Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Power of Faith

In the previous part of this series, we discussed where our faith comes from, and how the origin of our faith is what separates faith from delusion. In this part, we will discuss the way that faith empowers, emboldens, and is the key to receiving that which is hoped for. Rather than go into my experiences with faith, I am going to share some of the Bible passages that have helped me understand how faith works in the life of the believer.

  1. Faith makes possible the impossible.

In Luke 18:27, Jesus says that “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” God being able to do anything is a fact that has always been known, but this fact is what the gift of faith is founded upon. As previously described, faith is not some kind of optimistic way of thinking, nor is it anything that one can conjure up within himself. Faith is a gift that comes from the Holy Spirit, and given that nothing is impossible for God, we are able to trust that whatever it is that God has given one the faith to believe will, if he acts upon said faith, come to pass.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus answers His disciples after they asked Him why they were unable to cast a demon out of a boy. Jesus’ answer is perfect (just as Jesus is): “Because of your little faith”.

Jesus goes on to explain how, if one has faith that is even the size of a grain of mustard seed, he can “say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move”. He finishes this explanation by telling His disciples how, if their faith is the size of even a grain of mustard seed, “nothing will be impossible for you”.

It is by faith that we can see the lame walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear. When the Holy Spirit gives one the faith to believe something, it shall come to pass. The biggest cause of faith being wasted is one’s inability to recognize that, while God created logic, He is not bound by it. While God created our ability to reason, our ability to reason does not supersede God’s power. While God created our senses, our senses do not dictate God’s behavior, nor do our senses perceive all that God is doing.

If we take God at His word, if we trust in His ability to do whatever it is that He has said He would do, we will watch God move in ways that are beyond human comprehension. However, if we side with our physical senses, what we know, and what makes sense to us, we will never see all that God wants to do in our lives.

  1. Faith is what secures that which we hope for.

One of my favorite passages about faith is Romans 4. In Romans 4, Paul describes the faith of Abraham, and how, despite what Abraham could observe, he chose to trust God, to believe that God would do that which He had promised to do, and his faith was counted to him as righteousness.

When God gives us the faith to believe something, He has already done “His part” (for lack of a better term). When God gives somebody the gift of faith, it is the job of that person to walk in the faith that he has been given. By walking by faith, by trusting in God, and by subordinating one’s knowledge to that of God, one is able to secure that which he has received the faith to believe in.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is what his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” [Romans 4:18-22, ESV]

As Paul describes, Abraham believed God, and he believed that God was able to do that which He had promised to do. What sets apart the promises of God from the promises of man is the same thing that sets faith apart from delusion: God. When God says that Abraham’s offspring will be “like the dust of the earth”, Abraham can trust God because God is able to do anything. If another man had come up to Abraham and made the same promise that God made, Abraham would not have been able to believe the man’s promise. What is impossible with man is possible with God.

In Luke 7:50, Jesus tells a woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” While Jesus was the One who forgave the woman for her sins (which is the context of the verse in question), He forgave her because of the woman’s faith. Because the woman had faith, she was forgiven.

I want to mention that, while faith is what saved that woman, we have all received the faith that is necessary for our sins to be forgiven, as 1 John 1:9 tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We receive the gift of faith (regarding God’s ability to forgive us for our sins) from His Word.

Luke 18 describes how a blind man approached Jesus and asked for Him to heal him. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (verse 41), and the man replies, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” Bear in mind, this exchange took place right after the blind man had been rebuked by those around him, after he had been calling out to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (verse 38). In response to the man’s request, Jesus replied, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” (verse 42). It was through the man’s faith, through his persistence, through his insistence that Jesus Christ heal him, that his sight was restored. The man did not just go against his own understanding, he went against those around him, he went against what he had been told to do, and he approached the Son of God, so that his sight would be restored.

As soon as Jesus told the man that his faith had made him well, “immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.” (verse 43).

The final example of Jesus telling people how their faith has made them well comes from Matthew 9. Jesus is approached by a woman who “had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years”, but she did not have the chance to approach Jesus to His Face. Instead, the woman, saying to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”, touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment. Jesus turned around to see the woman, telling her, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” Verse 22 ends with, “And instantly the woman was made well.”

To conclude this part of the essay, I want to quote Douglas Moo’s The Epistle to the Romans, which is part of the The New International Commentary on the New Testament series. In his commentary on Romans 4:18, Moo writes,

“...his [Paul’s] attention is still on the promise: how Abraham responded to the promise – in faith – and how it was that faith which secured righteousness and what had been promised.” (page 282)

Douglas Moo concludes that paragraph with an excellent description of Abraham’s faith, writing,

“...Abraham’s faith is not described as a ‘leap into the dark,’ a completely baseless, almost irrational ‘decision’...but as a ‘leap’ from the evidence of his senses into the security of God’s word and promise.” (page 282-283)

  1. Faith is the key to seeing miracles happen.

In Acts 3, Peter delivers a speech, after a lame man was given the ability to walk. The events of the book of Acts take place after Jesus Christ ascends to Heaven, so the miracle in question is performed by a man. Yes, Peter was a very special type of man, but he was a man nevertheless. Peter was able to see the man healed, not by his own power, but by the power of God. After the man had been given the ability to walk, he leapt up, then he began to walk, leap, and praise God. With such a commotion being caused by a man who had been lame from birth now being able to leap around, Peter began to address the people that witnessed the man being healed. In verse 16, Peter tells the people that, “his [Jesus] name–by faith in his name–has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all”.

If one goes up to a man who cannot walk, and tells that man to stand up, the man who gave such a command will look rather silly (to put things mildly). However, if one receives the faith to believe that the lame man in question will be healed, then he goes and tells the lame man to stand up, the lame man will be healed. It is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that miracles happen.

  1. Faith gives us the power to lead others to Christ.

I do not mean that we are able to compel people to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but I do mean that, through our faith, and the results thereof, people are shown the power and glory of God, which has the effect of leading people to accept Christ. In the previous part of this essay, we discussed the way Peter, with the faith given to him through Jesus Christ, had been able to give the ability to walk to a man who had been lame from birth. In this part, we are going to look at chapter 4 of the book of Acts, where it describes the response, to the miracle that had just taken place, of the authorities.

Acts 4:1-3 describe the reaction of the authorities in question:

“And as they [Peter and John] were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” [Acts 4:1-3, ESV]

As a result of the authorities being “greatly annoyed” with Peter and John, the authorities arrested Peter and John and held them until the next day (not because of how annoyed the authorities were, but because the two were arrested when it was already evening). Despite Peter and John being imprisoned, the people that witnessed the miracle that had taken place were able to believe in Christ.

“But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” [Acts 4:4, ESV]

I want to clarify something that I had to check when I was researching the verse in question. The ESV has a strange habit of not capitalizing God’s pronouns (“he”, rather than “He”), nor anything pertaining to the Word of God. When Acts 4:4 says that people heard “the word”, the verse is talking about the Word, not just the word (as in, hearing word about what had taken place with the lame man being able to walk).

Despite their imprisonment, the actions of Peter and John, which were done in faith, caused the number of men (who now believed in Christ) to reach “about five thousand”. There is a lot of debate amongst scholars, regarding whether or not the five thousand in question includes the three thousand people that were saved after Peter’s speech in Acts 2, but even if it does include the previous three thousand converts, that means that the step of faith that was taken by Peter and John led to around two thousand people being saved.

While the subject of one’s faith may seem inconsequential to him, there is more to the gift of faith than what he can understand. Walking by faith is incredibly shocking to others, even if they are saved. How much more must walking by faith shock those who do not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!

Walk by faith, reap the rewards of your faith, and watch as God works in those around you.

  1. Faith produces works.

James 2 has a section about how faith without works is dead. We are saved by faith (which is one of the core themes of the Pauline Epistles), but our faith should not exist on its own. Our faith should produce works.

In the words of James, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” [James 2:17, ESV]. Our faith should produce in us Christ-like behavior. Galatians 5:22 describes the fruit of the Spirit, which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As we walk in faith, we walk with Christ. As we walk with Christ, we become more like Him. Genuine faith should produce good works, draw one closer to Christ, and produce a change in the person who has received said faith.

  1. Faith produces steadfastness.

In James 1, we are told to rejoice when we meet trials of various kinds. Why should we rejoice when we are faced with trials? Because when our faith is tested, steadfastness is produced. Steadfastness (or endurance) is more than just the ability to continue fighting for that which we have received the faith to believe in, steadfastness leads to character, which leads to hope.

Let us begin by examining the verse from James that tells us to rejoice in our trials.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [James 1:2-4, ESV]

The word “steadfastness” is translated from the Greek word hypomonē (ὑπομονή), which, according to the Dictionary of Biblical Languages [James A. Swanson], means “endurance, perseverance, patience”.

When a delusion is challenged, the deluded individual is likely to shut down, to lash out at those who have questioned his delusion, and he is faced with reality. In contrast, when a person is walking in faith, his faith being tested causes him to become even more determined, more patient, and more dedicated to that which he has faith about.

Paul describes the same thing that James described about the testing of faith. In Romans 5, Paul writes,

…but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. [Romans 5:3-5, ESV]

Faith under attack produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Our hope is not in man, but in God, Who will never put us to shame. When we trust in God, when we walk in faith, our faith will withstand all things.

  1. Faith is the key to receiving wisdom from God.

Without getting too far into the importance of wisdom, I would like to touch on how faith is what we need to receive wisdom from God. In James 1:5-8, the importance of having faith when asking God for wisdom is made incredibly clear:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. [James 1:5-8, ESV]

I have written about this passage in the past, and I would encourage anybody who would like to better understand the passage in question to go and read what I have already written. So that the point of this passage can be made, suffice it to say that without faith, one “must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

The reasoning behind why the man in question must not expect to receive anything is explaining in the verses that follow. When we go to God, when we ask Him for anything, we must believe that He exists, that He hears us, and that He is able to do what we have asked Him. Just because we ask God for something does not mean that it will happen, but if we do not ask, we do not receive, and if we do not have faith, we shall not receive.

In my experience, I have been able to ask God for wisdom on an ordinary day and find Him revealing things to me later that day. However, there have been moments where I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, as well as a desire to pray for wisdom in particular. When I act upon the desire to pray for something in particular (in this case, for wisdom), God will answer. I can ask God for whatever I want, but unless it is His will to grant my requests, I will not receive what I have prayed for. On the other hand, if God puts something on my heart, and I pray about the thing that God has put on my heart, I see God work in a spectacular way. I will explain more about the limit to faith (God’s will) in another essay, but I wanted to mention what I have experienced while I am still on the subject of asking God for wisdom.

  1. Faith produces supernatural boldness, regardless of circumstance.

One who acts upon faith will witness a supernatural change in his body, his mind, and in his spirit. It was not until I experienced the supernatural boldness that comes with faith that I understood how anybody would be willing to sacrifice everything, including life itself, for the sake of the Gospel. When the Holy Spirit gives one the gift of faith, that faith will produce a kind of courage and bravery that cannot be replicated. I have experienced such a boldness as I have acted upon the faith that has been given to me by the Holy Spirit, but my story pales in comparison to that of one of my favorite figures from the Bible: Paul.

But, before we talk about Paul, we must learn about the faith that led to the conversion of Saul. The conversion of Saul is described in Acts 9, where God speaks to a man by the name of Ananias. Ananias is told to go and lay hands on a man named Saul, who was one of the foremost persecutors of the Church. Ananais responds to God in verses 13 and 14,

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” [Acts 9:13-14, ESV]

Ananias was understandably concerned about his safety, considering that the man that God had told Ananais to go and pray for was the man who had been ravaging the Church, throwing Christians in jail, and even putting Christians to death. Saul was a vehement opponent to the church, and it was Saul’s hatred for the Church that drove him to travel to Damascus, so that he may take any Christians he comes across back to Jerusalem.

The story of Saul’s conversion has been a favorite of mine for a long time. One of the most fascinating parts of Saul’s conversion is how Ananais had never been told about what had been done to Saul as he traveled to Damascus. Thankfully, the events that took place on Saul’s journey to Damascus have been recorded for us:

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. [Acts 9:3-9, ESV]

Ananias had no idea that God had spoken to Saul, nor did Ananias know that Saul was waiting for further instruction from the Lord. All that Ananais knew was what the Lord had revealed to him:

And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” [Acts 9:11-12, ESV]

In response to Ananias’ concern about his safety if he goes to pray for Saul, God tells Ananias that “he [Saul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel”. What did Ananias do next?

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 9:17, ESV]

As for how Ananias learned about the Lord revealing Himself to Saul, the Bible is silent. It would not be too far of a stretch to think that Ananias had been given more information through some kind of revelation, or even from when God spoke to him, but that is not important. What is important is the way that Ananias, upon hearing God speak to him, got up and traveled to see a man that had been persecuting Christians, laid his hand upon Saul, and addressed him as “Brother Saul”. Ananias had no idea what would happen to him, nor did he fully understand why Saul had been chosen by God for such an important purpose as carrying the name of Christ “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel”. All that Ananias knew was that God had told him to do something, and it was by faith that Ananias was able to do what he had been told to do.

I cannot accurately describe the importance of Ananias’ faith. The man that he prayed for went from being one of the most violent opponents of the Church, to being the man who wrote at least 13 (many believe that he wrote the book of Hebrews as well) books of the New Testament, and the man who spread the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire.

Saul, now Paul, was a man of faith as well. Despite being imprisoned on several occasions, he was always hopeful, he was always rejoicing in the Lord, and he never ceased praising God. In fact, the first thing that Paul did after Ananias prayed for him was return to the synagogues, so that he could proclaim to those who knew him that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. From the moment Paul preached Christ to those in the synagogues, the Jewish people plotted to kill Paul. Paul was made aware of the situation, and his disciples “took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket” [Acts 9:25, ESV], which was a feat on its own considering that the Jewish people had been waiting, day and night, for Paul to emerge from where he was staying.

The last example of boldness through the power of faith comes from the end of the book of Acts. The situation in Acts 27 is also one of my favorite stories from the Bible, as it shows Paul’s powerful faith in God, despite his circumstances.

In Acts 21, Paul is arrested in Jerusalem, after he had been preaching about Jesus Christ, telling the people that Jesus is the Messiah, and that they can receive salvation through faith in Christ. In spreading the Gospel, Paul managed to upset many of the “Jews from Asia” [Acts 21:27, ESV], which led to Paul being arrested. Paul was a citizen of the Roman Empire, which granted Paul certain rights that were not available to non-Roman citizens. Paul exercises one of said rights while he was confronting his accusers, saying to them,

“I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” [Acts 25:10-11, ESV]

Being a Roman citizen, the only response that Paul could have received was the one that he was given: “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

While, to an American, it might seem like Paul was doing some kind of forum-shopping, he was actually taking an even greater risk by taking his trial before Caesar. In Acts 25, Paul speaks to Agrippa the king, who is the one who tells us the reality of Paul’s situation:

“This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” [Acts 26:32, ESV]

Why did Paul choose to appeal to Caesar when the accusations that had been brought against him were so weak that even the authorities knew Paul would be set free? Paul knew that God had a purpose for him, and it was because of this purpose that Paul chose to appeal to Caesar, so that he might share the Gospel in Italy.

This brings us to the actual example of the boldness that comes with faith. In Acts 27, as Paul is on a ship, traveling to Italy, a violent storm causes the other men aboard the ship to become afraid for their lives. This fear was not a mild one, it was a fear that led the men aboard the ship to jettison their cargo [Acts 27:18, ESV], then their tackle [Acts 27:19], until the men gave up hope.

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. [Acts 27:20, ESV]

Verse 20 shows us, through Luke’s perspective, the despair of those aboard that ship. In response to the men giving up hope, Paul stood up and spoke to them about what he had been told by God, and why he was not afraid.

“Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” [Acts 27:22-25, ESV]

Yes, there would be a shipwreck, but Paul was able to trust God, to have faith in Him, and to use that faith to encourage the other people aboard the ship. When it looked as if there would be no way for those aboard the ship to make it to Italy, Paul stood and proclaimed that which an angel of the Lord had spoken to him.

In the end, what Paul proclaimed to the other men came to pass.

This has been the longest essay that I have published thus far, but I did not want to publish an essay about the power of faith if I did not share all that has been on my heart. I began praying for the opportunity to share what I have seen God do in my life, and after waiting for many months, I have been given that opportunity. I have never been more passionate about any of my essays than I am about this one.

Faith is powerful, it comes from the Holy Spirit, and it will lead to miracles, success, encouragement, wisdom, and glory being given to God. We have discussed the meaning of faith, where faith comes from, and how powerful faith is. In the next part of this series, we will go over the ways that one can squander the gift of faith.


1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written and filled with gold nuggets! Thank you for putting all of this together and for introducing Scriptures that are there to remind us of the power of the Most High. It filled my heart with joy and faith last night when I read it, and again this morning. May the Lord continue to bless you with insight and wisdom from above!


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