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In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus makes two remarks about people’s faith. One man, he says, has great faith. Later in the chapter he tells his disciples that they have little faith. Each account, by itself is remarkable, and by comparing them we can possibly get some incredible insights about faith.

In the first story (5-13), a Roman centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his servant. Jesus asks the centurion if he wants him to come to his house. The Roman leader tells Jesus “No. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus was amazed and told his followers that he had not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

Towards the end of chapter 8 (23-27), we find Jesus fast asleep in a boat with his disciples. Matthew tells us that a furious storm came up on the lake and that the waves swept over the boat. The disciples were afraid and woke Jesus up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus said to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” And then Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

In comparing these two stories, naturally the question comes up, why did the centurion have such great faith, and the disciples such little faith? It seems to me that it should be the other way around. The disciples should be the ones with great faith. They traveled with Jesus and everywhere he went he healed people and cast out demons and taught the multitudes about the Kingdom of heaven. The disciples were somewhat intimate with Jesus and not only learned from him about faith, but also saw faith in action.

The Roman centurion on the other hand was not even a Jew. He was a gentile. Probably hated by most Jews because of the Roman occupation. What little knowledge he had of Jesus probably came second hand from a few stories and rumors told him about this miracle worker. Not exactly the makings of great faith.

So why the great faith of the centurion and little faith of the disciples? Who knows? God knows, but he isn’t telling. Or is he? Maybe there are a few clues in these stories to enlighten us about their faith and perhaps ours as well. Here is my theory.

Matthew indicates that the Roman centurion knew a little something about authority. A Roman centurion was in charge of 100 soldiers. He had authority over 100 soldiers. He was also a man under authority. When his superiors said “Jump!”, he asked “How high?”. By the same token, when he gave orders to the men under him, they obeyed him or died trying. The whole Roman army was under the authority of Emperor Caesar. He had a goal, and a plan for reaching that goal, and every soldier in his army had a role to play in achieving that goal.

In the same way, I believe, that the centurion had an idea about the way Jesus was able to heal people. He either had super-natural authority to heal people, or was under the authority of someone who had the power to heal people. And what was the goal of healing people? To relieve human suffering. People were miserable when they were sick, and happy when they were healed. Hence, the ultimate goal of Jesus was to make people happy. The centurion must have believed that either Jesus was God, or was working under the authority of a God who loved people and wanted them to be happy. If this was the case, then there was no need for Jesus to go to his house or lay hands on his servant. All he had to do was just say the word, and his servant would be healed, and many would be made happy. The servant, the servant’s family, if he had one, his friends, and the centurion.

The disciples,on the other hand, the “little faithers”, were freaking out in the boat, in the middle of the lake as waves surged over the side. Was Jesus panicking? Not so much. He was sleeping. The disciples woke him up screaming, “Lord save us! We’re going to drown.”

Ultimately they didn’t believe that God, or Jesus, had ultimate authority over everything. They didn’t really believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy. The believed in the Evil Powers that lurked in the depths of the sea, that caused big storms which chewed up little fishing boats and spit them out, just for the fun of it. If they would have believed that God loved them and wanted them to be happy, they would have had a terrific time enjoying the wind and the waves and the wild ride, much like thrill seekers do on an exciting water ride at an amusement park. But, alas, they were full of fear, and their little faith was abundantly clear.

So what about us when the storms of life hit our little boats with fury. Do we grab on for dear life and scream for Jesus to help us, or do we grab on for dear life and enjoy the ride, knowing that the God of the furious storm is right along side us, laughing all the way?

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I recently wrote about worship after reading a couple of articles concerning this topic in Christianity Today. I continue to think about this subject as I believe that worship should be at the center of every Christians life. I have read three accounts in Scripture that have informed my worship and hope that they will do the same for you.

The first example is in the last book of the Bible – Revelation 19:4,5.
Here we see the heavenly beings bowing down and praising God. Here are two things Christians should do in their life of worship.  The first is bowing down. When a person bows before another, he or she is showing respect, acknowledging supremacy, exhibiting humility and submission. We should worship God, not only with our minds and spirits, but also with our bodies. Physically bowing down before the Sovereign Lord helps to transform our hearts and minds to Christ and his will. Sadly, most Christians rarely if ever now down in worship before almighty God. That described me as well, until I began studying the Bible and what it says about worship. Now I regularly bow down when I pray.

The heavenly beings  not only bowed down, but they also praised God.  Many people think worship and praise are the same. They are closely linked, but are not the same. Praise for God is the result that flows from a life of worship; a life of submission to God lived in genuine trust that He loves us and wants us to be happy. Our hearts are full of joy living in right relationship with God and man, and our lips can’t help but praise the Lord!

The second example is found in the first book of the Bible – Genesis 24:26,27.
 Here, Abraham’s servant has had his petition to the Lord answered favorably. He was on a mission to find a wife for Isaac, and he found one. Interesting enough, his reaction is exactly the same as the heavenly beings: he bows down and praises the Lord. He is not in the immediate presence of God, yet he has humbled himself before the Almighty, has trusted that the God of Abraham loves even Abraham’s servant and will be good to him and thus his prayer is answered. God showed up for him in his time of need and he bows down and praises God.

My last example of worship is the first time that the word worship is used in the Bible – Genesis 22

It is in a story that is important to all three major religions in the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We can all learn a great deal about what It means to truly means to worship God from this story.

Abraham is told by God to take his son, his only son, the son that he loves, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. This is the son of promise that Abraham waited 25 years to be born to him and Sarah. Finally Isaac was born and the elderly couple laughed like crazy to see the incredible gift God gave them in their old age.  Surely they doted on him, and spoiled him and loved him a lot. Maybe too much, which is why God asked this unimaginable thing from Abraham.

Abraham gets up early the next morning and heads off with Isaac (who was in his late teens or early twenties) and two servants. He is heading out to a place that God would show him. It took them three days to finally get to the mountain on which he was to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. One can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s head as they took the long journey.

Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”(Genesis 22:5)

WE WILL WORSHIP. That’s what Abraham said. That’s what Abraham had on his mind. Not music. Not a joyful celebration. But obedience to a God who had shown Himself faithful time after time in Abraham’s life. Worship, for Abraham was trusting in a good God, who always kept his promises, even when, by all outward appearances, it seemed that God was not going to show up. God always showed up. Now Abraham was climbing a mountain, carrying fire, and beside him, Isaac, carrying the wood that was intended to burn him up as a sacrifice. Abraham was planning on worshiping God. He was planning on God showing up, somehow, some way, even if it meant bringing Isaac back to life, as the author of the book of Hebrews writes. Worshiping God is living a life of faith, pleasing God because we believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Sometimes that is not easy, as I am sure Abraham was thinking as he put the wood on the rock, and then placed Isaac on the wood and bound him. Just as he was about to plunge a knife into Isaac’s heart, God showed up. The LORD spoke to Abraham, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)

I think this story shows us the heart of true worship. Obeying God. Trusting God. Believing that God loves us and wants us to be happy, even in the midst of great trials and testing; in external difficulties and internal anguish, we can worship God with all our being, knowing that God will show up. Just like he showed up for Abraham’s servant who found a wife for Isaac. Just like he showed up for Abraham on the mountain. And one day, all those who worship God in spirit and in truth, will join the heavenly beings and bow down and praise God, forever and ever, amen.

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