“Parenting by Grace”
Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning
Calvary Baptist Church
Jesus was on the move. He had been in Jerusalem but felt it necessary to leave Judea because of the Pharisees’ resistance to his ministry. They were openly critical of Jesus’ words and work, which made it difficult for him to be effective.
He traveled north through Samaria where he was welcomed and invited to stay. Jesus obliged them by remaining with them two extra days, but he moved on to Galilee, the place he called home.
As Jesus entered Cana of Galilee, a Roman official from Capernaum approached Jesus. His son was ill and close to death, and he desperately begged Jesus to follow him home and to heal his son.
Jesus must have been impressed with his humility, sincerity and sense of urgency because he sent him back home with the assurance his son would live. This royal official, who was accustomed to giving orders and having servants obey him, took Jesus at his word and left for home without Jesus.
Somewhere outside of Capernaum, the father of this boy was met by his servants. They informed him his son did not die. The fever left him the day before around one o’clock in the afternoon.
When the father realized this was the very hour of his encounter with Jesus, he told his family and servants what Jesus had done for him and his son. All of them became people of faith and believed not only in Jesus’ words, but in him.
What part of this story intrigues you the most? For me it is what this father did to save the life of his son. He traveled a great distance to find Jesus, and upon doing so begged Jesus to help him.
Think about this. A proud and powerful man in the Roman government sought the help of a Galilean carpenter who became an itinerant preacher. Can you imagine the pride he swallowed to make that trek and request? I wonder how many tried to talk him out of it.
Why did he do it? Obviously, he loved his son and was willing to do anything to spare his life. Even he had come to realize the deepest level of love always involves sacrifice.
I am confident this was not his first attempt to help his son. It appears, however, he had exhausted all his options, and his son was not getting better.
For this reason, he threw caution to the wind and set out to find Jesus. He would not let his son die because he was too proud or stubborn to reach out to Jesus.
Who in your family needs your help the most today? Is it a child, a grandchild, a sibling, a parent, your spouse, a niece or nephew?
How long have they been struggling? What will it require from you if you decide to get involved? Are you willing to make these sacrifices?
As people of faith, we are encouraged to help those struggling to survive, whatever the cause. This is both noble and necessary at times.
We do no one a favor, however, if we become involved in someone else’s problem without understanding the lessons found in this story. And what are those lessons?
There is no easy way to help someone with a hard problem. If it were easy to resolve, it would have already happened.
The royal official in our text was a problem solver. This is why he had this job and kept it.
However, all his attempts to help his son had not produced the desired results. He was getting closer to death each day. It was time to think outside the box and to do unconventional things, and he did. He set out to find Jesus and beg for his help.
Why did he do this? Why did he cast aside his pride and risk his future as a Roman official? Love is willing to do the difficult, and he loved his son.
Helping someone with serious problems will require nothing less than the highest level of love and commitment. It will lead you down unfamiliar roads and over treacherous terrain.
If you are not prepared to make these sacrifices, you will pull back your support. You will draw a line in the sand and say, ‘enough’.
I am not saying there is never a time to retreat. There may be.
There is, though, never a time to think serious problems have simple solutions. This self-deception will lead to disappointment and resentment.
When someone is struggling, you are not the only one who can help them. It really does take a village to meet other’s needs as well as our own.
This problem was bigger than this royal official, and he was a prominent and powerful man who had faced many intimidating challenges. This dilemma, however, was beyond his ability to solve.
I have discovered the bigger the problem, the more collaboration will be necessary. This is hard for some people to accept, especially those accustomed to fixing problems, their own or others. People who tend to do this are comfortable taking matters into their hands.
This lone ranger mentality may be required to initiate changes, but it rarely leads to long term solutions. Hard problems require all hands on deck, not just yours.
Quit trying to be God or a superhero. When you reach out to others for help, listen to them.
This is what the royal official had to do. He begged Jesus to come to his home and to heal his son. When Jesus told him he was not going to his home but his son would live, this distraught father trusted Jesus.
This is not what this father wanted or would have done, but he let go of control, which had to be hard for him given his authority in that community. He was wise enough to do this, though, and as a result his son was healed.
Be a team player when trying to help someone. You only make matters worse when you do not respect others and listen to their perspective.
In spite of all your efforts and those working alongside you, some situations will not improve. They may get worse, much worse. Don’t blame yourself and beat yourself up with guilt.
Even God has self-imposed limitations that prevent him from making some bad situations better. If someone wants to self-destruct, or at least is unwilling to make changes to prevent it, God will eventually give them the desires of their heart.
You and I can change no one other than ourselves. We can play a significant role in influencing family members and friends to change. But in the end, it is up to them.
How can you help someone in your family this week who is struggling to keep their head above water? What could you do to lighten their load and make hope visible?
I believe this royal official would tell you to start by talking to Jesus. It is always the best place to begin.