Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Jesus Taught Faith

Have Faith in God

by Dennis Pollock

The subject of faith has become a controversial topic in the church over the last forty years. When you mention "the faith movement" some Christians get very enthusiastic while others show obvious signs of disgust. To some, having faith suggests never admitting you're sick, never acknowledging you have financial struggles, and naming and claiming every material whim or lust that comes into your mind. Some pastors find the whole matter too hot a topic for discussion and say little about it, either pro or con.

Whatever your views on the faith movement, there is absolutely no question that our Lord Jesus had a lot to say about faith. Encouraging His followers to have faith in God was one of the major components of His ministry. No Christian can afford to throw out the entire concept of faith in God, simply because certain folks may have pushed it too far. Actually, the entire Bible has much to say about faith, starting with Genesis and running throughout the length and breadth of the Scriptures. The writer of the book of Hebrews made it plain that faith is an indispensable element of a walk with God, declaring: "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). He goes on to speak of a number of the great heroes of the Bible, "who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens" (Hebrews 11:33).

In this study we shall try to keep most our focus on what Jesus Himself had to say about faith. There is no one in the Bible who talked about and promoted faith more than Jesus. So often when people were healed He attributed their healing to their faith. One example of this is the woman with the bleeding problem, who pressed her way through the crowd in order to merely touch the hem of Jesus' garment. As she touched His robe, the healing power of the Holy Spirit instantly flowed through her body and she knew that she was healed. Jesus also felt something, and looked around, asking who had touched Him. This lady became terribly afraid, thinking she had broken protocol in receiving her healing without so much as an "if you please." She fell down before Jesus and admitted it was she who had touched Him. Jesus warmly told her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction" (Mark 5:34).

According to Your Faith

This was not an unusual expression; indeed it was one of Jesus' favorite things to say to people that He healed. Previously blind Bartimaeus was told, "Go your way; your faith has made you well.” To a leper He said the same thing: "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." Along with healing, the forgiveness of sins was also attributed to faith. The sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears was told, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." Many might have preferred for Jesus to have said something like, "I love you so much that I healed you." And certainly Jesus did love these people. But He also wanted them to know that faith was a key ingredient in their healing or the forgiveness of their sins. To say, "Your faith has made you well" was implying that had these individuals possessed no faith, they would not have been healed. In the mind of Jesus, faith played a significant role in being able to receive the blessings of heaven.

Not only did Jesus commend people for their faith; He gently rebuked others for their lack of faith. When Jesus was with His disciples in the boat on the Sea of Galilee, a storm arose that threatened to capsize the boat and drown them all. Jesus was taking a nap at the time, and was apparently so exhausted that the violent rocking of the boat did not wake him. The disciples were terrified and went to awake Jesus, telling Him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Jesus awoke, sized up the situation, and called out to the storm, "Peace, be still!" Immediately the winds subsided and the sea was calm. Jesus now turned to His trembling disciples and asked, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" In the mind of Jesus, speaking words of faith, rebuking storms, and taking authority over nature was just normal kingdom business. While the disciples couldn't understand why this terrible storm had come upon them, Jesus found it incredible that these men could not exercise a little faith in this situation. How could it be that these disciples, hand-picked and personally mentored by Jesus, had zero faith when facing such a challenge? Was not God always with them?

Once a father brought his son to the Lord. The boy suffered from terrible seizures, often causing him to fall to the ground, foaming at the mouth. At times he had fallen into fire, and at other times into water, convincing the father that a demon was possessing him and trying to kill him. He pleaded with Jesus, "If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus' reply made it clear that the issue was not whether He could help. He could help the boy alright, but the question was, could the father believe it? He told the distraught father: "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." The distressed father, not sure just how much faith was necessary, or whether he possessed the kind of faith Jesus required, simply said, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." This was apparently enough to satisfy the Master, and He rebuked the evil spirit, and healed the boy. This is a great story, and a great truth for us all: "If you can believe, all things are possible to him (or her) who believes." Jesus set a high premium on the simple act of believing in Him. To a man whose daughter had just died, Jesus said, "Do not be afraid; only believe." Only is a word we use when we don't require much. "Only believe."

Moving Mountains

Perhaps the classic passage on faith is found in the eleventh chapter of Mark. Our Lord declares:

Have faith in God. 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. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Faith has saved youAn entire sermon, indeed an entire series could be taught from these three sentences. If words mean anything, and if we are wise enough not to try to dilute them or explain them away as being irrelevant for Christians today, we must conclude that Jesus feels very strongly about faith. And He wants His people to be a people possessing a lively and sound faith in God. He assures us that, where there is faith, amazing things can and will happen. He goes on to make a promise so outlandish, that if it were not in the Bible almost nobody would be able to accept it: whatever we ask in prayer, believing that we receive it from the hands of our generous Father in heaven, we will have. Many would love to put an asterisk by that statement and down below in the footnotes, have Jesus say something like, "I really didn't mean this the way it sounds, so don't get too carried away." But of course there is no asterisk and there is no footnote. The bare words are there in everyone's Bible, whatever version you prefer, and rebuke our wimpy, whining, unbelieving prayers, encouraging us to pray with faith and holy boldness, and to believe that we receive that which we request.

Implications

There are many more verses and passages we could give from the gospels, but we have surely seen enough to convince any reasonable person that Jesus was very big on faith. There are a couple of implications related to this that we must see. First, this totally undercuts that overemphasis upon the sovereignty of God which suggests that God will do whatever He wants and whether we believe it or not has little to no effect. That may sound pretty spiritual, but it does not at all fit in with the theology of our Lord Jesus. From His constant exhortations to have faith, His oft repeated declarations to people that their faith had saved or healed them, and His rebukes to those who had no faith or little faith, it seems beyond question that Jesus feels faith makes a difference. Simply put, what this means is that faith will get us things, take us places,  open doors, stop fiery darts of the evil one, appropriate healings, rebuke the devourer, and open up the windows of heaven in a way that could never happen if we possessed no faith. If God is simply going to do what He is going to do, regardless of whether we passionately trust Him or totally doubt Him, there is no point in telling us to have faith. If all things are possible to him that believes, it must follow that some things are not possible to those who refuse to believe.

Another implication from the many, many faith exhortations of our Lord is that it must be possible for us to "have faith." It is no use telling people to have faith if this is not even remotely possible. Taking a stand of faith on a particular matter, refusing to give in to doubt, continuing to pray and claim God's promises daily, recognizing the power of Jesus' cross and resurrection, having confidence in the name of Jesus Christ, and patiently enduring weeks or months or even years while seeing no evidence of victory is something every Christian can and must do in facing certain attacks upon their lives, their health, and their families. We are not called to merely sit around and hope that God will sovereignly choose to relieve us of the heavy burdens that feel like weights around our necks. Nor is it enough to toss up an occasional prayer and hope that it takes. We must "fight the fight of faith."

Because Jesus was so strongly emphatic about faith, at one point the disciples came to Him and said, "Increase our faith." Like the man with the demon-possessed son, they were saying, "We have some faith. We are not totally faithless. But we need more." What they did not realize was that spending time with Jesus, hearing His amazing teachings, watching Him in action, and learning His ways was doing precisely that. It did not happen all at once, but day by day their faith was increasing, and they were gaining a powerful knowledge of God as they walked across Israel with Jesus, who was God in human flesh. By the time Jesus ascended to heaven, they had faith to spare, and went out and shook the nation of Israel to its core through anointed preaching and teaching, and through healings, miracles, signs, and wonders.

You Can Have Faith!

The Bible tells us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). We cannot walk around Israel with Jesus, as the disciples did, but we can walk with Him through the pages of the Bible. We can meditate on His teachings, thrill at His miracles, and be warmed by His love for people, soaking in the words and ways of our Lord until they truly become "bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh." And as we do, slowly and imperceptibly faith will grow in our hearts. You cannot trust someone you do not know, and the main reason some Christians possess so little faith is that their Bibles remain on the shelves, untouched and unread.

Secondly, we must exercise our faith. Faith is like a spiritual muscle. The more it is exercised, the more it grows. If you respond to every problem and difficulty in your life merely through secular means, never praying, never standing on the promises of God, and unwilling to persevere until the answer comes, your faith will always remain at the baby level. Let us obediently follow our Master as He encourages us to "have faith in God," being careful to develop our faith, just as athletes develop their bodies and musicians develop their skills. It will pay incredibly rich dividends, both in our own lives and in the lives of those we touch.

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