Understanding Faith

By Pastor Bill Snider

Faith's Purpose

Faith is probably one of the most misunderstood realities of the Bible. Some people have the idea that faith is to be utilized only for receiving salvation. Others think it's to help us accept that whatever bad happens to us is God's will and that it's ultimately good for us. Then there are those who believe that it's a magic formula for getting whatever they want.

Well, none of those are totally correct. Faith is certainly necessary for receiving salvation, but it's not just for receiving salvation. Moreover, it's a fact that we're going to confront bad things, but that doesn't mean they came from God (James 1:13-15). They're simply the result of us having allowed Satan and sin into this planet. What Adam started at the beginning, we're left with the consequences of now. And, although faith has been given for the attaining of many things, it has not been given just to get whatever we want from God. More than anything, faith was given to attain what God wants for us: His righteousness, His will and His promises.

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Faith is Critical

There is a distinct need to understand how important faith is to us. First of all, without it we can't get our prayers answered. Mark 11:24 says, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

God loves moving on our behalf. He loves showing Himself strong to His children. He wants us to know that He's there, and there's no better way to show it than by answering prayer. However, even in answering prayer, God needs us to do our part - and our part is faith.

As it says in the above verse, "whatever things you ask when you pray, BELIEVE that you receive them, and you will have them." Right here is where most people fail in their prayers. They ask, and ask, and ask. But they don't really believe that they'll get it. So, God can't answer their prayer. You must realize that Jesus is the one talking in Mark 11:24. He's the one saying we have to believe that we receive what we ask for if we want our prayers answered.

That's what faith is about. It's about believing that God heard you and that God is granting what you asked. You have to actually believe that God heard you. 1 John 5:15 says, "And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." Too many people walk away from their prayers wondering if God actually heard them. As long as you wonder if God heard you, you won't put much faith in your prayer. And, according to Mark 11:24, if you don't put faith in your prayer, you won't receive what you asked for.

On another level, faith is critical because without it we can't please God. Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." If we're going to come God, it won't be by our good works, or by our righteousness. It will only be by our faith.

However, it's not some generic faith that will please God. There are two things that we have to come to Him believing: one, that He is - that He exists and that He's there; and two, that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

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What Faith Does for Us

Just as much as faith pleases God and causes our prayers to be answered, there are some other things that our faith causes for us.

One thing our faith does is it makes us overcomers. 1 John 5:4 says, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." That word "victory" actually can mean the tool or implement of victory. Faith is our weapon for victory.

When Jesus was taken up into heaven, after His resurrection, He didn't leave us helpless. He left us with an ability that not only gets us born again, but also makes us capable of overcoming everything the world and Satan can throw at us to bring us down. We are not defenseless in this world. We don't have to sit around wondering if we're going to make it through to the next day. Faith gives us the ability to take control over our circumstances and force them to conform to what God promises for us.

Another thing our faith does for us, which I already started to talk about in the above paragraph, is that it makes the promises of God ours. Hebrews 6:11,12 says, "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Faith causes us to inherit the promises of God.

Romans 4:16 really brings this home: "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." There is no way to get around this; faith guarantees the promises of God to us. We can't earn them. We can't get them based on how well we keep the law. We can only receive them by faith. Faith makes them ours and then manifests them to us.

I also really like what Mark 9:23 says faith does for us: "Jesus said to him, 'if you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.'" Jesus said this, so I can't see calling Him a liar. He said that faith makes all things possible to the one that believes. If Jesus was God in the flesh, then in the eyes of God, our faith is what makes all things possible to us. We think we're the ones sitting around waiting on God to move for us; when in reality, it's God Who's waiting for us to put some faith in His word in order for Him to perform His Word for us.

I'm convinced one the main problems we have with using our faith is that we don't have much possibility thinking. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. Hope is the ability to think in possibilities beyond what we see. Until we begin to think in possibilities beyond what our circumstances are dictating to us, we'll never have much for our faith to give substance to. The only way to expand your possibility thinking is to meditate on Mark 9:23 until you start seeing your faith actually making all things possible to you.

Another scripture given to help us realize what our faith does for us is Ephesians 6:16. It says, "Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." Faith is your God-given ability to quench everything that the Devil throws at you. It's your shield against his attacks. You can safely stand behind your faith, and it will protect you from all harm from Satan.

However, you must use your faith as a shield to quench Satan's fiery darts. That requires an aggressive action on your part towards what Satan fires at you. You can't be passive in faith. You must be active. Faith takes the initiative. When Satan attacks, faith retaliates. It slams into the assault and crushes it.

This is a part of faith that too few understand. Most take a passive position. They don't stand behind their shield; they hide behind it - hoping that nothing gets through. Well, if you don't quench the burning arrows they'll eventually burn your shield up. That's why you must become aggressive in faith. Burning arrows can hit your shield all day long, but if you're quenching each one, how can it affect your faith? Moreover, if the fiery darts can't hurt your faith, then how can they hurt you?

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Putting Your Faith to Work

Everything I've shared up to this point is good, but it won't do you any good if you don't put your faith to work. There are several ways to get started, but even they won't do you any good unless you do this one thing first - you must get in the Word and find all the promises that God's made to you. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The more you discover what God's promised you, the more faith will come. Your faith will get stronger and stronger until nothing will be able to stand in its way. Your possibility thinking will soar, and the things that you'll learn will soon make your faith unstoppable.

The first thing you must learn about putting your faith to work is the power of the spoken word. Whether it's praying, confessing or commanding, your words are the key to what happens or doesn't happen. Mark 11:23 says, "For assuredly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."

Jesus said three things about the spoken word in the above scripture. First of all, He said that whoever would say to the mountain, "Be removed and be cast into the sea." The thing we're to say is a command. We're to use our words to command. So, for your faith to work, you must command things to be done. You must command the devil to let you go; to let your circumstances go. You must command your body to be healed. You must command your needs to be met. Until you take a commanding position, your faith won't have anything to work with.

Next, Jesus said that we have to believe that those things we say will be done. Once you command what you want to be done, you must believe that it will be done. You must believe that you will have what you say - whether it's what you prayed, what you said, or what you commanded. You must not only learn to put faith in God, but you must learn to put faith in your words. Jesus said that if we believed that those things we said would be done, we'd have whatever we say.

Finally, in order for our words to have the impact faith requires, we must not doubt in our hearts. Doubt will always try to worm its way into your heart. That's because the heart is the place where faith must reside in order for things to happen (Romans 10:10). If doubt gets into your heart, it will begin to undo the power of faith in your life. It will render your faith ineffective.

However, just because thoughts of doubt are assaulting your mind doesn't mean that doubt is in your heart. You can have thoughts of doubt in your head, and still have your faith effectively working. No matter what, though, you'll have to keep that doubt from getting into your heart. The only way to do it is to keep your hope set on what God has promised you in His Word. You might have to walk around speaking the promise to your head, but if you will, your head will get in line with your faith, sooner or later.

Once you've committed to keeping doubt out of your heart, while believing that you'll have what you say, there are three ways you can put your faith to work. We've already basically mentioned them: 1) Asking; 2) commanding; and 3) speaking.

First of all, asking is going to God in prayer and asking Him to do something for you in the name of Jesus. There are many scriptures that promise the results for doing this. For example, John 16:23,24 says, "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." Twice Jesus said that whatever we'd ask in His name would be given to us.

You must settle this once and for all; God grants whatever you ask for in Jesus' name. Nevertheless, in order for God to grant your request, you have to believe that He'll answer it. Some people get the idea that if it's going to happen, it's going to happen whether they believe it will or not. As we already know, Mark 11:24 contradicts that: "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

Secondly, commanding is to verbally demand, in the name of Jesus, that something be done. It's about using your God-given authority to use the name of Jesus to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. It's about removing the mountains in your life and planting them in the sea. It's about commanding negative circumstances to change. It's about binding the works of the devil and the flesh, and loosing God's resources and His angels to work on your behalf in this world.

Thirdly, Speaking is to confess what you believe from God's word about circumstances in your life. It's confessing your hope - what you confidently expect to come to pass. Romans 10:10 says, "For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." You can truly and thoroughly believe something with all your heart, but until you speak it out of your mouth, it cannot save you. It cannot deliver you or heal you. However, when you take God's promises and believe them in your heart until you're fully convinced that they're your right, you can bring them into manifestation simply by speaking them.

Now that you've learned some of what faith is and how to put it to work in your life, you must go and start living by your faith. Hebrews 10:35,36 says, "Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." The key to your continued deliverance in this life is to live by your faith. To draw back from learning how to live by faith is to displease God and end in perdition. However, to follow what you've learned is the saving of your soul - your life as you live it in this earth.

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