Bible Study: Word of Faith
Elijah, "was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest" (James 5:16-18). Elijah was no different than we are, and yet he spoke with such authority! Unlike Elijah, our words are so often powerless and ineffective, falling to the ground like so many puffs of air. But Elijah was a man like us-how did he obtain such authority that his words became transforming channels of God’s power?
In Mark 11:23-24, Jesus says: "Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." When I first read this scripture, I was more than mildly skeptical. It certainly didn’t characterize my own life or the lives of any Christians I knew. I found myself asking: "So what is the catch?" what trick did God have up His sleeve so that He didn’t really mean what Jesus appears to mean-that I will receive whatever I ask for in prayer?
I saw some people receive answers to their prayers, but many others didn’t get what they asked for. I remember one woman in our church who died of cancer despite all the people praying for her; indeed some were so confident that God would heal her that they took a public stand that they were believing that the woman was healed–it was only a matter of time until the outward manifestation came. But the woman died. Some said afterward that the woman really was healed-she was a Christian and she went to be with Christ. That, of course, was true, but it wasn’t really what we had been praying for. Others searched and questioned themselves–didn’t they have enough faith? But Jesus said that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you could move mountains (Matt. 1720). Perhaps we were deceiving ourselves, perhaps we didn’t have faith at all, or perhaps, most likely of all, we didn’t understand how the word of’ faith really works. One book, apart from Scripture itself, that has been the most helpful to me, has been Norman Grubb’s book, The Law of Faith, which describes in detail how faith works in the life of the Christian.
Perhaps the most common error in saying a word of faith is that we focus our attention on the quality or quantity of our faith rather than upon the One in whom we put our faith. But as soon as we shift the attention to ourselves, we are no longer trusting in God to fulfill the word of faith. Our own faith has become the object of our trust, as if faith could accomplish anything at all.
Faith is not magical power, but only trust in the miraculous power of God. Faith can do nothing of itself, it can only receive from the one in whom it has put its trust. Faith is therefore no more than receptivity. After all, if we are only earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7), we can only receive; we can never produce. But somehow we convince ourselves that if we had enough faith, or if we had the right kind of faith, then we would have received the desires of our hearts. But Jesus said if we had faith as small as a mustard seed, we could move mountains. The problem, then, is not with our faith, but with the fact that we put our faith in faith rather than in God.
As long as we are still impressed by our puny and paltry selves, rather than by the living God, we can never expect any of our words of faith to be accomplished, except by coincidence. So we must become impressed not by ourselves and our own faith, but by the awesome power and goodness of God Himself. The best way to be "impressed" by God is to read the record of His deeds in the Scripture, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). When we read the Scriptures, we find that God will not allow His word to return to Him void or empty of effect, without accomplishing exactly what Ile designed it to accomplish (Isa. 55:4-5). When we realize that God always gets His way, and that His purposes are always and only for the benefit of IIis creation (God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, Rom 8:28), then faith in Him is as natural as trusting that a chair will hold us up when we sit down.
A second trap many Christians fall into is that they think that the word of faith originates within themselves-we think that it is our word, and not God’s. But we have already forgotten that we are vessels: we receive, we do not produce the desires or words of faith within our-selves, as if we were self-operating independent selves. Rather, as the case of Abraham illustrates: "The word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir, but one who shall come forth from your own body shall be your heir’ " (Gen. 15:4). I do not know whether Abraham actually heard a voice or not, but perhaps he only had the thought that God would miraculously produce a child for him from his own body. He expressed the thought in words and then trusted God, and his faith was reckoned as righteousness (15:6). So the word of faith which Abraham spoke originated with God and not within himself.
But how can we distinguish a thought which is just a thought and nothing more from a thought which is the desire which God has put with-in us and, in fact, is He Himself desiring through us? This is a critical question, for surely we experience all sorts of pulls and temptations and desires for things that are not God’s will for us. How do we reach the point where we can say that our desires are God’s desires? Jesus said: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). Are God and His kingdom the one consuming passion in our lives, or has something else dominated our affections to such a degree that it, rather than God, dominates our conversation?
In the chapter "Inordinate Affection" in The Law of Faith, Norman mentions the example of C.T. Studd, who said "You can always tell where a man’s heart is. What moves the heart, wags the tongue! I used to take every opportunity I could to speak of Christ. Then cricket came into the foreground, and Christ in the background, and I was talking cricket" (p. 34, new ed.). Since as vessels we only receive and do not produce, we must ask ourselves where our desires are coming from-do they come from the one consuming desire for God’s kingdom that Christ is producing in us–or do they come from the devil, whose desires we are doing (John 8:44). This does not require a detailed introspection–we know whether we are right with God or not.
What we need to ask ourselves is whether there is any known point of disobedience in our lives, any unconfessed sin in our lives that would block the flow of God’s desires in us and allow Satan a foothold to express his desires in and through our members. James, the brother of’ Jesus, tells us that it is the prayer of a righteous man which is powerful and effective. If we are being operated by the spirit of unrighteousness because we are disobedient, how can we expect any of our desires to be right? And if our desires are wrong, and in fact the desires of Satan through us, how can we expect to speak an effective word of faith.
It is the prayer of a righteous man, the prayer of Christ Himself which is powerful and effective. Unless it is He Himself desiring and speaking the word of faith through us, we cannot expect God to honor it. There is only one way to expel Satan from our members and to ensure that Christ is the one producing His desires in us and speaking His words of faith through us–by sincere repentance (turning away from our sin and hating it) and by confessing our sins to one another that we may be healed (James 5:16). Norman’s pamphlet, Continuous Revival, describes in detail the necessity of genuine confession of sin. But not only must we confess the details of our sins, we must see to the depths the reality of what we are apart from Christ how we are rotten to the core and have no hope unless He lives His life through us and produces His righteous desires in us. Only then can we trust our desires to be His desires.
But if we are clear of known sin, and have seen how wicked we really are apart from Christ, then we can begin to trust that we really have been crucified with Christ, that Jesus Christ really is living His life through us, and that He is the one producing His desires in us for the good of others and the advancement of His kingdom on the earth. Then and only then are we truly free to speak words of faith on behalf of others and expect to have the kind of authority that Elijah and Jesus exercised while upon the earth. For Jesus said, "The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12). How will we do even greater works than Jesus did while on the earth?-because He has received all authority on heaven and earth from the Father (Matt. 28:18), an authority which is avail-able to us if we are clean vessels, pure from Satan’s misuse.
It is, after all, the prayer of a righteous man that is powerful and effective. So then, "Let us set aside anything that would weigh us down, that is, any sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:1-2). If we do so, we can expect to see God transforming the lives of others around us through the words of faith which He inspires us to speak on their behalf.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 16 No 2
- Speaking the Word of Faith
- Yes, I Am
- Editor’s Note
- Tape Talk
- Annual Business Meeting–2000
- We Accept His Calling
- Faith Lessons
- A Testimony About Myself and My Art
- Our True Rest
- Zerubbabel Focus: Alpen Acres–The Physical Plant
- Questions & Answers
- Bible Study: Word of Faith
- Z News–A New Direction
- The Mark of an Apostle
- Excerpt from The Inercession of Rees Howells
- The Worst Sin
- What I Am Not, God Is
- Seeing Life As God Sees It
- British Easter Conference
- To Think About…
- Intercession In Action
- Where Are The Men?
- The Mailbox
- You Are Complete…
- Words to Live By…