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"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." - Mark 10:27 (ESV)
We live in a world that seems to have an unquenchable desire for power and status. If you begin to name the idols of our day, there is no doubt that power would be at the top of the list. The idol of power, when held closely in human hands, always causes division. Look at our country today, so divided from aligning ourselves with one particular power or another. With presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, never before has our country been so divided. Even in church, we see people aligning themselves under one pastor - making an idol of him. They leave early on the Sunday he isn’t teaching, convinced no one is as good as him. Parents divorce, children align with one or the other. Human power divides. It breaks down and often times leaves you with less instead of more. But, on the other hand, God’s power unites and multiples. The power of the gospel unites Gentile and Jew, conservative and liberal, male and female, Baptist and Methodist - because, at the foot of the cross, we are all sinners in need of saving. And as we respond to His gift of life, His power is multiplied through us, touching and changing others in His name. This week we are taking a look at a guy in the Bible who didn’t seek human power, but God’s power--and not to help himself, but to help a friend. We will see his example as a way to align ourselves with our sovereign God, whose power always brings unity and healing.
- Read Matthew 8:5-13 in preparation for this week. Pray and ask the Lord today what it looks like to align yourself under God’s power versus human power.
"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “My servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” - Matthew 8:5-7 (ESV)
It’s not just today’s culture that thrives on power and status. For centuries, man’s lust for power has driven our decisions and behaviors. The city of Rome was built out of a hunger for power and a longing for ultimate worldly status. Romans prided themselves on conquering lands and pillaging villages. And Roman Centurions led the charge. Each centurion was in charge of an army of 200+ men. These guys were seriously powerful dudes. Most were promoted to the role after incredible acts of valor or displays of power and fearlessness in battle. To be a centurion was to be feared and respected. Unlike other war leaders, centurions were known for leading their armies from the front, as they would lead their men by example. They constantly sought to display the skills and courage that got them their position in the first place and had a reputation for dealing out harsh punishments when their soldiers didn’t follow suit. These guys were the epitome of power in their day, DIY Macgyver kind of guys, not the kind of men you’d find asking anyone for help. But in Matthew 8, we find a Roman centurion in the path of Jesus doing just that - asking Him for help. He could have called on the help of Caesar or his fellow Centurion warriors, but he doesn’t. Instead, in an act of true courage and leadership, he humbles himself at the feet of the only one who has true power, Jesus Christ.
"The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it...Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment." - Matthew 8:8-9,13 (ESV)
Just like we learned yesterday, this centurion understood power. He was in charge of many men, and he knew what a simple command from his lips could do. One word and hundreds of men would obey, killing and conquering at his simple request. But what this particular centurion also understood was the power of Jesus. While he could command armies, the centurion had heard tell of a man who could command demons, disease, and disasters. Even death itself was obedient to this man called Christ. All of the seemingly uncontrollable things of the world were easily tamed and transformed by a simple touch or command from the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth. The centurion was a powerful man, but he knew where his power ended. As a soldier, he knew when to get in line and salute his commanding officer. And in a display of faith, unlike most others in the Bible, the centurion doesn’t even ask Jesus to come with him to heal his servant. He knows the power of a command and places his faith in Jesus’ words alone. “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” And he was healed, at that very moment.
"When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Matthew 8:10-12 (ESV)
In Rome, a centurion would have been able to get pretty much whatever he wanted. Centurions had high social status and held powerful positions. The Israelites felt the same way about their status with God. They believed that just by being descendants of Abraham, they were God’s favorites, socialites in His kingdom. But in Matthew 8, Jesus dashes both the cultural and religious ideas of power and status. In the kingdom of God, it isn’t social status or your bloodline that matters--it’s faith. Ultimately, the (Gentile) centurion gets to participate in the power of God, not because of his status, but because of his faith. And the same is true for you and me. God is inviting us to take part in the powerful things that He is doing, not by taking His power for ourselves but by having faith in Him and obeying His call. When a general directs his army and they win the battle, the victory does not just belong to the general, but the entire army. As we have faith in our leader Jesus and obey His call, His fight becomes our fight, and His victories our victories. And as a soldier in the army of God, we have a leader who (like a centurion) is at the front of the battle line leading us by example. We are able to follow the call of Christ, simply because He goes first.
- Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Where can you stop striving and allow the Lord to fight for you today? Life is hard, but God promises to go before you.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)
This past weekend we celebrated Charlie Easterly, one of the most kind and humble men I know. He has spent over 25 years of his life quietly building our Helping Through Him ministry here at Southland. He is a beautiful example of God’s power in action. Recently at our staff retreat, we put Charlie in the hot-seat and allowed staff to talk about all of the ways he had influenced our lives. Many thanked Charlie for his steady friendship and constant willingness to help them out in any situation. Some thanked him for beds he’d given so family members would have warm places to lay their heads. On and on it went, story after story, and not a dry eye in the place. Charlie lives a faithful and obedient life, and through his obedience, the love and power of God has touched thousands of people. You won’t see Charlie’s name in the headlines or etched in gold letters outside a corner office in a skyscraper. His goal is not power and fame on this earth, but I guarantee you, all of Heaven knows Charlie’s name, as the faithful man who has partnered with the Lord for more than 25 years. Is doesn’t have to be a grand demonstration of power to be effective for God’s kingdom. Simple love by sharing a meal, painting a house, or giving hope to another person by meeting a need: these things are what contain the real power of God.
- By His power, what is God stirring in you? What would it look like for you to be obedient and say yes? Take the first step today. Who knows what could happen in the next 25 years!
- Helping Through Him just celebrated its 25th anniversary. If you missed it this weekend, check out this video of Charlie talking about all that God has done.