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Fulfillment Is Found By A Leap Of Faith

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Fulfillment Is Found By A Leap Of Faith

Luke 7:1-9 (NIV)

The first year we were in California, 1993, we decided to check out Jeness Park and take the kids snow skiing. So, we drove down there the week after Christmas. But when we got on highway 99 just south of Sacramento we ran into something I had never seen before. They called it Tuli fog. It was so thick I could barely see the lines on the road and yet people were flying by us at 70 miles an hour. We saw a couple of wrecks and I was so tense that my hands began to cramp on the steering wheel. As we were driving, I thought about those verses in the bible that tell me how God will never leave me nor forsake me, and how even if I die God would take me up into His arms in Heaven, and I wondered if this was going to be my day?  After we got above the fog in the mountains I thought just how awful it would be to go through life without faith in Jesus Christ and the assurance of life after death.

Today we will take a look through Luke 7:1-9 and see how Jesus befriended a Roman Centurion. Now understand that Jesus wants to be our friend, but there is some qualifications to His friendship. James 4:4 reads, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” God wants to be our friend but He asks that we be a faithful friend to Him. Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” If we are going to be considered God’s friend we must first believe that He exists and that He truly wants to have a relationship with those who seek after Him.

We’re going to get to know a man who came to be Christ’s friend, and it’s a man who some might consider to be one of the most unlikely individuals to have this amazing faith, and that is the Roman Centurion. I want you to see certain characteristics of this man to better understand his incredible faith.

1. I want you to see that he was a powerful man. Luke 7:1-2

“When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.” A Centurion was not an ordinary man. He was a man who had to not only had the respect of his men, but also the fear of the conquered people. They commanded a regimen of somewhere near 100 men and were considered to be the backbone of the Roman army. One commentator called him, “A man amongst men.” A man with such power might be tempted to become drunk with power, but it is interesting to note that whenever a Centurion is mentioned in scripture he is always mentioned in a positive light. There was the Roman centurion at the cross who said, “Surely this man was the son of God.” There was the Roman Centurion Cornelius who Peter spoke to and he and his whole family became believers. And Finally this man mentioned here in Luke 7. This man was no loser, he wasn’t downtrodden, he wasn’t poor, he was a very powerful man.

2. This man was a compassionate man. Luke 7:3-5

“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." This was no ordinary Centurion. It was odd for a Centurion to even care less about the conquered people, but this man went above and beyond. He took care of the oppressed people and even went so far to build them a synagogue.

But even more amazing than his compassion for the oppressed people was his care and concern for his slave. In those days a slave had little dignity. In Roman Law, a slave was known simply as a living tool. He had no rights and his master could mistreat him and even kill him without repercussions. William Barclay quotes a Roman writer who wrote on estate management. He recommended that the farmer examine his implements every year and throw out those, which are old and broken. He then adds, “Do the same with your slaves.” But someone had defined compassion as your pain in my heart and this slave was precious to the Centurion, and he had compassion on him and wanted him healed. This man had a heart for people.

3. He was a humble man. Luke 7:6-8

“So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ’Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ’Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ’Do this,’ and he does it." Imagine a Roman officer telling a poor Jewish rabbi that he was unworthy to have Him enter his house! The Romans were not known for displaying humility, especially before their Jewish subjects. But true faith always starts with humility, humbling yourself before God. Even though this Centurion was a man of authority he realized that it was limited.

Now I am a man of some authority. In this church I can say, “Stand” and everybody in the church will stand up. I can say, “Let the service start on time” and sure enough it will. But it is limited authority. I can say, “Let there be no sleeping in church.” and somehow some people still do it. I can say, “Let there be no more Missouri jokes.” and they still keep coming. At home, I can say, “Let there be thick juicy strip steak and baked potatoes every night.” and it doesn’t happen. I have limited authority. This Centurion had limited authority, but Jesus has ultimate authority.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” When Jesus spoke, the demons came into immediate obedience. When He told the winds and seas to be still, even nature had to submit to His authority. Even the great enemy of death had no authority over our Lord, all of creation is under His submission. But the quality about this Centurion that I want you to see the most was…

4. He was a man of incredible faith. Luke 7:9

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." Only twice, in all of the New Testament, do we see Jesus being amazed by someone’s faith. The first is in Jesus’ hometown where He was amazed at their lack of faith the other place is here where He is amazed at the great amount of faith of the Centurion, and who could blame Him. Look at the amazing faith this guy had. This man had only heard of Jesus, and he believed in Christ so much that not only did He believe that Jesus could heal his servant, but also Jesus didn’t even have to be there. According to this Centurion, all Jesus had to do was merely say the word.

He simply believed. In the scriptures, we are called to have that child like faith where we simply believe because Jesus says so. Have you ever done that little game where you grab the kids nose and then showed them your thumb. I’ve done that and had kids get  so upset because they thought I actually had their nose. That’s child like faith.

You know a while back there was a 21 year old young man, and he sat in a church and he listened to a preacher say that the God of this universe loved him and would forgive him of all his past mistakes and you know what, that young man believed him, he actually believed him. I know that because that 21 year old was me. Now, there are a few lessons I want you to pick up on faith that I think we all need to know.

1. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

We believe even though we have never seen. Have you ever thought of all the incredible things we ask non-Christians to believe. We ask them to believe in a God who we have never seen. We ask them to believe that God is able to raise folks from the dead, even though we have never seen such a thing done before. But with that childlike faith we spoke of earlier, we believe, even though we have not seen. We are called to live by faith and not by sight.

There was a mother driving with her little boy in Pennsylvania when they came across a horse and buggy. “Mom what’s that?” “They’re Amish son, they don’t believe in cars.” The little boy said, “Mom, but can’t they see them.” Faith means believing even though you haven’t seen. James 2:23 reads, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend.” Now Abraham was not perfect. He lied on occasion about his wife’s identity, he got ahead of the will of God and had a child with his wife’s servant but he had amazing faith. When God told him he was going to have a child even though he and his wife were well beyond child-bearing years, his faith didn’t waver. Even though it might not have made sense, Abraham believed.

Max Lucado writes: “For that’s what faith is. Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see. Eyes see the prowling lion. Faith sees Daniel’s angel. Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow. Eyes see giants. Faith sees Canaan. Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior. Your eyes see your guilt. Your faith sees His blood. Your eyes see your grave. Your faith sees a city whose builder and maker is God. Your eyes look in the mirror and see a sinner, a failure, a promise-breaker. But by faith you look in the mirror and see a robed prodigal bearing the ring of grace on your finger and the kiss of your Father on your face.”

1 Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

So we believe even though we have not seen, but at the same time we do not have blind faith. Mark Twain once said, “Faith is believing in something you know ain’t so.” But that’s not true. God has given us ample evidence for our faith. He’s given us the empty tomb, the testimony of saints, and even creation itself testifies to our faith.

No one can say, “There’s not enough evidence to testify to God,“ if they say it it’s a lie. Elton Trueblood has said that “Faith is not belief with out proof, but trust with out reservations.” God has given us proof for our faith.

Romans 1:19-20 “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” The next lesson is that no matter the level of faith you have…

2. You must act on the faith you have.

This Centurion couldn’t prove everything , nor did he have all the answers, but what he did have and what he did know he acted on. Your faith will grow not from speculation but from using it, from action. When you drive at night, your headlights don’t shine all the way to your destination, they shine 50-75 ft ahead of you. Now you won’t get to your destination waiting for your headlights to illuminate the whole road all the way to where you want to go. But when you put your car in gear and go forward, your lights will continue to shine and get you to where you want to go. James 2:17 says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

3. Realize faith is a choice.

Once you gather the evidence, you must decide whether you will believe or not. You must make the choice. Many of you have seen the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” In that movie, Indiana Jones is a daring archeologist who is searching along with his father to find the Holy Grail. When the finally get close to the grail they are met by the bad guys of the film and the bad guys shoot the father. The only way for him to survive is for his son, Indiana, to get the grail. So Indiana Jones gets inside the cave to get the grail where he must face three challenges, and this is where the relevancy comes in, there’s a point behind this….the second challenge is that there is a great chasm he must cross, and the book he has tells him that all he has to do is just walk across it and there will walk on air. Now he knew that the book said that if he stepped out into the chasm, then he would walk across, but he couldn’t see a bridge or anything resembling it, so he had to make a choice, and he took a leap of faith, because he believed what the book said.

Now many of you right now are doubting God’s provisions, your doubting God’s will and you are having a rough time making up your mind. Yet when you examine the evidence, the choice to be made is yours and yours alone.

A While back in World magazine, interviewer Larry King was quoted as saying: “I can’t make that leap that a lot of people around me have made into belief that there’s some judge somewhere. I have a lot of respect for true people of faith…. I’ve done so many interviews on it. I’ve always searched. But as someone said, "Did you ever sit down and read the Bible cover to cover?" The answer’s no, because I don’t know who wrote it. I’m too in my head to be into faith. Faith is a wonderful thing. I envy people who have it. I just can’t make the leap.”

The reason Larry King says he envies people of faith is because life without faith is and unfulfilled life. My question to you is, will you make that leap this morning? Will you fully trust in Christ this morning? The choice is yours.

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