What Faith Is, and Is Not

What Faith Is, and Is Not June 6, 2022

On November 14, 2019, Nanci wrote the following in her journal:

Today I am thinking about “faith.” I have learned so much about faith.

What faith is not:

– Trying to gather as much hope and “possibilities” in my own mind to reach a certain level

– Believing in that level of possibilities as hard as I can

– Presenting that package of my own hopes and dreams to God as my personal qualification to receive my hopes and dreams

– God weighing the level of that package in order to determine the level of His answer to my prayers

– If I work up enough hope on my own, God will answer my prayers according to my wishes

What faith is:

– A deep and continued study of the character and work of God Almighty

– A deep and continued discipline of prayer—listening to the Holy Spirit—praying Scripture—seeking forgiveness—asking for enlightenment—praising Him for His character and works

– Then, based upon the above, submitting your requests to God Almighty—placing your well-grounded knowledge of His character and works into each request, always asking His will be done

Faith is being assured that God Almighty always acts according to His character and works. He never waivers. You can trust in God Almighty to always do the right thing. Nothing slips through His grid. God has everything planned, and all His plans will succeed.

The more I understand God’s character and works, the stronger my faith will be, and the more I want His will to be done.

God does all things well.

The more I understand God’s:

– Omniscience

– Omnipotence

– Grace

– Mercy

– Justice/worth

– Immanence

– Immutability

– Faithfulness

– Love

– Unity—Trinity

– Holiness

The more my faith in Him will calm my soul.

Randy again: Some people hold tenaciously to a faith that their child will not die, that their cancer will disappear, that their spouse will recover from a stroke. Do they have faith in God or is their faith in what they desperately want God to do?

If we base our faith on lack of affliction, our faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart at any moment because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. Token faith will not survive suffering, nor should it. Only when we jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can we replace it with valid faith in the true God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life’s tests.

God tells us that trials in which evil and suffering come upon us “have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). Paul Tournier wrote, “If healing through faith is striking, how much more so are spiritual victories without healing.”

Several years ago, before Nanci was diagnosed with cancer, I wrote this in a blog titled “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”:

We should pray for ourselves and our suffering loved ones, not simply try to pray away suffering. ‘God, please heal this cancer’ is appropriate. ‘God, please use for your glory this cancer, so long as I have it’ is equally appropriate.

Let me be clear: God can and sometimes does heal presently, and whenever He does we should celebrate His mercy! I have often prayed for healing and sometimes I have witnessed it, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold and celebrate. But ultimately, all healing in this world is temporary, since people’s bodies inevitably deteriorate and die (after Lazarus died and was risen in his mortal body, eventually he had to die again) Resurrection healing will be permanent. For that our hearts should overflow with praise to our gracious God.

Nanci and I have long known that prosperity theology, or the health and wealth gospel, is a deception, not the true gospel. So we did not even once cling to the “certainty” that God would heal her in this world under the Curse.

Nanci’s journals overflow with the promises of God, and many quotes from Spurgeon and the Puritans, people who died long ago (some of whom she probably already met—if there is a line for those waiting to meet Spurgeon, she’s probably in it having delightful conversations). Nanci never quoted from aging and dying prosperity preachers, who will all die of something and daily get closer to death even as they promise “It’s always God’s will to heal you,” typically adding “send us your prayer requests for healing, along with a love offering [money].”

Though we prayed for it every night for four years, we understood that healing was never a certainty, and also knowing full well that sometimes He chooses to heal and sometimes He doesn’t, and even when He does the healing is temporary, and death always comes. “For death is the destiny of every person, and the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). When doctors told us Nanci was going to die, she told me, “We always knew that, we just didn’t know when, and we still don’t.”

But of course, God promises the death of death. He will not let it die a natural death, He will decisively “swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8). Death will not have the last word. God will.

Jesus said to Martha, mourning the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Answering the question Jesus asked Martha, Nanci and I both said yes—we DO believe you, Jesus. We believe that even when we die, we will live, and in the sense of final death we will never die at all. We will depart a cursed earth to live with Him in the present Heaven, from which He will one day bring our spirits down to join our bodies in resurrection, and we will then live forever on God’s New Earth.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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