Matthew 8

Matthew 8:  Faith

Jesus closes his teaching  we call – ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ with clear instructions what we are to do with his teaching.  “ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house , and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

Clear as it can be, isn’t it?  Several verses come to mind as I contemplate these instructions from the Lord Jesus.  James said: “ Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- will be blessed in what he does.”( James 1)

And Paul said: “ For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” ( I Cor. 3)

I mentioned recently how DNA had the complete blueprint for building a human being. It is present from the time of fertilization. Everything that is needed to complete the miracle of a human life being formed in womb is built into the DNA.  When we are born again by the imperishable seed, the Word of God, we become a new creature, and all the spiritual DNA is present. It is God’s blue print for building our new life.  “ His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him , who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1) We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.

God is the architect of life. His blueprint is found in His Word.  When we get saved, the foundation is laid. It is a foundation that will hold through the storms of life. The instructions are complete, ‘the promises are great and precious and through them we might  participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption caused by the evil world’. ( 2 Peter 1)

And we have within us this ‘ incomparable great power for us who believe . That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when he raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.” ( Ephesians 1:19,20)

What we are about to encounter in the next two chapters are a series of miracles, answered prayer and mighty works.  These accounts lead us to long for the faith that we see in these encounters. “By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, lest any man boast.” ( Ephesians 2:8,9) So to begin with we see faith is a gift from God.

Let’s do some preparation as we want to know the mystery of faith and how it works.    Look at Ephesians 1:13:  “  You were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. (NIV) in whom also, after you believed ,you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.  This is a past tense verb of an action you took and when you believed  and you received. I have been saved.  But then comes the present participle such as ‘ working’ in Ephesians 1: 19 and we are seeing an ongoing, continuing action. I am being saved. And of course the ultimate end, because the Lord saves to the uttermost is I will be saved and spend eternity with the Lord Jesus and the Redeemed in heaven. That is why we sing- saved, saved, saved.

Having believed in Him for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, we are called to continue believing all He is, all He said and all He came to do.  Jesus said:  “ if you continue in my Word, you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” ( John 8)

Are you living just in the past tense of your faith or are you continually growing in your faith? Let me ask you these five questions:

  1. Do you believe God is who He says He is?
  2. Do you believe God can do what He says He can do?
  3. Do you believe you are who God says you are?
  4. Do you believe you can do what God says you can do?
  5. Is the Word of God active and alive in your life?

Who do you say God is in your life? When you think about God- what comes to your mind? If you said ‘yes’ to the above questions, this is the basis of your belief system, your faith.  You are saying I believe God is everything He says He is and even infinitely more. Then the question you must figure out the answer to is – why doesn’t my behavior match my belief?  Behavior is  a learned response. The Spirit is teaching us to live by faith and not by sight. This is where the sifting comes to sift through what we say we believe from how we behave and live.

We are about to see some people who exhibit faith and as a result see answered prayers. So where does this kind of faith come from?  How do we get it? What can we do to exercise it and grow it?

Faith is a gift from God.  That is what Ephesians 2 tells us- “ For by grace are you save through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God…” If you have been listening lately, I have been sharing with you what is God’s Law. It is the Law of Love. He said it was what all the Word of God was based on.  For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him , should not perish but have everlasting life. ‘ ( John 3: 16)  We love God because He first loved us. God is love.  He loves us so that we might love Him back. He gives us faith, so that we might give our faith back to Him.  “ Without faith it is impossible to please God…” ( Hebrews 11: 6)  Do you know why we exist, why we were created?  So God could give us His love, give Himself to us, so that we would give ourselves back to Him by faith.

Revelation 4: 11 tells us this fact: “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure  they are and were created. ( KJV) Did you get that?  The chief purpose of our lives is to please God and without faith it is impossible to please God, so God gave us faith as a gift.

Paul wrote: “ For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision or uncircumcision has no value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself  through love.” ( Galatians 5: 6) Did you get that? Paul said this is the only thing that counts!

We will see in these upcoming events described in the next two chapters- healings, and exhibitions of faith.  So faith is a gift from God- He gave it so we could exhibit it and please Him.

Why did Jesus heal these people? Some were healed as fulfillment of prophecy that pointed directly to Jesus being who He said He was.  Some of these miracles were done as acts of compassion. Others were performed as a response to faith, as Jesus would say on different occasions:  ‘ your faith healed you.’ Or in response to the question: “ Do you believe  I am able to do this? Yes. (the blind men replied in Matthew 9 ) According to your faith it will be done to you. ( Jesus response) “  Others were done for reasons beyond our understanding. In the case of Paul wanting a ‘ thorn in the flesh removed, we see his request for healing is denied, and the Lord’s answer is two-fold: my grace is sufficient and my strength is made perfect in weakness. There is also a reason given why healing and miracles were not performed  as we read in Matthew 13: 58: “ And He did not many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

Now the most important thing about faith is the object of your faith. Jesus said if you had faith as small as a mustard seed, you could move mountains.  But the object of that faith is the Lord, His person, His promises and His principles. Not faith in your faith.

Faith is part of that cluster of fruit that is referred to as the fruit of the Spirit, that which the Holy Spirit brings into our life. “ The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, , goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law. ( Galatians 5:22,23)

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. ( Romans 10:17)  Hearing His word and putting into practice grows our faith.  It is interesting the Greek word used here for word is rhema not logos. Logos is the whole Bible, whereas, rhema is an individual scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to your attention during your time of study and meditation.

We can ask the Lord to increase our faith. Realize when you do this, circumstances may arise that will reveal to you where your faith is lacking or little. A storm of circumstances can be the result of this prayer to ask for your faith to grow and increase. Storms of all kinds can come for a variety of reasons, but as often is the case, they reveal a ‘ little faith’, as with the disciples .

We can grow in faith, as we put it into practice.  Being doers and not hearers only. But remember : “ Without faith it is impossible to please the Lord and those who come to Him, but believe that He is and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” ( Hebrews 11:6)

Is God the same as He was then? Of course He is.  Is the age of miracles past? Or are we a generation of believers who are paralyzed by unbelief.  Saying we believe these things about our Lord, but behaving in a way, living in a way- that says we do not.

Let’s look at these upcoming miracles and see what we can learn.  The first miracle we encounter is the cleansing of a leper. A leper was evidently able to hear the Lord’s teaching and came and knelt before him, worshipping Him,KJV.   “ Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean.” What a simple prayer for a man in such a desperate condition.  Notice this man, does not doubt the power of the Lord to make  him clean, what he does not know- if it is the Lord’s will to do so.  Remember what that great saint of answered prayer in the 19th century, George Muller said was the key to prayer: Muller said, ‘I seek to get my heart into such a state that is has no will of its own in a given matter. A neutral heart that brings the situation or problem to the Lord, but leaves the solution and answer to God alone.  It is most important that the will of God come first.  Do you know why this man used the word-‘clean’? For since he was first diagnosed with leprosy, he had to cry out to anyone coming near him, ‘ Unclean! Unclean!’ He can and will cleanse us from all our filthy , vile sins.  He can cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  This man exhibited a faith that left everything up to the Lord.  He did not demand the Lord cleanse Him, He made his request and petition known and left it to the sovereignty of God to answer and do what he willed to do. . Do you see that this man exhibited a faith based on the Lord’s teaching and was exercising it.  He was seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This man said if you are willing  I know you can heal me. This man was diligently seeking the Lord. Coming into close proximity to other people was dangerous for a leper in those days- he could be stoned by a fearful crowd. What a picture of faith- a seeking, a reaching out to God. The Lord Jesus said ‘ I am willing.” The KJV, says Jesus ‘ put forth his hand and touched him.  Has the Lord touched you and made you clean?  He did that for each of us who came believing He was who He said He was and could do what He said He could do. We also came believing we were who he said we were- sinners in need of a savior; the sick and diseased who needed a physician, and lost sheep who needed a Shepherd to take us on his shoulders.

Then the Lord touched us and made us clean. We were born again and like a newborn babe craves milk, we craved the Word of God.    And so the Word of God became alive and active in our lives.

Next we see the story of the centurion. This was a professional Roman soldier. He was a leader and had 100 men under him.  He understood authority.  He believed Jesus was who he said he was and could do what he said he could do.  Jesus not only reveals he is Lord over disease with these healings, he is also Lord over space and time. For he  is revealing for us he is able to heal without being physically present.

There are several truths this account shows us in this centurion’s faith. But do not miss the Lord’s response when the centurion approaches and makes known his request.  “ Lord , my servant lies at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus said to him, ‘ I will come and heal him.’   Do you see first of all – how approachable our Lord is?  Do you see how willing he is to help?  He immediately says I will go to him and I will heal him.

The centurion had humbled himself in this request. The KJV says he ‘ came beseeching’(KJV)- the word means pleading or even begging. A Roman centurion did not have to ask a citizen of Israel to do something- he could simply order them to do it.  This centurion humbled himself, and we know God gives grace to the humble.

The centurion’s faith was an understanding faith.  He believed the Lord Jesus was who he said he was and could do what he said he could do.  He further exhibits his humility when he says to the Lord : ‘ I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant will be healed.’ The centurion understands authority and how it works.  Authority comes from the position of power; for example:  a policeman holds up his hand and automobiles come to a stop. The authority comes from the badge and uniform he wears that shows he is a representative of a higher power, such as the city or state of US government. It is not a man stopping you , but the authority given to that man from a higher power.  The most important step  I learned in AA was I was powerless over alcohol and that I must come to learn how to depend upon a higher power.  Our resurrected Lord said just prior to His ascension: “ All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” ( Matthew 28)  “…and  His incomparably great power  for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given not only in this present age, but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet, and appointed him to be head over everything, for the church which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” ( Ephesians 1: 19-23)  Ask yourself those five questions again.*

The centurion’s faith is also an unselfish faith.  He comes on behalf of his servant. He comes for one who is hurting, and in need of help.

The centurion’s faith is also a picture of risking faith. He says, Lord you do not need to come to my home, just say the word and your word will heal my servant.  We have Gods’ Word- and when the Word of God tells us- God is always at work and is working all things together for good for those who love Him, why do we not believe He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do?  Jesus tells us not to worry about our life for we have a Heavenly Father who has all authority and all power who will  watch over us and work all things together for good for those who love Him and were called according to His purpose. In fact- we are told : eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the mind of man what God has for those who love Him.   In addition, Jesus said worry cannot do nothing positive – only wear you out.

The centurion’s faith is an effective faith- for it was answered and the servant was healed.

Is faith like this taking a risk?  Are we not told we are to live ( walk) by faith and not by sight? ( 2Cor 5:7)

“ Trust the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” ( Proverbs 3)

We sing about my hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’  blood and righteousness. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

His blood covered all my sins – He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

I am declared righteous by faith.  “ For what saith the Scripture?  Abraham believed God ( was who He said He was and could do what He said He could do; and Abraham was who God said he was and could do what God said He could do) and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

You see F.A.I.T.H.  stands for – Forsaking All, I Trust Him.   When we get lifted out of the miry pit and set on the solid rock it is so we can reach up with the hand of faith and say to the Lord Jesus- if you will, you can make me clean. And the Lord Jesus puts forth His Nailed Scarred Hand and takes hold of ours and says  I am willing, be clean!”

Is living by faith feel like you are taking a risk to trust God ?  Do you want assurance?

“ Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way,opened for us through the curtain, that is his body and since we have a great high priest over the house of God. Let us draw near to God with a sincere heat in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for He who promised is faithful. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day of the Lord approaching. ( Hebrews 10:19-25)

“So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a little while, He who is coming, will come and will not delay.  But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back I will not be pleased.” Hebrews 10: 35-38

How do we keep our confidence our faith in spite of circumstances?

  1. Draw near to God- stay close to Him. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.
  2. Keep on keeping on. Persevere.
  3. Remember He who has promised is faithful.
  4. Cleanse yourself.
  5. Encourage one another.
  6. Do the will of God.

And remember- without faith it is impossible to please God.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14