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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The "Just-Say-The-Word" Faith That Impressed Jesus

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Faith---the simpler it is the more impressive to God. Often we want to do great things that require what we think is "great faith." No wonder worship is sometimes like a circus with lots of death-defying stunts---flying trapeze, eating fire or swallowing swords. Martha thought faith was like that. So she couldn't believe when her sister Mary simply sat at Jesus' feet listening and got his approval.

The woman with issue of blood for 12 years was even more radical. She didn't pray or say a word. She just "thought to herself." It literally released power from Jesus at her will that Jesus didn't notice it. God will answer you on the spot even if you don't pray or say anything. Even if you just talk to yourself---as long as the faith involved impresses him.

The centurion also got it right. It's not indicated how this Italian army officer knew the secret to God's heart, but he did exactly what God was after in a believer. What did he do? Nothing, except say a few words to this effect: "Lord, just say the word." Jesus was amazed. It's very seldom that Jesus was impressed about people's faith.


Simple Faith Beats Big Efforts

If you're a Christian you must want to impress Jesus so much, right? Well, here's the thing. This centurion got it all right and we must take a hint from him. He didn't do much unlike what we're accomplishing today in ministry. I doubt if he had a big church with lots of members. Did he do nonstop worships or overnight prayer meetings? Was he active in "church"?

But Jesus was so impressed with him nonetheless. Watch what the Lord said:
“Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."
This must have either saddened or irked the religious leaders in Israel, those who were reputed to be experts in the bible and ministry, honored with titles and degrees. They should be the ones getting this commendation from Jesus. But no, Jesus didn't find them fit. He even said he had never seen a faith like it in Israel---in effect, saying that no one in Israel had laudable faith. No one! Not even the spiritual, bible-based leaders. What a sweeping indictment. He said he found it in an Italian, a gentile at that. 


The centurion added a few explanations, how his word given to his men surely got results, so he was sure Jesus' words too would get surefire results. He must've heard a good deal about Jesus (and perhaps the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob---and Moses) and was easily convinced Jesus was the present Move of God at the time. It was an astonishing mindset for a non-jew to have. 

God had been doing a lot of supernatural deeds to Israel and yet they kept doubting and turning to other gods (they even rejected Jesus as Messiah). Yet to this Roman officer, everything was simple and easy to believe. Simple faith like this is what gets God's attention the easiest. I don't know why we keep losing the point and opt for church circus instead.

Everything Kept Radically Simple

So, that was how he saw it---Jesus need not go to his place to do some spectacular feat to heal his servant. I remember Naaman, the great but leprous general of Aram who wanted Elisha to come out to him and do some circus for his healing. This centurion wanted it kept simple, after all if Jesus was genuine then even simple procedures would suffice. I mean, a barrel of gasoline does not need a flame thrower to explode. Even a tiny spark from a match would do it---if it's really a barrel of gasoline.

Moreover, you'd see the heart of the centurion in some details available in the passage:
  1. He didn't feel he was worthy to have Jesus come to his place. This reflected his meek character, aware of his standing before the Lord. As we know, meekness is among few things that quickly tickles God's heart.

    Sometimes, we in ministry have our heads swell quickly with just a few accomplishments. We think we're somebody so we're not happy with simple procedures. We think sophisticated formulas equal great faith. No wonder we're so mesmerized by church circuses.
  2. He was so concerned about his servant (not even his relative) that he personally took the trouble to search out Jesus for his servant's healing.
  3.  I'm sure there were medical doctors at the time, but he preferred Jesus. Who or what do we seek first when we're sick? A lot churches today belittle miracles and healing. They pay them lip service.
Faith with Works

I'm sure you'd think that faith words go against James' faith without works is dead. This is because we think "works" here mean our church ministries or whatever it is we want to do for God. "Works" here are things connected with true faith, that's why it's faith with works. If it's not related to genuine faith, it's garbage work even if it looks spiritual. 

Compassionate healing is God's work. This was the centurion's motive for seeking healing for his servant. And it was done with a meek, selfless heart. In God's eyes, though it seemed merely an exchange of faith words, it was real work. Jesus said God's work is to believe in the one he has sent [John 6.29].

Most ministries are merely advertising gimmicks to promote churches and lure people in. They can't afford to do good and stay anonymous. They always have to announce themselves and the names of their churches. Paul said, "...some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry...(they) preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely..." [Philippians 1.15-17]

Amazing Faith Words

But here's the really impressive thing. The whole thing became a done deal by mere words. And by the way Jesus reacted, this is how God wants things done. An exchange of words. No hard efforts. No tiring procedures. No hassles. No stress. No nothing. Just plain exchange of faith words. But these are faith words that move heaven and earth. They're not idle words said in our long, wordy, religious prayers. The centurion said just say the word and Jesus in turn said it will be done as you have believed. It was incredibly so simple! And the miracle happened at that exact same hour. Amazing!

Where is this in church today? I mean, why do we still insist on doing a lot of efforts for God. Some churches take pride in how they stress themselves out in ministry or in worship, get so busy in church and get sick serving God. And we see people who merely "warm benches in church" or sing "boring" hymns as unfruitful. 

The whole point in church and ministry is to impress God, isn't it? Then we should learn a lot from why Jesus commended the centurion---and stop forcing our religious efforts into our churches.

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