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*Frequently asked questions*
The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan
True and false faith
1. What is faith?
Many people think that He.11:1 gives the definition of faith. It says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. If we have faith we have an assurance that we will receive what God has promised. Even when we cannot actually see something with our eyes, we are convinced that God will do what He has promised. This is right. However, faith is bigger than this. When the Bible says God is love, that is true. But God is more than love. He is also just, righteous, merciful, compassionate, etc. In the same way faith is more that an assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.
Think of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they stood before King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The King commanded them to bow down before a statue he had made, and these three Hebrew men refused to bow down to anyone other than God. They told the King, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up" (Dan.3:17,18). They had such a great faith in God that they were even willing to give up their life for Him. They knew without doubt that God was able to save them. They had no assurance at this time whether God would actually save them. But they still had great faith in God!
When Job was going through all the calamities that Satan had brought upon him, he had no idea what God was doing. But he had such a strong faith in God that he knew God was trustworthy even if he (Job) got killed at the end of his sickness (Job.13:15).
We find two people whom Jesus praised greatly for their faith. One was a Roman centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his servant (Mt.8:5-10) and the other was a Canaanite woman who wanted Jesus to deliver her daughter from an evil spirit (Mt.15:22-28). In both these cases they had no actual assurance that Jesus would do what they requested them. But they both had full confidence that Jesus was able to do what they requested Him to do, and Jesus called that great faith.
So we see that faith is essentially our trust and confidence in God, knowing who He is, what kind of a Person He is, what He can do, etc. For example, when we know from the Bible that God is almighty, all knowing, all wise, all loving, merciful, kind, gentle, compassionate, etc., we get confidence in Him. That is faith. It is a trust in a Person rather than a 'faith' for claiming His promises. It is centred on God rather than on the things He can give. When we get to know God we respond by placing our trust in Him. When we ask Him to do certain things for us, it shows that we have faith in Him, even though we may not have any certainty that God will give us what we have asked for. Those who don't have this faith don't ask God for things, and most times it is because they don't ask that they don't get (Jas.4:2).
Now we can see that faith is not something we produce by manipulating our mind, as many people think, in order to get something from God. It is not like collecting enough 'coupons' so that we can present them to God and 'claim' or demand certain things in return from God.
2. How can we get the assurance of Heb.11:1?
We can have this assurance only if God tells us (Rom.10:17). If God has promised us something clearly in the Bible (when it is clear that a certain promise is applicable to us) then we can have an assurance that He will do it for us. It may also happen that as we are reading the Bible, praying, or listening to someone preaching, God can give us an assurance in our heart concerning something we are seeking Him.
Faith comes by 'hearing' (Ro.10:17). When we listen to an anointed preacher, when we read God's word, or in many other ways, if we hear God speaking to us, we get faith. It is God who gives faith. Mere knowledge can't give us faith. For example, many who are Christians (only) by name know the story of Jesus. But they are not saved. But one day the Holy Spirit speaks to someone's heart and he realises that Jesus died for him! Faith has come in!
Sometimes we may not be aware that God is speaking to us and giving us faith! It happens, for example, that when we are praying for someone for healing, we have a boldness in asking for a miracle. If this boldness has come because God has inspired us at that point with faith to expect such a miracle, we will see the miraculous answer to that prayer. We can assume that the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years received and assurance in her heart from God in response to her prayer and then she felt confident that if she touched Jesus' garment she would be healed. On the other hand if we are feeling bold in ourselves and say a 'powerful prayer' with loud words or quoting verses, we won't see any answer to that prayer! It is ultimately God who does miracles, and we cannot do anything apart from Him.
3. How can I get a faith like that?
God is trying to speak to everyone, but only a few hear Him and respond to Him. If we sincerely seek to hear Him, we will be making efforts to read His word and listen to anointed messages. Then we can hear Him (Je.29:13). When we hear Him we must believe, by humbly submitting to Him and accepting in our heart what He says.
If God doesn't give us this assurance, we cannot try to create that assurance within us by repeating positive words, refusing negative thoughts, etc. These are human efforts to create faith, and such a 'faith' is not genuine.
4. What is false faith?
Faith is not something we need to produce from our human side in order to qualify to receive something from God. If it was so, then we would be 'earning' things by our works--of manufacturing that faith. But faith is our trust in God, and whatever He gives us is by grace (unmerited favour), and there is nothing we can 'claim' or demand from God because we have accumulated enough faith! Faith is not a nice, feel-good emotional state which we get into when we are in the midst of people who profess faith. It is also not an intellectual state which we arrive at by forcing ourselves to think only positive thoughts and rejecting all thoughts that might question what we want to believe. These are 'false faiths' which many delude themselves with, hoping to take themselves to the position where God has to give what they desire to have. These people essentially think that faith is something human beings have to produce which will then set in motion certain inevitable action from God to answer their requests. This is a false understanding of faith, and these days it is also influenced a lot by new age beliefs such as 'forces at work' that can be tapped by man to achieve certain results. Such man-made imitations of faith do not work (except when aided by deceiving spirits), but they may finally lead people to lose their confidence in God or become confused about faith altogether.
5. How do we get faith?
We get faith by getting to know God. We get to know Him by reading His word, and believing (accepting) what it says about Him. A mark of true faith is that we will begin to act (take action) on what we believe. If our knowledge just remains as ideas in our head and does not translate into action, that so-called faith is not genuine (Jas.2:17). The more we know about God, and then the more we know God personally by obeying His word, praying to Him and seeing His response, the stronger our faith becomes. Our spititual senses become more sensitive, and we become better able to hear God speaking to us in our heart.
6. Are there any conditions for getting faith?
God gives grace to the humble (Jas.4:6). Humility is a condition for receiving everything from God, including faith. It is because of this that, statistically speaking, there are more people who are rich in faith among those who are poor according to the world in terms of money, education, status, abilities, etc. (Jas.2:5). In both cases where Jesus praised someone for faith, the persons recognised their own smallness and inability, and placed all their confidence in God (Mt.8:5-10;15:22-28). Secondly we must be willing to take action based on what we believe (Jn.7:17). In other words, we must not just accumulate knowledge in our minds and assume that we have faith.
7. I think I have faith. But still things don't happen the way they are supposed to happen according to the Bible. Why?
The Bible tells us many things about God and about how we are supposed to live and what we can expect to experience. But many times we tend to take just some portions of the Bible and expect certain things to happen, without realising that there are other things also which we ought to take into consideration. For example, we tend to hold on to some promise from God without realising that they are given only for certain types of people who fulfil certain conditions. For example, if we want to receive forgiveness of sins we have to repent and also believe in Jesus. If we only 'believe' without repenting, how can we expect God to fulfil His promise?
Also, God Himself is so big that we can hardly expect to understand Him fully. We cannot see many times the big picture He is drawing because our eyes can see only a small part of it. He is working for us in ways which are many times far beyond our understanding. So a part of faith is to hold on with confidence in God even when we cannot see God doing anything that we expect. He.11, a chapter that speaks much about faith, speaks of many who received great things from God by faith, and also of many others who continued to believe even though they did not get what they expected. The latter demonstrated that their faith was in God Himself and not in His gifts.
It is a fact of life that we don't always seem to get answers to our prayers or a fulfilment of all God's promises. I am not saying that God's promises are unreliable, but only that there are many things in God's dealings which we cannot understand--not because there is anything wrong with them, but because our understanding is very much limited. Many try to give different explanations, which may contain different aspects of truth. But I think this is one of the mysteries of life that we may never get a full answer for on this earth. But let us humbly acknowledge that we are only human beings and not God, and let our faith stand strong like Job's when he said that even if God killed him he would still trust in Him (Job.13:15).
8. I have faith in God and His word. But I am still not able to heal, do miracles or many other things even though I say the word of faith in Jesus' name. Why?
I think it is helpful to realise that there is a faith without which we cannot please God (He.11:6), and another type of faith which God gives only to some (1Co.12:9). Some theologians explain this as one being a fruit of the Spirit (Ga.5:22KJV) and the other being a gift of the Spirit. So it may be that God has not given you such a gift of faith for healing or miracles which He has given to others. But if you have the faith that trusts in Him you will be pleasing to Him. In practice it is also seen that even those who don't have a regular gift of faith for healing, miracles, etc., may receive such faith on certain occasions for a specific result.
9. Can we have faith only for the things that are written in the Bible?
Of course, we cannot have faith for things that are contrary to what is written in God's word. If we are thinking of doing something unrighteous or in disobedience to commandments and instructions given in the Bible, we must not think that God has given us faith for that. But if we are thinking of something which is generally in line with the Bible but not specifically mentioned there, we can pray for it by faith in God, and if God speaks to us, we can have an assurance also.
10. The Bible says in one place that salvation is by faith and in another place that it is by works. What do you say?
The Bible doesn't really say that salvation is by works. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ep.2:8). It is a gift of God which we receive by faith. (See FAQ on salvation). What you are probably referring to is in Jas.2:14-26. But what James is saying here is that a faith that does not result in works - good deeds - is not a real, living faith.
11. Somebody told me that we can receive whatever we ask in faith. Is this true?
Jesus said that if we had faith and did not doubt, we could receive all that we asked for in faith (Mt.21:21). You already know that faith comes by hearing God. If God has given us assurance concerning something we are asking for, we shall certainly receive it. And if it is something He has promised clearly in His word, we can have faith for it just by reading it and believing it. But if it is something we would like to have, and God has not specifically told us about it, we have no guarantee that we would receive it. We cannot get it by "thinking positively" or "claiming by faith." 1Jn.5:14 says that if we ask anything according to God's will He will hear us.
12. I am a believer and I trust in God. But sometimes I get many doubts, and I wonder if I have any faith at all. What should I do?
When doubts come into your mind, it means that you are being tempted. Temptation is not the same as sinning. (See FAQ on temptation and sin). Even great saints who have known God for many years come into this temptation at times. Satan tried to make Jesus Himself to doubt when he said, "If You are the Son of God, ..." Overcome in the same way that Jesus did, by quoting Scripture. Think of the promises of God, the many ways in which God has helped you and looked after you in the past. Think of the examples of God's dealings with people in the Bible. Give thanks and praise to God for all His blessings and His promises.
13. Different religions believe different things about God and salvation. Some people say that it doesn't matter too much what they believe as long as they believe something, because God will reward them according to their faith. What do you say?
Faith does not have any power of its own, which can accomplish something and produce results. The power comes from God in whom we have faith. So if someone believes something else, how can he expect things to happen according to what he believes? His so-called faith is only wishful thinking.
14. Someone tells me he has faith for something which I think is plainly silly and fantastic. What can I tell him?
Remember, only faith that is according to the will of God is guaranteed to work. First of all check if this thing that he claims to have faith for is according to what God has written in His word, the Bible. If he quotes verses for what he says, look at the context in which they are written and see if they are applicable to the present situation and the people concerned. If you think he is trying to appear before people as a great man of faith, point out the temptation that Jesus faced from the devil, when the devil asked Him to jump off from the pinnacle of the temple (Mt.4:5-7).
15. I met somebody who said he was "living by faith." I thought we are all supposed to live by faith. What does he mean?
The Bible says that we should live by faith (Ro.1:17;Ga.3:11;He.10:38). This means that we should live trusting God and in total dependence on Him, doing everything according to His will in His strength and for His glory (Pr.3:5,6). However, what many people mean when they say they are living by faith is that they don't have a regular income but they are living depending on God to support them. That is a rather narrow interpretation. Also, many of them don't seem to be depending on God but on people, because they keep asking for money.
16. Didn't Jesus say, "According to your faith"? Doesn't this mean that we are responsible for producing the faith that can make Him respond?
Isn't it blasphemous and audacious to imagine that we can make God respond to us? Is God our Lord or our servant? God is totally sovereign and no one can force or pressurise Him to do anything. If He does anything for us, it is entirely due to His love, mercy, kindlness, grace, etc.
Jesus told two blind men that He would heal them, according to their faith (Mt.9:27-30). But before that He asked them if they believed that He could heal them. When they confirmed their faith in His ability, He was basically informing them that He would do for them what they desired. We can see similar occasions when Jesus told the Roman centurion that his servant would be healed (And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment. Mt.8:13), and when He told the Canaanite woman that He would heal her daugher (Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. Mt.15:28).
When Jesus used the phrase, 'According to your faith,' He did not intend it to be understood as a precise scientific statement which meant that the result would be directly proportional to their faith. Obviously it did not mean that if their faith was small only one eye could be healed, and they needed double that faith to get both eyes healed! Jesus had said another time about the fact that only a mustard seed sized faith was sufficient to move a mountain, teaching us that it was not the quantity but the quality that mattered. We mustn't read meanings into words that Jesus never meant.
17. Jesus said once, "Your faith has saved you." Doesn't this show that our faith has some power to work miracles?
Jesus said this to the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and who had come into the crowd and touched Jesus' garment. Do you think it was her faith that actually healed her or it was Jesus who healed her because of her faith? Obviously it was Jesus. It is probably a new age influence that makes people imagine that faith has a power of its own, or that it can set power in motion, both of which practically remove the need for Jesus!
We mustn't read meaning into words that Jesus didn't have when He said them. We mustn't also take all words as if they are scientific statements. The words we have here are obviously just a way of speaking.
18. One man who prayed for my healing said that I didn't get healed because I didn't have faith. But I really believe that Jesus can heal me.
It is possible that if you were sceptical and unbelieving you would not expect any healing, and then Jesus may not heal you (Mt.13:58). At the same time there are many instances when Jesus did miracles from His own side where the people were not expecting any miracle and were not in a position to have faith or not. For example, when Jesus raised people from the dead it was not because of their faith! Another time He healed a paralytic when He saw the faith of those who brought him to Him! So it is also possible that the man who prayed for you didn't have any gift of healing!
When you say you believe Jesus can heal you, you are expressing your faith in Jesus. But what you don't have is a knowledge whether Jesus would actually heal you through this prayer. If it was true that Jesus answers all prayers for healing in a miraculous way and you were not healed, one could wonder why it happened. But when we realise that sometimes He heals miraculously in answer to prayer, sometimes He heals through medical care and sometimes He doesn't heal at all, we understand that we don't know His will always. If we have heard from Him specifically, e.g., "This sickness is not unto death," we can be sure about that. But how can we assume the will of God according to our own desires?
19. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. What He did for someone else He will do for me also.
He is the same Person, with the same character and nature. But it doesn't mean He will always do the same thing the same way for every person all the time. If we hold on to this kind of 'faith' it is not a genuine faith. We mustn't think that if we strongly hold on to 'believing' something, that is faith! It is just our wishful thinking.
20. Don't we have to put away all doubts and questioning thoughts if we have to hold on to faith? Doesn't it say that Abraham hoped against hope when he held on to the promise of God for a son?
If God has told us something clearly and specifically, we need to refuse to accept all thoughts and ideas that might question it. But it is quite another thing to work up faith for ourselves hoping to get something we wish for but God has not actually promised us. For example, imagine a person who is trying to have faith for healing. He prays 'in faith' and then he believes and confesses that he is healed, even when the symptoms of sickness continue. He refuses to go for a medical test that might prove that he is still sick. Is this faith?
Remember when Jesus was healing a blind man, He asked him if he saw anything. This man's reply was that he could only see men walking like trees (Mk.8:23-25). Jesus then did something else to complete the healing. What would have happened if this man had 'confessed in faith' that he was healed? First of all, it would have been a blatant lie. Secondly he may have lost the chance to get fully healed. This kind of 'forcing oneself to believe' is characteristic of self-made faith and not God-given faith which produces real, tangible results.
21. Didn't Jesus tell us to pray for something and then believe that we have received it?
First of all let us remember that God will not ask us to tell lies, or to pretend. When we start from that point we will realise that what Mk.11:24 says, "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you," must mean something other than what it appears to say. In other words, our interpretation cannot be straightforward here, because it would clash with other well known facts about God. When God gives us a specific promise we can believe it. When we ask for something in prayer and He gives us a clear assurance in our heart we can believe He will do it for us. When that happens it is as good as receiving it, because it is only a matter of time before we actually receive it. This verse is telling us to know we will receive what we prayed for if we have received an assurance from God. But if we pray for something, and then force ourselves to believe it will happen, it is not genuine faith because it does not have God's seal on it. We should understand verses in the Bible in conjunction with what the rest of the Bible tells us, and not by themselves.
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