Summary: It is possible to strengthen faith during troubled times to the point of having consistent, unwavering faith.

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

May 4, 2003

“Strengthening Your Faith in Troubled Times:

Unwavering Faith”

Matthew 8:5-13

INTRODUCTION: When thinking about your faith, is it as solid as a barrel cactus that is unwavering, focused, immovable, growing steadily-- oblivious to blazing days and cold nights? Or is it more like the delicate African violet. The smallest disturbance bruises a leaf, the slightest variance in moisture causes our faith to wilt?

How can we strengthen our faith in troubled times when we sometimes have a difficult time under normal conditions? Sometimes we feel a sense of being overwhelmed when things start coming at us from all directions. When pressures increase, we often find that our faith starts to waver. Is it possible to strengthen our faith in troubled times? Is it possible to have strong, unwavering faith?

Today’s scripture points out that it is possible.

1. Knowing the Authority of Jesus: On his way into Capernaum Jesus encountered a Roman centurion. A centurion meant that he was a career military person who was in charge of 100 men. Centurions were the military backbone throughout the empire maintaining discipline and executing orders. He understood the Roman military system where all authority was delegated. When he spoke to his men, he spoke with the emperor’s authority and so his command was obeyed without question. A soldier who defied him would not just be defying a centurion but the emperor himself.

He was a God-fearing man although he was a Gentile, an outsider. He lacked the background of Old Testament revelation that the Jews had in order to help him understand Jesus. Although this man might have had some gaps in the Old Testament heritage concerning Jesus, yet it was the knowledge he had concerning authority in his career that applied to Jesus and which was a big key to strengthening his faith during a time of great need.

In his thinking Jesus was under God’s authority and when He spoke--God is speaking. To defy Jesus was to defy God.

STORY: When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day after a busy morning chasing votes and (no lunch) he arrived at a church barbeque. It was late afternoon and he was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken.”

“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”

“But I’m starved” the governor said.

“Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.”

Governor Herter was an unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw his weight around a little.

“Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.”

“Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along mister!”

The centurion knew that Jesus had a whole lot more authority than that. He had authority over sickness and suffering, and the centurion was very concerned about his servant who was at the point of death. He ha a genuine concern for his man. In the Matthew account, he spoke to Jesus calling him, “Lord” which was a sign of his belief in Jesus’ deity. He says, “Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” He defined the need clearly to Jesus. It was not vague and generalized. In the Message Bible he says, “Master, my servant is sick. He can’t walk. He’s in terrible pain.” He stuck to his point when making his request.

In Luke 7 we have more information about this servant--he was highly valued by the centurion and he was sick and near death (vs. 2). The Luke account tells us that the centurion sent some highly respected Jewish leaders on ahead to ask Jesus to come and heal this servant. They spoke highly of this Roman centurion. They said, “if anyone deserves your help, it’s this man. He loves the Jews and even built a synagogue for us.” So Jesus went with them.

When the need was presented clearly to Jesus, He answered the man, “I will go and heal him.” It was no big problem to Jesus. He says, “Sure, I will come and take care of the problem.”

At this point the man says, “Oh, no, I don’t want you to go to all that trouble. I’m not worthy for you to enter my house. But just say the Word from where you are. He is not backpedaling here. He is saying, I have so much confidence in you that I know that if you just say the word, it will be done. I too am a person under authority. I say go here or go there or do this or do that and it is taken care of. He didn’t need to see Jesus come to his home or lay his hands on the sick servant. He said to Jesus--”Lord, just SAY THE WORD.”

STORY: When G. Campbell Morgan was a young Christian he used to visit several elderly ladies once a week to read the Bible to them. When he came to the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Morgan read, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." He added, "Isn’t that a wonderful promise?" One of the ladies quickly replied, "Young man, that is not a promise. It is a fact!" Warren W. Wiersbe, MEET YOUR

The centurion said, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” That’s a fact.

In what way do you picture the authority of Jesus when it comes to answering your prayers? If we could see this clearly, it would strengthen our faith tremendously. What does scripture tell us about His authority?

STORY: Believing things ’on authority’ only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. A person who balked at authority in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing all his life.

Matthew 7:29 says that “Jesus taught as one who HAD authority.”

Matthew 9:6 says, “the Son of man HAS authority on earth.”

Matthew 28:18 says, “ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

If he has all authority, then wouldn’t he be able to take care of your problem?

The centurion’s word was law to his soldiers. His faith in the power of Christ to heal was illustrated by the dominion he had as a centurion over his soldiers. His faith in the word that Jesus spoke was certain. Because he knew all about the power of authority--he recognized Jesus’ power and authority over disease.

Scripture tells us in Psalms 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven.” Another version says, “Your Word stands firm in heaven.” NLT

The centurion had no problem in believing that Jesus could heal someone at a distance because the power of Christ knows no limits. Jeremiah 23:23 says, “Am I only a God nearby? and not a God far away?” This shows both the immanence and the transcendence of God. When we pray for people at a distance, know that God hears that prayer just as if you were right with the person.

2. Knowing that Jesus Really Wants to Help You: Many people feel that they have to beg the Lord and plead with Him to hear and to answer their prayers. Some people feel that they have to pray as loud as possible or to cry and beg the Lord to get him to want to answer. In this scripture, Jesus heard the man’s specific need but he answered very calmly. “I will come and heal him.”

If Jesus were to say this to you, how would you feel about his response? Sometimes when a solution is near, people start backing away, “Oh, I don’t know.” Maybe I don’t want You to answer this request. People pray and pray for a job and then the job problem is settled, but the person says, “Now I have to get up every day at 5:00 a.m.” Many times people would be scared if Jesus said to them, “I will come this or that...whatever the answer would be.” Sometimes people will talk about their problems over and over again but do not want to move beyond the problem to the solution for one reason or another.

The centurion could have let many obstacles stand between him and Jesus.

pride, doubt, money, language, culture, distance, time, self sufficiency, power,...but he didn’t. He did not let these barriers block his approach to Jesus.

Today, what keeps you from the Lord? What keeps you from knowing that He really wants to meet your need? Are you blocking your own answers? When you realize that he really “wants to come and help you,” it will strengthen your faith even more.

3. Knowing that the Lord can Work With You On Your Terms: Jesus was willing to meet people and work with them on their terms and in their culture. He knew the centurion did not have the same background as the Jews who had a long religious history and who was from a totally different background That didn’t matter to Jesus. He met him on common ground. The man wanted him to simply “send His word” and heal the servant. Jesus didn’t argue with him. He said, “Go, it shall be done just as you believed it would. His servant was healed at that very hour.”

What are you believing can happen when you pray? Do you believe just for a partial or limited answer when you could believe for the total answer? Jesus said, “It shall be done just as you believed it would.” What if this man would have really believed that his servant would have been terminal? Or that maybe Jesus could do something? Or that he might cause him to be better but never fully healed? Jesus said, “Go, it shall be done just as you believed it would.”

Are you believing the right things? Are you believing according to scripture? What is the content of your believing? Is it just something you have picked up from people over the years?? Is it accurate??

Many times I believe we fail to get the answer when we are not focusing our belief in the person has all power and authority in heaven and in the earth. We are often not in agreement with God on things. We are not focusing our faith in the one who has all authority to do the impossibilities. Or we often do not believe that he wants to do it for us. Jesus is able to work with us--with all of our idiosyncrasies. He looks past our lacks and our limited understanding. He worked with this man who was a Gentile, a person the Jews considered an outsider. He wanted to help him and He wants to help us as well. Let Him do it for you. Begin to focus on what He is able to do. We rely too much on our own competencies and our own strength. Strengthen your faith by focusing on Jesus who has all power and authority. The centurion’s faith was invested in the right person and he got his answer. Jesus could work with him and he can work with us as well. He is not opposed to meeting us on our own terms--at our point of need.

CONCLUSION: We can strengthen our faith in troubled times to the point where we have unwavering faith as this centurion had. We can do it by realizing who our faith is centered in--

1. Jesus, the one who has all power and authority in heaven and earth.

2. We can strengthen our faith by believing that he is glad to answer our prayers.

3. We can strengthen our faith by realizing that everything doesn’t have to be perfect in our life for Jesus to work with us. He can work around our hangups.

Let us pray: