Sunday, March 6, 2016

Day 18: Matthew 8:1-17 & Psalm 18 - How Does Faith Bring Real Understanding?

Today's Reading: Matthew 8:1-17; Psalm 18

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How Does Faith Bring Real Understanding?

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man 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.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. - Matthew 8:8-10, ESV

God's ways are so much different from our own. We think that hard work, determination, genius and perhaps a bit of lucky insight are the keys to gaining understanding. In thinking this way, we credit our own natural ability, effort and even something as meaningless as "luck," rather than humble ourselves to see things as they really are. In the episode of the healing of the centurion's servant, God challenges our preconceived notions with his wonderful truth: faith flowers in humility and bears the fruit of understanding.

No one in all of the gospels shows more true understanding of the true nature and power of Jesus than this pagan Roman centurion. He alone in this scene seems to really understand how things work. He understand what great authority Jesus really has and how it can be exercised as He determines. Some might credit his military career for granting him the experience necessary to have this understanding. After all, don't we always say that experience in the best teacher? But Jesus sees clearly that it is not his experience which is so impressive but his faith.

The faith the centurion has shows itself first in his humility. Much as the flower precedes the fruit on a tree, so too humility is the flower of faith and understanding the mature fruit of faith exercised. So, if we want real understanding, real insight into the true nature of the world, we must trust the Lord and humble ourselves. May the Lord give us the grace of faith and humility, leading to true understanding.

A prayer based on Psalm 18:

One of the greatest hymns in the history of the church, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," is based on Psalm 18:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies. - Psalm 18:1-3

Heavenly Father, it is so wonderful to have You as my Fortress and my Deliverer, my God, my Rock, my Refuge, my Shield, the Horn of my Salvation and my Stronghold. I have no doubt that I live in a "world with devils filled" and I need protection. Only You are strong enough to protect me. Only You are powerful enough to save me. And You love me and surround me and deliver me from all of my enemies. I praise You!

Give me the grace to call upon You in my moments of need and in my moments of seeming safety. Let me never grow complacent but always seek You, my Redeemer.

Father, surround Your people with Your power and bless Your people with Your mighty peace. In Jesus' powerful name, Amen!

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