When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Luke 7:9)
What a remarkable man that Roman centurion must have been, and it’s little wonder that Jesus should single him out with such praise. Despite their knowledge of the scriptures and their Jewish heritage, the religious leaders failed to comprehend the reality of who God is and the power inherent in His willingness to move in response to real faith. As a result, many of God’s own people were unable to receive from God, while a man who might well be regarded as an enemy of God because he was essentially the enemy of God’s people was able to receive because he was able to correctly perceive the nature and character of God.
We can only receive from God to the extent that the way we perceive Him is accurate.
I so often hear people mention not having answers to prayer, or lamenting the fact that their faith seems too weak. What is even more tragic is that they come to accept this as being the norm, that this is simply the way it is and that it must be ‘God’s will’ that they do not receive. This is settling for far less that what God intends, and only comes about because we have a limited perception and understanding of God, His nature, His character, and His will. The reality is that we ourselves limit what we receive from God.
Frustration and disappointment is inevitable when we compare our lives to the limitless promises in God’s Word and find a deficiency. We all long to receive from God the abundance He promises. We see others who seem to find it easy, and we wonder why He would favour one of His children above the other. On some level, we know that this cannot possibly be so, but our human frailty seeks for answers in the wrong places. We miss or lose sight of the fact that we can only receive from God that which we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, and this kind of faith comes from knowing God intimately and perceiving Him in the fullness of the great I AM.
We see or perceive God with our spiritual eyes, not according to the ‘reality’ of the world. Our relationship with Him is spirit to spirit, and our ability to perceive and comprehend Him is not limited by the ‘laws’ and expectations of the universe. He is a God without limit, and everything we know and understand in the natural world is only a small part of who He is. It is through spending time in His presence and in His Word that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, expands our spiritual ability to perceive Him as He really is. Learning to receive from God is part of the gradual process of learning to know Him.
As He beings to move and work in us and in our lives, releasing His power according to His purposes, so the God of the Bible becomes real. Not the God we presume Him to be but the one He really is. We cannot know Him unless we spend time with Him, and we cannot have faith in a God we do not know. Our perception of God, His nature, and His character is determined by our intimate knowledge of Him. Simply reading the Bible provides head knowledge, which has no value when it comes to faith which is a thing of the spirit. To know of God can never equip us to receive from God. It must be a practical knowledge rather than a theoretical one.
There are no short cuts. Unless we truly come to know God, we will never perceive Him correctly and what we receive from God will be limited and coloured by that incomplete or inadequate perception. Our faith is entirely dependent on how much we know God. Unless this is accurate, it will always be misplaced faith, which is the source of disillusionment. Our lack of or limited perception cannot alter the reality of who and what God is. He remains the same from beginning to end. His faithfulness is beyond question and His nature is unchanging. He is the same God today with the same desire to respond to His children’s faith as He is in the Bible. If we do not receive from God, it is not because God has changed His mind.
This is the lesson of the centurion – to desire to know God and to see Him in all His power and majesty. It is a desire to know the vast and limitless power of the I AM, the God who is not only bigger than all our problems but is willing to intervene. If He was willing to respond to the faith of one who was not of His own people, He is doubly willing to respond to like faith in His children. Not only that, but He desires that we know Him and enjoy intimacy with Him. Jesus’ words in today’s voice evidence His disappointment – that it took a stranger and an outsider to manifest the kind of faith that pleases God, and that His own children cannot find that because they do not know Him.
The joy and encouragement lies in knowing that God has provided the way. Just as the centurion need only look at Christ to know the limitless power and authority of God, so we also need only look to Jesus. He is the Father revealed. In Him we see the will of God, the love of God, and the grace of God that meets every single possible need. Time with Jesus – the living Word of God – will bring us to the place where we perceive God as He intends and are able to receive from God as He intends. Our focus, therefore, needs to be on relationship rather than receiving. The closer we get to God, the easier we will find we receive. We must seek Him, not what He is able to do. Only when we are assured, because we know Him intimately, that He is not only able but willing, and that He has the power and authority to do the impossible, will we find the faith to believe as this humble man did.
Draw us closer to You, Father. Help us to seek You out, to fix our spiritual eyes on Jesus and to learn all that He reveals to us of You. Help us to know both Your will and Your heart, and to find the kind of great faith that comes from intimate knowledge of and relationship with You. Help us to focus on You rather than on what we want to receive, to hunger and thirst for Your presence, and to learn the humility that brings us, through Christ, to Your throne of grace.