Over the past week I had to prepare for a Bible quiz in Church focused on the book of Matthew, where I was responsible for studying chapters 7-9. After the 50-minute competition which saw my team answer 35 questions, we came second after a run-off quiz with another group which came third – we missed only two questions! 😤 Anyways the essence of this post is less about our wonderful performance but more about what I learnt while studying Matthew 8-9 in particular.
For context, these chapters cover developments immediately after Jesus’ sermon on the mount and focus on three dimensions of faith:
- Your faith,
- The faith of your friends, and
- When you’re unable to exercise faith
I’ll leave you to study the chapters for yourself but the main thing that stuck with me was how Jesus responded to anyone who was capable of exercising faith. How he responded to them was based on the extent of faith they had. Let me compare and contrast two similar examples:
- In Matthew 8:5-13, the centurion came pleading to Jesus that he had a servant lying paralyzed and dreadfully tormented at home. Jesus offered to go with him to go heal him but the centurion’s faith saw him believe that if Jesus only spoke a word, his servant would be healed. And for that, Jesus said he had not found such great faith, not even in Israel! So Jesus told him to go his way that “as you have believed, so let it be done for you”, and his servant was healed that hour.
- In Matthew 9:18-26, this time it was the leader of a synagogue who came and worshipped Jesus saying that his daughter had just died and he wanted Jesus to come lay His hands on her and she will live. Jesus arose and followed him to his house. When He got there, He was laughed at and riduculed by the mourners at the house. Despite this, He went in, took her by the hand and she arose.
You see, faith has levels – reflected in Jesus saying He hadn’t seen such great faith as the centurion’s. Now, Jesus didn’t wonder why the synagogue leader on the other hand didn’t believe that He could speak and the girl would arise. Instead, Jesus responded according to the man’s faith and followed him. Maybe in the first scenario the servant was still alive but in this one she was dead, or maybe in the second scenario Jesus wanted to use that experience to spread the word into that region as the text says “the report of this went into all that land” – whichever way, what we know is that Jesus responded to the level of faith that either man had.
Jesus is more than willing to answer our prayers and give us good gifts, even more than we think He wants to. In Matthew 8:2-3, the leper said “if you are willing to make me clean…”, to which Christ responded “I am willing…”. In Matthew 7:7-12, Christ teaches us that if we sinful humans know how to give good gifts to our children when they ask us i.e. we won’t give them stone when they ask for bread, or a serpent when they ask for fish; then how much more will He our father give good things to those who ask him! Just think about that for a second…
So God’s willingness to give us good things is never in doubt. In the following verses He tells us some secrets to unlocking answers to our prayers in this life:
- Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. Persistence in asking, seeking and knocking is core to unlocking answers to our prayers. Matthew 7:7
- Whatever we would like other people to do to us or for us, we should learn to do to/for them also. Matthew 7:12. Basically, God is not mocked, whatever we sow we will reap! (Galatians 6:7-9)
As mentioned earlier, the extent of our faith could affect how God answers us. Just look at how many times Jesus referred to the faith of the people that approached Him:
- Matthew 8:10, 13 – I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel…go your way and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.
- Matthew 8:26 – Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith.
- Matthew 9:22 – Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.
- Matthew 9:28-29 – Do you believe that I am able to do this? Yes Lord. According to your faith, let it be to you.
So what is your faith meter reading?
And sometimes our faith cannot carry us so God responds to the faith of our friends. One example:
- Matthew 9:2-8 – When Jesus saw the faith of the friends of the paralytic, he first forgave the paralytic his sins and then commanded him to pick up his bed and go to his house. Basically, the text tells us that it was the faith of his friends that saved the day.
So who are the friends you have in your circle? Can you trust the strength of their faith in God to see you through life’s ups and downs?
And sometimes when it is impossible for us to express faith, God has compassion on us and moves in our situation, perhaps aided by the faith of others. One example:
- Matthew 9:32-34 – In this instance, the man was mute and demon-possessed. Basically, he wasn’t even able to express faith by himself becaue of the demons. But other people had faith that he could be healed and Christ responded with compassion to their faith and to the situation.
So in a nutshell, faith is important to unlocking answers to our prayers. It is faith that moves us to keep on asking, knocking or seeking with persistence. That persistence is evidence of our faith! The extent of our faith or that of our friends/others could also affect how God moves on our behalf. When we ask, we must believe and not doubt, otherwise we should not expect to receive anything from God (James 1:6-7). We have to trust that God, because He is God, is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). So our task in all of this is to have the faith to ask, in accordance with His will (and dare Him by asking BIG/BOLDLY – 1 John 5:14-15), prove that faith by persistently asking and proving in our lives that we believe that He will answer us by the actions/words that we do/speak. These were some of my learnings from studying Matthew 8-9 ahead of our Bible quiz. God bless!