I know many would agree with this statement, 2020 has been quite the ride. I feel as if we have been put through the wringer. I know for me, struggles with isolation, anxiety, a little depression, and uncertainty have become a part of my daily routine. Each morning I think what bad event is going happen today? I know I am not the only one thinking about this. As this year seems to progress 3 steps forward, we seemingly take 3 steps back. We as a people appear to conquer the COVID crisis and then it creeps its way back into it our lives. Just when a sense of normalcy was beginning to come back, it was swiped away. Throughout these last 4 months, I set out on a journey of growing my faith.
Early on into quarantine, I made it a goal to read through the book of Matthew. During my reading, I came across the story of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. For some reason, I was enthralled by this man’s story. Here is this centurion, a man who is a complete outsider, pleading to Jesus for his servant to be healed. What drove me to this story was Jesus’ response to the pleading Centurion after he explains his authority. Jesus tells the Centurion that he has more faith than anyone in Israel (v.10). This is what drove me nuts. How does this outsider display such great faith, and what does this have to do with me?
The answer to this lies in the Centurion’s reaction to Jesus’ initial response to him. After Jesus tells the centurion that He will come and heal his servant, the centurion replies,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, 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.” (Matthew 8:8-10, ESV)
Do you see what the picture the centurion has painted here? He compares Jesus’ authority to his own military experience. If someone was to disobey the commands of a centurion, they would be guilty of disobeying the authority of the Emperor. Remember when you were younger, and your parents would leave an older sibling in charge when they left? If you disobeyed the older sibling, you would be guilty of disobeying your parents. If the authority of the centurion flows from the authority of the emperor, then what is the centurion confessing about Jesus’ authority? Jesus’ authority flows from God the Father. To disobey Jesus is to disobey God. The Father sent the Son, Jesus, to earth to be crucified, and resurrected. While in his earthly ministry Jesus is under the authority of the Father, it cannot be overlooked that Jesus is God. (I would love to go into the Trinitarian aspect of that, but that is a long tangent for another time.) Notice, the Centurion is trusting in the authority of Jesus, not the abilities of Jesus.
Now, what does Jesus have authority over? Jesus has the authority over the world (John 1), nature (Mark 4:35-41), illness (Matthew 8), the dead (John 11), the church (Matthew 28:18-20).
How does this apply to us? Simple, we need to have faith like the centurion. We need to place our faith in the authority of Jesus, not the abilities. How do we know if we are trusting in the authority of Jesus and not his abilities? Well, answer this question:
“If Jesus does not heal you or answer a prayer in the manner in which you want, does he cease being God?”
For example, “If Jesus does not heal me of my isolation, anxiety, depression, or rid the world of COVID, does he cease being God?
If the answer to the question is yes, then chances are we may be trusting only in the abilities of Jesus. To only trust in the ability of God, essentially means we view God as our butler. When the going gets rough, we ask God to get us out of it. When following Jesus, we must understand that things may not go the way we want. Jesus can heal me because of his authority, but he does not have an obligation to heal me.
When this comes to the hectic times of today, we know that Jesus is in control. Despite the world’s circumstances, we know that He is in control (Psalm 23, Hebrews 2). We are still to pray and ask the Lord that he will fix the world, but we should not do it with a view of Jesus as a butler. Instead, we pray to Jesus because He is God. He possesses the authority to fix the world, but that does not mean Jesus will fix the world in the way we expect. The world may not turn out how we picture it, but we do know that he is going to make things new in the end (Revelation 21:1-8).
If Jesus does not fix the world today, our faith can still be strengthened. Paul prayed 3 times to have a thorn removed from his side (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). We have no idea what the thorn is, but what we do know is that it hindered him. Even though God could have removed the thorn, he did not. Despite this, Paul was able to continue to have faith in the Lord because his “grace was sufficient for him” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul was still able to grow in the faith, and he was able to continue the mission because He knew Jesus as Lord. Let us have faith in Jesus because he is God and continue the work, he has for us.