Why is it so easy for us to believe when we see something for ourselves? Human nature dictates so clearly that age old philosophy, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Such exclamations reveal a heart much more willing to confide in self rather than trust in a divine God that desires for us to believe with all of our heart. We often find it is difficult for our finite minds to accept that the Lord does not operate in the same manner as the human spirit when it comes to faith. He desires for us to trust in Him and His wisdom, even when our hearts beckon us to go in the opposite direction. True faith often comes in conflict with the wicked heart of man that pulls us away from what God desires for our lives. Our hearts are indeed wicked and it is for this very reason that is so simple to indulge in sinfulness while neglecting God’s righteous path.
There are many things that true faith is however for the moment let’s focus on what it is not. Faith is not praying for God’s will while having a heart doubting if He will listen to us or even if He will answer at all. Faith that is of God is utterly absent of any doubt. Also, faith is not a selfish list of wants for oneself, rather faith is based in God’s Word and conforms to His will, and not our own. Faith is shown in action, never in words that rarely if ever, have any substantial value. Faith allows for growth in the life of a Christian and faith is the first step taken towards knowing a loving and omnipotent God.
These are qualities that are found in the lives of many of the Godly men and women in God’s Word. And one truly stands out in the list of the faithful. This individual’s faith was strong enough to even amaze Jesus Christ Himself, who is only mentioned to have marveled twice in Scripture. Once he marveled over the lack of faith of the Jewish people and secondly, he marveled over the great faith of a Roman Centurion, who is one that most would have written off when it comes to an example of strong faith. And it is this particular Centurion that Matthew 8:5-10 reveals to be an extremely faithful believer in Christ and His glorious power.
In Matthew 8:5 we are told that the Centurion came to Christ, pleading with Him as He entered Capernaum. One thing should stand out immediately. Here is someone who comes to Christ, pleading with Him over a problem he is facing. And this is not an average Joe or another down trodden member of society. No, this is a Roman Centurion, who holds a very high rank in the Roman Army. A centurion in the Roman Empire was a man who was in charge of over at least a hundred soldiers, very much similar to the rank of Captain in the modern military. It took years of dedication and back breaking work to achieve this prestigious position in what was the most powerful army in the world at the time. When we take the rank and social status of this gentleman in consideration, it becomes apparent that such a powerful figure would be thought of as too tough to come to Christ pleading. The fact that he did such a thing shows a great deal about his character and his faith.
What would make a man like this step down from the image of a fierce warrior to have to plead in such a way? The answer is found in Matthew 8:6, when the Centurion says that his servant is lying at home, paralyzed in terrible agony. This may come to a shock to most. The fact that a centurion, blessed with power and possibly wealth, could care for a servant who would be considered far below the Centurion by social standards, speaks volumes about the man’s heart. He could have easily allowed the servant to pass on, quickly replacing him with another slave but he chose to do what most of us would turn away from. He allowed himself to have compassion on the lowly servant and that concern for another human being, no matter who they were, moved him to seek out Christ for the solution. Isn’t is sad that most of us would have not even had an ounce of such compassion? The Centurion’s choice to take action on this proves his faith was based on more than empty words or foolish doubts. It was built upon a solid foundation that led him to seek out a resolution in Christ, rather than to turn to man or self for the answer. He could have let the servant continue in torment, only to pass away and later be replaced. But he chose to take it to the Lord, and I’m ashamed to admit that there are times when I do the exact opposite. And in those times I fail, I am always reminded by the Holy Spirit of this wonderful example in Scripture. The Centurion’s actions here clearly show the Biblical truth found in Matthew 2 when the three wise men came to seek out the baby Jesus. And that truth is that those who are truly wise, seek Him and only Him. True faith in the Lord reveals wisdom and it is wise to bring all we face in life to Him for the answer.
Moving on, Jesus replies in verse seven that He will come and heal the servant. One of the key words here is the word will. Notice Christ did not say: might, maybe, or probably. He said He will come and heal him. Never in Scripture will God say to us that He might do something, or He could do something, He always says He will do something. And that is a true faith. Christ was the greatest example of this kind of faithfulness. It may sound like a cliché but what God says; He does. It is as simple as that. No wavering, no doubting what so ever. Consider this, in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow or the things we need. He even goes on to say that the Father in Heaven will provide what we need. A couple of key words here are “will provide.” Again, Jesus says He will do something for us. It is also important to note in these passages that it is implied that we must have faith in the Lord that He will do these wonderful things for us. Christ here is simply asking us to trust in Him for everything and not in ourselves. So, when faced with seemingly impossible situations in our lives, worry as well as lack of faith will gain us nothing, and those emotions potentially can make our problems even worse. God will provide in our times of need, maybe not in the way we want but He will provide. Of course, it’s not the situations we face in life that define us, it the attitude of the heart in how we face them that make the difference.
Let’s put those points in perspective in regards to the topic of our study of just how the Centurion handled this trial in his life. In verse eight, he responded to Christ with absolute faith and humility. He said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Out of all the verses in God’s Word, this is one that really makes me begin to think about my own faith and the way I approach Christ in my daily walk with Him. First and foremost, the Centurion humbled himself before Christ. His desire to see his servant healed was not presented in an arrogant manner, hoping to see some miracle before he chose to put faith in the Lord. No, his faith was already strong enough that he knew Christ would heal his servant. The key word we have mentioned before is there: will. He didn’t come to the Lord guessing that Jesus would help him, nor did he come thinking that maybe Christ would, but rather he came knowing He would. Of all the examples of faith that I have ever witnessed, this one passage stands out the most. Here is a man that comes before Christ with a strong faith that I often fail to have. I come to Christ so many times with doubt in my heart, as if faith is supposed to be a guessing game. Often, I look more at my situations rather than the Savior and then I wonder why my problems multiply. To borrow from the old phrase, “I make a mountain out of a mole hill.” I know that is just another over used cliché but if we take the time to think about those words, we find that they are true. We should never come to the Lord with any doubt at all on our hearts and minds. James 1:5-8 speaks to this point, by clearly stating: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing , and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.”
The Centurion followed the main points of James perfectly. He came to Christ needing a solution to the problem he faced. He asked for Christ to intervene in the situation and he did so without doubt and without a self centered desire. Again our key word “will” appears in the passages in James. And again we are told God will do these things but it goes even further by directly asking us to come to Him without doubt. Those passages even outline what doubt truly does; it hinders His work in our lives. If we find we are not getting the answers to our problems from the Lord, then we need to honestly consider that we may not be approaching him with the proper attitude. And in those moments, we need to analyze our approach, asking our selves questions about our motives in approaching Him. Is it for personal gain? Are we doing this for His glory or ours? Are we foolishly doubting God who has given us absolutely no reason whatsoever to doubt Him? Remember, it’s not the situation or trial that’s important, it’s how we chose to face it and the level of faith we chose to face it with.
Another important point to consider is that the Centurion knew and fully believed in the power of the Word of God. His faith was based on God’s Word and what it could achieve in his situation. “But only say a word and my servant will be healed”, he said. What a powerful testimony on the faith of this man. What a painfully convicting statement of faith for me every time I read it. Not because I am ashamed of the Lord but because I am ashamed of what I am not when I face similar situations as this faithful Centurion. I often ask, “Why are you not listening, Lord” “Why am I going through this?” And I do that instead of being still and knowing He is God. But not this man who asked so humbly and with such a strong faith that Jesus marveled.
The Centurion goes on in verse nine to recognize Christ’s authority over all things. He gives an example of his own position of authority but not in a way to lift up himself, but rather to glorify Christ’s position as Lord of all. God’s Word is all powerful and is the final authority. If we think about it, there are many examples that should come to mind about the powerful authority of God’s Word. In Genesis, the Lord spoke the earth into existence. Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb. In Matthew 8:23-27, it is written that He rebuked the winds and calmed the storm with His Word. And in Matthew 8: 28-32, he commanded demons to come out of demon possessed men, sending them into a herd of pigs that eventually ran off a cliff and drowned in the sea. In Revelation 19:15, His Word is described as a sharp sword with which He might strike the nations.
As we can see, there is an awesome power in the Word and this Centurion knew it. And what’s more, he put that faith into action. As James 1:22 says, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” True faith demands action and James 2:17 clearly points this out by saying that faith by itself, without works is dead. This is a good litmus test for our faith. We need to be sure our faith is backed up with proper, Godly action and not by worthless words. And this test of our faith should be based in God’s Word, as was the Centurion’s. He passed the test that so many of us fail on a daily basis.
In Matthew 8: 10 we see the benefits that come from a doubt free faith. Jesus marvels at the powerful faith by saying, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith.” In saying this Christ, was acknowledging the awesome faith of this man, a Roman Centurion who also was a Gentile, while at the same time, he was rebuking Israel for it’s apparent lack of faith. It is sobering to realize that a Gentile had more faith that the people of Israel who were known to be God’s chosen people. Jesus Himself couldn’t say the same about His own people and the irony of it is that the very Empire that would later crucify Him had a servant in it’s ranks that had a faith that was greater than all in Israel. The Scriptures testify, “If we confess Him before men, He will confess us before His father in Heaven.”
I’d be willing to bet that the Centurion knew that as well. Take time to think about that point. It is convicting to say the least and I honestly believe that many times in my life I would fit into the faithless category and rarely, if ever, in the same category of this Centurion. Later on in Matthew 8:24-27, we see that even his own disciples failed the test of faith when they encountered a potentially deadly situation on a raging sea. They came to Christ, crying out for the Lord to help them in their time of need, however they did so asking for the Lord to save them and what’s more is that they also stated that they were going to die. Christ calmed the winds and waves, then rebuked them by saying, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Their lack of faith in a trial is in sharp contrast to the great faith of the Centurion. They were His disciples and already knew of the wondrous power of the Lord but they chose to focus on the situation instead of the Savior. On the other hand, the Centurion gave Christ his attention and allowed Him to work wonders in what he faced. And his faith paid dividends.
We see the results of a doubt free faith in verse thirteen when Jesus says to the Centurion, “Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you.” The passage goes on to state that the servant was healed that very hour. Imagine the joy in the Centurion’s heart when he arrived home to see the results of his unwavering faith in Christ. Picture the relief and joy of the servant who was restored from a devastating disease. What Scripture has bore witness to here is simply this, faith when coming from a pure heart and with Godly intentions, has the most profound affect on the lives of not only us but those around us as well. Our faith has the power to reach out to those around us and change lives forever for Christ. When someone comes to know Christ, it is through faith. And as Hebrews clearly states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It would be accurate to say without faith it is also utterly impossible to even know God. Faith surpasses all human understanding and goes much deeper than the shallow logic we sometimes hold so dear to. The Scriptures could not state it any better when it says for us to “not lean on our own understanding.”
As we have seen in the passages above, faith knows no bounds of social, economic, or intellectual class. And it is not found in once race or another. It knows no age, national origin, color, or creed. It can be found in the simplest of men and also in the hearts of the upper class in society. What matters most concerning faith is that is must be put to action, with no selfish desires and must always be for the glory of the Lord. True faith is not focused on self but on others. It is often marked with humbleness, and stands strong even in situations where there seems to be no way out or no logical solution. It can stand firm in the midst of the most fierce storms that life tends to throw at us at the most unexpected of times. And faith endures through everything, but only if Christ is the focus. The Centurion in Matthew 8:5-10 sets an example that all people of God should follow. He came to the Lord with a faith completely absent of doubt. He came humble and he came already respecting the authority of Jesus and His Word. And through his faith, he also sincerely recognized the power of God’s Word. He was a Gentile who had a faith that marveled Christ. It’s fitting that this study ends with a question for us all. If Jesus were before us now, what would He say about our own faith in Him? Would we hear the blessed words, “Never have I seen such great faith” Or would we be rebuked just as the disciples in the tiny boat on the storm tossed sea, hearing Christ ask, “Why are you afraid? Oh, you of little faith?”