Remarkable Faith

When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People


By Shauna Letellier

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This collection of inspirational vignettes, based on eight of the Bible’s unlikely examples of faith, will give readers a fresh intimacy with Jesus.

Remarkable Faith tells the stories of people whose faith was of such quality that Jesus himself marveled at it-people who were broken, needy, and dependent. These eight inspiring vignettes weave history, theology, and fictional detail into their biblical accounts to bring relief and a new perspective to those whose faith feels unremarkable. Written to encourage and relieve discouraged Christians who wonder if their faith is a disappointment to God, this book will demonstrate that remarkable faith-the kind Jesus marveled about-isn’t about achieving or performing. Readers will discover they can exchange their performance-based evaluation of their faith with a fresh, life-giving intimacy with the Jesus who delights in transforming inadequacies into irrepressible affection.


Finding Faith

God is looking for broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God.

—H. A. Ironside, "Men God Wants"

Maybe you've resolved, again, to study your Bible more, serve at your church, or be a better wife, mom, husband, father, employee, or Christian. But the daily montage of your life accuses you of weak faith. Your life bears no evidence of ark-building, sea-crossing acts of faith. After a long day, week, or season you find yourself collapsed in your chair, shaking your head. Maybe you've just tucked your sweethearts into bed. With enthusiasm you've read to them of a giant-slaying boy with great faith in God. Perhaps you flipped through the rest of the children's Bible, looking for a character with whom you can identify.

Or, maybe you've just stepped off the treadmill after your morning exercise, and driving to the same places, dealing with the same people, and doing it all again makes you feel like you're still on it. One foot in front of the other, the belt whirrs round the axles, day after day. Something about your daily life doesn't seem congruent with faith that pleases God.

But you are wrong.

When we look for examples of great faith in the gospels, we think of the disciples. They sat with rapt attention on the side of a mountain listening to Jesus teach with authority about a higher standard of righteousness. When he told them not to worry about where clothes and food would come from, he referred to these disciples who had left jobs, businesses, and family to follow him as "you of little faith" (Matthew 6:30).

We might think of Peter, who took a leap of faith to walk on water to Jesus. But when Peter lost sight of who Jesus was and focused on the raging storm around him, he began to doubt and drown. Then Jesus said, to the only disciple with the courage to leap, "You of little faith…, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31).

We might think of the disciples going through the towns of Galilee following in Jesus' footsteps and attempting to do as he had done. At the foot of a mountain, nine of them were attempting to free a little boy from a torturous demon. They could not. When Jesus arrived, what did he have to say to his disciples? "Thank you for attempting to do my work in my absence"? No. Instead, he scolded their misplaced faith: "You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you?" Jesus drove out the demon and freed the boy. Embarrassed and confounded, the disciples asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He said to them, "Because you have so little faith" (see Matthew 17:14–20).

If Jesus found so little faith with his disciples, whom he chose, did he find faith at all? Yes, he did.

Sprinkled throughout the gospels are the stories of eight nameless examples of faith. We identify them not by their names, but by their afflictions. Their lives were marked by desperation, pain, fatigue, hopelessness, disability, poverty, loneliness, and sin.

Each of them sought Jesus in unabashed desperation. With nothing to offer and nothing to lose, they went to great lengths to get to him. Some crawled through the dust. Some interrupted important gatherings. Others were relegated to roadsides and caves so they screamed for his help as he passed by.

What did Jesus notice about them? Their affliction? Their social impropriety? Perhaps. But the thing he remarked about, even marveled at, was their faith.

Yes, Jesus found faith. Remarkable faith. But in the most unremarkable people. These are their stories.

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to describing Jesus, it is easier to use a thousand words to paint a mental picture. I suspect that's one reason the gospels are filled with stories.

We can say Jesus was compassionate, but something more comprehensive is portrayed when we see him kneeling in the dirt by a crumpled boy, helping him to his feet, and giving him back to his father (see Luke 9:42). When we read that, we have a clearer glimpse of what Christ's compassion might mean.

In the words of Philip Yancey, "It is one thing to talk in abstract terms about the infinite boundless love of God. It is quite another to tell of a man who lays down his life for his friends…"1

In the biblical vignettes in this book, I have taken the challenge issued by Bible professor Howard Hendricks to read the Bible imaginatively and pray this prayer: "Lord, clothe the facts with fascination. Help me crawl into the skin of these people—to see through their eyes, to feel with their fingers, to understand with their hearts, and to know with their minds."2 The characters' backstories, motivations, and the various ways they came to hear about Jesus are plucked from my imagination. Each fictional retelling, however, is based on the true and inspired stories recounted for us through the Holy Spirit by the writers of Scripture (see 2 Peter 1:12).

I have tried to stay close to the Scriptures with these retellings. Where parallel passages were different, I combined the words and accounts of the gospel writers into one. Where Scripture was unclear on motives, I imagined one I felt was reasonable in the situation. Where Scripture was silent, I sifted through possibilities presented in a variety of Bible commentaries. Then I wove a little historical, geographic, political, religious, and cultural context together to drape the fabric of fiction over the framework of Scripture. The more I studied the stories, the more I learned about Jesus. I am fascinated, and he is magnified.

I am tempted to say studying these stories has brought the Bible to life for me, but that would be inaccurate. It was not the Bible that needed to be brought to life. God's word is already living and active (see Hebrews 4:12). It is my mind and imagination that had been dulled and deadened, whether by overfamiliarity or distraction. Perhaps my imaginative look at these stories will begin to awaken your mind to what God has given in his living and active word.

My prayer is that through these reimagined stories the Holy Spirit will stir or reignite in you a real affection for Jesus Christ. Not only is he worthy of worship, service, and time, he is worthy of love.

Weak Faith

The Father of a Demon-Possessed Boy

A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."

"You unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"

"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for one who believes."

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

—Mark 9:17–27

Parallel Passages: Matthew 17:14–21;
Luke 9:37–43

Morning had come too soon. Outside, water jars clanked together and goats bawled for breakfast. The racket coaxed him from sleep. He lifted his head and glanced at his only child on the mat next to him. The arc of the boy's ribs showed through his soiled shirt as his chest rose and fell. He still smelled of singed hair and smoke.

The father counted his own heartbeats until his boy's chest rose again. Six beats between breaths. Two beats. Ten beats and still no breath. He reached over to shake his son's shoulder. Finally the boy's chest rose again. He whispered an exhale but did not wake.

Relieved, the father lay back on his bed, exhausted. He was thankful for breath and sleep and wished for more of both. Once again, last night had been appalling.

This morning, with sunlight streaming through the eastern window, he rolled from his mat and knelt to examine the sleeping boy's leg. It was blistered and blackened, muddied with blood and ash. His son was too agitated last night for him to clean it. He knew he'd have to wait until morning. He'd learned it was always best to wait until morning.

He dipped a linen cloth into the basin and squeezed it out over the burn. Cool water trickled into the wound and dissolved the bloodied ash. His son flinched. The father stopped for a moment to see if he would wake. He didn't. So the father began again. The burn needed a fierce scrubbing, he could tell. This morning he was too tired to restrain his son in order to do it. Instead, he continued to wet and wring and gently wipe.

Finally, the father poured thin wine over a clean cloth and swabbed the burn. The boy winced, but settled. By the time his father had maneuvered the boy's leg to wrap it in linen bandages, he finally woke.

He studied his son's face for signs of irritation. The boy breathed steadily, but inside his chest was a rattling that never produced a cough. Since he never spoke or startled at noises, his hollow eyes were the tunnel from which the first signals of his convulsions came. This morning, his father saw none of those signs, just a blank stare and shallow breathing through cracked lips.

"Today we are going out," he said, knowing full well he wasn't heard. He raised him to sitting and poured a little water in his mouth. The son tugged at the fresh bandage, and his father held out the cup for his son to hold, to occupy his hands and distract him without upsetting him.

Lacing his scarred and skeletal fingers through the cup's handle, he sipped.

The child was wasting away. His body was fragile and his head misshapen from the swelling of repeated trauma. His father feared the next convulsion might be the last. He knew he must go today. He'd heard of a man. Some said he was a teacher, some said a prophet of old. Others claimed he was John the Baptist come back to life. Rumors he barely hoped to believe declared that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Messiah. Whatever—whoever Jesus was, fame preceded him, followed by a wake of discarded crutches, vacant sickbeds, and throngs of happily bewildered people. Though he hadn't seen any of it himself, the father desperately wanted it all to be true.

He folded cheese and bread into a cloth, tucked it into his belt, and looked back at his son. He was still holding the cup, but the water had spilled down his chest. Better to hold the cup and spill the water than to ruin the bandage, he thought.

Sometimes the father's touch would calm the boy, and sometimes it would set him off. Which would it be today? He offered his hand to help his son stand, and the boy willingly took hold. Relief washed over the father. He smiled, grabbed his son's cloak, and led his boy out the door.

Outside of town and into the foothills they followed the village murmurings to where Jesus might be. He kept his son within arm's reach while they walked, to support his fragile frame or restrain his wildness, whichever was needed.

Perhaps Jesus had healed the sick. He strained to rein in his expectations. My son isn't just sick! His son required something greater than wine, oil, and linen. Neighbors, friends, and family were long past calling him "sick." After years of witnessing his violent episodes, they called him a lunatic. He was. Both mind and body were in the clutches of the devil.

His boy was a home to a demon.

Over the years the demon had repeatedly thrown his son into fires. More times than he wanted to remember, the smell of burning flesh assaulted his senses as he wrestled him from a fire. Each time, new burns blistered and old burns reopened where tender, new skin had finally grown. His wounds, always soiled with ash and dirt, required a thorough washing. Each time the scarring was worse.

His boy was getting bigger. Hardly heavier, but longer, harder to restrain, and faster to sink when the demon threw him into water. The father had lost track of the times he'd plunged himself, fully clothed, into the water to bring his writhing son up for air. He'd often been pulled under himself by the thrashing. Without fail the two of them would emerge from the water to a crowd of onlookers, mouths agape.

Neighborhood families had grown accustomed to the recurring spectacle, but never comfortable with it. Warned by the boy's devilish shriek, families whipped around and rushed away. Mothers covered the eyes and ears of their children as his own child was slammed to the ground to flail in the mud created by his own body. Deep parental agony clawed at his heart as they fled from him and his boy.

The sight of a milling crowd jolted him back to the reason for their journey. His heart beat faster. He must be here!

Nearing the crowd, he was surprised to find an argument in progress. Local religious leaders squabbled with nine adamant strangers claiming to be Jesus' disciples. He scoured the crowd for the one called Jesus. He saw no one being healed. No one seemed to be in charge.

A woman caressing a bundle of linen shouldered her way out of the group. "Is Jesus of Nazareth up there?" he asked as she came close. Her face was pale, strained with grief, and her eyes were wet with tears. She shook her head. As she passed, he saw the sweaty little head of a shivering baby cocooned in layers of blankets.

Reluctantly, he took his son by the hand and wove his way through the crowd. Some mocked the religious leaders; others insulted the disciples. Interested and curious bystanders craned their necks to see the leaders debate. He pushed through until he was at the center of the argument. With his mangled son in their midst, they finally hushed. At the sight of his scarred flesh the religious leaders recoiled.

Suddenly it didn't seem so crowded. He studied the men. Their horrified expressions and disgusted whispers dizzied him. Desperation surfaced and the father begged the disciples, "Please… please help. Can you get rid of this evil?" With nervous anticipation he urged his son forward and waited.

Confidently, the disciples spoke—first in Aramaic, then in Hebrew, then in a more commanding tone. "Come out of him!" His son stood before them unaffected—ears still deaf, mouth still mute, eyes still sunken and vacant.

Silence mocked the disciples and vindicated the religious leaders. Finally, the religious leaders filled the silence with insults. "What made you think you could drive it out?" the leaders scolded. They forgot the boy and went on attacking one another. The mumbling of the disappointed crowd absorbed the quarrel, and they began to peel away in ones and twos.

Perhaps he'd been wrong to hope at all. Am I a fool?

He studied his son's face for the rapid blinking, the quivering lips, the stiffness that started in his jaw, all certain signs that the demon was about to seize him again, but the signs that normally alarmed him were absent. He pulled his son to the frayed edges of the dispersing crowd, feeling as disappointed as the mother he'd seen on the way in.

Suddenly, someone behind them shouted, "It's Jesus!" Folks came back together in a roaring swell of movement and noise. Jesus was the reason he had come. He took his son's hand again, and together they limped and budged through the onlookers toward four more men who had just joined the quarrel.

"What are you arguing about with them?" he heard one ask. That must be Jesus.


  • "Her words chosen with exquisite grace, Shauna Letellier does something remarkable--she draws us near to the broken hearts that drew Jesus. Then she does something even more remarkable. She draws us near to the brokenness in our own hearts. The most remarkable thing she does, though, is to draw us near to Jesus, showing how eager he is to bring healing and wholeness--not just to their hearts but to ours."

Ken Gire, author of Moments with the Savior and Windows of the Soul
  • "Shauna has clothed facts with fascination. She has put flesh and blood and emotion and longing to our mental flannel-graph figures. This is a dangerous book. It calls us to a different kind of faith-not the kind that makes us comfortable, but the faith that made Jesus marvel."—Chris Fabry, author of War Room
  • "When we're at our wit's end, drained of every ounce of spiritual energy, Remarkable Faith invites us to reach out - just one more time - to our loving Father who delights in saving us. Keep this book handy for those times when it seems all hope is lost...for that is the moment unfailing faith connects us to a never-failing God."—Maisie Sparks, author, Holy Shakespeare! 101 Scriptures That Appear in Shakespeare's Plays, Poems, and Sonnets
  • "In REMARKABLE FAITH, Shauna Letellier has accomplished no easy feat-she reawakens our sense of surprise with the word of God and welcomes us into a fresh freedom in our faith in Jesus. She is a noteworthy new voice who surely has more books to come, and I'll be waiting for the next!"—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Times New Roman'}Cindy Lambert, co-author, One Light Still Shines
  • "Shauna Letellier delves into the stories of Jesus' healings with fresh perspectives and windows of insight. The characters from the gospels meet the Savior, but then turn and address some of our deepest needs and pressing questions. Her conviction of the power of Scripture and faith in the Christ provide hope and encouragement. Intriguing us with sanctified imagination, we find a realistic and true-to-life engagement with those who met Jesus-not only as they invite and inspire us, but also as they challenge us to go deeper in our faith.
  • I find myself often identifying with the players in these dramas of faith! I feel my own tensions expressed, as in the thoughts of the healed woman "wondering whether she should run to escape with her health, or run to the One who healed." As in "clothing the facts with fascination." As in gaining a fresh impulse to worship, "the irrepressible outworking of a life changed by him." Shauna not only invites us with her words, she prompts us with her wisdom."—Gregory C. Carlson, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of Christian Ministries and Leadership Trinity International University
  • "Like a tour guide sharing her beloved hometown, Shauna Letellier leads you through the winding back streets of eight of Jesus' miracles. Her delightful blend of storytelling, research, and commentary will make you weep, wonder, and wander ever deeper into the Word. As it explores the unexpected faith of ordinary people, REMARKABLE FAITHawakens a longing for the same relentless pursuit of Jesus-the Strength in your weakness, the Fulfillment of your needs, the one true Lover of your soul."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Times New Roman'}Kathi Lipp & Cheri Gregory, co-authors of Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity
  • On Sale
    Jul 11, 2017
    Page Count
    208 pages

    Shauna Letellier

    About the Author

    Shauna Letellier is the author of Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable People. Her writing has been featured at Girlfriends in God, the Huffington Post, Day Spring’s (in)courage, the MOB Society, For Every Mom and MomSense Magazine (now called Hello Dearest), a publication of MOPS International. She attended Focus on the Family’s Leadership Institute and is a graduate of Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska.

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