20.9.15 – Faith: the Key To Experiencing God – Peter Cheyne

Read Luke 7:1-10

What is the main point of that story?

Jesus’ concluding words tell us. It is about faith. Even Jesus was amazed at this demonstration of faith. “Wow! I didn’t see that coming! I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

Read Luke 7:11-17

How much emphasis is put on faith in that story?

Did the mother have faith? There is no indication of that. Did she have hope? No. Did the dead man have faith? Did the crowd have faith? No. No mention of faith.

So, why would Luke tell a story emphasising the importance of faith (Faith is the key) and follow it with an even greater miracle where faith doesn’t feature at all? Is faith the key or not?

What is the emphasis in this second story? Again, look at the conclusion. The people were filled with awe and praised God. They declared that Jesus was a great prophet and they said that God had come to help His people. As we have seen so often before, the big question about Jesus’ identity. Who is Jesus?

So, who is He? What do we learn about Jesus? Firstly, we see His power. He raised the dead! In the previous story, the slave was so sick he was about to die. The dead and the nearly dead. Jesus simply needed to speak and great miracles took place. He could do it at a distance! These are power stories!

And we see Jesus’ compassion. He saw a grieving woman – a widow with no one to support her. What does the passage say? His heart went out to her. He grieved for her. This miracle didn’t happen because of the faith of the woman. It happened because of the compassion of Jesus. He walked up to the funeral procession and touched the board on which the man was being carried. He made Himself ritually unclean. The procession stopped. Jesus simply said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”

Did I say faith wasn’t mentioned? Jesus had huge faith. He believed this miracle would happen.

Crowds and crowds of people experienced God because a centurion, and Jesus Himself, had faith. Faith accesses the power of God. We experience salvation when we have faith. Jesus talked about faith as small as a mustard seed being sufficient to move mountains (Mt 17:20-21). Faith accesses the power of God.

Not many things surprised Jesus but He was amazed at the Centurion’s faith. What does great faith look like? V.3 says that the centurion heard of Jesus. Apparently, he hadn’t met Him before. He hadn’t seen any of the previous miracles. He didn’t have proof. He hadn’t tested these reports for himself. He simply heard about Jesus. Somehow that was sufficient.

Do you think God spoke to his heart and gave him a conviction that Jesus could heal his servant? Did God opened his eyes and opened his heart with the conviction that this man could heal his servant? It wasn’t rational. If he had asked too many questions, he might have persuaded himself that it wouldn’t happen but he had a conviction and so he sent some people to ask. Ask and you will receive.

In the midst of this, he also showed great humility. V.7 says that he didn’t go to Jesus himself because he didn’t deserve to have Jesus come under his roof and he didn’t consider himself worthy of coming to Jesus. He is a Roman military commander but listen to his sense of unworthiness before Jesus.

Humility is closely coupled with faith. Humility is the recognition of need. I cannot do this. I am desperate. I am weak. I would like to be self-sufficient but I am not. I need help. The humble ask.

He initially asked Jesus to come and then he thought better of it and sent a second delegation to say that he didn’t deserve to have Jesus come into his house. “Please, Jesus, just say the word.” That is what blew Jesus away. This man understood authority. He was an army man. He was under authority; he had authority. He knew the power of authority. He knew he just had to give a command and it would be carried out. When you have authority, all you have to do is speak the word and things happen. He recognised that this Jewish carpenter was also a man of authority. Jesus didn’t even need to enter his house. He had only to give the command and his dying servant would be healed.

No wonder Jesus was amazed. This Roman understood who Jesus was, and the authority that Jesus had, better than the Jews. He believed that Jesus had the authority to do this thing for him.

There was another time when Jesus was amazed by people’s faith. Unfortunately, it was the lack of faith in His home town of Nazareth. Consequently, He could not do many miracles there (Mark 6:4-6). Where there is faith, Jesus can act. Where there is not, He cannot. Faith is the key to experiencing God.

My definition of faith is: Believing what God says and acting accordingly. Faith isn’t telling God what to do. Faith is a response to God. If God says “I love you”, faith means believing that. If God says, “I can do things beyond your wildest dreams” faith means believing that. If God says, “I am going to heal you”, faith means believing that. But if God hasn’t said that, then believing you are going to be healed is not faith. Faith is not telling God what to do. Faith is responding to God. This man didn’t demand a miracle.

Just this week I heard about a pastor who died of cancer. But he believed, and many other people were telling him, that he was going to be healed. The result was denial of the reality that he was dying. Had God said that he wouldn’t die or were they trying to persuade God.

Also, faith is only real when it is acted upon. Faith without works is dead. Faith is believing enough to act. Jesus might have believed that God was going to raise the dead son but the reality of His faith was seen in His actions: stopping the funeral procession and speaking to the young man

Our faith is seen in our actions. Here are some tests of faith. How much do we pray? How much do we believe that God changes things? The centurions faith was seen in his asking and his understanding of Jesus’ authority. Do we trust God or do we worry? Do we believe that God will work when we share the gospel of Jesus? Do we share the gospel? If God said, “pray for healing” would we expect a miracle?

Some people talk about faith as if it is simply positive thinking. “Just have faith. Just believe.” If you are positive enough, it will happen. But the question is: Faith in what? Faith in ourselves? Faith in being positive? The first story here is about faith. The second is about the person in whom we put our faith.

Jesus is compassionate and Jesus has power and authority. In other words, Jesus cares and Jesus can. If He is powerful but uncaring, we should be worried. He might do all sorts of nasty things to us. If He is loving but unable to do anything, then He is a waste of time. But what we see is that He is tender and loving and compassionate as well as incredibly powerful. Even death cannot defy Him.

When Jesus spoke to the corpse, He exercised faith in God: the goodness of God and the power of God. God cared about this widow and He had the power to do something about it; power to defeat death.

Faith has no power. Jesus has the power. Faith is trusting Him. Faith is the means by which we experience the power.

So, how does this work out for us in practice? How much do we trust God? Do we have even a mustard seed sized faith?

Let’s assume that God spoke to Jesus and said, “Tell this man to get up. I am going to heal him.” What might have gone through Jesus’ mind?

  • What if nothing happens? I am going to look stupid.
  • Did God really say that? Did I hear properly? Maybe I imagined it.
  • Oh look, they have already reconciled themselves to the fact that he is dead. Let’s just let it be.
  • Dead person rising? That doesn’t fit with current medical knowledge. Can’t see that happening.

The enemies of faith are doubts, fear, and rationalising (too much thinking.) Sometimes what God wants to do doesn’t make rational sense. We can argue against it and explain it away, or we can trust. Sometimes there is the risk that we will look foolish. We can worry about our reputation or we can trust.

If you were with a family who had suffered a bereavement and you felt God was saying to tell the dead person to get up, would you say anything? Is it possible to have faith such as we see in the scriptures? Here are three steps to a growing faith: study Jesus, ask and practice.

Study Jesus. Read the scriptures and learn as much as you can about Jesus. The more we know of Jesus, the better we will believe that He is compassionate and He is powerful and He can be trusted.

Ask. In Mark 9, Jesus said to the father of a demon-possessed boy, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Faith is the key to experiencing God. Everything is possible for the one who believes.

The father responded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Possibly all of us are a mixture of belief and unbelief and we should echo this man’s prayer. Ask God for greater faith.

Practice. Faith grows as we exercise it. If we are obedient in little things God is asking of us, and we see that He is faithful, then we are encouraged to believe Him for more. What could you do today, trusting God, that would then encourage you to take an even bigger step next time?

How come David trusted God enough to go and fight Goliath but the Israelite army was terrified? How come he had faith and they had none?

David fighting Goliath didn’t make any sense at all! Many people tried to dissuade him. Some said he couldn’t do it. Some got angry with him. But David said to King Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

It sounds initially as if David was taking the credit himself. “I did this. I did that.” But then it becomes apparent that he knew it was God who had rescued him. He had experienced the power of God in the little things (lions and bears) and that persuaded him that he could trust God for the big things as well. God is good and God is powerful. I can trust Him. I’ve learnt that in the past and that enables me for the present.

The Apostles had been selected by Jesus for intentional, intensive training. They had to learn about the Kingdom of God. They had seen other miracles. They had learnt that power was an aspect of the Kingdom. But here they learn another lesson. In the Kingdom, great things happen, because the King is compassionate and powerful. He healed the man’s servant. He raised the dead son. Compassion and power. That is who the King is but what does He require of us? Faith. In the Kingdom, great thing happen when people trust the King.

Does God want to do more through us? There are practical things we can do to grow in faith and to experience more of the compassion and power of God. 1. Study Jesus. Know who He is and what He is like. 2. Pray for greater faith. Pray to overcome the enemies of faith: fear and doubts. 3. Practice. Trust God for some little things then for bigger things.

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