Sometimes we think that certain people would have “great faith”. We might think of some people who have been going to church for ages and have been involved in Christian activities for years. I discovered though that as the words of one song put it, “It ain’t necessarily so!”
I had been converted to Christ at the age of 23 mainly through reading the Bible. I had discovered the truth about Jesus the Son of God who died for me on the cross so I could be forgiven. And that He rose again to give me new life. So I began to go regularly to church as an adult and a believer. I was soon amazed that many present did not really read the Bible regularly when it had come so alive to me as I read it, I expected to find people with a magnificent obsession for Jesus who were filled with faith for God to do anything. Indeed there were a wonderful few like that but not many.
In New Testament times one would have thought that the Religious leaders of the day would have embraced Jesus as their Messiah as He fulfilled so many of the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah. But the majority rejected Him.
One would also have thought that the Gentile Roman soldiers wouldn’t have had any regard for Jesus, but this Roman centurion in Luke 7 certainly did. He was a Centurion who had great faith. What was so amazing about this man and his great faith?
- HIS SURPRISING CHARACTER AS A PERSON
All the centurions mentioned in the New Testament were seen in a good light.
i). He cared about people. He “highly valued” his servant. 7:2. The word can also mean “precious” or “held in high honour”. Here an inferior in society is held in high honour by someone much higher in society.
This was unusual in a day when servants and slaves had no rights and were treated like things rather than like people. They could be treated like tools to be discarded. For an important military man in charge of 100 men to care about a servant and highly value him was amazing.
ii). He cared deeply about people. He knew his servant was sick. He also knew that he was close to death. He was moved by what he knew of the man’s situation. He was moved deeply enough to do something about it.
- HIS SURPRISING FAITH AS A CENTURION
i). He responded to what He had knew about Jesus. 7:3.
The Religious Leaders at the time were listening to Him that they might trap Him in some way, to get rid of Him.
This Roman soldier by contrast was willing to approach Jesus for help. The Bible says that when the centurion heard about Jesus he acted on what he had heard. If Jesus had healed people then the centurion was interested in getting healing for his servant..
ii). He was humble enough to ask for help. 7:3-4.
The servant was already at the point of death when the centurion sent some of his friends who were Jewish elders to get Jesus to come to his home to heal his servant.
He believed Jesus could do something about a near dead man. He humbled himself to ask for help. He was used to commanding with authority. Now he was humbling himself to ask for healing for his servant.
iii). He was committed to the God of Israel. 7:4-5.
7:4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”
He loved the Jewish people. That was amazing for a Gentile man when even then there was so much antagonism towards the Jewish people.
He honoured Yahweh, the God of Israel. He wanted Him to be known and worshipped.
He had even built a synagogue for the people of God. He made sure that this worship was possible by building their synagogue where the Jews could meet.
Again this was part of his attitude in seeing the needs of others and doing something about them.
iv). He had faith in the CHARACTER of Jesus to believe He would be willing to help his servant.
He believed that Jesus would not refuse his request for help. He would have known that up to this time Jesus had not refused to help those who asked for His help. It was worthwhile getting the Jewish elders to go to get Jesus. He was sure Jesus would help.
v). He had faith in the POWER of Jesus to heal the servant.
It was an extreme case. When he sent the Jewish elders the sick man had been at the point of death. But that didn’t deter him from asking Jesus to come. He believed Jesus would meet any challenge that faced Him because he believed that God was with Jesus in what He was doing.
vi). He combined personal humility and confident faith. 7:6-7
Jesus actually began to go to the centurion’s home to heal the sick man. Something made the centurion reconsider what he had asked of Jesus. He had asked a Jewish teacher to enter his home, the home of a gentile, when that was forbidden by the Jewish authorities. So he sent other friends to meet Jesus with an incredible statement. .” 6 … “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.7Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
In other words he recognised the power of words coming from someone in authority. As a Roman centurion he could issue a command from “here” and it would happen “out there”.
There was a time in my life when I had power. I could stop a locomotive in its tracks. (Before you think “He’s 80 now. He’s losing it!” let me explain. )
I wasn’t Superman with Supernatural Strength.
I wasn’t Super-Pastor with Supernatural Faith.
Nor was it by standing on the tracks with my hand upraised saying “Stop in the name of Jim Holbeck.”
No. I could stop locomotives because I was a Senior Chemist working for the State Railways. I had to analyse the lubricating oil of Diesel locomotives. If I found anything wrong with the oil that could cause engines to seize, I could make a phone call and say “Take that locomotive out of service” and it would be done immediately. I had the authority of the Government to ensure the protection of locomotive engines.
The Centurion realised that he (with all the authority of the Roman Empire behind him) could cause things to happen by speaking a word. then how much more would Jesus operating under God’s authority be able to speak healing into a man at a distance. That became his new request to Jesus. “… say the word, and let my servant be healed.”
No wonder Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith. No one else even among His own people had exercised a simple faith like that before. The faith was rewarded as we read in verse 10, “And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.” He had been healed at a distance by the power of Jesus’ word.
C). WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE CENTURION’S “GREAT FAITH”?
In one sense the centurion’s “great faith” was so simple. He knew that words spoken with authority accomplish what is needed. In the mind of the centurion all Jesus had to do, as God’s servant operating under His authority, was to speak the words of healing and the healing would take place. It was as simple as that. If Jesus said “Be healed! “ then the man would surely be healed.
A couple of simple definitions might help. “’Great faith’ is the simple faith that expects great things from a great God who loves and cares.” AND
“’Great faith’ ultimately depends not on the Quantity Of Faith but on the Quality Of The Person in whom we have our faith.”
The centurion trusted Jesus to do what he asked of Him. He answered abundantly.
We too can ask of God in Jesus’ name knowing that He longs to hear the prayers of His people and to answer them. Jesus said even a tiny mustard seed sized faith can move mountains.
I saw that some years ago in a Sydney church of another denomination. A small team of us went to minister in this church on a Saturday. At the end of the final teaching session we asked people to come forward for healing. I expected just a few people to come forward because this church had not been involved in healing before. To my surprise almost all the 90 people present came forward for prayer. Again to my surprise as we began to pray, the power of God came down visibly on many people. I saw the worship leader being transformed before my eyes and from that time worship took on a new dimension in that church. One of their church elders called it “the beginning of a mini-revival” for the church.
One of the women present had been brought to the service because she could no longer drive. She had some problem with her middle ear. She couldn’t maintain her balance at all. She allowed her friends to bring her forward for prayer. I found out over a year later that on that Saturday afternoon she was healed on the spot and had been driving ever since. She stepped out with the little bit of faith she had and was gloriously healed. A few months later we went to minister in that same church again. This woman literally leapt up onto the stage to give her testimony. No balance problems! Sovereignly healed by God!
It made me wonder. What if she hadn’t accepted the loving invitation of others to be driven to the service? What if she hadn’t come forward for prayer? What if she had been upset at the demonstration of God’s power as the Spirit of God came down powerfully on a number of people and she no longer wanted to be prayed for? What I do know is that before that day no one had been able to heal her. On that day God healed her as she allowed us to pray for her.
The apostle John also affirmed the Loving Character And Power Of God, 1 John 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will HE HEARS US. 15 And IF WE KNOW THAT HE HEARS US in whatever we ask, WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE THE REQUESTS that we have asked of him.” Our God is a God who longs to answer prayer as we ask according to His will.
As we pray let’s ask the Lord to do in us and through us so much more than we can ever ask for in our prayers, or ever imagine, in our wildest imagination.
Blog No.171. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Wednesday 20th January 2016