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The Necessity of Faith
In the last few decades, there has been a growing emphasis on ‘faith’ in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. Most of us agree that faith is an integral part of our spiritual lives. The author of Hebrews says that without faith, it is not just difficult, but it is “impossible to please him [God]” (Heb. 11:6). Unbelief limited Jesus from doing “many mighty works” in Nazareth, his hometown (Mt. 13:58). The New Testament clearly teaches the need for faith to receive any blessing from God (Mt. 9:2, 22, 29; 15:28; Mk 9:23; 11:23-24; Jn 14:12; Jas. 5:15). Thus, every believer must strive to grow in their faith. But what is biblical faith? There is confusion among several Christians regarding the nature of faith. I want to briefly explain the true nature of biblical faith by raising few important questions about faith.
Is Faith a Law?
Based on Romans 3:27, many so-called ‘faith teachers’ preach that the “law of faith” is similar to the gravitational force. They believe that just as gravity works every time it is set into motion, the “law of faith” works every time a believer trusts God and makes a positive confession. Furthermore, many such preachers view faith as a formula. For instance, Fred Price argues that Romans 10:10 is a formula which anybody “could put anything in there [the formula] you want—healing, your needs met, new job, car, home, whatever you need.” However, when one views faith as a mere law or a formula, there is a danger of reducing God to an impersonal being who invariably works on preordained laws (similar to deism) rather than the sovereign God of the Bible who is actively involved in the lives of his people. One should not think of faith as a magical formula through which we can manipulate or command God. Biblical faith is put in a person (God), not in a force.
Can we Possess God’s Faith?
Some preachers speak of having faith in our own faith. That is ludicrous. Mark 11:22 is clear that we must “have faith in God,” not in our own faith. The object of faith is God. But some contend that Mark 11:22 should be translated as “Have God’s faith” or “Have God-kind of faith.” However, the Bible nowhere explicitly teaches that God has faith. Moreover, in Greek, the expression “Have faith in God” in Mark 11:22 is an objective genitive, which implies that the object of faith is God. Jesus is teaching his disciples that we must trust God, his character, his promises, his purposes, his plans, and his will. One should have faith in God which is imparted to us by God himself. God’s people should recognize that God is the source and object of our faith.
Can we Receive Whatever we Ask?
In Mark 11:24, Jesus says to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Based on this verse, some teach that no matter what you want, you can “name it and claim it” through faith. This is not true. We cannot twist the arm of God by exercising our faith or through positive confession. While we must have a vibrant faith, we should not belittle the sovereignty of God. No matter how much faith we muster, our faith cannot override the sovereignty of God. The psalmist says “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3; also, see Ps. 135:6). Further, the Bible teaches that “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9). The entire Bible affirms God’s sovereignty, whereas some of the ‘faith preachers’ deny or belittle God’s sovereignty and independence.
So, we must pray in faith, but we must always seek God’s will as we pray. The perfect model for such prayer is our Lord Jesus Christ. This is how Jesus prayed in the darkest hour of His life: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mk 14:36). This verse demonstrates that Jesus had a strong faith in the Father’s power, yet he was willing to submit to his Father’s will. Similarly, we must have faith in God’s power, but at the same time, we must be submissive to his will. We must have robust faith coupled with utmost submission to God’s will.
How do we Grow in Biblical Faith?
Faith comes by feasting on God’s Word (Rom. 10:17). In order to grow in our salvation, “like newborn infants,” we must “long for the pure spiritual milk” (1 Pet. 2:2). Merely reading the Word in order to perform a religious duty or to prepare a sermon will not enable us to grow in our faith. Reading the Bible for five to ten minutes and filling our minds with “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” throughout the day will “choke the Word” (Mk 4:19) and hinder our progress in faith. We must read the Word, meditate on the Word, relish the Word, long for the Word, and live the Word. God’s people must heed the advice of Charles Spurgeon, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” The Bible must become a part of our daily spiritual diet. Then, we will be able to grow in our faith and gradually become like Christ. May the Lord help us to grow in our faith each day!
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