Every day we face situations that call for great faith.
A loved one is sick, our marriage is on the rocks, or a job is downsized out of existence. There’s something new we want to do, some ministry we want to start, some new venture we feel called to pursue. But we’re afraid. We know the outcomes we seek are beyond our individual ability to achieve. We need great faith. How do we get it?
The Bible only records two times when Jesus was “amazed, astonished, or taken aback” by someone’s behavior. One is in Mark 6:6 when Jesus was “amazed at their lack of faith.” The other is in Matthew 8:10, where it says he was “astonished” at the great faith of the Centurion. So what is it about the faith of that Centurion that was so great? And how can we imitate it?
Great Faith Apprehends His Authority
A Centurion was the commander of one hundred men. He represented imperial Roman power in its most immediate form. He commanded and others obeyed. He also recognized authority when he saw it in Jesus, saying to him, “I am a man under authority and I know how it is used. All you need to do is say the word.”
Great faith begins by recognizing the authority of Jesus.
Great Faith Submits to His Authority
By Roman law the Centurion could tap Jesus on the shoulder and force him to carry his pack for a mile. The world told him he had absolute authority over these rag-tag, conquered people. But his conscience told him something different. So instead of tapping Jesus on the shoulder and demanding his servant be healed, he humbled himself by saying, “I’m not worthy for you to come to my house.”
Much of faith teaching today is presumptuous. As the late Ray Stedman said, “Some people think the prayer of faith is crawling out on a limb and then begging God to keep someone from sawing it off. But that is not real prayer, that is presumption. If God makes it clear that he wants you out on a limb, fine–you will be perfectly safe there. If not, it is presumptuous to crawl out on that limb, expecting God to keep you there.”
Great faith looks to Christ in humility, submitting to his authority, asking for his help.
Great Faith is Confident in His Authority
Americans, having seen its abuses, have great distrust of authority. So it might help to think of authority in terms of orderliness. When you think of authority, think of order. Order the parts of a generator according to the laws of electromagnetism and we have the “authority” to produce power. Order the parts of the human genome correctly and we have the “authority” to defeat disease, to reorder a disordered system.
When the Centurion said, “You do not need to come to my house,” he was saying that as part of the system of order imposed by Rome he understood how things got done. It enabled him to recognize a higher order of things flowing from the ultimate orderliness of God, and to have confidence in it. When we depend on that authority it brings stability, and power, and blessing into our lives. “You don’t need to come to my house. Just say the word. I know it will be done.” Great faith is confident in Christ’s authority.
People often mistake faith for something it is not. Great faith is measured not by the depth of our ignorance, or the height of our presumptions, or the extent of our emotions. Great faith is measured by our apprehension, and submission to, and total confidence in the authority of Jesus Christ.