I tell you I have not found such great faith even in Israel. — Luke 7:9
A young and burned-out preacher named John Wesley asked his mentor Peter Bohler in 1738, “How can you preach to others if you don’t have faith yourself? Should I stop preaching?”
Bohler replied, “By no means.” “But what can I preach?” Wesley asked.
Bohler answered, “Preach faith until you have it and, then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” Wesley’s conversation with Bohler was spiritually transformative. It increased Wesley’s faith and he went on to co-found the United Methodist Church.
God gives everybody some degree of faith and even a small mustard seed (Luke 13:19) of faith is transformational when properly planted and watered. Some people instinctively know at birth that the faith seed is there and its worth but others remain unaware of its importance and existence and they have to be made to learn its value, as Wesley did.
In Luke 7:1-10, Jesus said of a Roman centurion, “I tell you I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” (Luke 7:9b) Why? Because the centurion asked for a healing miracle for a sick servant and believed Christ could speak and the servant would be healed.
This story is also told in Matthew 8:5 but from the outset we see a difference in that in this version the centurion comes to Christ. In Luke’s version, he sends Jewish elders to Christ. Luke’s version tells us he is a Gentile who felt unworthy to go to Christ and he was a friend to the Jewish nation who had built a new synagogue in Capernaum.
The story tells us the centurion was held in high esteem by the elders. It is apparent he went through a transformative process and had grown perhaps through reading the scriptures and the knowledge he acquired undoubtedly had caused his faith to increase and helped him know who Christ was.
Transformative faith teaches lessons through trial, testing and temptation. It teaches that something (faith) is inside of us, that transformative faith is the difference between peace and worry, joy and sorry, success and failure and a host of other either/or choices.
Prayerfully, we all know faith goes through transformational growth in relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
This is why Jesus was born, died and rose again: to help us to improve our relationship with God and others.
Happy are those who believe and obey in hope. God promises those who trust in Him, in evil times (like these times), will not be put to shame and they will be satisfied.
This miracle was found in the centurion’s praise of his servant’s value but it was wrought by his faith in Christ. The key factor in the story is the centurion’s transformative faith as viewed by Christ.
Despite his authority, the centurion was humble not thinking himself worthy to come to Christ. Yet Christ thought him worthy enough to visit, so Christ heads to the Centurion’s house.
Before He gets there, the centurion sees Him coming (Luke 7:6) and sends another delegation to stop Him, with a second expression, “I am not worthy for you to come under my roof. That is why I didn’t come to you in the first place.”
Bohler’s advice to John Wesley was right. Faith has value, much like money. It holds a promise of increase and a promise of return on its investment.
The value of transformative faith depends on where we deposit it. Put your faith in the wrong people, place or things and, over time, your faith depreciates and weakens. Put your faith in the right people, place and things and, over time, your faith appreciates, becomes transformative and strengthens you.
People of great faith are of great value to society. Little faith, little value, and the yield is little. Big faith, big value, and the yield is big.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.” So we see the size of faith is not the determinant of its transformative power; it is the substance of faith that makes the difference. The key factor in spiritual transformation is faith and where and how one deposits it makes a huge difference.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org