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Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb.11:6). It is only through faith that we can receive the salvation that God has prepared for all mankind. He has taken away the old covenant that demanded that people should keep all His commandments if they wanted to receive His blessings, and has established the new covenant under which He offers His salvation freely to everyone, out of His unmerited favour (grace) towards us. Even though this offer is open to all, only those who go to Him in faith will actually receive it (Eph.2:8,9). Therefore it is extremely important that each of us goes to God with true faith and receives this salvation from Him. We can imagine what our fate would be if what we imagine to be faith now turns out to have been a counterfeit on the last day when we stand before God!
The Devil has managed to counterfeit this most precious thing that we need for our salvation so that he can lead people astray. Before we look at some of the most common counterfeits let us look at the character of the genuine one. When we are clear about the true faith, then it would be easier for us to recognise the counterfeits when we come across them.
What Is Genuine Faith?
Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (Jn.14:1). Our faith is to be in God – in Him as a person. Just as we develop confidence in people as we get to know them closely, our faith in God is dependent on what we know about Him and how closely we know Him personally. It is obvious that as we get to know Him more closely our faith in Him will also increase.
Before we can get to know God personally we need to hear about Him from others. The Holy Spirit works in our heart as we listen to someone preach about God, give his testimony about what God has done in his life, or when we read the Bible or some other book that elaborates on the Bible. Some people respond to Him immediately and put their faith in Him. Some others become curious to know more about this God and they may start listening to more preaching, or reading more. And then they place their life into God’s hand, trusting in Him and deciding to follow Him for the rest of their life.
What we hear about God is about how He has created all the universe and everything in it (Gen.1:1), how He is almighty and can do anything He wants (Jer.32:27), how He knows everything including what we are going to think or say (Ps.139:2,4), that He is present everywhere at the same time and knows everything that goes on (Ps.139:8–10), how He makes His decisions in a perfectly sovereign way (Ps.115:3), how He is perfectly holy and righteous without any blemish in Him (1Jn.1:5), how He deals with all people without bias or partiality (Job.34:19), how He loved us so much that in order to save us from perishing He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins in our place (Jn.3:16), how He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer.31:3), how He would always be with us (Matt.28:20) and never leave or forsake us (Heb.13:5), how He would provide us everything that we need when we seek Him first in our life (Matt.6:33), etc. When we hear such things about Him, especially about His love for sinners like us, our natural response will be to love Him, trust Him and place our life into His hands. This is genuine faith.
See how the apostle Paul describes in Romans 10 the usual process of receiving faith. “13 for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
Somebody preaches (or writes) about the Gospel (good news) of the love of God and His offer of salvation. When people hear it, some of them believe it. The evidence that they really believe what they have heard is seen in the way they ‘take heed’ or respond to it. They begin to repent and seek to live according to what they have heard.
Even though we hear about God from other people and respond to it in our spirit (heart), faith is the result of a supernatural work of God in our spirit (1Thess.1:5). There is a paradox in faith in that it is a grace of God given to us (Acts.11:18) while being at the same time the right human response to the truth we hear. It is something that cannot be produced by human effort. We can say therefore, that faith comes into our heart when we ‘hear’ God – whether we hear Him as we are listening to a preacher, reading a book or God ‘speaks’ directly to our heart. Then we choose to believe what we have heard and act according to it. Without this kind of faith we cannot be pleasing or acceptable to God (Heb.11:6). If we don’t believe He exists, and that He is who He is and the kind of a person He is, our faith cannot be genuine because it is not the genuine God we have faith in.
Two Kinds Of Faith
Genuine faith comes in two forms in terms of its application. The Bible talks about faith as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:22), as well as a gift of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.12:9). The fruit of the Spirit refers to aspects of God’s character all of us need to grow in, while gifts of the Spirit are different supernatural abilities that God distributes to different people according to His choice (1Cor.12:11). The fruit called faith is our trust and confidence that we place in God that all of us must have and grow in. This is what we have addressed so far. But we can assume from the context of 1 Corinthians 12 that the gift of faith is for extraordinary situations such as when we are praying for a miraculous intervention from God. This understanding is supported by what we also see in real life. Let us see what this means.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb.11:1). If we think about it we can see that ‘the assurance of things hoped for’ is more applicable to the gift of faith for extraordinary situations rather than for faith in God as a person. When God gives us an assurance in any situation that what we hope for is going to happen, then that is a gift of faith. The second part of this verse, ‘the conviction of things not seen’ may be applicable to both types of faith. Therefore it would not be proper, as many people do, to take this verse as a simple definition of faith without understanding the implications.
In practice, the gift of faith seems to work in two ways. It may be that God gives the gift of faith to some people whose ministry is based on exercising this gift to obtain miraculous results from God, such as healing and answers to prayer in extraordinary situations. I guess there is no 100% consistency in the case of most such people in that miracles do not happen every single time. That may be because people being what we are may make mistakes about knowing God’s will. We may pray at times wrongly assuming it is the will of God and nothing happens! On the other hand, God sometimes gives this gift of faith to different individuals in particular situations and when they exercise that faith they experience marvellous results even though these individuals do not have a regular ministry where they use such gifts. Many children of God have experienced this at different times in their lives, but these are occasional events rather than an anointing for a ministry using that gift.
This gift of faith is not God giving power to some people to do miraculous things independently of His will. The power still rests with God (Psa.62:11), and it is only as the people are led by God’s Spirit that extraordinary things take place. Also, we cannot assume just because God is able to do something that He will actually do it. What He does is according to His sovereign will though He is able to do whatever He wants (Ps.115:3). When we know this, we can go to our Father and ask Him for anything we want in Jesus’ name (Jn.16:23), knowing that He will give it to us if it is according to His will (1Jn.5:14).
How can we know when we pray whether it is according to His will? In many cases His will is clearly shown in His written word, the Bible. At other times we understand His will when He gives us the gift of faith, when we hear His voice in our heart (Rom.10:17) and receive an assurance (some people call it ‘peace’) of things hoped for and a conviction of things not seen (Heb.11:1).
Some Common Mistakes
Many people make the mistake of taking some verses by themselves and start ‘believing’ that it will happen to them according to those verses, without recognising certain important factors that we need to consider when interpreting the Bible. One factor is that some verses were only meant for certain people at particular times and that other people cannot blindly apply them to themselves! For example, when God told the people of Israel to stand still and see the salvation of God when they were standing between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, we must not think that this is what God is giving us as a commandment for all difficult situations. God may tell us sometimes to follow this, but it is not a universally applicable instruction. Actually, Israel itself was asked to do things differently later, in different situations, such as walking around Jericho, attacking cities to conquer them, etc.
Another thing we need to remember is that since the revelation of God’s ways is given in the Bible distributed over the entire Bible, here a little and there a little, we need to see the whole Bible together to understand some of His truths. For example, a common mistake is to take the promise of Jesus that He would give us whatever we ask (Jn.14:14), without taking into account the clarification that our request needs to be according to the will of God in order to guarantee a positive answer (1Jn.5:14)!
A very common mistake is to assume that if we are convinced without any doubt that God is able to do something, then we have ‘faith’ that He will do it. But here the confusion is between recognising God’s almighty nature and understanding His sovereign will! Everything is possible for God, but He does only certain things that He chooses to do. We may have faith in His ability, but until God speaks to us from His word or in our heart directly we do not have that gift of faith that is needed for our situation (Rom.10:17).
In connection with this is another common mistake in assuming that since God has done something for someone in a particular situation, He will also do it for us. People misquote “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb.13:8) to support this. But what this verse says is only that He is the same person with the same character all the time, and not that He does the same things always. Think of the two apostles Peter and James who were put in prison by King Herod. James was killed, and Peter was rescued by an angel!
One of the best examples in the Bible about these two kinds of faith we saw above is from the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon wanted everyone to bow down and worship a golden statute he had set up. When these three Hebrew men refused to do that, he threatened them saying they would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Look at what they said. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 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.3:16-18). The first part of their answer shows us their faith in God and His abilities. But the second part shows that they had not received the gift of faith from God concerning the situation and they did not know what He was actually going to do. Their faith in God was so strong that they were willing to leave the choice to Him about what He would do! One mistake we can make is to assume God is going to do something for us even when He has not told us, and then getting disappointed when it does not happen.
When people substitute imitations for the true faith, it is obvious that it will not connect them to God. But such people will insist that they are indeed connected to God because they find various explanations and excuses for their beliefs. They will be amply assisted by Satan in this deception because it is his aim to deceive people about their relationship with God. He also brings out false doctrines (teachings) that can deceive people on a large scale.
How does Satan deceive? Whether it is an individual person whom he deceives or a Bible teacher, what he does is to slip in false ideas into their thoughts as they are thinking about different things. This can happen to any of us, even if we are ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’! Just think of how he slipped in ideas into Jesus’ mind in the wilderness. Jesus was discerning enough to recognise that these were coming from Satan and to reject them. That is how we also ought to deal with such ideas. We must not imagine that all ideas coming up in our mind are our own!
Let us look at some of the common forms of false faith.
Faith without works. The apostle James points this out in chapter two of his letter. He says emphatically that if someone’s faith does not produce action as a result of it, that faith is not genuine. He says such a faith is ‘dead’. In this case people have knowledge about God and His teachings in their mind. James says that demons also know things about God and His doctrines but they are still demons! In a similar way, these people’s knowledge remains merely in their head and has not touched their spirit (heart), and as a result it has not affected their practical life! The apostle John says that if a man says he believes in God but does not obey Him, he is a liar (1Jn.2:3)! In other words, there is no genuine conversion from their old life to a new life. This is true even if they have adopted new religious practices or even got baptised. It is not difficult for people to adopt external religious practices if they believe such practices will make God happy with them.
This is the difference between religious ‘works’ and works that come from a genuine faith in God. Religious works are performed by people in the hope that God will accept them because of these good works. There is a sense of duty or a fear of rejection involved here, and there is also no assurance that God has accepted them. Works coming out of faith are the result of what God has done in their lives by forgiving their sins, accepting them, making them His children, and blessing them in every way. Such people do these works of obedience because of their love and gratitude to God. Some people who do not understand this difference between the two types of works shrink back from any mention of ‘works’ concerning believers thinking that it refers to going back under the Law – which means someone is trying to win God’s favour with his works!
We can see that a large number of people who assume they have come to Christ fall into the category of having faith without the works that accompany true salvation. How does this happen?
One reason may be that when they have received this knowledge of God they assume that it is all there is to faith. The blame goes to the preachers who did not explain the way of salvation clearly to them. They did not help the people to realise first of all that they were sinners in the sight of God who deserved to be in hell. They did not explain the love of God for sinners who sent His Son to pay for their sins, and ask them to repent from their sins in honesty, humility and sincerity. Such preachers, by trying to be nice to the people and not to offend anyone for fear of losing them, have become guilty of the blood of these deceived people (Ezek.3:18). Those who know the truth must proclaim the truth as much as possible so that even those who are deceived can come to be saved.
Faith as a mental assent. There are many people who understand the doctrines of salvation very clearly. They agree that Jesus came to save sinners, died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. They agree that people should turn from their sins and turn to Jesus as their Saviour. What is lacking is that they do not see themselves as among those who need to be saved! That truth has not hit home yet. They assume that they are acceptable to God because they know and agree with all the correct doctrines. They have not seen themselves as sinners in the sight of God, who are as hopeless as the worst people they can imagine. Therefore, while they agree with the need to preach the Gospel to others, they have never truly repented before God.
It is possible that whenever they hear the Gospel being preached, they divert their attention to others who need to be saved and do not see their own condition. They are unable to point to any time in their life when they realised that “once they were blind and now they see.” There is no hatred for sin that comes from seeing how it used to bind them and there is no joy of having discovered how God loved a sinner like them.
Faith as a human achievement. For some people, faith is not about trusting God and submitting to Him but about getting answers to their prayers. It becomes all about finding out methods or techniques by which they can get what they want. In the days of Jesus, when He saw big crowds following Him, He was neither impressed nor fooled by the numbers. He saw through them that they were not coming to Him because they recognised Him but for what they wanted from Him (Jn.6:23-27). He told them straight to their face that they should instead look for things of eternity. In response they seemed to ask Him what they should do in order to do the works of God (v.28). But again it became obvious that they were really not interested in following Him as their Lord and Saviour but only in getting Him to do miracles in order to give them what they wanted (vv.29-31).
Many people nowadays also are only interested in getting to know how they can claim things from God. Some try to reach a level of faith by rejecting all thoughts of doubt (‘negative thoughts’) in their mind and filling their mind with ‘faith’ (‘positive thoughts’) by repeating God’s promises and making themselves ‘believe’ that what they want is going to happen! When they think they have reached that level of faith for something particular, they imagine that God will now give it to them!
They do not realise that they have not come to trust God in such a way as to be willing to lay their whole life into God’s hands to do His will. What they are trying to do is to force God to do for them what they want! Then they get upset with God for not granting them their prayer! Imagine their dismay if they have also fasted and prayed or made some vows to God and still God did not answer!
A technique that some people use is to get someone else to ‘agree’ with them in their prayer, or to get many people to pray together for what they want. Someone else will ask some ‘man of God’ to pray for them or give some preacher some ‘seed money’ in order to force God to multiply their seed with a hundred fold harvest.
God has made it clear that if we have a proper relationship with Him through our faith in Jesus we are free to ask Him for whatever we would like to have. But we must remember that if we really know God as God, we will never try to twist His hands but we would be willing to submit to His will knowing His wisdom and love for us (1Jn.5:14). We must also remember that true prayer is, after all, only a ‘request’ we make to God (Php.4:6), and that it is utterly presumptuous on our part to make any demands on Him. To demand that God should do something for us is to totally forget our standing before God.
The ‘word of faith’. This is a false doctrine that came out during the late part of the 20th century and which spread all over the world quickly. This became so popular that many of the big preachers have absorbed it in some form or other and many have preached or written about it. The essence of this teaching is that our words have power in them and so when we speak things with our mouth they will happen. In practice it means two things. One is that we must confess with our mouth what we want to happen, and only then it will happen. The second is that we need to be careful what we speak because if we say something foolish with our mouth it can cause us calamity!
The underlying assumption is that just as God has power to speak and to make things happen and even cause things to be created out of nothing, as His children we too have that power in our words. There are two big flaws in this assumption. The first one is that as created beings who have been ‘adopted’ to be children of God (Rom.8:15;Gal.4:5), we do not ‘become’ God or even ‘gods’ with a small ‘g’. Only God is God and we remain creatures! Power belongs to God (Psa.62:11), and only to Him. He will not share His glory with anyone else (Isa.48:10,11). We have no power that we can exercise by ourselves apart from God. We note that even when Jesus has given us authority over all the power of the enemy (Lk.10:19) we exercise that authority in the name of Jesus (i.e., subject to His power and authority). E.g., the power to cast out evil spirits is still with Jesus and not with us.
The second flaw is in not realising what happens to the will of God or God Himself if we have power in our words to make things happen! Will things happen when we speak irrespective of the will of God? Certainly not! If God did such power to us, just imagine the chaos we would create in our folly! The proper thing for us to do is to ask or request God to do things for us instead of presumptuously taking the power and authority on ourselves.
The most common verse that is quoted to prove this doctrine is, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Prov.18:21). What we must remember is that this is a proverb (which is a statement about things we generally see in life but which are not laws of God), that uses a figurative language and is not to be taken literally! What it means is that we should be careful how we speak, because our words can result in good or bad situations. To believe anything more, e.g., that we can physically kill people or give life to dead bodies with our words, is, to put it mildly, is uncalled for! A similar passage is from James who warns us about how we can cause problems if we speak carelessly (Jas.3:3-12). To conclude from such verses that our words have literal power is to get into a delusion.
The world famous preacher who started this teaching has himself explained how it came about. He said that from his teenage years he had developed the habit of emptying his mind so that he could make himself open to God’s voice. (It is a very dangerous thing to do, to empty our minds and not use the God–given ability to think, question and analyse, because evil, deceiving spirits can also speak to us.) One day he had done this when he heard a voice telling him to read Mark 11:23 in which Jesus told the disciples, “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” After that this voice asked the preacher to note in this verse how many times Jesus mentioned ‘say’ and ‘believe’. When the preacher noted that ‘say’ occurred three times and ‘believe’ only once, the voice told him that he should preach about saying or speaking more than about believing!
This is a very erroneous interpretation of the Bible based on a word count in one verse, and that too in an unconnected manner. There are times when we can get an idea about how important God thinks a subject is, based on how often He speaks about it. But to take one verse like this and to make this interpretation, especially when the Bible as a whole speaks much more about believing than speaking, shows that such a direction could not have come from the Holy Spirit. However this preacher assumed that it was the Holy Spirit giving him a revelation and started preaching about it. The rest is history.
We receive our salvation through faith. When we believe, we will also speak about it. (In fact if we claim we believe but we are unwilling to confess it, then our faith comes under question (Lk.12:8,9)). Paul says in Romans 10:8-10, “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” This passage talks about believing, confessing with our mouth and salvation, and even uses the phrase ‘word of faith’. First of all, the passage is about our salvation, and it will have to be stretched a lot if it has to be made to mean our confessing with our mouth what we want and expecting it to happen! Let us not read into verses what we want them to mean.
Some Commonly Misunderstood Verses On Faith
There are certain verses concerning faith that are commonly misunderstood. Let us look at some of them, standing on the foundation that true faith is a trust in the person of God. Let us also keep in mind the general principle that in order to understand any verse in the Bible properly, we must see it in the context of the whole Bible; other verses must support the meaning we attribute to the verse. It is also good to check our doctrines with practical experience. Sound doctrine must be also seen in practice.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb.11:1 KJV). The problem is the use of the word ‘substance’, that gives the picture of something material, leading some people to imagine that faith can be ‘accumulated’, increased in quantity by adding a little at a time, such as by repeating the promises of God over and over again! The true meaning of the verse is carried by modern versions, e.g., “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). The meaning here is quite clear, and very different from ‘substance’.
“And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matt.17:20). The context was the inability of the disciples to cast out a demon from a man’s son at the foot of the mount of transfiguration. These same disciples had cast out many demons and healed many sicknesses in the past, but they were stumped on this occasion. It is possible that they were scared when they saw the violent manifestations of the demon on this occasion and wondered if they would be able to cast out this one. As long as we believe that it is the power of Jesus and not our power that casts out demons, no demon will be able to scare us. But if we begin to imagine that it is our faith, knowledge, experience, holiness or anything else that will cast out demons, it will not work. This shows us that what is important is that our faith is in God and not in the quantity of our faith! If we come to a mountain standing in our way, what we need is a gift of faith from God who tells us to ask it to move out. Jesus is not saying that apart from that God–imparted faith we can speak to any mountain at our will and it will move out! Experience will also bear this out! We need to put such verses in the context of the whole Bible.
Jesus also made it clear here that it is not the quantity of our faith that is crucial; a mustard seed size would do. But what is important is whom we have faith in!
The point here is not, as some ‘word of faith’ people insist, about ‘speaking’. How we exercise the faith God gives us depends also on His guidance. When the people of Israel came to the Red Sea, God asked them to stand still and see His salvation. When they in need of water in the desert, one time God asked Moses to strike a rock with his rod, and another time to speak to the rock. The physical method is not the issue but whether we have faith in God and we follow the guidance He gives us through the Holy Spirit.
“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace’” (Lk.8:48). A casual reading might give an impression that faith has the power in itself to heal the sick. And so people try to accumulate this faith till they think they have it sufficiently to get what they want. In this case, aren’t they imagining that it is their faith that is going to do the miracle and that they have to manufacture that faith somehow? Wouldn’t we then be implying that if we have ‘faith’ we can make things happen even without reference to God? How ridiculous!
“Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt.9:29 KJV). This is many times interpreted to mean as if what we can receive depends on the quantity of the substance of our faith! I have heard one preacher explaining this to say that if the blind men whom Jesus healed had only half the quantity of faith compared to what they actually had, according to this verse only one of their eyes would have been healed! In other words, this verse is being interpreted to give a mathematical formula that says the outcome of our prayer will be proportional to the quantity of faith that we have! That is not what Jesus said. We have already seen above that it is not the quantity of faith but who we have faith in that matters. What Jesus was saying was simply, “All right, I am going to do for you just as you wanted and trusted Me for.” If we remember what we learned about faith for extraordinary situations, we can see that this was such a situation. We cannot generalise from here and assume that whatever we want and trust Jesus for He will do for us. No. It will have to be according to His sovereign will.
“And Jesus answered saying to them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him’” (Mk.11:22,23). We have already covered the subject of ‘speaking’ to the mountain. The new point here is about not doubting in our heart. Our mind is such that it is usually impossible not to have any doubt at all in our mind that what we say is going to happen. Let us be honest here! But it becomes possible when God gives us a gift of faith in our heart for our situation that goes deeper than our mind. Then we have an ‘assurance of things hoped for’. It is then that we know what God’s will for us in the situation and have the boldness to ask a mountain to move. Note that Jesus is asking us to have faith in God and not to create faith by ourselves in our mind!
When we know who God is, it is not at all difficult to believe without any doubt in our mind that He is able to anything He wants in a miraculous, supernatural way. But Jesus is not talking here about that kind of faith. When we have that kind of faith we should not assume that therefore what we want is going to happen. Jesus is talking here about a faith that has no doubt that what one believes is going to happen. God is able to do anything He wants, but He will do only what He chooses to do. This concerns the will of God, and this kind of faith can come only when God gives us a gift of faith in our particular situation by revealing His will for us.
“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” (Mk.11:24). Is it by manipulating our mind and convincing ourselves that we have received it even when we have not actually received it? That is not actually possible. Is Jesus actually asking us to believe in a falsehood? No. But when we receive a gift of faith for our situation and we are so assured about it that our mind is at rest just as if we have already received it!
“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (Jn.14:14). Asking in Jesus’ name is not about adding the phrase ‘in Jesus’ name’ at the end of our prayer. It is not a magic formula. It means submitting to Him, His character, His will and His authority. When we do that, first of all we will not ask for anything that is against His will or contrary to His nature. We must not neglect this part of the sentence and focus on ‘anything’. As created beings it is our wisdom to know that our God knows best and to submit to His will. When we know something to be God’s will (from His written word or by the gift of faith He has given), then we can be sure that if we ask for it we will receive it. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1Jn.5:14).
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven” (Matt.18:19). Many people try to catch hold of others and ask them to agree with them about what they are asking God for. This is like adopting a magic technique, and not connected with personal faith in God. More often than not, they also do not actually receive what they ask for! The problem is about what we understand ‘agree’ as. The original Greek word used there is sumphoneo which means ‘to be harmonious’ as in a symphony. This is not the same as mental agreement about an idea. What Jesus means is about two people completely in harmony with each other about what they are praying for. I suggest that this is possible only when God gives the gift of faith to both people. When that happens, both of them have an assurance that what they are asking is according to the will of God and that they will receive it. One person receiving such an assurance is great. But knowing that anyone can make a mistake, God confirms things to us when He has given the same witness to two people.
The understanding and practice of faith have been victims of a lot of misunderstanding. I hope this chapter has brought some clarity into this subject.
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