Something amazing takes place in the Bible which we dare not overlook. Sinful people – with nothing to stand on but the experience God gave them – believe in God’s love and find forgiveness and salvation from Him.
Take for instance the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). Maybe he knew a little of the Scriptures. Luke tells us he built a synagogue for the Jews (Luke 7:4-5). It is also possible that the centurion had witnessed the miracles of Jesus and heard Him teach with the authority of God. Yet why should the centurion believe that Jesus would answer the prayer of an enemy of the Jews – a Roman?
But this soldier took what he knew from his own experience and applied it to his prayer to Jesus. The Roman centurion knew that when he – with the authority of Rome – gave a command, things got done! Orders were always obeyed – or else! But when he looked to Jesus, he recognized a divine authority, greater than anything on earth. Then he reasoned, “If things get done when I can give commands, how much more will things get done when Jesus give commands.” So, he speaks to Jesus, “Lord, just give the command and my servant will be healed.” And Jesus not only healed the servant but praised the faith of this Roman soldier.
Faith to be Praised
Later in Matthew’s Gospel we find another Gentile who uses her own life experience as she approached God in faith (Matthew 15:21-28). In one of Jesus’ rare excursions beyond the borders of Israel, He entered the region of Phoenicia. The Gentile woman pleaded with Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter.
Initially Jesus gave her no response. This might have been because she appealed to Him as “Son of David,” while she was certainly not a “daughter of David,” nor a descendant of Abraham. Notably Jesus explained to His disciples that His earthly mission was focused exclusively upon “the lost sheep of Israel.” But as she cried out to Him in desperation, He finally told her, “It’s not good to take what rightfully belongs to the children (the descendants of Abraham) and give it to the dogs” (the Gentiles).
However, the gentile woman responds profoundly. First, she admits, “Yes, I am a Gentile dog and have no proper claim to the gifts promised to the children of Abraham.” Then she takes what she knows from her own experience as a homemaker and applies this to her faith. “But, Lord,” she says, “even dogs feed from the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Again, Jesus responds to the faith of a Gentile. He not only heals the woman’s daughter, but he praises her faith as well.
Isn’t the most beloved psalm of the Bible, Psalm 23, an example of someone taking what they know and applying it to their faith in God? David loves and cares for the sheep in his charge. He does everything in his power to ensure they are well-fed. He is even willing to fight lions and bears in their defense. There is nothing David will not do to ensure the sheep’s preservation.
Then he applies all this to his relationship to God. “If I feel this way about my sheep, doesn’t God feel the same way about me – but infinitely more?” After, he wrote, “Because the LORD is my shepherd, I will never be in want, … even when I walk through death’s dark valley, I will fear no harm, for You are with me.”
This kind of faith became critical for David when he had committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers – and then ordered the soldier’s death to cover up his crimes (2 Samuel 12-13). On what basis could David ask God to forgive him? The Law of Moses – possibly the only Scripture that existed at the time – demanded David’s death (Leviticus 20:10; Numbers 35:16, 17). The Law – like Jesus’ initial words to the Gentile woman – would have discouraged him from even asking.
But David appealed to God’s lovingkindness and compassion (Psalm 51:1). “If I love even the most wayward of my sheep and am totally committed to its care, won’t God forgive my grievous sins and love me?” David gathered faith from his life experience and applied it to his relationship to God – and found mercy.
Every time God uses a human metaphor to describe His love and faithfulness to us, isn’t He doing this same exercise of faith for us? “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the child of her womb? Even though she might do so, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). “If God clothes the grass of the field with flowers – splendor that exceeds even that of Solomon, won’t He do much more for you?” (Matthew 6:28-30) “If God cares about every tiny bird and provides food for it, won’t he do much more for you?” (Matthew 6:26-27) “If you, being evil parents, know how to give what is good to your children, won’t God give what is good to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).
Lessons of Faith
God and His saints have left us an example to follow. Even when we do not have a legal leg to stand on, God will respond to our faith in Him – even faith that is inspired only by the life experience He’s given us. When doubts arise in our hearts about His love for us, we can rightly say, “Father I believe in Your love for me. I love my children even when they break my heart. Therefore, even when I grieve You by my sin, I believe in Your love for me.” And, when we pray for our children’s future, we can rightly say, “O God, You have a purpose for every living thing, even every bacterium. Surely You must have a purpose for my wandering child. Therefore, fulfill Your purpose in their life. Guide and direct their steps and lead them on a prosperous course.”
And when we see our troubled nation pursuing the path of self-destruction, we can rightly pray, “O God, You send rains to water the earth, please send Your Spirit to revive and renew the hearts of those for whom Jesus died. O Lord, You bring the trees of the forest back to live every spring. Please raise those for whom Jesus died from death in sin to newness of life. Lord, You send a prevailing wind across our land that blows so steadily that it bends trees in one direction. Please, Lord, let Your Spirit be the prevailing force in our land, relentlessly bending our hearts in Your direction.”
God has given you all the material you need to build a thriving faith and to have a powerful prayer life. He has given you His infallible word and promises to inspire your faith. But He’s also given you vivid and colorful life experience from which to draw lessons of faith. Therefore, take what you know and approach God with confidence.
Dear Father in heaven, please open my eyes to Your glorious word, the Bible. From its pages inspire faith in me. But also help me to gather faith from all of life’s hurts and heartbreaks. From these experiences, help me to gather insight about Your love for me. Amen.
The content of this article comes from “The Warrior’s Bible” (2014) and is copyrighted by Life Publishers International. Used with permission.