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Monday, May 3, 2010

Biblical Faith -- What It Is and What It Isn't

Biblical Faith -- What It Is and What It Isn’t

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So Scripture defines faith as “substance” and “evidence.” The footnotes in my Bible state that the Greek word translated “substance” literally means “a standing under” and this word was used to describe a “title deed”. The idea here is that of standing under the claim to the property to support its validity. So faith is the title deed to the things hoped for. In Scripture, faith is described as believing God’s promises. Biblical faith is not faith in your own faith or faith in another persons’ word. Scripture tells us that a person who has faith is a person who believes that Jesus paid the price for their eternal victory. Faith is trusting God’s promises even when everything seems to be going wrong. Habakkuk 3:17-18

There are many “faith” healers in our country today who preach that the poor or the sick should exhibit “faith” by sending in their money offerings. Then the healer will pray and God will bless the one who sent the money with health and wealth.

Over a period of several years, one woman with cancer sent many thousands of dollars to a local faith healer who claimed to be “God’s Anointed”. This pastor promised her that God would heal her and make her rich if she exhibited her “faith” by sending him her many “faith” offerings. Her cancer and her money problems were evidence that God had not blessed her because of her lack of “faith”, the preacher said. If she would just exhibit her “faith” by giving to his ministry then God would bless her with a healing and money to pay her bills. Her willingness to send the preacher her money was called her “seed faith”. And this “seed” would grow into a “harvest” of healing and personal wealth the pastor insisted.

This sick woman lived just above the poverty line but she continued struggling and doing without in order to send this preacher every dollar she could spare. And she felt guilty when her cancer didn’t go into remission as the preacher had promised that it would. This dying woman tortured herself with the thoughts that she hadn’t had enough “faith” or given large enough offerings for God to take away her cancer. It was only after this woman’s death that her grieving family read her diary, and discovered how much money she had sent and how she had suffered from believing the preaching of this so called man of God. This well known “Christian” leader is still out there misleading thousands of other people today. And he is still out there using the name of Jesus while whipping up his followers to send their offerings. And he is still promising God’s blessings of health and wealth to those who show their “faith” by sending their money.

This prosperity and health gospel is being broadcast by several “Christian” television stations and taught by “pastors” all over the United States. “Faith” is being reduced to a formula for getting God to give us things. These “faith” teachings bear little resemblance to the Biblical “faith” described in the Bible. Real Biblical faith believes God no matter what happens..

Generally these “faith” preachers are wealthy and claim that because of their faith, God has blessed them with their private jets, mansions and expensive cars. They promise their followers that God will bless them as well with health, nice automobiles and fine clothes if they will exhibit their “faith” by making their cash pledges.

Hebrews chapter eleven has been called the “faith” chapter in the Bible. This “faith” chapter records a list of special men and women who won great victories for God because of their strong faith. But then this chapter goes on to describe many more people who also had a strong faith but died, “not having received the promises,” vv.13-16. Scripture goes on to describe these champions of faith as “having seen the promises afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” vs16.

After describing many faith filled children of God who moved mountains and raised the dead with their faith, Hebrews 11 goes on to describe the many others who had faith but lived miserable lives and had to wait until they went to heaven to see God’s promises fulfilled for them.

“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned and sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. tjeu wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” vs35-40.

We see here in Hebrews that having faith in God doesn’t always assure prosperity and fun times. Half of the champions of faith described in this eleventh chapter lived very painful lives. If all Christians became rich when they believed in the Lord, then non-believers would be drawn to Christ so that they could get the goodies and become wealthy too. I don’t think God wants us to be drawn to Him for the wrong reasons. Biblical faith is lived out with humility and obedience. In fact Scripture promises that each of us will have to take up our cross when we follow Jesus.

The key to the confession vs 13 of the group in Hebrews 11 whose faith pleased God is that when they were given a promise by God they became persuaded that the promise was true. They embraced God’s promises in their hearts and confessed them, leaving their testimony.-which was pleasing to God.

Whether or not we receive what we pray for here on earth does not change the behavior or the attitude of the steadfast believer. Faith’s worship and walk do not depend on answered or unanswered prayers. Our confession of His Lordship in our lives is to be consistent – a daily celebration. Let’s never follow the Lord in hopes of getting power and money. Let’s follow our Lord because He is our Lord.



  1. Here's what I wrote this week on Psalm 67 which is the same critque of the prosperity Gospel which is not good news
    The psalmist was a having a good day when Psalm 67 was written. Not like the day “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me” Psalm 22 was penned. That both praise and lament are sung in the same song book is a testament to the truth telling of the Psalter, for life is both blessing and bust. There is a tendency in the American mega-denomination to attribute only glory to God and prosperity to God’s people who invest wisely and often. But the graciousness of the crucified God is to be present in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy. The blessing of the crucified God is to shine the light of God’s face into the darkness of our lives when forsakenness has sapped our strength and doubt overshadowed hope. The way of the crucified God, the saving power made known to the nations, is justice for the oppressed, freedom for the captive, good news for the poor. When the blessing of God is no longer seen as a right for the righteous equity among the peoples will be established and the increase of the earth will not be hoarded or squandered but shared. And that will be a good day indeed. at all.

  2. Thanks for sending what you wrote on Psalm 67. This message is dearly needed to those who are confused by the prosperity gospel! You point out that the good news is justice for the oppressed, freedom for the captive and good news for the poor. -- not just more goodies to be hoarded or squandered. A much needed message.