No provision is more essential to experiencing God than faith. When faith is perfected in us, it coalesces into something extraordinary—the supernatural capacity to receive God’s supernatural power into our circumstances.
The power to hear God, to see Him, to understand what He is saying does not originate in us; it originates in Him.
Faith has to be present in us to conduct this power, the same way wiring needs to be present in a house to conduct electricity. No matter how much God wants to do and be for us, faith has to be present to conduct His intention into our experience.
If we’ve got no clue how God is moving in our life, what He is presently trying to teach us, or how He is presently growing us—it is not for lack of His activity—but for lack of our capacity to register His activity. We may be straining to hear God in the natural—using our brain, intelligence, life experience, philosophical persuasion and common sense—but the natural cannot receive the supernatural without faith.
the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:2)
So what is faith, how do we get it, and how does faith work?
What is faith?
When faith appears in Scripture, it is hard to pin down, because it shimmers elusively—morphing in and out of it’s three different aspects, which need to be artificially separated, in order to see what faith is.
- Faith is a state-of-being in which we experience assurance and conviction about what we can hope for, what is dependable, what is real.
- Faith is the body of truth, the beliefs and doctrines delivered to us
- Faith is an active relationship with God in which we are believing Him, trusting Him, and remaining loyal to what we know of His character.
Examples of each aspect in Scripture
- Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11: 1)
- After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned . . . strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith (Acts 14:21-22)
- (God tells Moses) “you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh … because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:51)
But none of these three aspects
pins down the shimmering elusive reality of faith—
for the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
When all three aspects of faith are present and working together, something totally other comes-to-be. Faith’s three aspects coalesce into the supernatural capacity to receive God’s power into our circumstances.
And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)
By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days . . . Women received back their dead by resurrection. (Hebrews 11: 30,35)
We receive God’s miraculous power into our circumstances by faith. But He determines what kind of power we will be given, when it will be given, and to what purpose it will be given.
Scripture tells of many who were, “tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others (who) experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.” (Hebrews 11:35-37)
These men and women of faith had the same capacity to receive God’s power—but instead of receiving deliverance from their enemies, the received the power power to overcome their enemies—even as they were tortured, mocked, scourged, and stoned to death. God chooses what power will be given to us, when, and to what purpose. These received the power of supernatural strength to endure, as seeing God. They experienced a confident assured state-of-being in the midst of calamity , holding fast to that body of truth they had received, in unbroken relationship with God.
No power on earth or in hell can ever defeat power like that.
How do we get faith?
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
Where does this assurance and conviction come from? How do we know what to hope for?
The more of God’s Word that we get into ourselves–the more we will see God’s character and purpose–grounding us in assurance and conviction. What we hope for, what we hold on to, is the unrelenting certainty that God is going to remain true to His character, no matter what hell breaks loose in our life. The foundation of my hope is based on The Person I have learned to recognize in Scripture, Whose character and love have been corroborated by my personal interaction with Him. This (general) hope enables me to trust Him, giving me courage with a measure of clarity in the midst of uncertainty, which is a constant in life.
But there is also (specific) hope.
may (God) give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling. (Ephesians 1:15-18)
Long ago, when I needed it, He gave me (specific) hope for a glorious marriage–just one of many personal promises I’ve held on to, in hope, until they came true. The Spirit enlightens the eyes of our heart, giving us the specific promise we need to hold on to–like an anchor in stormy waters dug into the bedrock of God’s deepest purpose.
What is important to see is that neither hope nor faith in Scripture
springs from our wishfulness, but from the revelation of God. I can read my Bible all day long and get information. But when God speaks, when He applies one specific verse to a given situation—that is Revelation. The Spirit is “uncovering or unveiling” what He wants to be or do for us. There is nothing like it. It gives you a rock solid, amazing confidence and assurance, no matter what happens.
This is (specific) hope, this is what we can name and claim, because we are confirming what God has told us He is going to do.
My heart aches for those who are caught up in the counterfeit of magical thinking. As if they are on their own, they use the Bible like a checkbook containing unlimited promises, any of which they think they can claim by cashing it in to meet their given need. It is self-directed, not God-directed—bringing them no nearer to God’s power or the resolution of their difficulties.
We don’t get to choose what power we will receive through faith, and we don’t get to choose which promise of thousands is to be applied to our specific need. We only know by what we hear as The Spirit reveals it to us.
faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17, NASU
In this illustration, the bright yellow, star-like icon symbolizes the reématos (word) of God, exerting its persuasive influence upon the man. And as the man begins to respond affirmatively, he lights up with the presence of something that has been conducted into him by means of his affirmative interaction with that word. This radiant something is called pístis in the Greek of New Testament Scripture. In English we call it faith.
Faith shimmers throughout Scripture as one of the most elusive and yet compelling of mysteries—for it determines everything that we are able to receive from God. And yet it is so simple. It is a gift from beyond ourselves, an other-worldly capacity to receive every good thing God wants to conduct from the unseen into the seen, through us, as we come into a believing relationship with His word to us.
How Faith Works
There was a night when Pharaoh and his army swept down with vengeance in their hearts, pressing Israel against the sea.
As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 “Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Ex 14:10-16)
God has sent many words to Israel—through Moses, through the plagues on Egypt—to enlighten her eyes to the hope of his calling. But she remains utterly un-persuaded, without faith. She has no (1) confidence or assurance. She is unable (2) to hold on to the body of truth and promises God has previously delivered to her through Abraham and the patriarchs. And she is totally unwilling (3) to trust God’s or Moses’ goodness, character, or purpose in taking her out of Egypt to lead her to The Promised Land.
13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14 “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”
We see faith at work in Moses. (1) He is confident and assured about what they can hope for. He has been given revelation. (2) He is holding onto the body of truth that has been delivered to him, and (3) he trusts God to do what He has said He will do. BUT his faith has not yet been perfected. How do I know? Notice what God says to Moses privately.
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me?
Moses is frozen. He is crying out to God silently, not knowing what to do. We can be so close, but confusion will reign in our deepest heart until our faith is perfected.
“What now God? Where are you? I believe! But help me in my unbelief. What do I do?”
The cure is a fresh word from God, a command Moses must obey NOW.
In the act of obedience faith coalesces
into the supernatural capacity to receive God’s power
into our cirucmstances.
Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. 16 “As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.
Moses obeyed. When he lifted up his staff a violent wind moved out upon the waters. And when he commanded Israel to walk out onto the seabed, the waters were driven into walls on either side of their path. The power of God came through. And then at daybreak, as the last Israelite made it to the opposite shore, God commanded Moses to raise his staff again, and the waters closed over Pharaoh and his army.
By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)
* * *
I was on a beach retreat with a group of friends. The morning had been good but intense, and we had decided to break, with everyone taking time for themselves. My friend Mari had become deeply convinced that there were some areas in her life where she wasn’t seeing God’s power at work. So she stayed behind to journal, as I left for a long beach walk alone.
Early into my walk I noticed a particularly large shark’s tooth in the sand, black and curved. Tired and disinterested, I was about to pass it by, when I felt the strong prompting to “pick it up.” As my walk continued, I saw a few more shark’s teeth, with the same prompting to collect them. After a while, every shark’s tooth I saw, I figured I was to pick it up. But as I reached down for one I heard, “Leave it. You have the full number in your hand.” Somewhat surprised, I dropped it, experiencing a measure of relief that I was free to focus my eyes out across the water and into the sky, as I finished my walk lost in thought.
Ever since a certain movie, I have been terrified of sharks. A triangular fin slicing across the surface of the water or the long dark shadow of a large form in a wave sends me racing for dry sand. Holding the eleven shark’s teeth in my hand, I took some comfort thinking that each one represented one of my “enemies” who had sunk to the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again.
When I got back to the house, I found my friend Mari sitting with her Bible and journal, tears on her cheeks. Her eyes had been opened to some things she needed to deal with—mind-sets, attitudes, false beliefs about herself that were destroying her joy and freedom, turning her into someone she didn’t want to be. These were grateful tears, cleansing tears, she assured me. Reading to me from what she had written in her journal, she quoted a verse from Scripture that had been given to her as a picture and a promise of what God was going to do for her.
The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; The Lord is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone. (Exodus 15:2-5)
“Valerie,” Mari’s face was both soft but fierce, “I am no longer confused about what and who my real enemy is. And I know that God is going to deliver me from every one of these mind-sets that have kept me in such bondage. There are eleven of them; He helped me name each one.
Eleven! Now I understood the meaning of the shark’s teeth.
Drawing close I held out my hand to Mari, opening my palm to reveal the full number I had been directed to pick up–for her—one trophy for each of her enemies to be covered over by the sea, setting her free.