Christians are often accused of being “people of faith.” Of course, we are! But not in the way skeptics mean. Our opponents call us people of faith in a derogatory way. To them, we choose faith over science and reason. In their eyes, faith is nothing more than blind hope. For some people, that’s exactly what faith is. Have you ever heard someone say, “You just got to have faith!”? That’s essentially what they mean. To others, faith is reduced to mere intellectual consent. Faith is believing certain facts to be true, nothing more.
So, what is faith? To narrow our conversation: What is true, saving faith according to Scripture? I am sure many definitions could be given, but they all wind up saying something like this: faith is a desperate, humble trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Look at the story of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. It’s a great example of this working definition.
The centurion comes to Jesus with a serious predicament—his servant is suffering terribly. Luke tells us he’s near death. Centurions were Roman soldier in command of at least 100 men; which means he is a strong, respectable and competent man. There’s not much he cannot do (c.f. V.9); except, heal his servant. This is why he comes to Jesus, and he comes in desperation. True faith is desperate. It recognizes that, in ourselves, we don’t have the power to fix our problems. We’re powerless, but the person of faith sees Jesus as the One with all power and runs to Him.
Secondly, the person of faith is humble. Once Jesus realizes that this man wants healing for his servant, the Master replies, “I will come and heal him.” Don’t you love this?! This verse gives us insight into the heart of God. Jesus is willing to help, because He loves us. He wants to meet our need. What need do you have today? Perhaps, you’re powerless like the soldier. If so, go to Jesus. He can meet all your needs. But go in humility. That’s what the soldier did. “Lord” he answered “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” Jews never went into the homes of Gentiles. Maybe that’s why the centurion didn’t feel worthy to have Jesus over, but I think it’s deeper than this. This man not only sees an ethnic difference in Jesus. He sees an ontological difference. Jesus is God and this man knows it. He’s not worthy to have Him under his roof, because this is the Holy One and the centurion is a sinner. Therefore, he comes to Jesus with humility.
Finally, he comes with absolute trust. He tells Jesus that it is unnecessary to make the trip all the way to his home to heal his servant. “But only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled” (V.8-10). The centurion operates with the authority of the emperor. The commands he gives come directly from above. This is what he means in verse 9. His point is this: If he wields the authority of the emperor, how much more authority does Jesus have since His authority comes from Heaven? Just as the centurion speaks on behalf of the emperor of Rome, Jesus speaks with the full power and authority of God. Therefore, His words can be trusted. He can be trusted, because this man is the Son of God. No wonder Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith.
Would Jesus marvel at your faith? That depends. Is it desperate, humble and trusting? That’s the kind of faith Jesus is looking.
Thanks for reading!
Brandon Sutton is the pastor at Blue Ridge Christian Union Church and the founder of Sutton Church Consulting (Suttonconsultations.com). You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org