Sermon: The Faith of the Centurion

The Faith of the Centurion
Luke 7:1-10
RUMC 29 May 2016

As Allied forces swept across Germany, towards the end of World War II, American soldiers looked for enemy snipers as they went form one building to another in a concentration camp.  In one abandoned building, a squad of men with flashlights went down into a dark basement and saw something on the wall; it was the Star of David.  Underneath was the following message:

I believe in the sun-even when it is not shining.
I believe in love-even when I am alone.
I believe in God-even when he is silent.

My scripture text is Luke 7:1-10; this passage is about expectant faith.  It is the story of the Roman Centurion.

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
This is the Word of God.  Thanks be to God.

The main character in today’s scripture passage was a military man.  The Roman Centurion’s rank was equivalent to a modern day US Army captain.  A Centurion had 100 soldiers under his control.

In Bible days, the centurion was easily recognizable.  For one thing, he wasn’t young, but he was a middle aged man who wore a metal helmet with flaps down over his ears and with a purple plume on top.  With a metal breastplate fastened to his chest and a sword attached to his side, he certainly was an imposing figure.

But there was something different about this centurion that set him apart.  He was concerned about the Jewish people, to the point that he even built them a synagogue with his own money.

I think there is this stereotype among some, that all military persons are lean, mean fighting machines, but that is not necessarily the case.  When I was deployed to the country of Honduras, we had soldiers who volunteered on their own time to deliver food and medical supplies to a needy orphanage in Honduras.  We have all seen pictures of US service men and women who have cared for refugees, have rescued women and children from harm’s way, and performed all manner of acts of kindness.

It was the same thing with this Roman centurion.  He was greatly concerned that his servant was gravely ill and perhaps at death’s door.

When it comes to expectant faith, this next story hits home.  Pastor Jon Bisango of Houston, TX described a time, when his daughter Melodye Jan, age 5, came to him and asked if he could make her a doll house.  Pastor Jon promptly nodded and promised to build her one.  Then he went back to reading his book.

But Pastor Jon happened to glance out the window and saw his daughter with her arms filled with dishes, toys and dolls.  She made trip after trip after until there was a big pile of her play things in the middle of the yard.  Pastor Jon then asked his wife why his daughter had done this?  His wife replied, “Oh don’t you remember that you promised to build her a doll house and she believes you.  She’s just getting ready for it.”  Pastor Jon said “You would have thought I had been hit by an atom bomb.  I threw aside that book, raced to the lumber yard for supplies and quickly built that little girl a doll house.  Now why did I respond?  Was it because I wanted to?  No.  I did it because I had given her my word; she believed and acted upon it.  When I saw her faith, there was nothing that could keep me from carrying out my word.”

It is the same thing with expectant faith in God.”  The Roman centurion had expectant faith.  As a military man, he knew when you give commands, soldiers are expected to carry them out.  It was also natural for the centurion to apply that same type of logic in the spiritual realm to the healing of his servant.

Many times when we go to God in prayer, let’s be honest, we don’t really expect God answer.  It is sort of like going into a casino and pulling down the lever of a slot machine; we hope the numbers or pictures will line up.  When it comes to prayer, we hope and hope and hope.  And when it happens, we act surprised.

But for us to develop this expectant type of faith, the best thing is to put time into our relationship with the Lord.  Read his word and let faith grow.

Hebrews 11:1 says “Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God.”

Here are several more quotes that speak of faith:

  • Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death.
  • Faith makes things possible; it does not make them easy.
  • Faith is not believing God can, it is believing He will.
  • Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door.
  • Faith in God includes faith in His timing.
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” MLK Jr.

Missionaries Robert and Mary Moffat had that type of faith.  For ten years this couple had labored faithfully in the African country of Botswana, yet they had nothing to show for it.  The directors of their mission board began to question the wisdom of the Moffats continuing their mission work.  Some board members thought it best that the Moffat’s return home, but that only distressed the missionaries further, because they were convinced God would bring a harvest.  One day the Moffat’s received a letter from a friend in England who asked what type of gift they would like for their ministry.  With expectant faith, Mrs. Moffat sent back a reply.  She said, “Send us a communion set; I am sure it will soon be needed.”  God then honored Mrs. Moffat’s faith.  The Holy Spirit had moved upon the hearts of the villagers and soon a group of six converts were united to form a church.  The communion set arrived just one day before their first service.

Like I mentioned earlier, expectant faith not only believes in God, it believes he will.  The centurion believed that all he needed to do was speak the word, and his servant would be healed.  Melodye Jan believed her father would build the doll house, and he did.  Missionaries Robert and Mary Moffatt believed God would begin to save the souls of the people in Botswana, and He did.

Is there a situation in your life where you need an answer?  Let me encourage you to spend time with God and build up your faith.  Hebrews 11:1 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God.”  And with that expectant faith, believe God will answer your need.

One Reply to “Sermon: The Faith of the Centurion”

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