The Faith of the Centurion — Luke 7:1-10
Christians often use the functionality of a chair as one of their analogies about faith. Our faith is that the chair will hold us up when we sit in it. The thought is that without faith that a chair will do what it’s supposed to do, we would never sit down. That’s a fair analogy. After all, every day we sit down in various chairs throughout the day. But the analogy is also flawed if what we’re trying to show is an example of having faith in God.
What happens when you have the faith for that chair to hold you, so you walk over and sit in it. And then the chair breaks, sending you hard to the floor? How does that play into your level of faith? You sat down in it because you thought it would hold you up. But instead, the chair failed you. Was it your faith that was weak? Or was it the object of your faith – the chair – that didn’t do what it was supposed to?
Should God be compared to an object that can, at times, fail?
In 2004, I was a part of my church’s Women’s Bible Study group going through Beth Moore’s Believing Godseries. One evening, as we were going around the table sharing, I was dreading my turn. I wasn’t afraid to speak; or too shy to talk in a group. But I was hesitant to say what was really on my mind that night. You see, there were five statements of faith that we recited at the beginning of each session. The fact that I believed every one of them was the very thing I was having a problem with.
I absolutely believed God was who He said He was. And that God can do what He says He can do. My issue? My faith in God having the ability to heal my mom lead to my struggle with not understanding why He wouldn’t. My mom was not just in a health crisis of the moment, but had varying issues throughout all of her adult life. She was a woman of God, and had raised us in a Christian home. So perhaps that’s what made it even harder reflecting back at that time over the past 40 years of her life, knowing the kind of things she’d been through, even before I came along.
In this scripture passage a centurion’s servant became ill. The implication was that the servant would die if he wasn’t healed from his ailment. So, the centurion sent some faith leaders to find Jesus and ask Him to come to his home and heal his servant.
The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”So Jesus went with them.
Their plea to Jesus was talking about how deservingthis servant was to be healed.
Wasn’t my mother deserving of being healed too?
The scripture says that Jesus went with them, but before He got to the house the centurion sent a group of friends to deliver his personal message. The centurion believed that Jesus didn’t even have to be present. That all he needed was to believe that Jesus could heal his servant, and with His spoken word, it could be done. Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith, and when the men returned to the house, the servant was healed.
When it was my turn that night, I was thinking about the increasing health struggles my mom was experiencing. I thought about all of the prayers I and other members of my family had prayed for her. I thought about times when I’d walked into the house, or into her bedroom, knowing that she had been in a time of prayer. I thought about all of the prayer lists I’d placed her on over the years, with total strangers praying for her, and all of my friends at my current church and previous congregation, joining me in prayer. As I thought back on all of this, I spoke my pain out loud.
Yes, I believe God is who He says He is. I believe He can do what He says He can do. But that’s the problem. I know what He’s capable of doing, so it makes me angry that He won’t. God canheal my mom. But instead, in spite of all my prayers, in spite of all her prayers, she continues to have one medical issue after another! Why does He heal some people and not others? Why do some people go through life with barely anything to worry about, and others live in such pain for most of theirs?
The room was quiet for a moment. And the group leader paused, and then shared some words that I’d heard before; words that I knew in my heart, but words that I needed to hear again.
God can do what He says He can do. But He never said He would heal everyone.
She reminded me that I needed to have faith, in who God was and in what He is able to do, in spite of the outcome.
I won’t lie. Those words were not comforting. I was struggling living in that belief, while watching my mom’s health continue to decline, all while knowing that God had the power to heal her – if He wanted to.
Why didn’t God want to heal my mother? Why did my mother have to deal with so much pain during so much of her life? What purpose did it serve for her to have suffered so much?
I had to face the realization that while I don’t understand the why, my faith was believing in the Who, and understanding that He could, even if He didn’t.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
God’s ways don’t always line up with our desires. But no matter what is going on in our lives, we are still called to have faith. Not just a general faith; but faith in Who He is.
My mother passed away seven months after that night. Trying to come to terms with all that went on over the months and even years leading up to her passing has been a difficult journey. But I continue to hang on to my faith in God and His power that sustains me.
Prayer: Heavenly Father. I believe You are Who You say You are. And I believe You can do what You say You can do. Help me in that belief to have a steadfast faith that even when things don’t turn out the way I want them to, that You are still God, and that You are still in control. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.