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:
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.”