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Is Anything Worth Dying For?

Posted by Chardon in Mark 6

Is Anything Worth Dying For?  

Mark 6: 14 – 29

You might recall a few years ago when the U.S. was part of a coalition to invade Iraq and depose of Saddam Hussein. Not all Americans were in favor of that war and I recall seeing some protestors on the news. They interviewed one angry young man and asked him why he opposed the war. His answer was one that I haven’t been able to forget. He said, “Nothing’s worth dying for!”

I disagree. I hope we’re going to see in this message that there ARE things worth dying for. Over the last 10 years, we’ve been shocked by the brutality of ISIS as they have released videos of captured British and American citizens just before they were beheaded. ISIS is trying to use shock tactics to scare us and to enlist other radical Muslims.

But you must understand that this kind of barbaric brutality has been a part of the Roman Empire and the Middle East for centuries. The Romans executed criminals and slaves by crucifixion, but they executed their own citizens in what they considered a more merciful punishment by beheading them. Tradition tells us the Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome. In Acts 12 we read that Herod Agrippa killed the Apostle James with the sword, which referred to beheading. In our passage tonight, we’re going to read about the drama of the day John the Baptist lost his head for the sake of truth.

Mark 6:14-20. “King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’ Others said, ‘He is Elijah.’ And still others claimed, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.’ But when Herod heard this, he said, ‘John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!’ For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.”

With that background, let’s first examine:

  1. THE CHARACTERS

This story has been the subject of hundreds of works of art. In one particular painting we see John the Baptist pointing his bony finger at Herod on the throne. Herod can’t make eye contact. The two women are Herodias and her daughter. Let’s learn a little more about each of these characters.

  1. I introduce to you Herod Antipas, an arrogant ruler

The name “Herod” was almost like a family name; it meant “heroic” but there weren’t any heroes in the bunch. It can be confusing because no less than eight Roman rulers used the name Herod. This was Herod Antipater, whose nickname was Antipas. He was one of the sons of the ruler who is often called Herod the Great. Herod the Great was the ruler when the wise men came asking, “Where is the one born King of the Jews.” Herod was a great builder, but he had a great capacity of hatred and violence as well. He attempted to kill the Messiah by ordering that all the male toddlers in Bethlehem be slaughtered.

Herod the Great was paranoid and jealous. He ordered the death of several of his wives and sons. The Jewish rabbis had an inside joke that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than to be Herod’s son. Herod the Great was plotting to murder his son Antipas, when he himself died. So Antipas was named the ruler of four small areas so he was called a Tetrarch. But he always wanted to be called a king. To be more like a king, Antipas married an older Arabian princess, the daughter of King Aretas IV. He married her for the royal connection.

  1. I introduce to you Herodias, a wicked woman

Herodias was the Jezebel of the New Testament. Jezebel wanted the head of the prophet Elijah, but she wasn’t successful. Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great. She visited Rome and met her uncle, Philip, the half-brother of Antipas. Philip was a wealthy Roman businessman. Herodias seduced her much-older uncle Philip and they were married.

One day, Antipas left his wife and visited his brother Philip in Rome. Herodias had grown tired of her husband, so she seduced Antipas, her brother-in-law, who was also her uncle.

  1. I introduce to you Salome, a victimized daughter

This daughter of Herodias and Philip is not named in the Bible, but Roman historians tell us her name was Salome. The really sad thing about Salome is the word used to describe her indicates that she was a very young teen. It was a word to describe a young girl not yet of marriageable age. And girls often married at age 16 in this time. Her wicked mother used her as her pawn to get to John the Baptist.

  1. Finally, I introduce to the true hero of the story, John—God’s faithful prophet

This is John the Baptist, six months older than his cousin Jesus. Like Samson, John had taken a Nazarite vow and had never cut his hair or beard. He was a man of the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey and wore a camel’s hair garment.

He had baptized Jesus even though he felt unworthy to do so. When they asked John if he was the Messiah he denied it. John’s job was to introduce Jesus and then to move off the scene. In fact in John 3:30, John said about Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

John, publicly preached that it was both illegal and immoral for Herod to be sleeping with his niece and sister-in-law. This public disgrace infuriated Herodias and she demanded that Herod kill him. But Herod recognized that John was a man of God, so to make his wife happy, he arrested John and put him in jail. We know from Roman historians that John was imprisoned in the desert fortress called Marchaerus near Jericho. You can visit the ruins today and still see the remains of the iron rungs in the wall where prisoners were chained. Now that you know the characters it is time to look at :

  1. THE ACTION

As I mentioned earlier, this part of the world has always been known for the brutality and violence of the rulers. There are two scenes:

  1. Scene One: A birthday party

It was the birthday of Herod Antipas, so he invited in many special guests to the party. Herodias saw this as an opportunity to get what she wanted so she hatched a wicked plan. She knew the wine would be flowing and Herod had a weakness for dancing girls. So she coached her young daughter to perform a sensual, seductive dance.

The Bible says, “When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.’ And he promised her with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’” (Mark 6:22-23) The funny thing about that was that Herod didn’t have a kingdom to give her. He was the man who wanted to be king, but was only a provincial ruler over four districts. He was just bragging in front of his guest.

Salome ran back to her mother and said, “What should I ask for?” She was probably thinking maybe a pony or a doll. But her wicked mother cackled with glee and said, “Tell him you want the head of that preacher, John, on a food platter!”

The Bible says, “At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: ‘I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’” (Mark 6:25) I’m sure Herod sobered up in a hurry. He was in a quandary. He knew John was a man of God, but he had made an oath in front of his guests. I wondered if he tried to negotiate with Salome. “Wouldn’t you rather have horses, chariots, clothes, or jewelry?”

Herod had made an oath in front of his guests. He would lose face if he didn’t keep his promise. So he decided it was better for John to lose his head than for him to lose face.

  1. Scene Two: The dungeon

Let’s join John the Baptist in the dungeon. He hears the soldiers approaching and wonders what’s happening. When he sees the sword, he probably realizes what’s going to happen. I wonder what went through his mind as they held his head down and he heard the whoosh of the sword. I wonder if he thought, “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease.”

The Bible says, “So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.” (Mark 6:27-29)

Roman historians write that Herodias’ hatred toward John was so intense that she pulled John’s tongue out and pierced it through with a large sewing needle. It was like she was saying, “Now let me hear you speak against me you ignorant preacher.” But we’re going to see God always has the last word.

III. LIFE LESSONS

There are some life lessons we can learn from the characters in this story.

  1. Herod: A guilty conscience is a cruel companion

Months later, when Herod heard about the miracles of Jesus, he was certain it was John the Baptist who had come back to life to haunt him. He would probably wake up in the middle of the night with his pajamas soaked with sweat because of a bad dream about a headless prophet.

God has given every person a conscience to know right from wrong. The reason we often feel guilty about sin is because we ARE guilty. But you don’t have to live with a guilty conscience. The good news is that the Bible says in 1 John 1:9 that if you confess your sins He if faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. You can live a life free of guilt. When you give your life to Jesus, all your sins are forgiven. God has promised He will put our sins behind His back and will remember them no more. He has promised to separate our sins as far as the East is from the West. He had promised to bury our sins in the depth of the sea. He has said, “Though your sins be as scarlet they can be as white as snow.”

  1. Herodias: Hateful anger spills out and hurts those close to you

The sad story of Herodias is that her rage at John was like a deadly infectious disease that destroyed her husband and daughter. There is a sad principle in effect that our sin not only affects us, it affects those around us. A pregnant woman who injects crack cocaine into her body also endangers the life of her unborn child. A man who smokes like a chimney is affecting his family with the effects of secondhand smoke.

You never really sin personally. Every sin we commit is like a pebble dropped in a pond. The ripples spread out and touch those around us. Her sin had destructive consequences on Antipas and her daughter.

Two years after Jesus was crucified, King Aretas, attacked Antipas, slaughtered his soldiers and conquered his territory. In shame, Antipas and Herodias fled to Rome. Antipas’ jealous nephew, Herod Agrippa, the brother of Herodias, had convinced the Emperor that Antipas was guilty of treason. So Antipas, the man who would be king, was stripped of his titles and property… and was banished into exile in Gaul. The worst part of the punishment was that the wicked Herodias was sent with him, and they both died in obscurity and were buried in unmarked graves.

  1. Salome: Be sure, your sins will find you out

In fact, the Bible says exactly that in Numbers 32:23, “You may be sure that your sin will find you out.” The story of Herod’s family was fascinating to the Romans. History records that Salome’s life was filled with tragedy. She moved back to Rome where she went through several failed marriages.

According to Roman historians, Salome died tragically when she was vacationing in the Northern Alps. She and her party were crossing a frozen river when the ice cracked. In the efforts to extract her from the frozen water, a jagged piece of ice severed her head from her body.

Salome’s life is a sad reminder of the principle of Galatians 6:7 which says, “Whatever a man (or woman) sows, that he will also reap.”

  1. John: There ARE things worth dying for

Remember the war protestor I mentioned at the beginning of this message? He said, “Nothing’s worth dying for.” He was wrong. I can think of several things worth dying for.

First, I believe that FREEDOM is worth dying for. We are enjoying our precious freedom to worship today because there were thousands of men and women who have died fighting for our nation. They realized that freedom isn’t free. It comes at a high cost.

On November 19, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to participate in the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery. Edward Everett gave a two-hour address. Then Lincoln got up and spoke for less than two minutes. He concluded his famous remarks by saying, “…The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here… from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

The second thing I think is worth dying for is our FRIENDS and FAMILY, which are often the same. John the Baptist was a friend of Jesus as well as his cousin. Jesus was willing to die for His friends. He said to the disciples, “Greater love has no man than this—that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Jesus went to the cross to die for us, even though He was a sinless Savior. Chuck Colson told the story of a group of World War II American Prisoners of War who were made to do hard labor in a Japanese prison camp. Each had a shovel and dug all day. They were required to return their shovels each evening.

One evening, twenty prisoners lined up by the guard and the shovels were counted. The guard counted only nineteen shovels. He turned in rage toward the POWs and demanded to know which prisoner had kept his shovel. No one responded. The guard drew his pistol and said he would shoot five American prisoners if the guilty prisoner didn’t confess.

After a moment of tense silence, a nineteen-year-old prisoner stepped forward with his head bowed. The guard pointed his gun at the prisoner’s head and fired. As the young man’s body fell to the ground, the guard warned the others that they must always return their shovels. Then the guard recounted the shovels and found that all twenty were accounted for. He had simply miscounted earlier. The young soldier had died for his friends.

Would you like to have a friend like that? You have one. His name is Jesus. It was not some split-second decision. Jesus planned to die for you from the foundation of the world. He laid down His life for you, His friend.

The final thing that is worth dying for is your FAITH. John the Baptist had pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) But after he was arrested and put in prison John started having some doubts. In Luke 7 we read that John sent word to Jesus to ask Him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” I’m not surprised that this great outdoor prophet had a few doubts when he was restricted in a tiny jail cell chained to the wall. It would have been like putting an eagle in a canary cage, or restricting a great whale to a swimming pool. John began to have a few doubts.

Jesus sent word back to John to tell him that scripture was being fulfilled, miracles were being done, and lives were being changed. If Jesus had only been a man… He might have rebuked John for doubting Him. But on the day that John said the worst thing he ever said about Jesus; Jesus said the BEST thing He ever said about John.

Jesus said John was more than a prophet. He said among men born of women (and that includes most of us), there is NONE GREATER than John.” Wow. Jesus was saying that of all the people in the Old Testament period, John was the greatest—greater than Abraham; greater than Moses; greater than Elijah. But then Jesus said, “There is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28)

John stood for the truth of his faith, and he ended up dying for his faith.

I wonder if John smiled and thought, “Why did I ever doubt?”

CONCLUSION

Freedom, Family, and Faith are at least three things worth dying for. Would you be willing to die for your faith? Warren Wiersbe relates a story from China during the Communist purge of Mao Zedong in 1949. Churches were closed and Christians were arrested and executed. Wiersbe tells the story of a small group of Christians meeting in private. Suddenly the door flies open and three communist soldiers are standing there with weapons drawn. They ordered all the Christians to line up against the far wall to be executed. The soldiers said, “IF you are not a believer you are free to leave.” Some of the group hurried from the room. But a group of faithful followers of Jesus joined hands and stood together waiting to die for Jesus. When the unbelievers left, the soldiers lowered their weapons and said, “We are believers, too, and we wanted to find a group of Christians who are willing to die for their faith. May we join you?”

Here’s rhetorical question: Would you be willing to die for your faith? Here’s a much more practical question: Are you willing to LIVE for your faith seven days a week? I hope your answer to both is YES because there are some things worth dying for.

Sermon Contributor: David Dykes

What Amazes Jesus

Posted by Chardon in Mark 6

What Amazes Jesus?
Mark 6:1

Throughout history there have been many examples of misjudgments. Here are seven of my favorite famous misjudgments:
(1) “I am sorry but I don’t think anyone will be interested in these type of characters.” The 12 publishers who rejected JK Rowlings writings of the beginning of the Harry Potter series which have sold over 450 million copies.
(2) “That contraption is nothing but a toy. It will never catch on.” (William Orton, president of Western Union who turned down the opportunity to buy the rights to Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patent in 1876)
(3) “I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” (Gary Cooper on his decision not to accept the leading role in Gone with the Wind)
(4) “Guitar groups are on their way out.” (Dick Rowe of Decca Records who turned down the Beatles after they auditioned for him in 1962)
(5) “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” (Thomas Watson, IBM Chairman, 1943)
(6) “There is no reason that anyone would want a computer in their home.” (Ken Olson, President, Digital Equip. Corp, 1977)
(7) “Stick to driving a truck because you’re never going to make it as a singer.” (Musician/agent Eddie Bond, who auditioned Elvis Presley in 1954)
But the greatest example of misjudgment happened in the ministry of Jesus. After His great miracle tour where He performed a quartet of amazing miracles, He returned home to Nazareth. He preached in His home synagogue.
Have you ever experienced a time when you returned back to your HOMETOWN and felt SPECIAL ... like a celebrity.
But Jesus didn’t receive that kind of reception at His homecoming. You would have imagined that Jesus would have been welcomed as a hero but instead, they treated Him like a zero.
Mark 6:1-6. And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.
2 And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
4 But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

The word “amaze” or “amazing” appears frequently in the New Testament. In every case except twice, the word is used to describe how people were amazed by the mighty works of God. Now Jesus is amazing, but I suspected that, as God, He was incapable of being amazed, that He was unamazable (if that’s a word). But there are two times in the New Testament when we read that Jesus was amazed. So what Amazes Jesus? Let’s see.
I. JESUS IS AMAZED BY DEAD FAITH
The Bible says, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:6) The word is really unbelief I could have called this weak faith, feeble faith, fake faith, or no faith. But I’ve chosen to call it dead faith because that’s a term that James uses in his letter. He wrote, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)
There is a kind of self-styled-faith that people claim to have, but their actions don’t match their words. The members of Jesus’ home synagogue were afflicted with this kind of dead faith. Is your faith dead? Let’s examine two characteristics of dead faith.
A. Dead faith questions the authority of Jesus
The people started asking a lot of questions about Jesus. “Where did this man get these things... isn’t this the carpenter?” He should have been the object of their adoration, but instead He was the target of their accusations. Actually they asked six questions, but they never gave Jesus a chance to answer them; they weren’t looking for answers, they were making accusations.
It has always been a favorite tactic of Satan to question the things of God. The devil is a crook, so he puts a crooked question mark where God has placed an exclamation point. For example, in the Garden of Eden, God had spoken clearly. He told Adam and Eve that they could eat of all the trees of the Garden, but if they ate the fruit from just one tree they would die. Period. Exclamation point. Satan slithered into Eve’s presence and asked a question. He said, “Did God really say that you couldn’t eat of any of the trees of the Garden?” That wasn’t what God had said at all. But it got Eve to wondering and that’s when Satan slipped in the lie. “You won’t die. In fact, you’ll be like God.” There’s nothing wrong with asking questions about God and the Bible; just be aware that Satan is always ready to slip in a lie to your questions.
So the members of the synagogue were scandalized that this man who had grown up in their midst claimed to be anything more than a carpenter or the son of Mary. The practical truth we gather here is that Jesus understands what it is to be rejected. You may be familiar with the pain of rejection. Maybe you auditioned for a part in a play, and you didn’t get it. Rejected. Maybe you applied for a job and didn’t get it. Maybe there was someone you thought you loved and might marry, but they didn’t feel the same way—rejection can be painful.
The prophet Isaiah said that Jesus would be “despised and rejected by men. A man of sorrows acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3)
They asked, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” Now, Jesus was more than a carpenter, but He was a carpenter until age 30. That word literally means “a craftsman.” It was a jack-of-all-trades who could build or fix anything. I’ve known some men who were like that. They could fix anything around the house. If there’s a plumbing problem, they fix it. If there’s an electrical problem they fix it. If a door or window needs to be replaced, they replace it. Ladies are you married to man like that? I can see from the reaction that most of you aren’t!
Jesus, the master carpenter, is still fixing things. He’s fixing broken hearts, broken homes, and broken hopes. Jesus is the only person in history who claimed to be able to heal a broken heart. But for Jesus to fix your broken life, you’ve got to give Him all the broken pieces.
A good carpenter can look at a stack of lumber and a set of plans and he can envision the finished product. When I look at a stack of lumber, I just see splinters, bent nails, and hitting my thumb with a hammer. Jesus looks at you and me and He sees what we can become. So if you need something fixed today, the Master carpenter is taking appointments. Will you give him your broken heart? Will you offer Him your broken home, or your broken hopes? Give Him all the pieces and see what He can do.
B. Dead faith limits the flow of God’s power
The Bible says, “He could not do any miracles there.” Isn’t the power of God unlimited? Of course. Isn’t God Omnipotent—all powerful? Absolutely. So, what happened? Why couldn’t He do miracles there? It was because of their lack of faith. God is omnipotent, but there is only one area in the Universe where God has voluntarily limited His omnipotence; it’s in the area of your will. He won’t violate your ability to choose to trust Him. God won’t force His power on you. God offers you salvation, but He won’t force you accept His free gift of eternal life.
These Nazareth citizens mistook that Jesus was just a carpenter. They believed He could build a table, but not raise the dead. They were too familiar with Him. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” That’s not really true except in the case of contemptible people. I think it’s safer to say, “Familiarity breeds indifference.” They had watched Jesus grow up and there was nothing special about Him, so they couldn’t accept the fact that He was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
I’ve been told that people who live near Niagara Falls long enough get to the point where they don’t even hear the thunder of the falling water. Familiarity breeds indifference. I used to live in Geauga county and we often visited the Cheese Factory in Middlefield. I remember walking inside and sniffing and wrinkling my nose. I was with a group of the workers and I asked them, “Does it always smell like this here?” and they said, “Smell like what?”
When it comes to the things of the Lord, we should be careful about the danger of familiarity. When was the last time you experienced the life changing power of God in your life? It’s easy to get into a rut when you come to church Sunday after Sunday. You know the songs and the routine, and you just go through the entire worship service mindless of the fact that Jesus Christ is here. God’s power is as great as it’s always been,
but if you don’t have the faith to receive it, you are limiting the flow of God’s power in your life.
So dead faith amazes Jesus. That’s the negative aspect of this topic. But the New Testament teaches that there is something else that amazes Jesus—and this should be our goal.
II. JESUS IS AMAZED BY DYNAMIC FAITH
There’s an interesting miracle that Luke and Matthew record that gives us a hint of the kind of faith that Jesus considers amazing. Let’s read about it in Luke 7:1-10: When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But 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.” When Jesus heard this, HE WAS AMAZED AT HIM, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
We don’t want to be like those people in Nazareth who had a dead faith. Instead we want to be like this Roman soldier who demonstrated a dynamic faith that amazed Jesus. One reason Jesus was amazed was because this was a Gentile, a Roman soldier! He was a centurion, which meant he was a soldier responsible for roughly 100 soldiers. He understood authority.
He was IN authority over 100 men, and He was UNDER the authority of his commanding officers. This Gentile soldier recognized that Jesus was under the authority of His Father in heaven, but He HAD authority over death and disease. All Jesus had to do was to give the command and the disease would be gone. That’s living, dynamic faith.
Do you want to express this kind of faith that amazes Jesus? Here are four marks of dynamic faith.
A. Dynamic faith focuses on the needs of others
The centurion didn’t selfishly ask Jesus to help him but to heal a servant whom he loved. He wasn’t thinking about his own needs, but the needs of this servant. When you are consumed about things that you want, it can lead to selfishness and trouble.
Frank was 70 years old, and his wife, Betty, was also 70. They were at a friend’s house celebrating Betty’s 70th birthday and Frank wandered back into the home’s library where there was a collection of artifacts from all over the world. Frank picked up one and rubbed it and, “Poof” a female genie appeared. She said, “Because you freed me from the lamp I will grant you one wish.” Frank was pretty selfish and he started thinking about his wife, Betty. At age 70 she was getting old and cranky. Frank was thinking about how nice it would be to have a younger wife. So Frank said to the genie, “I wish I had a wife 30 years younger than me.” The female genie said, “Are you sure?” He said, “I’m sure.” So she blinked her eyes, and “poof” suddenly Frank was 100 years old.
Be careful you don’t become consumed with only praying for yourself. The prayer, “Bless me, bless me, bless me” may seem harmless, but the danger in it is it only focuses on your needs, not the needs of others.
B. Dynamic faith produces acts of loving-kindness
The Jewish leaders who lived in Capernaum were impressed. When they came to ask Jesus to help the centurion’s servant, they mentioned two things about him: They pointed out the centurion loved the Jewish nation—that’s highly unusual in itself. The common pattern was one of hostility and hatred between Jews and Roman soldiers. This centurion backed up his love for the Jews in Capernaum because we are told he built their synagogue. It doesn’t mean he paid for it, because few centurions had that much money. It probably means he commanded his soldiers to work to build it. This centurion didn’t perform these acts of kindness to produce his faith; it was his amazing faith that produced these acts of loving kindness.
C. Dynamic faith is expressed in humility
Notice what the Jewish leaders told Jesus about the centurion. In verse 4-5 they say, “This man deserves to have you do this because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” Then skip down and compare it to the words of the centurion himself. He said, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you.” Wow! What a picture of humility!
Sometimes we approach God with an attitude of self-worth and self-confidence bordering on cockiness. We flash Him our personal résumé and point out all our accomplishments and try to convince Him why we are so deserving of His attention and acceptance. We wonder why heaven is silent. The attitude He honors is that which says, “I am not worthy.”
A group of tourists were visiting a museum in Vienna where Beethoven, the great composer, spent his last years. They came to the conservatory where his piano stood. The guide quietly said, “And here is the master’s piano.” A thoughtless young man pushed his way from the edge of the crowd, sat down at the bench and began to play one of Beethoven’s sonatas—but he wasn’t very accomplished. He paused and said to the guide, “I suppose a lot of people like me enjoy playing Beethoven’s piano.” The guide said, “Well, sir, the great pianist, Paderewski, was here last summer and some in his group begged him to sit and play, but his answer was, ‘No, I cannot, I am not worthy to sit at the Master’s piano.’” That’s humility.
Brennan Manning wrote, “The Christian life is not a performance; it is a relationship. It is not about being good enough to be accepted by God. It is about being honest enough with myself and God to admit that I will never be good enough to earn God’s acceptance. When I understand that with all my failures, with all of my anger, with all of my lust, with all of my dysfunctions, with all of my stupidity, I am loved by God more than I will ever be able to comprehend, I cannot come to God wearing a mask. Humble honesty is the beginning of a great adventure with God.”
D. Dynamic faith rests on the Word of God
The essence of faith is to believe God without seeing any evidence. The centurion said, “I believe you can heal my servant, just say the word!”
The centurion had such amazing faith he didn’t need Jesus to come and lay hands on his servant. He didn’t need Jesus to pray over him, just say the word. In Matthew’s account, when Jesus saw this dynamic faith he said, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” (Matthew 8:13)
And when the Centurion returned home, he found his servant was healed.
When you read a principle or a promise in the Word of God, you must believe that God is speaking truth. We honor God by our faith and obedience. The great British pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Bible promises are like checks drawn on heaven’s bank that we endorse by faith and present to God for His payment.”
When you go to a place of business, you use money as an exchange for goods or services.
It may be cash, a check, a credit card, or in the future you’ll just have your phone scanned—but money is the currency for business transactions.
In the same way, faith is the only currency accepted by God. Faith is your greatest asset and unbelief is your greatest liability. God doesn’t accept logic, reason, or good works. Faith is not His preferred currency; it is the only currency accepted in heaven. Perhaps the most instructive verse in the Bible about faith is seen in Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Sometimes you’ll encounter someone who says, “Oh, I’m not a person of faith.” Or “I just don’t have any faith.” That’s a false claim because EVERYONE expresses faith every day.
When you eat a bite of food you’re expressing faith in the farmer who produced it and the cook who prepared it. It takes faith to put something into your body and trust that it won’t kill you.
When you buckle your seat belt in an airliner you’re placing faith in the manufacturer of that plane, the skill of the pilot, and the law of aerodynamics. When you are driving and you see a green turn left signal on the traffic light, you’re putting faith in the fact that the oncoming traffic has a red light. We all have faith; the question is what is the object of your faith?
Faith alone is not good enough. Sometimes people say, “Just have faith, everything will turn out okay.” That’s poor advice. Faith in faith is worthless. Your faith is only as good as the object of your faith. The centurion didn’t just have faith his servant would get better; he put his faith in Jesus. A mustard seed of faith in the right object is better than mountain of faith in the wrong thing.
The people of Nazareth had a dead faith. They doubted Jesus was the Son of God, and there were no miracles done there. The Centurion had a dynamic faith and God rewarded that faith with a miracle. When you face any challenge in life, you’re going to approach it with either doubt or faith. You get to choose, will it be doubt or faith? I read a little poem recently that expresses this.
Doubt sees the obstacles; Faith sees the way; Doubt sees the darkest night; Faith sees the day. Doubt dreads to take a step; Faith soars on high. Doubt questions, “Who believes?” Faith answers, “I!”
CONCLUSION
I want to encourage you today to place your faith in God. You can trust Him. In the 1800s, there was a preacher who lived up north. It was the middle of the winter in Minnesota and he needed to cross the frozen Mississippi River. Not knowing the thickness of the ice, he tied his horse to a tree and started walking carefully across the ice. The further he walked, the more afraid he became, as he doubted the thickness of the ice. Finally, he decided to turn around and started crawling on his hands and knees back toward the shore.
Suddenly he heard a loud noise behind him and, thinking the ice was cracking he begged God to save him. But when he finally got the nerve to look over his shoulder at the source of the noise, he saw that it was a lumberjack leading a team of horses dragging a load of heavy logs across the ice. Feeling a little foolish, the preacher jumped to his feet and claimed his horse and rode across the river. The river hadn’t changed. The thickness of the ice hadn’t changed, the only thing that changed was that the preacher stopped doubting the ice and started trusting it.
Whenever you worry or get afraid because of what you face in life, do you have a feeble faith that makes you crawl and doubt God? Just remember that God is trustworthy. As kids we sang a little song that said, “I am weak but He is strong.” You don’t have to crawl and cry; you can walk through life with full confidence that God will sustain you. That’s the kind of amazing faith God rewards.

Sermon Contributor: David Dykes

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