Great or Small Faith?

14 Feb

a4_99999422Do you remember the story of the centurion who came to Jesus for the sake of his servant? It’s one of the clearest descriptions in the Scriptures of exactly what “faith” entails. Read Luke 7 to see if I’m telling the story correctly.The centurion was a powerful man who commanded an entire garrison of men. Yet one day he faced a problem he couldn’t defeat on his own, and he pushed his way through a crowd until he stood in front of Jesus. Coming quickly to the point, he said, “Sir, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain.” Even though the man made only a statement, not a request, Jesus answered, “I will come and heal him.”But do you remember the centurion’s response?
“Lord,” he said, “I am not worthy for you to come under my roof. I am a man used to giving and taking commands. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Amazed by the centurion’s faith, Christ said to the people around him. “I have not found such great faith with anyone in all of Israel!”Anyone? He was talking about a very religious country. This Roman soldier had greater faith than anyone Jesus knew? Even greater faith than the disciples who would one day die for him?Problems in life are so quick to produce questions in most of our minds.“Have you ever wondered what the disciples must have thought about such a statement? Peter was probably saying under his breath, “Sure, Lord, embarrass us in front of our Jewish brethren!” There was no love lost between the Jews and Romans soldiers.

What had impressed Jesus so much about what the soldier had said?

The answer is like a picture-frame around the concept of faith. This soldier believed that Jesus had only to command it and his servant would be healed. “For I, too, am a man under authority,” he said to Jesus, “with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, “Go!” and he goes, and to another one, “Come!” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this!” and he does it” (Matthew 8:10). The centurion never doubted for a moment Christ’s power and authority to heal his servant. Jesus had said it, and that settled it in his mind.

But why didn’t he doubt? Problems in life are so quick to produce questions in most of our minds. Perhaps the centurion’s faith came from facing the trials of spending many days, on many different battlefields. Perhaps it was a reflection of his own father’s faith. We’re never told how this man came about his great faith. In contrast, Christ’s disciples showed theirs to be of “dinky” proportions almost immediately.

It had been a long day of speaking to the crowds and healing the sick, when Jesus told his disciples to “get into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake.” Exhausted from the drain of the crowd, he lay down to take a nap.

When the disciples were halfway across the sea, a storm blew in. Waves crashed over the sides of the boat and the disciples panicked. In desperation, they woke Jesus and cried out, “We’re perishing!” Jesus just sighed, stood up, and quieted the waves and the wind with a single command. Then, drawing on the living illustration of the centurion’s faith, he said to his disciples: “Why are you so timid, you men of little faith?”

How did the disciples’ faith differ from that of the centurion? Why did a Roman soldier have “great” faith and Christ’s own disciples “dinky” faith? The difference was that in the midst of the storm, the disciples forgot what Jesus had said to them. They quit counting on his Word, and as a result they panicked and counted themselves in the “lost sea” category.

Jesus specifically said to them before he went to sleep, “We’re going to the other side,” not, “You guys better hug everybody, because we’re fish-food halfway across this lake.” He had given them his word they would all cross to the other side. Yet they forgot his word when the water got choppy.

I’m not blaming the disciples-I’m too much like them. Many of us make the same mistake in our marriages and families, don’t we? During difficult times we forget that God promises we’ll make it to the other side-he just never promises a smooth ride on the way there. But as the waves crash around us, God promises he will produce maturity, righteousness, patience, endurance, and love in our lives.

Alfian Palar Ministries

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