“When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me” (Matthew 8:5-9).
The scripture goes on to describe how Jesus marveled at the great faith of this man. In fact, he told the man that he had never seen such great faith, such great conviction, persuasion and confidence. Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you” (8:13). The man’s servant was healed in the same hour!
In the Old Testament, we see Elijah, a man of great faith and Christ-like compassion. There had been a drought in Israel for a very long time, and Elijah began to cry out to the Lord to send rain upon the land. He was so confident God would send rain that he proclaimed, “There is the sound of abundance of rain” (18:41). Then Elijah told his servant, “‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up, looked and said, ‘There is nothing.’ Seven times, Elijah said, ‘Go again’ (18:43). All the while, Elijah contended in prayer until “there was a heavy rain” (18:45).
We go through seasons of drought, times when God says, “Go again; pray again; stand again; release again; love again; trust again; surrender again; worship again; praise him again!” True faith celebrates the rain drops before the abundance of rain comes.
Jesus marveled in wonder and joy at the faith of the centurion at Capernaum. God rewarded Elijah’s faith and patience with a mighty downpour. So do not give up on God’s promises to you. Ask God for strength to “go again” and again and again until your answer comes.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
One of the supreme marks of a mature believer is love for all of lost humankind. Such a Christian shows love equally for Jews and Palestinians, for Bosnians and Serbs, for everyone.
Only a full-grown, mature believer can accept these words of Jesus: "Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you and spitefully use you. If your enemy is hungry, feed him." I ask you: can you imagine spending a month in a Palestinian field hospital, nursing and feeding soldiers who want to destroy Israel? Can you keep your prejudices in check as you read inflammatory news reports in the coming days? Will you have the same spirit that was in Christ, who said as he was crucified, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"?
If you want to walk as Jesus walked, you can't allow your human passions to be inflamed by headlines. Christ died for every lost soul on this earth! Right now, our jails are filled with convicts who have become powerful witnesses of the saving love of Jesus, all because somebody loved them in spite of their sins.
Are you loving others in spite of how they may have hurt you, someone you care about or simply because they might be different than you? There are few things that make you more like Christ than when you sacrificially love someone, especially someone not in your circle or easy to naturally be around.
You can know you're growing in grace if you're able to pray for those whom the world hates. As we hear of terrible things happening, we're to stand against every prejudice that rises up in us, and declare, "I take Christ's authority over this. I will love humankind as my Lord did."
When the economy collapses, jobs are lost and bills are piling up, what will people need? To be a part of a nice, fast-growing church, hearing messages on how to enjoy life? No, they’ll need answers. They’ll need someone with authority who can interpret what’s happening around them, someone who can read the times. And they’ll need a word from heaven to keep their hearts and minds in God’s peace.
Jesus, though God in flesh, faced the devil as a Spirit-empowered man. He didn’t fight Satan on any other grounds. Jesus’ disciples had this same power: “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matthew 10:1). “I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).
The apostle Peter was made of flesh and blood, just like the rest of us, yet he wielded spiritual authority over the devil. He said to the lame man at the temple gate, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). The man was instantly healed and the religious leaders of the day recognized great power in Peter. They asked him, “By what power or by what name have you done this? (4:7).
Nowhere in the Bible do we see any suggestion that this same power isn’t meant for us today. What kind of God would empower his people in the wilderness when they needed it and embolden the crowds at Pentecost and then withhold it from his last-days church, when we need it more than any generation?
God entrusts his divine authority only to what Peter calls the “hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle spirit and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). Paul says, “The inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Although the outward man is always on display before others, the hidden man is known only by God. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in him, strengthening and preparing him to receive spiritual authority.
Beloved, you are being trained and matured in God’s mercy and you’re learning to grow in your hidden man. Trust in his Word in every crisis — and walk in your spiritual authority.
Right now, many of God’s people are suffering — physical pain, emotional turmoil — and they may be questioning the reason for their distress. If you are one of these, you may feel tired and frustrated, wondering if God is mad at you for some reason. You ask, “Lord, you know I love you and my faith is strong. But I don’t know how much longer I can endure this trial.”
The apostle Paul’s life is an example of how we’re to deal with our afflictions: “For this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:16).
Trials and sufferings are appointed to devoted servants who receive revelations from the very heart of God. Paul testifies, “Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me” (2 Corinthians 12:7). If you’ve set your heart wholly on Christ, you’re going to experience hard times and afflictions that cold, carnal Christians know nothing about. This was true of Paul’s life.
When Paul was converted, he wasn’t satisfied to learn Christ even from Jesus’ disciples. He wanted to know the Lord intimately for himself. Therefore, Paul said, “I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Instead, he shut himself off in Arabia for three years (see 1:16-18). The apostle testified, “I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:12).
Thank God for Bible teachers who open up the scriptures and reveal many wonders and mysteries of the faith. But the fact is, the revelation of Jesus Christ himself cannot be taught, it must be given by the Holy Spirit. And it comes to those who, like Paul, shut themselves up in their own Arabia, determined to know Christ.
It is all right to question God regarding your pain but don’t expect an answer. Once you’re in heaven, the Lord will explain all to you and you’ll see that everything was part of a perfect plan — orchestrated by a loving Father who knew what it would take to keep you on your face, moving toward him. And the wonderful news is that it will be more than worth every tear.
Sitting alone in a cave, the saintly prophet Elijah had completely given up on society. Now elderly, secluded and dejected, the prophet had begged God to strike him dead because he was convinced that essentially “this nation is too far gone. The church is backslidden beyond repair and every leader is a puppet of the devil. Revival is simply impossible and there’s no hope left. I’ve had it, Lord!” (see 1 Kings 19:4).
Curiously, he fell into a despairing state just hours after winning the greatest victory of his lifelong ministry: calling down supernatural fire from heaven in a contest against the false prophets of the pagan god Baal. In an awesome display of God’s almighty power, Elijah’s sacrifice and the twelve barrelsful of water he had poured around it were consumed. And the backslidden Israelites who were present all fell to their knees, crying, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39).
The awakening Elijah had prayed for had finally come — or so he thought — and he was energized to celebrate the greatest moment in Israel’s history. He was convinced that wicked King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel would listen to him and pure worship would be restored in the city of Jezreel. Instead, before he even got back to the city, he was accosted by a messenger from Jezebel notifying him that he would surely be dead “by tomorrow about this time” (19:2).
Within twenty-four hours of his incredible victory on Mount Carmel, Elijah was back in the wilderness, trembling under a juniper tree. In his mind, everything had backfired and all his hopes for renewal had vanished. Now, forty days later, we find him in a mountain cave, all alone. Then the Bible tells us, “The word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (19:9). That was God’s way of asking, “What’s bothering you?”
Elijah unburdened his heart to the Lord, complaining that he felt completely alone (19:14). God assured him that there were seven thousand hidden saints who shared his same burden. They had endured because of their hope in a coming day of deliverance.
Likewise today, the church’s blessed hope is the soon return of Jesus — our deliverance! God has a remnant, people set aside for himself, who are wholly given to him. If you are a part of that remnant, your blessed hope is the soon return of Jesus!