What do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayers? And are our prayers dependent upon the strength of our faith? Find out answers to these good questions!
SERIES: “Lost & Found”
TITLE: “Whose Strength?” (Luke 7:1-17)
Morning! Welcome to Renovation Church!
A special welcome to those of you who are new…or for week 3 of the 3 week challenge!
Have you ever prayed for something and it didn’t happen?
You prayed to get the job…but you didn’t get it.
You prayed they’d accept your offer on the house, and, they didn’t.
You prayed for healing, and it didn’t happen.
What are we supposed to do when that happens?
How can we be people…who still have a high level of faith…even when God doesn’t answer every prayer?
And what should our faith be based in anyway?
I want to try and answer some of those questions this morning as we keep diving in, verse by verse, through the Book of Luke in the Bible
We spent 5 weeks in Luke chapter 6, talking through Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain,” and now we’re going to move into chapter 7, which moves back into narrative…different stories of people encountering Jesus
We’re going to work through two of those stories today.
Let’s start with the first one.
(Luke 7:1-10) – NIV
When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 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. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 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.”
9 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.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
This story centers around the faith of a Roman Centurion.
Now, at this time in history, the Romans were both occupying and controlling Jewish lands.
And a Centurion, was a Roman soldier in charge of 100 men
And this centurion has a servant, whom he values highly, but the servant is sick and about to die.
HAVE I EARNED IT OR NOT?
So the centurion, sends the Jewish leaders to ask Jesus to heal his servant.
The Jewish Leaders find Jesus …and they begin making their case for why Jesus should come heal the servant….but their reasoning is all wrong.
Here’s what they say:
They say…this guy’s incredible! He’s awesome. Virtuous…such a good man!
Even though he’s one of the occupiers, he actually loves our country! Our people! He even generously helped build our synagogue!
What are they saying?
They’re saying, “Jesus, you should do what this guy asks, because of what He’s done! Because of who he is!”
Do you ever pray like that?
Maybe not overtly…
Maybe you don’t say, “God, help me pay the bills…because…well…I’m incredible…just look at me!”
But I think, in our heart of hearts, we often do think like this.
You can often see this type of thinking in our lives when God doesn’t answer our prayers.
We say to Him, “God, why didn’t you answer that prayer…I’ve been so faithful to you…”
“I come to church, I pray, I give, I try to be a good person…why wouldn’t you do this for me?”
But what are we saying, when we think those things?
What we’re actually saying is, “God, because I’ve done these good things for you, you OWE me this.”
And here’s the thing, God doesn’t owe us anything.
On our own, we can do nothing good.
We’re not owed a thing.
Ironically, it’s the Roman Centurion who understands what prayer is truly founded in, not the Jewish Leaders.
The Centurion, even though he’s an important man and has done a lot for society, still says this:
(Luke 7:6b) – NIV
“Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.
And yet, He still boldly asks for Jesus to move!
He recognizes that Jesus has authority over sickness…because, somehow He knows (how, we don’t know), but He knows that this is the Son of God…
And He says, “Just as I can tell one of my men, Go, do this…and they do it…”
“In the same way, you have the authority to tell the sickness to go away…
“In fact, you don’t even need to show up at my house…I’m unworthy for that…
“But you have so much power and authority over this, you can just say the word from there.
Let me ask you…do you have faith like that?
That God can do what you need Him to do…whenever…from wherever?
So what is it exactly that the Jewish Leaders have wrong and the Centurion has right?
The leaders say, “This guy’s worthy, so answer his prayer!”
That’s religion…not Christianity…that’s trying to earn God’s favor.
And what’s fascinating is the Centurion could have said, “I haven’t earned the right to ask you…I’m not a Jew…I’m not perfect, so I don’t deserve for you to answer my prayer”
And even though that seems like the opposite line of thinking to the Jewish Leader’s idea…that kind of thinking is actually in the same religious paradigm
(Show EARNED IT Slide #1)
Whether you say, “I’ve earned it, so answer my prayer” (Like the Jewish Leaders were saying)
Or you, like many who don’t yet understand God, say, “I haven’t earned it, so I don’t deserve you to answer my prayer”
Both of those thoughts can go under the “religion” side…because both of those thoughts are saying the same thing.
They’re saying, “If you’re a good person, God is more likely to answer your prayer,” and “If you’re a bad person, God is less likely to answer your prayer.”
That’s religion…not Christianity.
Both of those have turned God into some sort of cosmic being that can simply be manipulated to answer (or not answer) prayers based upon your good and bad deeds
That’s an awful version of God.
And yet, almost all of us fall into believing that version of God all too often.
When you really mess up, and you’re crying out to God, do you ever say, “Why would you even listen to me? I understand why you wouldn’t answer such a screw up like me!”
That’s the box on the bottom.
Or think of the box on the top…
Let me just ask you…if God isn’t doing what you’re asking right now…how have you been explaining it to yourself?
Are you telling Him that He should answer your prayer because of what you’ve done?
Because that’s religion.
How good you are has nothing to do with it.
Think of it this way:
Jesus never sinned…ever!
And yet when He prayed and asked if there was another way…besides going to the cross…
God didn’t answer His prayer request.
And yet thankfully, he ultimately just prayed for God’s will to be done.
So when God’s not answering your prayer, don’t think it’s because you’re not good enough.
Jesus was perfect…and still didn’t get his prayer answered.
How good you are has nothing to do with it.
This is true Christianity…
(Show EARNED IT Slide #2)
Christianity is, “God, I haven’t earned it, but please, answer my prayer.”
And we would add on there, because Jesus Himself prayed this way: “*If it’s your will.”
Because we don’t know what His will is…and we trust that His is best.
This is the Gospel. The Good News of Christianity.
We didn’t earn a thing, but He loves us and wants to help us anyway.
Every once in a while I ask one my twins, who are 5, “Why does daddy love you?”
It’s a hard question for a kid to know how to answer.
Try it on your own if you have young kids.
Most of the time, they say something like, “Because….I’m a good listener?”
And I say, “Since when?!” j/k
But this is what I’m talking about…
Our hearts ALWAYS want to bring it back to, “You love me and are good to me…because…I’ve been good…I earned it…
And I look at them, and I say, “No, that’s not why I love you.”
I love you because you’re my son. My daughter.”
And that’s how God looks at you.
Christian, you don’t have to earn his love and favor…it’s already there.
If it’s in His will, He wants to answer your request…because He loves you!
No matter whether you’ve earned it or not.
That’s good news!
So we need to pray like this box on the right side…
We need to pray like the Centurion…who is able to say, “I haven’t earned the right to tell you what to do…I’m not even worthy enough for you to come to my house…but, BUT…HEAL my servant!”
THE OBJECT OF YOUR FAITH
(Back to WHOSE STRENGTH slide)
And the Centurion can do that because of WHO He is putting his faith in…and that has nothing to do with WHO he, the centurion himself, is.
And this really matters.
Let me explain how we’ve gotten this backwards in our culture.
Our culture nowadays, doesn’t care so much about what or whom you believe in, but more so that you just “Believe in something…anything…and believe in it passionately”
To our culture, your passion is more important than what you actually believe in
Listen, this is not how faith truly works.
The great thinker Timothy Keller says it this way: “Listen, let’s think about this: Can we applaud Hitler just because he believed in something passionately?
Keller than gives the following example:
He says, imagine two mountain climbers are out climbing when they suddenly trip and fall onto a ledge…and there are only two ways off the ledge.
They can’t climb back up…can’t jump down…they can only walk to one side or the other…and it’s not 100% obvious to them which way to go…it’s going to require some faith.
The first climber says, “I know which way will hold us up. I have no doubts. I PASSIONATELY believe that this is the way.”
The other climber says, “I kind of think it’s the other way, but I’m not 100%...I’m scared…I have some faith…I wish I knew fully, but I don’t.”
The first climber, who believed passionately, steps the way he was certain was right, only to step on unstable rock and fall all the way down to the ground.
The second climber, then steps the other way, the way he thought was right…but was not very certain on, and the rock is stable, and he’s just fine.
So WHO was saved?
The man who believed passionately with all of his heart?
No, it was the man who believed in the right rock that was saved!
It’s not the strength of your faith that saves you, but the object of your faith that saves you.
I heard someone say once, “How much faith did the Centurion need for Jesus to heal?”
Just enough to call on Jesus.
This is MORE Good News from Jesus in Luke!
If you’re praying for God to give you power over a certain sin in your life right now…
It doesn’t matter that your faith for it to actually happen is weak…maybe only at 10%; because His power is at 100 percent!
Just call on Jesus.
If you’re praying for God to save your family member that doesn’t know Him…
It doesn’t matter that their heart is so cold to God, it’s almost black, He need only say the Word, and He can give them a new heart…if that’s His will.
Just call on Jesus.
HE is the one with the STRENGTH!
I want you to ask yourself the following question this week:
Whose strength am I praying upon?
Am I making my prayers dependent upon the strength of my own faith… the strength of my good deeds?
Or am I praying upon HIS Strength?
Cuz that’s how we should pray!
So I want you to come to God this week and say, “LORD…you know I’m mostly a mess…you know my faith is weak…but I know YOU ARE STRONG! And if it’s your will. You can do this! ‘I’m praying upon YOUR strength!”
That’s how we pray!
HE IS POWERFUL…NO MATTER WHAT
And we see his strength played out in the next story…let’s take a look at this short story starting at verse 11:
(Luke 7:11-17) – NIV
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
So think about what is happening here in this story, in relation to the story we just talked about with the Centurion.
Was the dead man coming back to life dependent on how good of a person he was being when Jesus came by?
No! He was dead!
Was it dependent on the strength of his faith that Jesus could resurrect Him?
NO! He was dead!”
Was it dependent on the strength of His mother’s faith!
No! She didn’t even ask Jesus to do it.
Jesus just felt compassion, and He did it!
He saw a woman, who, as a widow in those days, was going to have a hard time surviving…
He saw a woman who was grieving the loss of her child…and He gave him back to her
So what do we do with this?
We stop putting so much stock in God moving based on the strength of our own faith and life, and we start praying based upon His Strength!
Because HE IS POWERFUL!
But if you’re going to pray like this…that means we need to stop trying to manipulate God into answering our prayers.
I need to stop trying to show Him how good I am
I need to let go of this line of thinking that says, “He’d never answer me anyway because of what I’ve done…”
And I once again, just place my faith in the hands of a God who can do absolutely anything!
And while I wait for Him to move…I remember that Jesus always comes just at the right time.
If Jesus had went to a different town to do ministry that night, that young man would have died.
If Jesus would have come an hour earlier, he might have missed the funeral procession.
If Jesus would have come an hour later, the man would have already been buried in the ground.
Don’t despair, don’t lose faith in what Jesus can do…
He always comes just at the right time!
Even if it looks like He’s not coming…
Don’t you think that young man’s mother was past the point of believing God was going to move and save her son?
They were carrying him out to be buried for goodness sakes!
And yet, God’s timing was PERFECT, was it not!?
Trust Him today. Increase your faith!
And listen to me, His timing is perfect, even when He doesn’t answer our prayers.
( ) – NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
Remember, even on earth, Jesus healed many, but in His perfect will, He didn’t heal everyone.
And sometimes, his timing can feel too late, or it can feel like He didn’t do anything at all.
But his timing is always right.
You know, I just got home last night…or this morning really…at 1am.
My wife’s brother, Jordan, and his wife Emma recently had a baby…but Emma was only 21 weeks along.
Their baby, my niece, was born, but only lived for a few hours, before she died.
So we flew to Houston on Friday, attended a heart-wrenching funeral yesterday, and I flew back by myself late last night…to be with you.
And listen, when Emma went into the hospital, we prayed.
When the baby was born, we prayed.
And yet, it didn’t seem like God answered.
But even so, I keep my faith in Him, and what He can do…
Because for the Christian, our story, is that of the young man in this story of Luke 7…
Even in death…there is resurrection.
I debated a lot on whether to tell our twins (who are 5) what happened…
But since we had to go down there, and I’m a big proponent of never lying to your kids, I sat them down and told them what happened.
I don’t know if I’m doing this right or not, but it’s what I did.
And I watched the whole narrative play out in their eyes in about a 2-minute-span.
When I told them their aunt had had a baby, their eyes lit up…
And Liviana interrupted and said, “ooo, I want to hold her!”
And then I had to say, “but the baby died”
And my son, Jeremiah, who’s better in touch with his emotions than the rest of us in the family, gasped.
And he said, “OH! Oh no!!”
But then I said, “But guys, it’s okay. Because as Christians, we believe, based on what we read in the Bible (2 Sam 12), that when babies die, they go straight to heaven!”
And Jeremiah said, “They do! That’s wonderful!
And I kid you not, he started to run circles around our living room, shouting, ‘YAY! YAY!’
That is the faith we need to have as believers!
That our God can do ANYTHING!
And even when He doesn’t do what we ask, He’s still doing something beautiful…and right.
For He is Good…all the Time.
And that gives us incredible hope and joy…one that I long for the rest of the people around us in this city to have too…as they face life’s difficulties.
How do you go through this without Christ, right?
God is good…God is able…and His timing is right.
And the good news is:
It’s okay if your faith is not perfect.
It’s okay if you’re not perfect.
Just keeping praying upon HIS Strength…not yours.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.