray and fast and do whatever it takes to increase our faith. After their failure, Jesus did not tell his disciples to revise their expectations down. He encouraged them to raise their game and get more faith by telling them what faith can achieve:
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Anyone who says that Jesus never claimed to be God can read that and think again. To proclaim that a man’s words will last beyond the existence of all creation is deranged and arrogant unless it’s actually true and Jesus is in fact the Son of God and has authority over all creation. There is nothing that can be said and no greater truth higher than the statements of Jesus. “If you have faith… Nothing will be impossible for you.” Reflecting on this statement of Jesus, I’m wondering how many of us really believe it to be true. If we really believed this statement then we would make getting faith the second highest priority in our lives. Only the second highest, because love is greater than faith. But if love is gold then faith is silver. These are all that matter. Getting faith is more important than getting a qualification, a job, muscles, a wife, a house, a car and everything else that everyone else puts value on.
I have a seed of faith, therefore nothing will be impossible for me. Seeds can be grown or they can be killed. If I twist the words of Jesus to fit my experience I am killing my faith. If I say it was God’s will that this child died, I am denying the words of Christ for the sake of my own comfort and I am killing my faith. I refuse to be comforted. I refuse to make my own tidy little theological box and bury my faith in it to die. I am not going to make the words of Jesus Christ subject to my experience, I am going to make my experience subject to the words of Jesus Christ. I am going to bury my faith in the words of Jesus Christ and I am going to grow my faith. I am going to do this because when you are holding a dead baby, nothing else matters.
I made a vow to find more faith as I hung my head and listened to the nails being hammered into the baby’s coffin amid the sound of his mother’s uncontrolled weeping. I vowed to God that I would find the faith I need so that the dead baby in my arms does not stay dead. That much faith is not impossible because Jesus said that it isn’t. I am somewhere down the road. I have the courage to hold a dead child and say to his mother “it’s not too late for a miracle”. That’s more faith than I had the first time I saw a dead person. So help me God.
¹ taken from his book The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind