Small Beginnings (4)
When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Matthew 8.10
Freely and unconditionally
Winter, 313 AD, and Constantine, new emperor of the west, was looking for ways to secure his control over the entire Roman Empire. In a meeting in Milan with Licinius Augustus, ruler of the east, the two agreed to a proclamation discontinuing all persecution of Christians. In the Edict of Milan they declared, “that every one of those who have a common wish to follow the religion of the Christians may from this moment freely and unconditionally proceed to observe the same without any annoyance or disquiet.”
Rome’s persecution of Christians had only served to accelerate the advance of the faith. As the Carthaginian lawyer Tertullian observed a century before Milan, writing to the proconsul of Africa, who was persecuting believers, “what will you make of so many thousands, of so many men and women, persons of every sex and every age and every rank, when they present themselves before you? How many fires, how many swords will be required? What will be the anguish of Carthage itself, which you will have to decimate, as each one recognizes there his relatives and companions, as he sees there men of your own order, and noble ladies, and all the leading persons of the city, and either kinsmen or friends of those of your own circle?” To the emperor, Tertullian wrote, “We are but of yesterday, and we have filled everything you have – cities, tenements, forts, towns, exchanges, yes! and camps, tribes, palaces, senate, forum.”
The persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire, though intense and brutal, was ineffectual, as the numbers of Romans becoming Christians continued to grow until, as Constantine seemed to realize, the Christian movement could not be stopped. After two-and-a-half centuries of on-again-off-again persecution, Christians were finally free to “practise their cult” without fear of interference. Constantine himself had benefited from identifying with the Christian movement at the battle of Milvian Bridge, and now he was determined to allow Christians freely and unconditionally to worship and serve their God – and his.
Eighty-three years after the Edict of Milan, Christianity would be declared to be the only legal religion of those territories and peoples governed by the emperors from Rome.
And it all began with one man’s amazing faith.
Faith to amazed
Jesus marveled at the faith of the centurion who interceded with Him to restore the life of a beloved servant. Jesus agreed to come and heal the servant, but the centurion, pleading all unworthiness, and acknowledging the absolute authority and power of Jesus, requested that He “only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.”
The centurion did not know how this could be. He’d never seen such a thing before. But he’d seen Jesus, and seeing Jesus, he knew.
When Jesus heard this, He marveled, and testified that He had not seen such great faith anywhere, not even in Israel. He went on to promise that this centurion, and many more from throughout the Roman Empire, would “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 11). Jesus foresaw the day Tertullian described, when Christians would fill everything and every place throughout the Roman world.
And that great world-transforming movement began here, with one man’s amazing faith in Jesus and His Word.
What about us?
Do we have that kind of faith? Are we willing to take Jesus at His Word? Do we believe that Jesus has power and authority to overcome the reign of sin and death and corruption which we find everywhere in our world, even in our own Personal Mission Fields? And are we willing to have Him speak His powerful Word to us and through us, in the belief that great life-bringing consequences can ensue?
The amazing thing about that centurion’s faith is that he believed Jesus could do the impossible. Jesus could speak, and His Word would transcend space and time, bodily weakness, and every imaginable obstacle, to bring wholeness and life to a beloved servant. Jesus’ Word is living and powerful (Heb. 4.12). It will accomplish whatever God intends for it, as He sends it out into the world through the frail vessels of His believing children (Is. 55.10, 11; 2 Cor. 4.7). We believe that Jesus might be able to do things that can make our lives easier and more agreeable. But do we believe His Word is powerful to make us effective witnesses? Disciple-makers, burden-bearers, salt, light, leaven? Agents through whom the world can be transformed and renewed?
What beginnings are before you today? What opportunities for you to exercise amazing faith in the Word of Jesus, and for Him to use you as a conduit through whom rivers of living water flow, bringing life and hope and peace to the people around you? Every little opportunity for obeying Jesus with the loaves and fishes of our lives is potentially the beginning of something new and big. We cannot know what God will do with the Word He sends out through us. But we can be faithful. We can obey. We can believe Jesus for things that seem to us to be, if not impossible, at least highly unlikely.
And when we do, sowing Kingdom seeds into every little opportunity of our day, we invite Jesus to make something new of this small beginning, something that can turn our world upside-down for Him.
1. Do you think Jesus would marvel at your faith? Why or why not?
2. What obstacles do you need to overcome in having a faith like that of the centurion?
3. How can believers encourage one another to have this kind of faith?
Next steps – Preparation: Pray that Jesus will give you faith to see the opportunities for amazing faith and to move into them, trusting Him to do something new in and through you today.
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 2 of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 2, “Small Beginnings.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
Faith to Amaze
- T.M. Moore
- September 14, 2018
Small beginnings can lead to big results.
Small Beginnings (4)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.