Faith (last update to this study was made on 04/28/2003; original article found in ARISE Journal - 07/1995)
Have The Faith Of God
Our understanding of a subject is vital to our spiritual growth, for if our point of origination is not accurate, then greater is our risk in having error along the way. To this very thought, I am compelled to share on perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented topics found in the Christian Church of today - "faith". Before I begin, permit me to state that my purpose is not aimed at tearing down and destroying misconceptions one may have regarding our subject simply leaving a person empty, void and barren. Rather my goal is to replace any false ideas with something far better, with something of substance which will increase your faith and enrich your spiritual life. As taught by the prophet Jeremiah, we must also "root out, and pull down, and destroy, and throw down...". Yet likewise, we are also "to build, and to plant". It is with this very intent I pray to edify and encourage those reading this article.
Much damage has been done to the body of Christ by teachers of the Word of God as they lead many astray into false hopes, expectations and dreams. These supposed men of learning often persuade the unlearned congregation to lay hold of promises and to "make-believe" that God will perform some act or miracle the people so desperately desire. Most often the need is either a financial or a physical healing, yet regardless of the need, these men usually have the same method to their efforts to obtain the blessing. They pray loud and long, shouting and jumping up and down trying to whip up enough faith to make the phenomenon occur. And if the blessing is not evident, well then their answer is rather simple. The poor, unskilled believer is accused of lacking enough faith or not having believed. "Where is your faith? Just believe, don't hinder the blessing of God!". Sound familiar? Sure, it does. Just turn on any Christian television program and you will hear it.
To such methods and tactics we reject and therefore refuse to bow. We must cast aside and pull down such practices of the religious carnal mind and raise a standard of righteousness. To draw an interesting comparison to many of these preachers, we draw an illustration from I Kings, chapter 18. Here we read that the prophet Elijah confronted the children of Israel to follow either the Lord or Baal, whoever was the true God. However, the people would not answer Elijah. Therefore to demonstrate who served God, he issued a challenge to the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Both the prophets of Baal and Elijah were to prepare a bullock and put it on the altar of sacrifice without fire under it. Then the prophets were to call upon the name of their gods and Elijah his God, and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. To this challenge the people answered - it is well spoken.
So the story goes on that the prophets of Baal called upon the name of Baal all day and night, yet there was no response. So they leaped upon the altar and continued their crying and shouting. At this point, Elijah mocked them and said, Cry louder, perhaps your god is talking or on a journey or even sleeping. The prophets even went to the extreme of cutting themselves and continued to prophesy, yet nothing happened. Then Elijah told the people to come near him. He repaired the altar that the prophets had broken down. He also made a trench around the altar and filled it with water and had the children of Israel pour water upon the burnt sacrifice and altar.
Elijah then said, "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me.......... Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God." (I Kgs 18:37-39). Do the prophets of Baal look familiar to you? Perhaps you have been exposed to such an exercise. Maybe you're sitting under a ministry engaged in a similar religious practice. Even worse, maybe you yourself are operating under this mindset. If so, then take heed and learn this hour. Learn that the man of sin which now sits in your temple is being exposed of his way and religious exploits.
So what was the true basis of Elijah's faith? Was he such a great man of faith that anything he asked would be done? Would any command uttered from his lips result in a miracle? Did Elijah have to only claim, lay hold, seize or appropriate his own wish or desire? Perhaps he had the gift of fire and was trying to hold his first miracle crusade or signs and wonders camp meeting. No dear reader, the scriptures are clear in providing us with an answer. The truth is that his faith rested solely upon the word given to him from God. Read it again, "......... let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word." Here was the secret to Elijah's faith. It was AT THY WORD!
And what about our faith? Dare we think for one minute that we by our own command can have the ability to call fire down from heaven as Elijah, or part the red sea as Moses, or perform any other supernatural task simply because we've read it of another in the Bible? Isn't this what is taught by most faith preachers? Isn't it as simple as asking for anything our little old heart desires and it's ours to get? Shouldn't we come together and jump up and down upon the altar and shout for long periods of time to get God's attention and receive His blessing? Maybe when making of our request we ought to raise the decibel a notch or two just in case He is near deaf or is asleep and must be awaked. Perhaps our belief is lacking and we need to exert more faith or claim it harder or seize it quicker. Maybe we ought to take a different approach. Lets raise our level of consciousness and think it into existence. Let us take our natural thinking and change it to where we either deny that the need exists or deceive ourselves into thinking that we have obtained the blessing in some bizarre, yet disguised and veiled way. And if all else fails, maybe our last resort is for the elders to cut themselves as those of Baal and believe just a little more than what they have in the past, then maybe the attention of God will be won and the sacrifice burned on the altar. O' foolish religious man! We all ought to ask ourselves the question, 'Is my faith an exercise in futility or is it according to a direct word spoken to my heart by God. Is my faith based upon my own wish and desire or on what God has personally bid me to do?'
To further illustrate, read the wise words written by Brother Ray Prinzing, 'True faith always presupposes a divine revelation as its basis. "By faith Abraham when he was called, went out ..." His going was motivated by a CLEAR WORD FROM THE LORD. "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." (Genesis 12:1). He had received a glimpse of God's plan, but not a total revelation all in one glorious moment. There was that needful word for the present, and then the promise that "I WILL SHEW THEE," as God revealed to him, by degrees, as he went. On those occasions when he acted "out of himself" with his own scheming, reasoning, it was disastrous, and brought him much sorrow and grief." - endquote.
Holy script would teach us that ".....faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17). The word 'faith' in this verse comes from a Greek word pistis which means persuasion, credence, or conviction. The word is also connected with the idea to assent or have a testimony of another. Can we see that our persuasion, our conviction, our testimony or our faith does not come from ourselves but rather from another. Paul writes that it comes through hearing and hearing by the word of God. And as the stories of Elijah and Abraham have illustrated, it is by the hearing of THE WORD OF GOD. Indeed, it is at His word that we have the confidence and assurance to proceed, it is by divine impartation into our hearts and minds that we can trust, believe, or have faith to continue and know that the very thing required will be accomplished. Not because we wish it to be so. Not by our own faith. No, never. But because He has given us a personal answer. A specific revelation to our heart, AT HIS WORD!
This thought continues throughout holy script. In fact, we are taught that it is not by our own efforts or faith in which we are justified but rather by THE FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ....." (Gal. 2:16). Several other statements in scripture bear witness to this very thought, "......being justified by faith" (Rom. 5;1), "......we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Rom. 3:28), ".....that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth ('pistis' or faith) in Jesus" or better translated "a Justifier of the one who is of THE FAITH OF JESUS." (Rom. 3:26). The apostle Paul clearly wrote that the basis of our justification is not by our own faith but rather the faith of another.
In fact, the very life in which we live is not by our own faith but by THE FAITH OF THE SON OF GOD. (ref. Gal 2:20). Certainly, we are to live by faith as it is written, "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17). Habakkuk 2:4 states, "....but the just shall live by his faith." Notice where and in whom our faith is found. Once again, it is not by our own faith but rather HIS FAITH. The gospel according to Mark demonstrates this same idea. In chapter eleven we find where Jesus had pronounced a curse against a barren fig tree. The next day the disciples had noticed the dried tree and Peter inquired of the Lord, "Behold the fig tree which thou cursedest is withered away." Jesus answered, "Have faith in God." The original states more accurately, "HAVE (the) FAITH OF GOD." This lays the foundation for His next statement, ".....that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be cast into the sea; and shall not doubt...... he shall have whatsoever he saith." Whether it is the moving of a mountain, or calling fire from heaven, or parting a sea, or simply knowing what direction to take in a particular situation, it is possible to believe when God has spoken it! This is THE FAITH in which we are to obey.
The Bible teaches that God has dealt to man their measure or portion of faith, "as God to each has distributed a measure of faith." (Rom. 12:3 Diaglott), and again, "as God parts to each the measure of faith." (12:3 CV). (It is also worth noting that the 'each' spoken of in this verse seems to refer to the 'every man among you' in the context of the story and not necessarily to each and every man that lives on this earth). In chapter twelve of the same epistle, it continues to read, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;". The Greek word used for 'proportion' is analogia which comes from two other greek words - ana and logos. Putting these two words together, we get the idea of 'intensity of divine expression or utterance'. In other words, the 'proportion of faith' translates to the 'intensity and expression out of the persuasion of Christ'. Praise the Lord! This is the very credence in which we ought to be established, "Rooted and built up in him, and stablised in the faith." This is the assurance in which we are risen with him, ".....through the faith of the operation of God." This is the confidence in which God hath chosen you to be delivered, "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief ('pistis' or faith) of the truth". And this is God-given faith "for all men have not faith." (II Thes. 3:2).
Similarly, Abraham was offered the opportunity to hurry the fulfillment of God's promise to him when Sarah suggested that he father a child by Hagar. So often we too, in our impatience and weakness of faith, want to help God fulfill His promises to us. I am sure we can all draw our own personal illustrations, especially when the need is great and our patience short and faith small. We see this on every side of us, from those wanting the riches of the kingdom of God under the disguise of "prosperity and wealth", to those pressing towards the deeper walk of sonship yet trapped in the subtle metaphysical and mind/science doctrines to think, believe and confess themselves into the fullness of God. Yet scripture would teach us to "labour not to be rich" (Prov. 23:4), "He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye" (Prov. 28:22) and "which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" (Matt. 6:27).
Brother J. Preston Eby so aptly writes, "Since it is true that faith is produced by someone outside of oneself, it follows that faith in God is not something that you and I "decide" to have or are able to conjure up. It is our Lord, Himself, who must produce faith in the apprehended ones. It is not something that is initiated by us as a result of our desire to "have faith" in God or His promises. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith..." (Heb. 12:2). God is the source and originator of our faith! There is no such thing as "our faith" or "my faith" apart from GOD'S FAITH. Our faith is merely the faith that God has given us - the faith that HE has evoked in us by the revelation of Himself to us. And - "it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God." - endquote.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb 11:1). Faith is the 'substance'. The Greek word for 'substance' is hupostasis and means confidence or essence. It is with this same substance that we are made partakers of Christ. It was the same word that the writer of Hebrews wrote, "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person".
So we conclude that it is FAITH, given by the grace of God, which is able to frame the ages, subdue kingdoms, bring righteousness, obtain promises, out of weakness make strong, make thee whole and save. Faith should not be self-created but rather is God-given. We ought to examine ourselves, whether we be of this faith, proving ourselves to be led by the Spirit and called the sons of God.