How's Your Faith?
Luke 7:1-10 New International Version (NIV)
The Faith of the Centurion
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.
2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.
3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.
4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this,
5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.
7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
Reedy Message Sunday 8 October 2017
Luke 7:1-10: Jesus Encounters Series – How’s Your Faith?
The story is told about a pastor that got up in the pulpit and apologized for the Band-Aid on his face. He said “I was thinking about my sermon while shaving and cut my face.” Afterward the treasurer found a note in the collection plate, “Next time, think about your face and cut the sermon.”
Obviously, the sermon didn’t blow the person away. Today I want to share with you about a guy whose faith amazed Jesus.
But our account today is slightly different to most other healing accounts in that this one isn’t so much about the healing itself as it is about the faith of one who is seeking the healing.
And as a result of that we find ourselves keen to learn what it is about this guy's faith that interrupts Jesus’ day so dramatically. What is it that makes Jesus take notice and go “hey team, check this guy out, he’s got more faith than all of you”! WHY?
Illustration: Grandma. I grew up in a family where the only times I heard the name of Jesus Christ used was when my mum or dad were taking the Lord’s name in vain. With one EXCEPTION: I may have shared with some of you before about my my beautiful grandma. I remember like yesterday she’d kneel down beside my bed and pray for me every night when she stayed.
My grandma planted a seed of faith in me that would take 20 years to nurture to the point where one day I would hear the name of Jesus used in a worship setting and my conscience was quickened and my spirit was awakened instantly. Every time I think about my precious grandma I thank God for her faith for she had no idea at the time that her prayers, her warmth, her love and her hands holding mine would be the catalyst for my faith. And yet she took that step anyway.
Martin Luther King Jr said “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”.
I wonder have you taken the first step? I encourage you today to let God’s grace get you started!
Ephesians 2:8,9 says “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast”. Notice it doesn’t say…., for it is by grace you have been saved through:
being a nice person
It says THROUGH faith.
Oswald Chambers said “faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time”.
Faith then is the application of grace. Faith goes beyond simple belief (or mental ascent) to a personal response to/a personal exchange with the Living God through Jesus Christ. I must receive something from God.
Unless I receive something from God, my soul’s position before Him remains unchanged and I stay stuck/trapped in my own sin. But praise God, He makes His gift freely available to me at Christ’s expense. He died so that I might live.
The interaction in Luke 7 marks a turning point in Luke’s account of the ministry of Jesus. Up till now Jesus has dealt exclusively with the Jews but here he turns his attention to a Gentile. Jesus is expanding his territory and widening his influence.
Have a look first at the key players in the account: the Jewish Elders, a Roman Centurion and the Centurion’s servant. What stands out? Very different racial and religious backgrounds, different cultures, different customs – hugely different standings on the social ladder.
Jesus is not at all constrained by religious or social norms. He’s not interested in man-made rules and regulations that are designed to maintain the status quo.
Jesus cuts through all the barriers we put up. He breaks down dividing walls in people’s lives. Jesus connects with all people and connects all people together; He has the ability to bring all peoples to unity in God’s Kingdom.
Faith in Jesus Christ connects and unifies people from all different cultures, backgrounds and life experiences.
We have friends and family of RCBC deployed by God all over the world - we are connected to them not just by the WWW but through our mutual faith in Jesus.
Ill. We have this beautiful young Chinese couple asks me if they serve in some way - he said can we greet people at the front door and hand out the newsletter. My immediate reaction was wow, that is awesome, we’d love to have you do that. I thought how awesome is it to have different people from different places all serving the Lord together as a unified expression of our faith in Christ.
Back in Luke 7 we see a scene developing with a Centurion’s servant. It’s says in V2 that the servant was sick and dying. It also says that the Centurion ‘highly valued’ his servant. That expression highly valued means precious. The servant was unusually precious to the Centurion. Now it says that he’d heard of Jesus and sent some Jewish elders to speak to Jesus. You have wonder what had he heard?
Some suggest that he’s heard about the healing of the Roman official’s son which probably occurred earlier. He knows enough about Jesus to reach out to him in his time of great need. Just as Jesus agrees to the elder’s plea’s, he sends his friends to Jesus to say “hey Jesus, please don’t bother yourself to come over to my place, I’m not worthy to even come to you, instead just say the word and my servant will be healed”.
The very words of Jesus are indeed life changing. He can’t see the staircase but he takes the first step regardless.
And then Luke tells us that he says “I am a man under authority, with men under me. I tell them what to do and they do it”.
What does this Centurion have?
We know he has AUTHORITY. He has people under him, probably about 100.
He has STATUS and POWER. He has OPPORTUNITY.
He has SUCCESS, INFLUENCE and NOTORIETY.
But here’s the point of difference. He also has HUMILITY. Jesus, I’m not worthy for you to come here. So just say the WORD.
See authority without humility is simply dictatorship. I’m in charge. I’m above you so you’ll do what I say. But authority with humility is servant leadership.
And that’s the kind of leader we all aspire to be like.
I believe that God is looking for leaders who refuse to use the power of their position to force subordinates into submission.
I believe that God is looking for leaders who use the power of their relational influence to empower and envision those around them to achieve great things for His Kingdom.
Someone who doesn’t put their agenda or their position ahead of God’s purposes. Someone who uses the opportunity God gives them to lead as a means to serve others.
And this is a powerful expression of our faith. That is saving faith in action. That’s the fruit of knowing Jesus - demonstrating the internal change through external actions.
Illus: Servant Leadership – Nerida’s Mum and Dad.
This Centurion was a faithful servant leader.
It’s says in verse 9 that when Jesus heard about what the man says that “He was amazed”. For Jesus to show this kind of emotion we know that this man really stands out to him. He’s struck by this man’s faith.
He then tells the crowd something profound when He says, “I have not seen such great faith in all Israel”.
Hebrews Chapter 11 gives us a profound definition of faith. It’s says “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. In verse 6 it says “without faith it is impossible to please God”.
Jesus was pleased with the Centurion’s faith - his GREAT faith. Then Hebrews 11 continues by giving us a multiplicity of examples of incredible faith which ultimately form for us the great cloud of witness we read about in Hebrews 12 which Tom Francis will be speaking on tonight in our service.
Illus. Great faith. The faith of Noah.
I want you to imagine one day that God tells you to do something that just doesn’t make any sense. Liket to build a zoo but there aren’t any animals. Or to build a road system but there aren’t any cars.
Or to put a piece of Ikea furniture together without any instructions. No hang on…., that one’s easy as long as your wife knows what to do. Right men!
Once day God asked Noah to do just that. Hebrews 11:7 says “by faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear, built an ark to save his family”.
One day God saw that the earth was violent and corrupt so He decided to wipe everything out. He gets together with Noah and says, right the time has come, I’ve had enough of these people - they have crazy and playtime is over. So make yourself an ark because I’m going to flood the earth.
Now God didn’t just give Noah a piece of paper with a bunch of pictures on it an an Allen key. He gives Noah clear, specific and extensive instructions - that almost any bloke could follow. So what did Noah do?
Does he say, are you serious Lord? That’s insane. Me and whose army? Or you’re kidding right God, that’s going to take me like a 100 years or more. Or what about, hang on a minute there, just back right up, did you say rain, flood? Let’s just get some definitions sorted here right at the outset. Define rain? See some commentators say that up till this time, no one on the earth had ever actually seen rain…….
Instead it says, Noah did exactly what God told him to do…..
What’s Noah doing? He’s building a crazy big boat. Yeah! But even more so, he’s OBEYING the will of God.
Why? Because even though everyone else on the planet probably thought Noah was nuts, and that he probably should have been committed, or at least taking some kind of medication, Noah has deliberate confidence in the character of God, even though he may not understand.
Even though he doesn’t have all the pieces, He knows his God is trustworthy and faithful. Noah’s God is a promise keeping God.
See even though what Noah is doing is super important. He’s getting ready to save the world. What’s just as important is Noah’s unquestioning response.
Obedience precedes understanding.
Sometimes we hear ourselves saying, but I just don’t understand what God is saying/doing? Why is this happening? Doesn’t God see or care? He sure does BUT understanding is never a prerequisite for obedience. Faith is about stepping forward even when we don’t have all the answers provided. Even when the picture isn’t clear yet.
Relationships are suffering
Finances are strained
Health is failing
Work is stressful
Parenting is exhausting
Emotions are fluctuating
Direction is unclear
Imagine for a minute what other people were saying seeing Noah build this massive boat when no one's seen rain in like…, FOREVER!
See unshakable faith produces unquestioning obedience.
But Noah wasn’t working for the approval of others. His primary motivation was to please God.
Ultimately it’s God approval
It’s God’s approval over our lives that matters most; Jesus saying - well done. It’s in Him we gain our identity, our freedom, purpose, our vision. It’s in Him our heart is released and hopes are fulfilled. It’s in Him we find peace and our destiny is secured. It’s in Him we find salvation and an anchor for our soul. Not in success, or popularity, or position, or wealth, or knowledge, or…..
See I believe that great faith like Noah’s starts in the little things. Genesis 6 says that Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord….. it says he walked faithfully with God before God called him to build the ark.
Great faith thinks small. It’s people that matter most.
How can I walk faithfully with God everyday? How can I make faith based decisions every day? Which conversation might lead someone 1 step closer?
It’s not the writing on the wall or the tap on the shoulder!
It’s in the little things that happen each day we find opportunity to experience and express our faith.
God is always working. The Holy Spirit is constantly moving.
Jesus is always looking to move us into situations where our faith can be experienced, expanded and expressed. Situations where our God-story can attach itself to another person’s heart. See I believe that our faith is rarely stronger than when it’s either being tested or being expressed and shared with others. When we are being extended in our lives, our faith is being developed and deepened.
Friends! We each have a unique and amazing faith story to live/share. Let’s be prepared to lovingly and respectfully give an answer for the hope that lies within us.