Publication: Pastoral Letter, November 2005
Dear Friend in Christ:
Faith is the key to where God wants you to be; therefore, it is vital. My parents were “faith missionaries” when I was very young. Faith was a serious issue for our family. I remember my parents’ prayers. Today, our daughter and son-in-law are faith missionaries…faith is their lifeline. In a sense, we all live by faith and depend upon the Lord to sustain us. Because faith is such an important issue, let’s examine it this month.
There are numerous conditions that are called faith. Here are some of them:
“The Faith”_The Gospel once delivered to the apostles (see Acts 6:7; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:7, Jude 3).
Natural Faith_The human desire to believe something and have a positive attitude (see Mark 9:24).
Faith in the Word of God_Hearing and receiving what Gods says (see Romans 10:17).
Saving Faith_Faith that leads to the confession of Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:8-10, Habakkuk 2:4; Matthew 16:16).
God’s Own Faith_A gift from God (see Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:9; Matthew 17:20).
Faith That Overcomes
1 John 5:4 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world_our faith.” All faith has some benefit, but all kinds of faith are not overcoming faith.
The word “overcome” is a clue. Life presents us with obstacles, sickness, finance, and may other trials. No doubt, we face tests daily that require faith. But some “mountains” are higher than others. The Bible speaks to us about a faith that removes mountains.
Hebrews 11:1-6 tells us that faith is a substance_an assurance of things not yet seen. It is the basis for pleasing God. Faith is being persuaded that what you have asked will come to pass (see Romans 4; John 16:23). Faith is the basis for action and the antidote to fear. Fear keeps us from obtaining the promises of God (see Deuteronomy 32:20, Revelation 21:8). Faith overcomes fear.
If you face a serious issue, I would encourage you to purchase and read a classic book, The Real Faith for Healing by Dr. Charles S. Price (Bridge-Logos Publishers). Dr. Price lived from 1887-1947 and had a powerful healing ministry. In this book, written late in his life, he differentiates between mere belief and real faith. He gives many experiences of failure and success. Some are very dramatic.
Many Christians, even Charismatics, have given up on healing because they have witnessed or experienced “failure”. Sometimes it is because they had a “lower level” of faith. That is, they believed, without a substantive assurance.
I do not consider myself an expert on this subject. Like you, I face trials for which I have not had real faith. On other occasions I have had real faith. When I have experienced real faith, I consider it a gift, not an achievement.
Many of us remember Kathryn Kuhlman. I ministered on the same platform with her on several occasions. She always made it clear that she was not a healer_but Jesus is. I especially remember a meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the late 1960s. She shared a simple Gospel message and as she concluded, she recognized the presence of the Holy Spirit in the meeting. Then she began to point out to the large congregation what the Lord was doing. I saw miracles that day.
There were also times when I saw her when she was weary and when very little happened. I cannot explain the difference. It seems to me that those occasions were similar to the Lord’s own experience (see Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:6.)
The Faith of Jesus
Matthew 16 tells us about the occasion when Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said that the Father had revealed that to Peter. So, the Father had given Peter faith to believe in Jesus as the Christ.
However, in Matthew 17, we see Peter rebuked for speaking out on the Mount of Transfiguration. Then when Peter, James, John, and Jesus descended from the Mount, we see the other disciples struggling unsuccessfully to cast out an evil spirit. Later they asked Jesus why they could not cast out the evil spirit. Jesus answered, “Because of your unbelief.” He went on to say that faith even the size of a tiny mustard seed could remove mountains.
Apparently, the disciples had some “faith”_they could believe in Jesus, but they lacked Jesus’ own kind of faith.
In another instance, a man came to Jesus asking deliverance for his son. Jesus said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the man cried out, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” (see Mark 9:14-29). Jesus went on to deliver the young man.
This is an example of how belief and unbelief can exist in us. It also illustrates that Jesus’ faith was beyond human faith. So how do we receive Jesus’ own faith?
Let me say that it is a good thing to realize and confess to the Lord our own lack of faith. “Help my unbelief,” was a cry that preceded a miracle. Some might object, saying that we should always give a positive confession. However, I say that honesty with God it is necessary to receiving His gift.
Another important point is, get in the presence of God and let Him speak to you by the Holy Spirit. Many years ago, our church was investigated by the IRS for three-and-a-half years. I had many sleepless nights. The stakes were very high. Finally, after three years, I was in a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, where the worship was high and my spirit was open to God. He spoke to me, “It is over; it is finished.” I knew instantly what He meant, and I danced for joy. Though it took six more months to get the letter vindicating and releasing us, I had perfect peace_it was finished.
Real faith is a gift. It is not trying or presuming; it is knowing. How do you know? I know in my innermost being; peace and joy flooded my entire being. It was done. Faith sees the end and rejoices.
We often look to Abraham as a model for real faith. In John 8:56, Jesus says, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” Abraham saw something that would not come for 2,000 years. But he saw it in the Holy Spirit and rejoiced with great assurance.
Growing in Faith
We can grow in our faith. The answer to failure is: don’t quit. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul commends the church for growing in faith. How do we grow in faith?
- Exercise the faith you already have_do something with it. You will not get more until you use what you have.
- Study the Word of God (see 2 Timothy 2:15; Colossians 2:6-7; Colossians 3:16).
- Avoid idle talk and skeptical discussion (see 2 Timothy 2:16-18).
- Pray in the Holy Spirit (see Jude 20-21; 1 Corinthians 14:1-15; Luke 6:12).
- Fellowship people of faith (see Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 John 1:1-7).
- Learn to wait on the Lord (see Psalm 37; Psalm 40).
- Act on what He tells you (see Hebrews 11).
Faith is the key to where God wants you to be. A generation of Israel died in the wilderness for lack of faith. Another generation entered the Land of Promise because of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 gives us numerous examples of the power of faith. In each case, those who had faith acted in accordance with what God says.
In Hebrews chapter 10, the apostle urges the persecuted Jewish believers to enter into the presence of God by the blood of Jesus. We can come boldly before the Throne of God because of Jesus offering for our sin and stand before God in the righteousness of Christ. In the presence of God, we can hold fast our confession of hope without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful. The writer urges that we not cast away our confidence. He goes on to say that after we have done the will of God, there is a great reward. Faith is the key to the reward (see Hebrews 11:6).
A few weeks ago, I stood in a gathering before 1,000 Iranians who were petitioning God for the opening to preach to their fellow countrymen at home. Iran is the home of the “Islamic Revolution.” Faith was there in our gathering, and though many had suffered, there was peace and joy. It was not a morbid meeting.
God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” “Lord God, You know,” Ezekiel replied. The Lord told him to prophesy to the bones. So Ezekiel did and an army resulted.
History tells us that those bones did live. Faith and obedience turns dry bones into armies. The Church often appears to be dry bones. Adding more “dry bones” doesn’t make an army, but faith and prophecy do.
I believe that the Church will become an army. We will move out of analysis and methods into the Spirit and power of God. Does it look like this will happen? Faith doesn’t come from looking around at the environment. It comes in the presence of God. And true prophecy, like true faith, does not proceed from the human mind; it proceeds from the Throne of God.
Scripture Reference: Acts, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Jude, Mark, Romans, Habakuk, Matthew, 1 Corinthians, 1 John, Hebrews, Deuteronomy, John, Revelation, Luke, Colossians, Ephesians, Psalms, Ezekiel