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Throughout the history of the Christian Church, many have struggled to understand the concept of salvation by faith alone. One author writing of the ascetics of the fourth century records: “To suffer the discomfort of filth, stench, worms and maggots was considered to be spiritually beneficial and a sign of victory over the body.” He then goes on to cite an example of this, “Macarius the Younger (he writes) sat naked in a swamp for six months until mosquito bites made him look like a victim of leprosy.” The punishing of oneself be it through rigorous asceticism, condemnatory thoughts or a legalistic piety does not draw us towards God but drags us away from God and invokes His displeasure [Isaiah 64:6]. No! Man is made right by faith alone [Galatians 3:1-9] and therefore holiness comes not from grudging servitude but self-giving gratitude that is brought about by spiritual transformation [2 Peter 1:3-4]. Luke here, in chapter 7, gives us three examples of faith.
1. The Soldier with Great Faith [v1-10]
The first of these is a centurion who sends a delegation of Jewish elders to Jesus to ask if he would come and heal his servant who is “sick and ready to die.” Jesus marvels at this man, not because his life makes evident the effectual nature of his faith – though it does, but because this man places great faith in the power of Jesus’ word to heal. In fact, Jesus says of him, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
APPLICATION: So the question we are left with is how did this man attain such great faith? Well, although faith is a gift that has been given to us [Romans 12:3], it is activated and grows through the word of God [Romans 10:17]. This centurion is almost definitely a God-fearer and therefore sat under the preaching of the word and allowed his hearing to be supplemented by doing, hence his exemplary lifestyle [James 1:22]. Therefore, I would like to challenge you this week, to not only increase the amount of time you spend studying the Scriptures and sitting under the preaching of the word but to draw from them practical applications for your life. Some may find it helpful to mark their bibles or record these application points in a notebook or journal.
2. The Widow with No Faith [v11-17]
Having said this, there will be times and situations like loss, illness or loved ones not yet saved, in which we feel that we have, or they do not have any faith at all. What are we to do in these situations? Providentially Luke provides us with the answer in our second character. She is a widow whose “only son” has just died. Devastated by the loss of her son and almost definitely facing a life of destitution (he would have been her only means of support) she does not go to Jesus, for why would she? Her son is dead and up unto this point there is no evidence that Jesus is able to do anything about death. Therefore, Jesus comes to her.
APPLICATION: While Jesus delights in our faith, He is not bound by our faith. This means that in situations of no faith we can cry out that He might have pity and act in our lives and/or the lives of our loved ones. Whilst it does not mean that He is inevitably going to save, heal and deliver every time for that would be akin to superstition or witchcraft (using prayer like some kind of incantation), it does mean that He can and He does and therefore we should beseech Him with all our hearts.
3. The Prophet with Wavering Faith [v18-35]
The final example that is given to us is John the Baptist. He was the descendant of a godly family [Luke 1:5-7], had a miraculous birth [Luke 1:13], was a relative of Jesus [Luke 1:36], had predicted the coming of the Messiah [Luke 3:4-6] but was now languishing in prison and wavering in his faith. You see, John thought that God’s judgment would come at the first coming [Luke 3:7-9] not his second and this confused him. John therefore sends a delegation of his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was “the Coming One.” Jesus goes on to tell them what He has done and what He is doing.
APPLICATION: Due to the fact that many Christians hide their doubts and fears they live unproductive lives, backslide or even get caught up in cult or occult activities. Like John (and Jesus), we must take our fears directly to God [Luke 22:39-44]. This might mean studying from the word of God, praying to God or taking counsel from mature and godly persons amongst the people of God. Secondly, if our faith is to stand firm, we must remember all the things that God has done and all the things that He is doing, for sometimes our wavering comes from a spiritual amnesia. If this persists, please feel free to contact me and/or take consolation in the fact that my inquisitive soul has questioned and doubted probably all of the major doctrines over the years. Nonetheless, by the grace of God, I stand rock solid today in a firm belief in the Scripture and all the doctrines that are contained within. It is my prayer that you might too.
Conclusion – A Prayer for Faith
‘Dear God, please forgive my doubting and wayward heart and enable me to stand firm. Awake in me a passion to hear, believe and do your word. Not because of any goodness in me, my LORD, but purely by your grace. In your name I pray.’ Amen.
Sermon Jam from Geoff Thomas on “Dead Faith.”
 “Encyclopaedia of 15,000 illustrations” by Paul Lee Tan p.114
Paul’s not healed from “the thorn in the flesh” [2 Cor 12:7-10]. Timothy is encouraged to “drink wine for his stomach’s sake” because he is not healed [1 Tim 5:23]. Trophimus is left at Miletum because he was sick and Paul couldn’t heal him [2 Tim 4:20]. Epaphroditus was sent back to Phillipi by Paul “for indeed he was sick nigh unto death” [Phil 2:27]