Given that I am very visual, I have always likened faith to Indiana Jones’s “leap of faith” in the movie The Last Crusade. Ironically it is the final step in his search for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank that he needs to save the life of his father. Left with no other option but to trust the instructions he was given he fans the flames of his courage and steps off the edge as a bridge appears beneath his feet. As is the case with so many Christians today, faith is portrayed as the tool he needs to
If you’ve read the book of Job then you are familiar with the quagmire associated with answering the question; why do bad things happen to good people, especially when spirit-filled believers pray the prayer of faith? It’s confusing because Luke 10:19, says that Jesus has given us all power– exousía (authority) over the power dýnamis (strength, supernatural Power) of the enemy such that nothing can hurt us or stop us from manifesting the hope of His calling. Eph 1:18
Why then are we hurt and why do believers still get sick and die when we pray?
My Word of Faith friends say this is the first question they will ask when they get to heaven.
That said, scripture does not contradict itself. Only my understanding does. It would seem that scripture says power is the birthright of all who are born again and in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:1-6
So what am I missing?
Maybe it’s a question of how we access that power.
Jesus names unbelief (distrust) as the reason for the disciples’ failure to do so.
“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Mat 17:16-20
More often than not I see nothing happening when I pray. Still, I’ve seen enough signs and wonders to know they are real. I prayed and saw a demon cast out once. I prayed again and a man with a stomach ailment was healed. Three weeks after being saved Cathy prayed for her dad’s colon before his surgery to have a tumor removed. Soon after the dumbfounded doctor emerged and proclaimed “he has a healthy colon! We didn’t find a thing!” She says she had no idea what she was doing at the time. We’ve seen deaf ears opened once and the miraculous replication of food twice. Ironically the first time no one prayed. We were trying to get rid of the food as fast as we could. It just wouldn’t go away. The second time a group of five-year-old Mozambiquens prayed. You might accuse me of negative expectations or unbelief. The truth is I had negative expectations and unbelief every time something happened. When I fully expected something to happen nothing did, at least nothing I could see. I feel like my faith must be a lot smaller than a mustard seed. If indeed faith is the key to miracle-working power then
The obvious question is how do I get more?
We can’t believe God unless we first hear His word. Hence we know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Paradoxically the word of God also produces the ability hear. Rom 10:17 Most Word of Faith people claim they are growing in faith. That seems sound. After all, Galatians 5:22 says faith is a fruit. Then again Ephesians 2:8 and 1 Cor 12:9 say that the same faith (pístis) is a gift. Hebrew 11:1 says faith is the substance of our hopes and the evidence of what we can’t see. Paul separates the gifts and healing though they are given by the same spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11. That might explain why some are healed and others are not. However, the consensus among the charismatics I know is that faith drives healing. 2 Tim 1:6 says faith can be imparted – that we can fan the flames or stir whatever gifts we have. But it does not say how we should do that. Finally, as far as I know, scripture does not say that faith is something we can will into existence of our own volition.
Maybe I have a wrong perspective.
Could it be that my desires are out of alignment with God? You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:3-4
Hold on, Brian! You just went off the cliff. Paul is clearly talking about lust and hedonistic pleasures there, not prayer. We pray for others because we care about them. Fair enough. I’m not saying that you don’t. Still,
whose desires motivate you?
What would you say if I told you that altruistic people are driven by selfishness? That selfishness has been inescapable since the fall of man in Gen 3.
I find it both ironic and comforting that when questioned by a reporter regarding why she chose the life she did, Mother Teresa replied, “When I looked inside myself I saw Hitler”. She later stated that she was the most selfish person she knew. While it might not meet the world’s criteria for selfishness, Mother Teresa was insightful enough to recognize that at her core she lived as she did because it provided her with a sense of meaning and fulfillment. Interestingly, only two documented supernatural healings are attributed to her even though healing in Jesus’s name was her life’s work.
If I am honest, I find selfishness is at the root of all my most righteous thoughts and deeds. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags… Isa 64:6 Paul reiterates this principle in Rom 3:11-12 Yes, of course, we are new creations IN CHRIST JESUS. But the self-centered, self-willed self has no part in Him. Mat 16:24 I’m not implying that we are not clothed in His righteousness. 2 Cor 5:21 My point here is that the people addressed in both Isaiah 64 and Romans 3 were obsessed with their “identity”. They believed their salvation was sealed because of who they were instead of who He is. How many today refer to THEIR identity as confirmation of their salvation? There is a subtle but important distinction here.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil 1:21
Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Cor 5:8
Why would I dictate that God keep someone I love away from Heaven and the fullness of seeing Him face to face especially if they are suffering except that I am selfish? Not only that but doesn’t my overwhelming desire to remain in the world for as long as possible still qualify as
“friendship with the world”?
Maybe. Maybe not. It certainly seems worth asking.
Still, it was in response to Peter’s seemingly selfless concern for Jesus’s well-being that He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Mat 16:24-25
“Awww… But Peter loved Jesus.”
Jesus explained what loving Him looks like. John 14:15-31 No, Peter was led by his emotions rather than the will of God. The idea of losing someone he loved was too much for him to bear and he inadvertently sided with Satan.
Perhaps I’m not as mature or on as high a level as some. Perhaps some of you are more like Paul who viewed his remaining days on earth as a sacrifice – a delay in receiving his full inheritance for which Holy Spirit in us is just a downpayment. Eph 1:13-14 While I am certainly more sanctified and detached from the world than when I first believed, I am also so, so very grateful for everyone and everything in my life. You might debate me on this. But there is a fine line between gratitude and attachment. Paul’s mind was fully set on the things above. Col 3:1-4 Mine could just as easily be set on my next meal. If I am honest, I remain more consumed with the affairs of this life than the Bible says I should be.
No man that warreth entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 2 Tim 2:4
Hang on. It gets worse.
Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:6-10
I could be wrong but the hubris that we know as contemporary pride aside; am I not prideful if I assume the right and power to dictate to God what should be done in His name? Am I not prideful when I proclaim the indisputable rightness of my views regarding His character and nature especially when others read the same Bible verses differently? Furthermore, why do I seek things like His manifest presence or joy except that I want it for me? Why don’t I just forget about me and ask on behalf of those dying in Ukraine, or believers who are being persecuted in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, or Iran? I must be really important. “He wants to give it to ME because He loves ME.” you say. This may be true. The question is; who am I really magnifying and why?
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:3
Once again, old things are new and I am now a beloved son. Eph 5:1 Embrace the paradox… Still, I have had the repeated experience of realizing that so much of what I previously regarded as my righteousness in Christ was just selfishness and pride in disguise. One thing is certain, the closer I draw to our Holy God, the more I am convicted of my remaining double-mindedness.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
It seems that wherever a spiritual failure or shortcoming exists; self is there.
Self is insidious
I find it noteworthy that in the context of assuring the disciples that the power to move mountains is theirs and requires so little faith, Jesus prioritizes humility.
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Mat 11:25-30
Lowly is tapeinós: humiliated (in circumstances or disposition):–base, cast down, of low degree, brought low with grief, depressed, humble, deferring servilely to others.
How often are believers caught up with such a desire for supernatural power and outcomes that they skip the most fundamental principles such as the fact that we are barely saved? 1 Pet 4:18 And,
Once again, Deny is aparnéomai –to utterly, disown, abstain:- affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone, to forget one‘s self, lose sight of one‘s self and one‘s own interests.
If the power to heal and cast out demons begins with faith then faith begins with the abrogation of self, not the embellishment of “my identity”. If I miss this, my theology will always be more self-centered than God-centered and powerlessness will be the result.
Could it be that faith is proportional to the degree of my self-denial?
In my observation, my faith grows when I empty my hands in voluntary surrender or utter despair – when I submit to the reality that HE
Is our Father, We are the clay, and (He) is our potter; And all of us are the work of (His) hands. Isa 64:8
It is with hands up and arms wide open, emptied of all to which I most desperately cling, that my faith seems to grow. In my experience, faith is never the exercise of my will in His name. Rather it is the fruit of my delighting in Him alone until His desires become my desires. Psalm 37:4 and I become an unconscious instrument of His will.
Faith increases to the degree that I Trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding. When in all my ways I acknowledge him, he makes my paths straight. If I remember to not be wise in my own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Prov 3:5-8
I find that my trust in Him grows.
Viewed through the lens of scripture, it seems that the flames of faith are fanned by trials and testing. James 1:2-4, Mat 5:48 I have found that my faith expands most when amid testing and trials, God preserves me like Jacob in Gen 32:30. Preserve is natsal to preserve, recover, rescue, to snatch away, deliver, rescue,
to plunder, to strip.
My faith is stirred when I surrender all to Him despite my circumstances in a spirit of, though he slay me, I will hope in him…Job 13:15
Weakness and brokenness always result.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor 12:9
So why do bad things happen to good people, especially when spirit-filled believers pray the prayer of faith? I could be wrong but I suspect it may be because what we call prayer is often a veiled attempt at “dictating to God”. While many “git’er done” believers view the signs and wonders that Jesus performed as ends in themselves – that healing was and is for healing’s sake. I suspect the real purpose is to facilitate dependence that produces absolute, unadulterated trust. At the end of the day, everything we see is temporary 2 Cor 4:18 this life is a vapor James 4:14 and this earth is not our home Heb 13:14.
It’s probably no coincidence that Oswald Chambers said it best on the very day that I finished writing this post.
If only we could get it.
“The only aim of life is that the Son of God may be manifested and all dictation to God vanishes. Our Lord never dictated to His Father and we are not here to dictate to God; we are here to submit to His will so that He may work through us what He wants. When we realize this He will make us broken bread and poured out wine to feed and nourish others.” – My Utmost for His Highest, May 15th –
All our self-willed striving in His name is backward. At best all our claims regarding His thoughts and ways reveal just how silly, small, and ignorant we are. If only we could recognize our utter dependence on Him for every breath and heartbeat, every thought that is true, maybe then we would
Trust God to do what only He can do!
“God, we love you and we thank you for your amazing, amazing patience. I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch us down here chasing our tails scratching all our itches thinking we’ve found answers. We’re digging holes in the ground calling them wells – just starving little people. But God if we’d open up our hearts to you – trust you – you’d do something only you can do.” -Casting Crowns- Here’s My Heart-