Monday, February 21, 2005

Faith: Part One

Recently, I had a small cyber-debate on a message board I frequent about faith. There is an organization of which I was an active part that teaches "the power of the spoken word" as if people can successfully determine their own path in life simply by speaking what they want. Or as if by verbalizing a fear, they fall in danger of it actually coming to pass, and indeed bring it upon themselves. So the theory that logically falls from that is that if you only speak what you want, you will have great success in life.
Verses are cited, such as Mark 4:14, John 1:1, Proverbs 6:2, etc., to support this thesis--but they are all out of context. If you read the verses surrounding the cited ones, you will see that those verses have absolutely nothing to do with the power of the spoken word. But verses whose context makes plain that the subject is indeed the power of words--are never used. I'm talking about James 3:2-18. I'm talking about Matthew 15:18-20. And how about Proverbs 15:1-4 and 25:15? These verses do talk about how to use words to accomplish goals--but they never ascribe to us an amount of power rivaling God's.
In fact, there are several Scriptures which plainly teach that our power to achieve is indeed limited. My favorite is Psalm 127:1 : "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep [watch over] the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." So then no matter what we endeavor, if God does not help us, we shall fail. Even further, if we work against God, we shall be destroyed (Prov. 11:21, 16:5).
And yet daily we hear the message, "Any thing you can conceive and believe, you can achieve"; as if it were some kind of law of the universe or something, or as if God would make Himself a slave to the will of (sinful) man. A Holy Creator? Subject to every whim of the imagination of His rebellious creation? Please! The only reason Satan continues to tell that lie (remember, he told it to Eve [Gen. 3:5]) is that if he stops believing it, then he will have to acknowledge that his 6,000-year fight against the Maker of Heaven and earth has been a fruitless, pointless endeavor.
In addition to the un-Biblical nature of this teaching, it is also very illogical. People believe lies everyday: that doesn't make them true, no matter how hard those who believe them want them to be, nor how much those lies inspire them to do good things (see also Romans 3:5-7). And, ultimately, lies hurt people and give them a false hope. Once they have put all of their effort into obeying the lie that they have believed, in the end they have wasted their time, and with it many opportunities to actually accomplish something that God says is worthwhile.
Furthermore, history bears out the fact that many people will conceive many things, but few will actually accomplish them no matter what they believe about them. Alexander the Great did not conquer the world. Nero did not stamp out Christianity. Hitler could not make a purer race of people by segregation nor wipe out the Jew. Al Gore did not become president. Not that these people didn't try; God worked against them to accomplish His will--which their dreams and aspirations contradicted.
And so it is with us. If God's will is contrary to our will, then no matter how long or how often we say to the mountain, "You will move," the mountain will not move. In Mark 11:22, Jesus placed that restriction on the effectiveness of our prayers when He said, "Have faith in God." He meant that if God has commanded us to accomplish something, or has given us a promise, there is no obstacle great enough to hinder what He has said from coming to pass. If we speak the words which God has spoken to us, much like the prophets of the Old Testament, then we can be assured that we know what the future holds, and that, if we act accordingly, we will have what we ask for along that line.
When Elijah asked God for a famine over Israel, he got it (I Kings 17:1). Not because he just believed so hard that God had to give it to him, but because God had promised one for the children of Israel, if they rebelled against Him to serve other gods (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). When Abraham spoke to his servants that both he and Isaac would return from the sacrifice, in which Isaac was to be the "lamb," he got what he believed. But not because God had pity on him and said, "Y'know, I think I'll listen to Abraham's wish this time." That is not why Abraham was so confident. On the contrary, God had promised him that He would fulfill His promises to him in Isaac, for which to happen, Isaac would need to be alive long enough to have children. Therefore, he believed that because God would keep His promise, Isaac would return with him to fulfill God's promise, even if that meant that God would have to raise him from the dead (Gen. 21:12;22:1-9; Hebrews 11:17-19).
This is the faith that "was counted unto him for righteous-ness" (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:5; James 2:20-24), a faith that is not a power in and of itself, but that finds its strength in obedience to God, believing that He is able to keep His word no matter what He has to do to accomplish His will. It is a faith that finds its foundation in the unlimited power of God. As my pastor says, "'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth': If God is so powerful that He can create the earth out of nothing, what can't He do?" That is true faith.

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