If pastors could get everyone in their congregations to stop watching TV preachers, it would do all our ministries good. I can often tell from the type of question or statement someone makes that it came from a TV preacher. And the question or statement often has to do with the nature of faith.
The message many take away from current false teaching on faith is, “Why aren’t I moving mountains? There must be something wrong with my faith.”
What is faith? What’s the nature of faith?
The go-to excuse for the prosperity preachers is that if you’re not healed or didn’t get the blessing you prayed for it’s simply because you did not have enough faith. As if faith is this entity of its own that you use to turn God to and fro. It amounts to having faith in your faith.
This is simply a false teaching about the nature of faith. There is no such thing as slot-machine faith where you drop the coin of faith in the machine and bingo-bango, out drops a miracle. God does not work on-demand. God is not commanded by faith. He commands faith.
There are instances in Scripture where Jesus rebukes people for their lack of faith. However, we do not lack faith because we don’t have enough internal emotional muster to believe harder. We lack faith because we do not know our God.
God is relational and faith is simply the gift He gave us that we might have a relationship with Him through His Son. And the only way to know His Son is through the testimony God has given us in both the Old and New Testaments.
So, faith is first the gift of God. Then faith comes (increases) by the word of Christ (the Bible). So, after the gift comes knowledge.
2 Peter 1:2-4
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
The Apostle Peter says that grace and peace are multiplied in our lives through knowledge of Jesus. Knowledge is a component of faith. There is no such thing as a blind leap of faith. A blind leap of faith is a leap into ignorance. Faith must have an object and that object must be known.
This will sound blasphemous to those who misunderstand the nature of faith, but you are not saved by your faith. Your faith is a vehicle that receives what saves you — the work of Christ. Your faith is only as good as the object you put it in. Faith doesn’t save. The object of your faith saves — Christ.
People place their faith in the wrong object all the time, but it’s not a faith that will save because the object of their faith is useless. You can have all the faith in the world that you can cross a lake in a particular boat, but if that boat has a hole in it then it doesn’t matter how much faith you have in that boat, it’s going to sink. Likewise, if the boat you board is structurally sound, even if you have very little faith in the boat, it’s going to get you across the lake, regardless of your doubts. Sinking or succeeding in crossing the lake doesn’t depend upon your faith in the boat, but upon the soundness of the boat itself. Your faith has to have a worthy object.
Faith has three components — knowledge, assent and trust. You can remember it with the acronym KAT.
Knowledge — you have to know something about the object of your faith. You can’t put your faith in something you don’t know. Too many people believe in a faith in faith. (Examine your boat thoroughly before putting it in the lake.)
Assent — you have to agree that it’s true. You have to accept it. This is why I stress so often that the Christian faith is an historical faith. It’s not based on something that cannot be examined. Christianity has the most well-attested documents of any historical account, religious or secular. (Once you’ve inspected your boat, you agree that it’s in good shape.)
Finally, trust — you have to understand it and agree to it to the point that you’re willing to stake your life on it. (You get in the boat and cross the lake.) That’s faith.
And when we know our God we will do great exploits. So, faith can grow, but it doesn’t grow separate from the word of God, which means it grows as we get to know God better through His self-revelation. To treat faith as if it’s some internal feeling that is separate from the word is to present a false separation of faith from its object — the God who gave it.
So, the prosperity preachers can take a verse like Mark 11:22-23 that talks about moving mountains with our faith and point out that “the one who does not doubt, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Then they’ll point to you as being responsible for the strength of your faith and turn it into a load of condemnation. “You don’t get what you need from God because you don’t have enough faith.” This equals faith in your faith, not faith in your God, the one who actually moves the mountain.
Faith does not come from looking inward and trying harder to believe. Faith comes by the promises of God, the commands of God, the word of Christ. Because whenever we interact with the word of God we are interacting with the God of the word.
The knowledge we gain must be acted upon or it doesn’t build faith. It only puffs up. If we have lots of Bible knowledge, but don’t act upon it then we hypothetically know God. But if we have Bible knowledge that we act upon, then we experientially know God. And that’s what God intends for our faith, that we might know Him relationally.
And “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” (Deut. 11:32)