I once read through all the miracle stories of the Gospels and found they reveal remarkably different degrees of faith. A few people demonstrated bold, unshakable faith, such as a centurion who told Jesus he need not bother with a visit-just a word would heal his servant long-distance. "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith," Jesus remarked, astonished.

Another time, a foreign woman pursued Jesus as he was seeking peace and quiet. At first Jesus answered her not a word. Then he replied sharply, telling her he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, not to "dogs." But nothing could deter this Canaanite woman, and her perseverance won Jesus over. "Woman, you have great faith!" he said.

Jesus seemed impressed that, as foreigners, these were the least likely people to demonstrate great faith. Why should a centurion and a Canaanite put their trust in a Messiah his own countrymen had trouble accepting?

These stories threaten me, because seldom do I have such outstanding faith. Unlike the Canaanite woman, I am easily discouraged by the silence of God. I identify more readily with the wavering man who declared to Jesus, "I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief!"

To my surprise, I found the people who knew Jesus best faltered in their faith. Jesus could do few miracles in his hometown because of his neighbors' lack of faith. John the Baptist, who had heard a decisive voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism, later questioned him. And several times Jesus remarked with astonishment on the 12 disciples' faithlessness.

Jesus' three most intimate disciples saw a dramatic miracle shortly before his death. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus' face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. The dazed ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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