Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to Have the Faith of God

(Thirteenth installment on faith)

By S. Michael Durham

It has been established that faith is the result of God personally speaking to us. Whether by reading the Bible, listening to a sermon, or through the words of a friend, the Lord does speak to us. But the Lord must quicken the word we have heard for it to have life. And when He does faith is born. This is how it works for the faith to be saved and it’s how it works for the saved to have faith in God for whatever they may ask. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

This is evident throughout the Bible. How did Noah have faith to go against his culture and do what no one else had done, build a massive ship? The writer to the Hebrews answers, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7, emphasis mine). Noah had faith because God spoke to him. He spoke an “effectual” word.

What do I mean “effectual”? Simply, that this word from God produces faith. It affects the heart of the person receiving it. God intends to quicken the person to be able to respond in faith. This is why some who hear the gospel are converted by believing while others leave unchanged. The Holy Spirit spoke directly and personally to their hearts and faith was engendered. Oh, for ears to hear! This is the dire need of every child of God, that they have sensitive hearing. It is not that God is not speaking, but so often we are too dull of hearing.

Abraham is another example of God’s effectual voice. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). What makes a man leave all he has ever known, the comfort and security of life, and not know where he was going? Something supernatural is the answer. God spoke, faith was birthed, and Abraham obeyed.

On a spring day somewhere between Bethany and Jerusalem, twelve men followed an unconventional rabbi, who when hungry thought He would satisfy His appetite with some figs. Although the tree indicated it should have had plenty of fruit, it had none. So Jesus cursed it. The next day passing by the same fig tree the apostles noted that the tree was completely withered. In shock, the never shy Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” Jesus responded with great insight to how faith works and its origin. He said, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22).

Nothing out of the ordinary about the answer; it’s the normal response, isn’t it? If you want your prayers answered you must have faith in God. But the answer was anything but ordinary. For some reason most English translations do not give the true sense of our Lord’s words. How unfortunate, because they unlock a great deal of mystery about faith. The literal words of Jesus that day were, “Have faith of God.” In other words, “Have God’s faith.”

It is not enough to have human faith; we must have God’s faith. This is the thrust of Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In an earlier blog titled “What is Faith?” I defined faith as the God-given ability to see reality as God sees it. When God speaks concerning a situation He puts the very substance of the thing in your soul, He gives the proof of the things yet unseen. As I said in that blog, “Faith is not the mental gymnastics we often perform to overcome doubtful resistance, convincing ourselves something is true.” It is to know it’s true because God has said it. Again, we are right back to Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Jesus told the disciples if they are going to see God at work in their prayers they must have God’s kind of faith which is only produced by He speaking to you revealing His will. Jesus continues:

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:23-24)

How can you or I believe a mountain to be cast into the sea if it was not God’s will for the mountain to be in the sea? And how can we know if it is God’s will for the mountain to be in the sea unless He tells us? We can’t. It is impossible.

This is exactly where the faith healers and those in the Word of Faith movement make their fundamental mistake. They assume that if one has enough faith, then God is obligated to do whatever we dictate. This is contradictory to the words of Jesus, as well as to I John 5:14-15: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Faith only operates within the realm of God’s will. Without the understanding of what God’s will is there is no possibility of faith except in His goodness and integrity. We do not know how to pray or what to pray for. What is needed is God’s word to our heart. The effectual word is the missing link. Again I say, this is our greatest need, to hear from God. May He heal our dull ears to hear.

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