Faith is a person's way of leaning into and making sense of life. More verb than noun, faith is the dynamic system of images, values and commitments that guide's life. It is thus universal: everyone who chooses to go on living operates by some basic faith. Every life is progressively centered about some fundamental set of meanings and values, and identifies the developmental stages that characterize the basic faith we live by, the reasons we find worth living.
“How can I get faith?” is a question that I am frequently asked. For an answer let's look at a man who had faith and see how he got it. This man had such a wonderful faith that even Jesus marveled at it. The Lord said, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” The man was a centurion, a soldier. His parents were heathen so probably he had no childhood training in the faith. His faith was one he acquired in later life. As you read the account of this man in Luke 7:1-10, you will find four ways he attained his faith.
1. He found something definite in which to believe. In his case it was a man by the name of Jesus. Rumors of the preacher from the little town of Nazareth had come to him. He might have dismissed those rumors as did some others by saying, “There is nothing to that man. He is just creating a little emotional excitement and soon he will be forgotten.”
Instead, he studied the man. He listened to what others said about Jesus, he observed the change in people's lives which was wrought by Jesus. He doubtless went to hear Him preach, he watched His miracles, he observed His way of living. On the basis of the evidence, he decided that Jesus was beyond the ordinary, that Jesus was more than a mere man. Thus, when he had a need in his own household, because Jesus had wrought wonders in others, it was not hard for the centurion to believe Jesus could do the same for him.
We can take this step by reading the Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Take Mark first. It does not take long to read those sixteen short chapters. Read it just as you would any other story. Don't worry about the meaning of every verse-just read the story, see what He did, what He said, how He lived. First think of Him as a man who once lived. Before you can believe in Christ the Son of God, you must get acquainted with Jesus the Man of Galilee. As you learn about Him, it comes easily and naturally to have faith in Him.
2. Another thing the centurion did was to support the church. The account says he built a church. Now I know the church is not all that it ought to be. There are many hypocrites in the church; ministers very often preach dull sermons; the church does not do what it can and should.
I have noticed this, however: people who recognize the faults of the church but who, instead of criticizing and turning their backs on it, get in and with their prayers, attendance, gifts and service seek to make the church what it ought to be, find that does a lot for them. Faith is like a boomerang: begin using what you have and it comes back to you in greater measure. I have never met one person of genuine faith who was not active in some church.
3. This centurion attained faith because of his humility. He said to Christ, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.” Pride and a haughty spirit always kills faith. A conceited person never really finds God because he feels no need for God. As long as we are sufficient unto ourselves, God cannot come into our lives. I frequently say one can pray anywhere, anytime-walking down the street, washing the dishes or doing anything. But I can pray nowhere effectively as on my knees. The very act of kneeling is an expression of humility. The position of the body has an influence on the soul.
4. Finally, this centurion was led to faith by having faith in his fellow men. Being a member of another race, wearing the uniform of the despised Roman army, it was natural for the Jews to hate him. Instead, they loved him and sought to help him. I am sure their attitude was first brought about by his attitude toward them. Though he was hated, He refused to hate back. He saw something good in them and they in turn saw good in him. People are made in the image of God and as we practice believing in God's images, it becomes easier to believe in God. These are four steps of faith that will lead to faith any person who honestly takes them.
Proverbs 20: 6-7: “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”
II Timothy 2:2; “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
II Timothy 2:13; “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”
Hebrews 10:23; “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).”
Dear Lord, help us to be faithful, even during the most difficult times. Give us the peace of knowing you work all things for our good, always. Amen.