Would You Like to Have Strong Faith?
You might think that would be hard, but nothing in the Word of God is hard. It just takes a little persistence. In fact, for the Christian, faith should be like water to a fish. It should be your environment. Without faith, you are like a fish out of water. I've become so accustomed to faith in God's Word that when I'm in a church where there is a lot of unbelief, I'm uncomfortable.
vs. 20 "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God."
vs. 21 "And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform."
Abraham saw that God is not only able to back his Word. He is willing. Some of us have never got it down on the inside of us that it's the fondest desire of God's heart to meet every promise that He's given in His Word. Not only is he able to give all things he wants to give them to you. It's His fondest desire to give to you. We talk about God's ability but we very rarely talk about His willingness.
Abraham found a combination for strong faith, God's ability, and will. Without those two, you have no basis for faith. Just knowing that God is able is no basis for faith. Neither can you just know that God is willing.
Just suppose a rich man was to come before a group of people and say, "I am able to give each one of you ten thousand dollars." There wouldn't be anyone who would doubt him, but neither would anyone get excited. Just because he is able, doesn't mean he is willing. There is no basis for faith that you are going to receive ten thousand dollars. Ability alone is no basis for faith.
On the other hand, suppose a poor man were to stand before the same group and say, "It is the fondest desire of my heart to give each one of you ten thousand dollars." Someone might pat him on the back and say, "We sure appreciate it. We know you are willing, but you're not able." Ability alone is no basis for faith, neither is willingness. But if you put the two together, you have a combination for faith.
Suppose the rich man then jumped up and said, "I am willing to give each one of you ten thousand dollars, also." Everyone would begin running to get in line.
Ability Plus Willingness Produces a Foundation for Faith
The same thing holds true for any promise in God's Word. First, you must know God is able to back his promise, and then you need to know He is willing.
I know what you are probably thinking. "I know God is able and willing. I must have strong faith." Well, slow down just a minute. Notice again what the Word said about Abraham in verse 21, "And being FULLY PERSUADED that what He promised, He was able also to perform." Are you fully persuaded?
It's easy to sit in church and say you are fully persuaded that God is able and willing. Also, while reading a book or listening to a tape you might be excited about God's promises. But, you will never know if you are FULLY PERSUADED until you face the real situation and put your faith to the test. The faith of Abraham did not start out being strong. Through opposition, the faith of Abraham BECAME strong as he used it.
There are too many armchair quarterbacks in faith today who are telling everyone what they would do if they met certain situations. You do not know what you would do until you face them.
God is Able to Save and God is Willing to Save
Faith is a growing process, and so is the knowledge of God's ability and willingness to meet His promises. God is able to save them to the uttermost that come to Him (Hebrews 7:25). Also, He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). There is the combination. God is able to save and God is willing to save.
I was raised in Pentecostal churches, and I remember prayer request time. Someone would stand up and say, "Let's remember Sister Smith. She's in the hospital. The doctors have given her up to die. They say she won't live until the end of the week. But we know GOD IS ABLE." Everyone would say, "Amen, Yes, Amen."
What has that person said? Nothing. They might as well say, "Sister Smith is sick. The doctors don't expect her to live until the end of the week, and a rich man is able to give each one of us ten thousand dollars." That has as much to do with faith as "God is able."
But why have we said for so long, in connection with healing, "God is able"? Because for years, we have based healing on experience rather than on the Word of God.
Sometimes we have prayed and people were healed, other times we have prayed and they were not healed. So all we will say is "God is able." That way if He healed we're alright, or if He doesn't heal we can't be blamed. Whether He does or He doesn't heal we are off the hook.
It takes a person who really believes and knows the Word of God to say "God is also willing." You may not get very many "Amens," but you will be scriptural. So, faith for healing cannot be based on God's ability alone.
Do you wonder why the world has such a bad image of God? We could be partly to blame because for the longest time we have expressed God's ability and left His willingness out. Most unbelievers believe God is able to do anything. But he is no nearer heaven or salvation, and we expect to receive God's blessings on the same basis as the unbeliever; just knowing God is able.
Let's suppose we had two individuals in the church, one was rich and the other poor. The rich man is able to give you a loan, but he won't do it. The poor man doesn't have the money, but if he did he would be willing to give it to you. Who would you have more respect for? The poor man, wouldn't you? You would have little or no respect for a man, who was able to bless others, but not willing to do so.
We have been looking at God like that for years. God has all the resources of heaven, but we don't know if he is willing to give them to us or not. No wonder there is a lack of respect for God today.
"Lord, Help My Unbelief"
There is one instance in the word of God where somebody doubted God's ability and that's in Mark 9:17-22. Here we have the instance where Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. The other disciples couldn't cast the devil out of a little child. They had all failed when Jesus came to them.
vs. 17 "Then one of the crowd answered and said, "Teacher, I brought You my son who has a mute spirit."
vs. 18 "And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples that they should cast it out, but they could not."
vs. 19 "He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”
vs. 20 "Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth."
vs. 21 "So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood."
vs. 22 "And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
This man brought his son to the disciples and nine men who followed Jesus. They could not cast that devil out. Now he turns to Jesus and says, "What are you going to do? You are the ringleader. Can you do anything?" In verse 23 we read, "Jesus said to him, “If you can believe all things are possible to him who believes.” He is saying, "I am able, but you have got to believe it." Continuing in verse 24, "Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
I'll tell you what the man said, "Lord I believe you're able, I'm having trouble with the willing part. I believe, help my unbelief." Jesus went on to heal that child. Let me tell you why. At least the man was honest.
Let me put one thing to rest here. Too many people are teaching the message of faith that you have to get up to some great spiritual level before you can ask God anything. That is incorrect. Jesus will meet you at your level. Just be honest. Tell Him, "I'll use the faith I have, but Lord help me with my unbelief."
"Lord, if You are Willing"
We have another story in Matthew where a leper doubted Jesus' willingness. In Matthew 8:1-3 it says, "When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
He said, "I know you are able, I don't know if you're willing." Jesus met his need. Notice verse 3, "And Jesus put out His hand and touched him saying, I am willing: (the Greek says "I will it." "It is my will") be cleansed. Immediately his leprosy was cleansed."
I want to ask you a question. In either case, the man with the demon possessed child, or the man with leprosy; did Jesus require either man to be strong in faith? No! Because strong faith is being fully persuaded of His ability and willingness.
I believe the theme of God's ability and willingness runs throughout Matthew 8. I want to continue into the next story beginning in verses 5-10,
vs. 5 " Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him,
vs. 6 "saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
vs. 7 "And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
vs. 8 "The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.
vs. 9 "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.
vs. 10 "When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"
Verse 11 goes on to say, "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus is simply saying, "I haven't found this kind of faith in Israel, my home." There is cominga day in the kingdom of heaven when people will come from the east and from the west (a reference to Gentiles) and will sit down with the father of the Jewish faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the children of the kingdom (Jews are going to be cast into outer darkness).
The Jews thought they were automatically in with God because they were born Jews. But physical birth doesn't mean anything with the Lord; it's the new birth. This man expressed faith and that's what Jesus had been looking for.
In verse 13 we read, "Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour."
The Centurion and His Servant
I have been emphasizing the fact that the centurion came to Jesus for his servant. This is important because this story is told twice in the gospels and they seemingly contradict. Many liberals jump on these stories to prove the Bible is inaccurate. Let's take a closer look by reading this story again from Luke 7:1-10.
vs. 1 "Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.
vs. 2 "And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die.
vs. 3 "So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.
vs. 4 " And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving,
vs. 5 "for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”
vs. 6 "Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.
vs. 7 "Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
vs. 8 "For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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.”
vs. 9 "When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
vs. 10 "And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick."
We don't have to go very far in this story to find out that it totally contradicts the story in Matthew. In Matthew, it is stated that the centurion came to see Jesus, but in Luke, it stated that the centurion never even left his house, that he sent the elders of the Jews out to meet Jesus.
Jesus then came to his house and before he ever got there the centurion sent out friends or servants to stop Jesus. They said to speak the word from here and the servant will be healed in the house. Again, the centurion never left the house.
There appears to be a contradiction. Does the Bible contradict itself? No! It never does. But here's where liberals jump all over the Bible and say, "It's just a bunch of myths and fables. We can't believe it all". But the Word of God does not contradict itself.
Where is the Connection?
In the day in which this was written, when one man was sent out in the name of another man, it was just as if that man came himself. So much so that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to say that the centurion came himself. When actually he sent representatives in his name.
That gets me excited. Whose name have we been sent in? The name of Jesus. Glory to God! When I go somewhere and speak, it'sJesus speaking. Jesus told his disciples before he left, "These signs will follow those that believe, ln My name, they will cast out demons (Mark 16:17)." Do you think the devil comes out because you're such a hotshot? He comes out because you use that name.
"In My name they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." When you lay hands on somebody and speak the name of Jesus, you are standing in His place. Jesus said, "whatever you loose on earth, I'll loose in heaven whatever you bind on earth, I'll bind in heaven." (Matthew 18:18)
The name of Jesus is the key. Jesus came in His Father's name and did his Father's work. Jesus said one time, "To see me is to see the Father." But the crowning touch comes in John13:20 where Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” We've been sent in the name of Jesus.
I haven't lost my train of thought. We are still on God's ability and God's willingness. Jesus said this man had great faith and the definition of great faith, like Abraham, is being fully persuaded that God is able and willing. So where does that fit into the story?
Imagine for just a moment that you are a disciple, you are with Jesus and these representatives, the Jews, came to Jesus and said, "Lord, we have a master at home, a centurion. He has a sick servant. Will you come and heal him?'
I imagine one of the disciples turned to the other and one said, "I'll bet Jesus is going to tell him to bring him to the mass healing meeting next week. Jesus has been healing so many multitudes that he won't take the time to go heal one man."
But do you know what Jesus did? He said, "I'll go". I imagine those disciples went, "OH!" This was not a two-mile trip, like when he went to raise Lazarus from the dead. This was twenty miles, one way! A full day's journey. They also had to walk. All the way there. They are probably griping. Then they came within eye distance of the house and the centurion sent servants out to stop Jesus and had the nerve to say, "Don't trouble yourself". I can imagine one disciple turning to another and saying, "Don't trouble yourself?! We just walked twenty miles out of our way and he says don't trouble yourself." The servants said, "Speak the word from here and the servant will be healed in there." I can see Peter saying, "Speak the word here? Why couldn't Jesus have spoken it back there in Jerusalem? Why did we have to come twenty miles to speak it?" While the disciples were murmuring among themselves, Jesus turned to his disciples and said: "This is great faith".
We've looked at the story from outside the house, now let's look at it from the inside.
The centurion was in his house with his servant dying, wanting to help, but not knowing what to do. I imagine one day one of his servants said, "Sir, there is a man named Jesus Christ. I saw him raise a dead boy in a funeral procession, while I was in Jerusalem. Jesus went over and touched him and he immediately sat up and was whole. The mourners had to all leave. Instead of sadness there was shouting in the streets.
Another servant said, "Sir, I also saw him heal a blind man. He came and put his hands on the blind man's eyes and that man could see instantly." A third servant said, " I saw a man with leprosy. Jesus touched him and leprosy departed from him." The centurion must have questioned them further, "Is this true? Do you mean this?" The testimonies of the servants proved to the centurion that Jesus was able. So he sent the elders of the Jews to get Jesus knowing one thing: Jesus was able. Knowing this, Jesus walked twenty miles to prove he was willing.
I imagine the centurion walked around for two days wringing his hands. I'm sure he asked his servants over and over to repeat their stories about the miracles they had witnessed.
Then one day the servants were standing by the window and as they were looking outside they saw the elders returning. They told the centurion, "Sir, the elders of the Jews are coming. And sir, there are several men with them. And sir, Jesus is with them!"
The centurion runs over to the window and looks and says, "He's willing, He's willing. Glory toGod, He's willing! Tell him to stop right there. I don't need anymore. Speak the word from there and my servant will be healed in here."
The servants ran out and told Jesus, "Stop, stop Jesus. The master says if you'll just speak the word from here the servant will be healed in there." And Jesus said to his disciples, "That's what I've been looking for. That's great faith like Abraham had. I haven't found this kind of faith at home."
If Jesus came to your house, would he commend you for your faith? In all these cases, Jesus met the need. But the only one he commended was the centurion. Don't doubt God's willingness to meet your family crisis.
He is compassionate toward your spouse and children. Let your mouth shout God's Word. Sickness and financial difficulties will crumble when you speak of his mercy.