Faith to Pray: Matthew 8:5-13


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Following Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, we discover that He traveled back to Capernaum. On arriving there, Jesus is met by someone who seems to have a normal sounding request, but who Jesus is impressed by His response, and how this response demonstrates an unusual level of faith.

Let’s read what happened and discuss some things we can learn from this event. Our passage and event are found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will read from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 5, Matthew tells us that:

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Roman officer met him and begged for help: “Sir, my servant is sick in bed at home, unable to move and suffering terribly.”

“I will go and make him well,” Jesus said.

“Oh no, sir,” answered the officer. “I do not deserve to have you come into my house. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and I order that one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and I order my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this. 11 I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven. 12 But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the officer, “Go home, and what you believe will be done for you.”

And the officer’s servant was healed that very moment.

In this short event, I find it amazing that Jesus is surprised by this Roman officer’s faith. This officer did not need to actually see a miracle to believe one was going to happen. All this man needed was the promise and the assurance of Jesus to know that the servant would be made well. This is a powerful statement of faith.

While it might be easy to jump onto the idea that the Roman officer simply didn’t want Jesus to come to his home, I don’t think this would have been an issue if the Roman officer believed Jesus needed to be present to work a miracle. Instead, from looking at this man’s faith, I believe he wanted to hear the command from Jesus and to not take up any significant portion of Jesus’ time actually traveling to his home.

However, another fascinating thing in my mind is what Jesus tells those following Him before answering this Roman officer’s request. Verses 10-12 record Jesus telling those following Him: “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this. I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven. But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.

In this short statement, Jesus says that many will come from east and west and will be included in God’s kingdom, however those who should be in the Kingdom will instead be thrown out. This short statement is a promise for you and me, and it is a warning as well. In Jesus’ words, I see myself as being included in those who come from the east and west because I am not Jewish, and because I live on the other side of the world compared to where Jesus spoke these words. I believe that I have been invited and adopted into God’s family through what I have read and learned about Jesus and even though I am not an original family member in God’s family, being adopted into His family is just as significant.

I also believe that if you aren’t a part of God’s family, you have been given an invitation to be adopted into His family as well!

However, Jesus shares a warning in this statement as well. In this warning, Jesus challenges those who should be in the kingdom that they will be thrown out. Part of me wonders if this is because they rejected Jesus while trying to uphold their tradition and their picture of God. By trying to hold onto their view of God, they missed out seeing the Messiah God had sent to them.

In this warning, I see a warning for everyone who believes themselves to be a part of God’s family. This is a warning to stay connected to God and open to what He is doing in the world around us. I believe even those who are adopted into His family can be thrown out if we try to hold onto a false picture of God.

However, in this event, I see a challenge for both those who are part of God’s family, and for those who are adopted in. We can call this challenge “The Roman Officer’s Challenge”. This Roman officer displays a faith that we are called to have. This faith says that we will trust God and claim His promises for us without having to directly see His moving in our lives or in the details of our specific request. This means that when we pray, we trust that God will answer our prayers the instant we pray them, and that His answers will appear at the best moment in history for them to appear. Often, the time when we pray and the best time for God to work in a situation are two different times.

I won’t even begin to claim I know the best times for our prayers requests to be answered, but I do know that I don’t have to know this in order to have powerful, effective, and trusting prayers. Instead, in this event, Jesus challenges His followers to have faith like this Roman officer and to believe our prayers have been answered because God loves us, because He listens to us, and because He knows the best way to answer our requests.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, be sure to intentionally seek God first and to place Him first in your life. When you pray, intentionally pray with trust that even if you never see the answer to your prayer in this life, know that God has answered your prayer in the best way possible from eternity’s perspective.

Also, intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God. A personal relationship can only be grown best from spending time with each other and spending time with God in prayer and Bible study is the best way to grow a solid foundation for a life with God.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 14: When Jesus arrives back into Capernaum, discover how a seemingly normal request for help turns into an amazing example of faith that Jesus challenges His followers to model. This type of faith should be at the heart of all our prayers to God!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

The Contents of Your Heart: Matthew 12:22-37

Focus Passage: Matthew 12:22-37 (CEV)

22 Some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon in him. Jesus healed the man, and then he was able to talk and see. 23 The crowds were so amazed that they asked, “Could Jesus be the Son of David?”

24 When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”

25 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said to them:

Any kingdom where people fight each other will end up ruined. And a town or family that fights will soon destroy itself. 26 So if Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? 27 If I use the power of Beelzebul to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? Your followers are the ones who will judge you. 28 But when I force out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, it proves that God’s kingdom has already come to you. 29 How can anyone break into a strong man’s house and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.

30 If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don’t gather in the harvest with me, you scatter it. 31-32 I tell you that any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.

33 A good tree produces only good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. 34 You are a bunch of evil snakes, so how can you say anything good? Your words show what is in your hearts. 35 Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. 36 I promise you that on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. 37 On that day they will be told that they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said.

Read Matthew 12:22-37 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

I am not sure what it is, but often when I read passages from the gospels, and specifically passages that share what Jesus taught, any sections of the passage that relate to faith, trust, belief, and obedience will stand out in my mind. Perhaps this is because I am looking for examples of each, or maybe these areas stand out because there are plenty of examples.

However, after reading this passage, I get to add another topic to this list: speech, specifically focusing on the words we say. As Jesus is wrapping up this discussion, He shares some profound ideas. One of these ideas is this: “Your words show what is in your hearts.” (v. 34b)

Oftentimes, we will compare talk with action and say things like, “Talk is cheap.” When comparing what we do verses what we say, what we do will often carry more weight than our words alone.

But in this passage, Jesus draws our attention to the importance and significance of our words. He continues by saying, “Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. I promise you that on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. On that day they will be told that they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said.” (v. 35-37)

It seems as though Jesus is elevating what we say into being a salvation issue. If on the day we are all judged, we will be called to answer for every careless word we have said, there are some of us who will have a lot to answer for (myself included). Jesus even tells us that our words will determine our innocence or our guilt. That is a pretty heavy statement.

But perhaps, this statement is one more reason we should accept Jesus into our lives. If we bring Jesus/God into our hearts, then Jesus’ statement tells us that others will be able to see it through our words: “Your words show what is in your hearts.” (v. 34b)

This is a statement that is as positive as it is negative. Our words can show us as being selfless or selfish; our words can point people to our value as children of God, or they can point people to a past ruled by survival of the fittest; our words can help lift each other up, or they can tear others down.

Jesus came to help lift us up by showing us God’s opinion of us. If God loves you so much to send Jesus to redeem you, why put anything but thankfulness and gratitude in your heart for Him!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Starting Where We Are: Matthew 4:12-17

Focus Passage: Matthew 4:12-17 (NIrV)

12 John had been put in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee. 13 Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in the city of Capernaum. It was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 In that way, what the prophet Isaiah had said came true. He had said,

15 “Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
    Galilee, where Gentiles live!
    Land along the Mediterranean Sea! Territory east of the Jordan River!
16 The people who are now living in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They are now living in a very dark land.
    But a light has shined on them.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach. “Turn away from your sins!” he said. “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Read Matthew 4:12-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading this passage, I am amazed at what Jesus does when He starts His ministry. Not only does He move to what seems like it would be the most secular part of Israel, but He also has a very specific message that He chooses to share.

As our passage closes, we read how Jesus began His ministry, “From that time on Jesus began to preach. ‘Turn away from your sins!’ he said. ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (v. 17)

Not only does this message echo the preaching of John the Baptist, it actually picks up exactly where John left off. Our passage opens by saying, “John had been put in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee.” (v. 12)

In many ways, we could immediately jump from verse 12 and skip down to verse 17. Verses 13-16 contain additional information that is interesting, but doesn’t really advance the narrative significantly.

But in the opening and closing verses of our passage, we see an interesting side of Jesus: Jesus picks up exactly where John’s ministry and message left off. In this way, I believe Jesus is subtly saying that John’s ministry was leading up into His ministry, and that His ministry is a continuation of what John was preaching.

Why is this information important for us today?

This helps emphasize the idea that Jesus is willing to start from where we are currently in our lives, and from wherever that point is, lead us from it to God. Jesus starts at the place where John the Baptist’s ministry ended so that those who were following John could transition their interest and focus onto Him.

Jesus wants to meet us where we are right now, because it is the perfect place for Him to begin His work in our lives.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — The Only Gift of Value: Mark 12:41-44


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After being challenged by the religious leaders, asking His own question to stump them, and challenging both the leaders and the crowd listening in about what they should pay attention to and focus on, it appears that before Jesus left the temple that day, He decided to take a strategic break to teach the disciples an object lesson.

Both Mark and Luke include this short event, and when we look at what happened and compare it with what Jesus taught, we discover some amazing principles. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will read it from the New Century Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 41, Mark tells us that:

41 Jesus sat near the Temple money box and watched the people put in their money. Many rich people gave large sums of money. 42 Then a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which were only worth a few cents.

43 Calling his followers to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow gave more than all those rich people. 44 They gave only what they did not need. This woman is very poor, but she gave all she had; she gave all she had to live on.”

In these four short verses, Jesus attempts to shifts the disciples’ focus. When reading about this shift, I first wonder how affected the disciples were at this. Some of the disciples probably remembered this teaching later and realized it to be profound, while others, probably most notably Judas Iscariot, probably discounted it based on a greedy spirit. Looking at the time frame of events, we know that Mary had already poured the perfume on Jesus at this point, and Judas had challenged the extraordinary nature of this gift. John describes Judas Iscariot as not being truly interested in the poor, but being greedy and generous towards himself with the bag of money he was entrusted to keep.

This short object lesson is powerful when we look closely at it. When we look at what this teaches about giving and generosity, I don’t believe for a moment that God is challenging His followers to give away all their money. If that were the focus of this lesson, Jesus would have told the disciples that they should give like this poor widow.

However, no such command is given.

Instead, this teaching focuses on God’s perspective regarding giving, and it shows us several interesting angles regarding giving from God’s perspective.

First, Jesus describes the widow’s gift as giving all she had to live on, in contrast to the others who “gave only what they did not need”. This first angle teaches us that when giving to God, we should give to God first. Some people describe this as returning God’s tithes as His portion of what He has blessed us with. The term tithe simply means “tenth”, and this is where we get the meaning that a tithe is ten percent of our income, but when we look at this passage, nothing here is described as tithe or offering.

Instead, this widow gave everything she had to God because she trusted that He would supply her with everything she needed. This widow’s gift demonstrates a complete dependence on God and 100% trust in Him.

Mixed within this first angle of giving, we see the widow giving her heart to God with her money and her trust. Including her heart with her gift made the widow’s gift infinitely more valuable than other givers who simply gave money from their excess, which also means that their gifts would not include their hearts. A gift that includes the giver’s heart is always more valuable than a gift without a heart included.

Another angle of giving we can see described here is a percentage based giving. It’s possible that God looks more at what percentage we give of our income or our net worth when He calculates the value of our gift. Jesus describes this widow as giving everything she had, which would be like saying she gave 100%, and this contrasts a much lower percentage in those who gave only what they did not need.

This second angle is perhaps the more popular one, however I don’t think it fits the way God values giving as well as the first angle we focused on.

A third angle of giving flips the second angle around. Instead of focusing on percentages of what is given, the third angle focuses on what we keep in contrast to what we gave. We can see this perspective in Jesus’ framing of the first group of givers. These people give what they don’t need, which means that they keep what they needed to live on first. These givers focus on what they will keep first, and then give from the rest.

To contrast this, the widow doesn’t focus on what she will keep and instead gives everything. She is commended on giving more because she has nothing left after she gave which clearly contrasts the other people who have more than enough to live on after they have finished giving.

From both the second and third angle, we discover that the widow probably would have given more than everyone else even if she had only given one coin. It’s unlikely the other givers were giving more than 50% of their earnings or wealth, and they clearly had more left over after their giving than a single copper coin.

However, if the widow had only given one copper coin, it’s likely she would have failed the first angle of giving. If the widow had kept one coin back, it’s likely that her gift would not have included her heart, and without her heart included, her gift wouldn’t have been as valuable.

From looking at these few short verses and the object lesson Jesus pulls from them, we discover the amazing truth that God doesn’t value the number of coins we give. Instead, God values the percentage of our gift, God values gifts where the giving is enough to affect our lives because we gave first and enough for our hearts to take notice, and God values gifts that are large enough that they include our hearts with them. Giving that includes our hearts makes our gifts valuable in God’s eyes!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always place God first and when giving gifts to Him, be sure to give in a way that includes your heart.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. While a pastor, podcaster, or speaker can give you ideas to think about, only through personal prayer and Bible study can you grow a personal relationship – and when giving is involved, only through personal giving can you grow the spirit of generosity that will include your heart.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or wander away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 14: While sitting in the temple watching people give their gifts, Jesus sees something that amazes Him, and He teaches the disciples how a small gift might actual be bigger than a large one.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.