by Jim Micheff / Michigan Conference
Faith is absolutely essential in a Christian’s life. That’s why God placed a measure of faith in the heart of every person, but that seed of faith must grow and be cultivated in order to have more. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith grows by hearing the word of the Lord. However, there are many followers of Christ who don’t truly understand what faith is, or how to obtain more of it. The Bible defines faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Most Christians are familiar with that definition but still struggle with understanding what real faith looks like in their daily lives.
There are quite a few stories in the Bible that mention the kind of faith God wants His children to have. Manyof these stories end with Jesus saying, “Your faith has made you well,” or “Your faith has saved you.” Whatever this kind of faith is, it must be very important, because Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
One of these stories in particular is about the centurion, found in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. The centurion believed the Jewish religion was superior to all other religions and had demonstrated his partiality to it by building a synagogue for the Jews. He had heard about Jesus’ teachings and healing power, and with childlike faith, he embraced the conviction that Jesus was indeed God.
When His servant became sick and lay dying, his faith was stirred to action. Believing that he was not worthy to go to Jesus himself, he asked a delegation of leaders from the synagogue to go and plead with Jesus to heal his servant. Like so many of us this Jewish delegation had limited faith. Assuming that Jesus would have to be present in order to heal someone, they asked Jesus to come to where the servant was. Jesus agreed to go, but when word got back to the centurion that Jesus was actually on the way to his house, he quickly sent friends to Jesus and asked him to “only speak the word.”
When the centurion learned that Jesus was still coming, he personally went and met Him. Falling on his knees, he confessed that he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his house. As a centurion, he knew a little about authority; and now recognizing Jesus’ authority as God, he pleaded with Him to only “speak the word and his servant would be healed.” The Bible says in Luke 7:9, “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, He said, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith not even in Israel!’” This was a teaching moment and notice that Jesus didn’t just say “faith,” but identifies the centurion’s faith as great faith!
Think for a moment about the reason for his great faith. The centurion wanted Jesus to do something for him. But when the Lord said, “I will come and I will do it,” the centurion’s response was, “Speak the word only, and it shall be done.” It’s important to understand exactly where the centurion expected the power to come from—the Word, and the Word ONLY!
The Word has in itself the power to accomplish what it says.We must recognize that the word of God is filled with creative power because it is an extension of God Himself. There’s a difference between the word of God and the word of man. When man speaks, his words are without power to execute the command. If what he says is to be accomplished, man must do something in addition to merely speaking the word.
But this is not true when God speaks, for when God gives a command . . . it is done. It is not necessary for the Lord to do something in addition to what He said. For example, in Psalm 22:6, we’re told, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,” and in Psalm 33:9, “For He spoke, and it was done.” Hebrew 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” This is why it is impossible for God to lie - because when He makes a statement—it becomes reality.
So, let’s carefully examine the source of great faith. We know that faith has its roots in God’s word. It is knowing that in the Word of God there is power, but more than that, it is expectingthe word of God to do what it says. But if that alone was our understanding of faith, we would be in trouble, because James 2:19 clearly says that even “the devils believe and tremble.” Even Satan himself, who is a student of prophecy, is expecting God’s Word to be fulfilled, because he knows “his time is short.” So, there must be another component of faith that is missing; perhaps something we even at times claim to have. But what is it?
True faith must have a component of depending on or a surrendering toGod that is demonstrated by “actual practice.” Combining our faith and our works is not as easy as it sounds. In fact it can be downright frustrating. Paul puts it this way: “The things I want to do are not the things I do.” There are many Christians who may say, “We just have to try harder.” But herein lies the secret to great faith. Not all effort is alike. Even when we put forth our best effort, we will fail. This is because we are selfish beings and all our effort is motivated by our selfishness.
God is motivated by unselfishness. It is impossible for our selfishness and God’s unselfishness to work together for a common goal. We must surrender our will to God’s will, and when we do, He will sanctify our effort, setting it apart to carry out His will. Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who works in us to will and do of His good pleasure.” We must realize that without God, we can do nothing good. John 15:5 declares, “For without Me you can do nothing,” and in Matthew 19:26, we’re told, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Our unworthiness is further described in Isaiah 64:6: “All our righteousness is like filthy rags.”And the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”Once we recognize that we by ourselves are completely unworthy, there is a realization of our need to be totally dependent upon God and trust that He will do what He said He would do. So, greatfaith combines these three essential elements . . . knowing, expecting,and depending on God to do what He said He would do in His word.
Faith and works are so intricately connected that they cannot be separated. When by faith we surrender our will to God, He takes that will and carries out the promise in His word to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He puts unselfish love in our hearts that provides the motivation and power for us to obey His commands, enabling us to practice righteousness.
God wants us to know, expect, and depend upon the Word of God to do what it says. 1 Thessalonians 2:13, tells us, “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
Friends, the key to practicing great faith is simply a daily surrendering of our will to God’s will. As we realize how dependent we are on God, our “daily” surrender becomes “moment by moment” until by faith we are “continuously” connected to God. It is faith that connects us to God. It is God’s word that gives instruction, and when we accept the truth that we are nothing and God is everything, we become changed and no longer depend on self. Instead, our greatest joy is to glorify God, and when that happens, then Jesus’ prayer in John 17:23 becomes fulfilled: “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one.” I want to encourage you today to put your full faith and trust in God. In other words—practice great faith!