A certain Roman centurion, stationed in Capernaum had a servant who was very ill and, hearing of Jesus, he asked the local Jewish elders to plead with Jesus on his behalf to heal his servant (cf. Luke 7:1-5). As this particular centurion had been a good friend to the local Jews, even going so far as to help finance the building of the local synagogue, the elders agreed. But while Jesus was on His way to the man’s house, he sent further word, saying, “’Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set 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. (Luke 7:6-8; ESV)”
Here was the faith that Jesus was looking for in men!
It was a faith which recognized His power, His authority, and the nature of that authority. It was a faith that sought out Jesus. It was a humble faith. It was a faith which believed that Jesus could accomplish that which had been requested. And Jesus, seeing this faith, commented, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith (Luke 7:9b; ESV).”
Jesus, because of that faith healed the centurion’s servant.
Upon another occasion, Jesus was approached by a father with a demon-possessed son. The evil spirit would cast the boy into the fire, or into water, besides the other things it did to him, and the father was naturally distraught over the condition of his boy. To make matters worse, he had already approached the apostles of Jesus, but they had been unable to provide the healing necessary (cf. Mark 9:14-22).
In his anguish, the father pleaded with Christ, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus could not help but notice the uncertainty in that plea: “If you can…”
“If you can!?,” said Jesus in reply, “All things are possible to the one who believes (Mark 9:23).”
The faith of the father was lacking and both men knew it. With despair, the boy’s father replied, “I believe. Help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)”
Rather than offer further rebuke, Jesus healed the man’s son. Though his faith was not the full faith that Jesus was seeking, it was sufficient to come to Him for help, and humble enough to recognize its own weakness.
Two different levels of faith, but the same response from Jesus. There is encouragement here for each of us, for there are times when our own faith is not what it should be, and we, like the despairing father must plead with Christ, “help my unbelief!”
Writing to the Thessalonian church, the inspired apostle commended them saying, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:3).”
The faith of the Thessalonian Christians was growing, which meant that it was more than it had been before. If faith can grow, and it can, then each individual is going to have different levels of faith for we will each be at different stages of the growth cycle. It is to be hoped that the faith of the mature saint is greater and better than the faith of the newborn in Christ, and this difference in faith is not only acceptable, but expected.
Jesus knows that different men are going to have different amounts of faith, but so long as that faith is great enough to compel us to go to Him for salvation and aid, and humble enough to obey what He tells us to do, Jesus is going to respond to us by giving us that which we need. We can know this, because this was how Jesus behaved while on earth, and Jesus, being unchanging and eternal, will be as merciful and patient with us as He was with an anguished father who was seeking help for his son.
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Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.