Last week’s sermon on Matthew 17:14-21, entitled “How to Exercise Faith,” raised some good questions from a couple of folks. I thought I would try to answer them here. I have answered some other questions about healing before, and you can read those by clicking this link to the previous article.
The first question relates to what is often called the “Word of Faith” movement. This describes a segment of professing Christians who believe that “faith” operates through our “words” by speaking into reality whatever we have enough faith for. The question says, “Your message seems to strengthen the argument made by the Word of Faith movement, that if someone has enough faith, then they can be healed by God…what can be said to those seeking healing, but don’t receive it and yet believe their faith is true enough to experience God’s healing?”
I was very careful in my message to point out that the nature of “faith” as the term is used in the Bible is believing and trusting in “(1) the nature of God, (2) the power of God, and (3) the promises of God.” The simple answer to this question is that there is NEVER a promise in Scripture that God will heal you.
It is in the NATURE of God to heal–that is why He accomplished eternal healing at the cross (Isaiah 53:5 – the healing in the atonement is from sin, not sickness). This is also why He sometimes physically heals in the present by His grace. As well, it is obviously and certainly within the POWER of God to heal. He can heal anyone, at any time, of anything, if He so desires. That being said, however, there is NOT a PROMISE that God WILL heal anyone, at any time, of anything. Our “believing” that He will (or must!) is misplaced confidence in something God has not promised. That is why I pointed out, “faith is not a feeling of confidence” about something you desire or pray for. Faith is trusting in a promise given by a good and powerful God, but still unseen in reality. Because we have no promise of healing, we cannot “claim that promise” by faith, and speak it into reality by our faith or prayers. Sadly, that is what the “Word of Faith” adherents claim to believe and practice, and it has been the cause of great disappointment and spiritual instability in many.
A second question I received was this: “How do you pray in faith for things you aren’t sure are God’s will, or about which you do not have a specific promise?”
Another great question. Perhaps an illustration would help. If I asked you, “How does a child ask his mommy for a apple to eat, when he does not know if she has any apples in the house, or if his mommy wants to give him one?” I think your advice would be obvious. He just asks her. He voices his desire, hopefully with humility and contentment in his heart and voice, and trusts that she will answer in whatever way is generous and/or good for him. God’s heart is turned toward the good desires of his children, just as a mother would be inclined to give her child an apple when he asks. We pray the same way, because we know God’s character to be generous (“how will He not also with Him freely give us all things” [Romans 8:32]). If He withholds our requests, then we can be confident that it is good for us. But we can humbly appeal to His love and generous nature, and voice our desires with contentment, knowing that His heart is stirred by our requests, and His desires will be carried out fully. He delights in our asking for good things, He delights in putting His goodness on display by granting them, and He basks in the worship and gratitude that issues forth from these expressions of His kindness toward us. So keep asking, that you might keep receiving, worshipping and thanking Him!
The third question is a little tougher. “How can one know if the measure of their faith is sufficient or ‘little’ in the Lord’s eye?”
There are no clear guidelines laid out in Scripture for this one. Therefore, we are left to compare our prayers, attitudes, actions, and motivations of the heart with the examples of Scripture. Are we being distracted by circumstances like Peter (Matthew 14:28-31)? Are we persisting in prayer, and not giving up, like the widow (Luke 18) and importunate neighbor (Luke 11:8)? Are we doubting the Lord’s power to protect us from the storm like the disciples (Matthew 8:26)? Are we doubting that God can provide (Matthew 6:25-34). Because we don’t have a particular word or promise from God about our specific circumstances, this kind of comparison and honest assessment is the best we can do–this is how the Word “judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). If you do not find your prayers, attitudes, actions or motivations lacking, then you should continue to pray with a contented heart, believing that God is good and knows best what is needed. Every answer of “no” or “wait” from God is not caused by “little faith.” He may have other lessons for you to learn, like steadfastness, contentment, or joy in the midst of your trials. Don’t miss those lessons because you’re just assuming your faith is small.
I hope that helps. Feel free to comment and interact. I’ll be around.