This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
In our previous studies we have glanced at the whole field of what we might call charismatic gifts. We have already pointed out that the nine gifts are readily divided into three groups of three: the gifts of revelation, the gifts of power, and the vocal gifts—the vocal gifts being those that must necessarily operate through human vocal organs.
In our previous studies we have examined the three gifts of revelation, that is, a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge and discernings of spirits. In this study we want to begin to examine the gifts of power which are faith, the gifts of healing and the workings of miracles. In this study I want to concentrate on the gift of faith.
Before we can study the gift of faith itself it’s necessary to clear up certain distinctions. Faith is used in a good many different ways in the New Testament and I want to point out to you three different kinds of faith which are all referred to in the New Testament.
The first kind of faith is the faith that comes through hearing the Word of God. This faith is necessary for salvation. Any person who is saved necessarily has this kind of faith. Let’s look at a few Scriptures that, I think, make this clear. We’ll begin with Romans 10:17 which says in the King James Version:
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Some of the modern versions are based on a different text which sometimes is considered to be more reliable and if you have one of them you might find that it says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the preaching of Christ.” As far as we’re concerned, the difference is not important. In fact, it’s only a difference of emphasis because it’s the preaching of Christ if it’s the preaching of the Word. This is just a variation in the text. But, this is the faith that a person receives through hearing the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. As a person opens his heart and receives this Word, it produces faith within that person. As I said already, a person cannot be saved without faith of this kind.
In Ephesians 2:8 Paul states the requirement for salvation:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith...”
The grace of God that brings salvation comes into us through our faith. Paul goes on to say:
“... and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
Even the faith we cannot boast about, because God gave it to us as we opened our hearts to hear the preaching of the gospel.
The fact that faith is absolutely essential for salvation is emphasized also in two other Scriptures that we could look at briefly. Romans 4:4–5.
“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
So, in order to receive righteousness we must have faith. Our faith in Jesus Christ that comes through the hearing of the gospel is imputed to us by God as righteousness.
This is pointed out again in Hebrews 11:6:
“But without faith it is impossible to please him [that is God]; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
This kind of faith is essential. No one can please God, no one can approach God, no one can receive salvation without faith in this form: the faith that comes by hearing the Word of God.
Now, it is clear that every Christian must have faith of this kind, otherwise he couldn’t be a Christian.
This also is stated by Paul in Romans 12:3.
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man a measure of faith.”
Not “the” measure of faith but “a” measure of faith. Of course, it’s clear that Paul is speaking only to people who are Christians. This does not apply to unbelievers. He says “every man that is among you”— he’s talking clearly to Christians. But as far as every Christian is concerned, God has dealt each one a measure, a certain proportion of faith. This is what is often called “saving faith” or “faith for salvation” or “faith that goes with salvation.”
The second kind of faith that I want to speak about is the faith that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is listed in Galatians 5:22–23. Let’s turn there for a moment.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
If you have the same accounting ability as I have, you’ll discover that the fruit of the Spirit is ninefold. The gifts of the Spirit are also ninefold. And remember, Paul did not sit down to write abstract theological treatises, but these were letters written under pressure of circumstance sometimes in prison, sometimes on a journey. I think it’s one of the marks of the beautiful inspiration of the Holy Spirit that there’s exact balance between the gifts and the fruit. I personally believe that all the fruit of the Spirit is love but love manifested in various different aspects which are those listed here.
In that list you’ll find that the seventh word is faith. The fruit of the Spirit is faith. This is not the type of faith that we must have to be saved. If you want an alternative definition or description you could offer either of these: either “continuing quiet trust” or “faithfulness” or “dependability.” The Greek word that’s used there, which is the regular word for faith, could mean either. Every one of the ninefold forms of the fruit of the Spirit is a mark of character. We have to use a word that denotes an aspect of character. As I say, it could be that aspect of quiet, continuing trust—a person who doesn’t get flurried or flustered or overemotional in any situation or circumstance. This doesn’t usually come immediately. Very few people are like that the moment they are saved. It comes by experience and by cultivation.
Or, you could translate it “dependability.” Remember, this is according to the Greek usage. A man of faith is a faithful man. This doesn’t come out so clearly in English but a real man of faith is a man you can put your faith in. He’s dependable, he’s reliable. If he says he’ll meet you on Tuesday night at 5 p.m., he’ll be there on Tuesday night at 5 p.m. If he says he’ll take a Sunday school class, he’ll be there to take the Sunday school class. He’s a man who keeps his commitments. Personally, I believe that both these are included in this type of faith which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
It is important at this point to make a very basic, logical distinction between fruit and gifts. Many, many Christians lose what God has for them in some measure through failure to make this distinction. I’ve heard people say quite often, “Brother, love is the best gift and that’s the one I want.” I don’t find anywhere in the Bible that love is called a gift. It is fruit, it is not a gift. As I said before, if you make love an excuse for not desiring the gifts of God, it’s a very strange form of love. Any kind of love that I know of desires the gifts of the person who is loved.
Fruit does not come instantly. It would be absurd to expect an instant, readymade orange or apple on a fruit tree. The truth about fruit is it has to be cultivated by labor and patience and skill. This is stated by the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:6:
“The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”
Or, you can translate it alternatively, “The farmer, laboring first, must be partaker of the fruits.” In other words, the fruits do not come forth without labor. I think this is a fact that we often overlook. We speak about fruit growing spontaneously without effort. That is perfectly true, but in the markets of the world today you could not possibly market any kind of fruit that was simply left to grow by itself. All fruit requires very careful and often intensive cultivation, which involves time, care and labor.
I’m persuaded that the same is true of the fruit of the Spirit. No one will bring fruit to perfection who does not cultivate it. It’s a process that requires time, care and labor. A gift is completely different. It takes no time, no care and no labor to receive a gift. The mere receiving of a gift does not in itself make the least change in a person’s character. If a person was lazy and irresponsible before he receives a gift, that person will be just as lazy and just as irresponsible after receiving the gift. Of course, the exercising of the gift may produce a change in character but the actual receiving of the gift does not change a person’s character.
This is something that people must lay hold of. For instance, we see a Christian who obviously has certain gifts of the Spirit and then our faith is almost struck down when we see them behave in an irresponsible and unreliable way—which, unfortunately, happens. But we fail to realize that that gift in itself did not produce any change in their character.
On the other hand, the gift is still valuable but it is not going to be effective as it should be unless the fruit is cultivated alongside of it. Some Christians—and I suppose you’ve met them—speak as though God is offering us two alternatives. Either fruit or gifts. The people that don’t believe in gifts of the Holy Spirit say, “Brother, I’ve got the fruit, you can have the gifts.” I’ve learned by experience to question just how much fruit that kind of person really has. Secondly, it’s totally unscriptural because the Bible says follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts. One of the evidences that we are following after love is that we are desiring of the spiritual gifts. In fact, spiritual gifts are the tools by which love work. Love without the gifts is left largely impotent and frustrated. As I’ve said before, imagine a mother sitting beside her sick child and saying, “Honey, I love you,” but doing absolutely nothing about it. Neither praying nor calling for the doctor nor taking any steps whatever to alleviate the child’s suffering. We would say that is a strange and unreal kind of love.
The Christian that says, “I have love; I don’t need gifts,” is really in the same category because the gifts are the means by which love is made effective. For instance, if we want to edify the church because we love the church then we’ll covet the gift that edifies the church, which is the gift of prophecy. Or, if we love the sick we’ll covet the gift that will enable us to minister to the sick, which is maybe the gifts of healings or the gifts of miracles or whatever it may be. But love in the New Testament, in fact, in the whole Bible, is always very practical. It does not sit and use nice phrases, it does something. One of the main means by which love is enabled to act and be effective is the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
However, they must be distinguished. I’ve given you there in your outline a very simple and familiar example. Consider the two types of tree, the apple tree and the Christmas tree. The apple tree bears fruit and the Christmas tree carries gifts. You know, there’s a complete difference. You don’t expect instantaneous fruit on the apple tree. You know it’s going to take a considerable period of time for that apple tree to bear apples that are worth eating. On the other hand, with regard to the Christmas tree, somebody hangs a gift on it, it takes a moment to hang it on. Somebody else comes up and takes the gift off it. That takes a moment likewise. There is this clear distinction.
We have spoken so far about the fruit of faith, an aspect of character that is cultivated by care, labor and requires time.
Now let’s move on to the third kind of faith, which is the real subject of this study, which is miraculous faith that is a gift. It is enumerated in that verse given there, 1 Corinthians 12:9. I think it would be good to look at 1 Corinthians 12:8–9 for a moment because I believe in the context we get some light.
“For to one is given by the Spirit a word of wisdom; to another a word of knowledge by the same Sprit; to another faith by the same Spirit...”
I pointed out that when it’s a word of wisdom God has all wisdom but He doesn’t bother us with all wisdom. In the moment of need, by the Holy Spirit He imparts to us a word of His wisdom, just a little fragment that meets the need of that situation. God has all knowledge. He doesn’t impart to us all knowledge because we’d stagger under the load. But in the moment of need, by the Holy Spirit He imparts to us a word of knowledge.
I believe faith is very, very similar. Paul does not say a word of faith, but I believe essentially that’s what it is. God has all faith. Through this gift He imparts to us a little tiny portion of His faith. It’s divine faith; it’s God’s faith. It’s not human faith, it’s not faith that’s cultivated; it’s faith that comes instantly, supernaturally, as a gift direct from God by the Holy Spirit. It is very, very frequently in the form of a word. This gift, like the others that we’ve examined so far, as I understand it, is operated only under God’s control. No man as far as I know has a word of knowledge at his will. No man has a word of wisdom. No man discerns spirits at will. And no man, as far as I understand it, has this gift of faith at will. God has not given us control over these gifts. They remain under His control but we make ourselves available to Him that He may operate them through us as He desires.
If we had these gifts at our operation at any time, you and I, being the kind of persons we are, the world would be in chaos because we would use them to suit our own moods and needs and one would be moving the mountain east while the other was moving the mountain west. The result would be confusion. There are certain gifts that God has to keep very strict control over. This definitely is one of them.
Now, this gift then, as I understand it, is a tiny little portion, a mustard seed of God’s faith supernaturally imparted by the Holy Spirit in a moment of need to meet a specific need or situation. Let’s look for a moment at the nature of God’s faith. This is a fascinating study. You see, God’s faith in His own Word brought the entire universe into being. This is what the universe came out of, God’s faith in His own words. Let’s look in Psalm 33:6:
“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”
I like the King James Version’s breath because it’s so vivid. When your word goes out, your breath goes out with it. You cannot speak without breathing. But on the other hand, the word in the Hebrew is spirit. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the spirit of his mouth.” In other words, all creation is the product of God’s Word and God’s Spirit going forth together. Or, God’s Word going forth through His Spirit.
See, this is a fascinating study to me. I had to learn a little bit about phonetics and I must say it was futile to try to teach Africans to speak English the English way—which is a problem in itself. I took a little course in phonetics. I discovered some fascinating things. You can’t speak without breathing. Essentially, speech is breath expelled out of your lungs and what happens to it in your throat and mouth decides what comes out. I’m sure some of you know much more than I do about this. Either your vocal chords are open or closed and then it’s the position of your lips and tongue. Does it go through your mouth or does it go through your nose? Every form of speech in all the languages in all the world are just variations on the way air comes out of our mouth. When you think of the uncountable number of variations and what is achieved by them, it’s really a fascinating thing to contemplate.
But, the basic point that I’m trying to make at the moment is that no one can speak without breath coming out. It is impossible. So, when God speaks, His breath, His spirit, goes with it. It’s the breathed out word of God that produces all that ever was created. By the word of the Lord and by the breath of His mouth.
If you want two confirming Scriptures, turn to Genesis 1 and notice the accuracy of this historical record. Genesis 1:2, the latter part of the verse.
“... the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters [or hovered upon the face of the waters. What was the next thing?] God said, Let there be light.”
The word of God went out and when the word and the Spirit of God united, the word light turned into the thing light. This, again, is fascinating, because in both Hebrew and in Greek the same word means “word” and “thing.” This is no accident. You see, things are God’s words spoken by His Spirit. When God said, “Light,” there was light. This is the basic nature of all creation.
Now in Hebrews 11:3 the same truth is presented again, particularly in relation to the word. But remember, it is the word breathed forth by the Spirit.
“Through faith we understand that the worlds [or the ages] were framed [or fitted together] by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
What is the basic force behind all created things? The Word of God.
Today, as far as I understand it, physics is basically in agreement with this statement. I’m no physicist but I had to dabble a little bit in the philosophy of physics at one time. As I understand it, you ask a physicist what this desk in front of me is made of, he’ll give you an answer in terms of atoms. Then you ask him, What atoms are made of? and he gives you an answer in terms of protons, neutrons, electrons and things like that. You ask him, Has anybody ever seen any of these things? and the answer is no. You ask him to express any of these things and the best he can do is give me some kind of mathematical formula or equation, which really is just about getting to where the writer of Hebrews was 19 centuries ago when he said, “By the word of the Lord were all these things made.” So, the things which are seen— the visible, the tangible, the perceptible—were not made of things which do appear. We can say completely Amen! to this in the light and conclusions of modern physics. It’s true experimentally, it’s true scientifically, and it’s true by the Scripture.
This, I think, should leave every one of us to consider the immense power there is in words. It is impossible to overestimate the power of words. Most Christians sadly underestimate it. So, everything that was in being, came into being when the breath of God came forth bringing a word. The breath of God is the Spirit of God. Of course, you immediately see the possibility that if the breath of the Spirit of God is within you and me, that same breath can bring forth a word out of you and me which is just as effective as if Almighty God had spoken it in the first place. And this is exactly what the gift of faith is as I understand it.
Let’s look at His other statement here in Ezekiel 12:25, only the first part of the verse because the verse has two completely, separate divisions. Ezekiel 12:25, the first part:
“I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass...”
In other words, “I am God and when I say a thing, it happens. When I say light, light happens.” That’s the nature of God. I am the Lord. It’s His unchanging, eternal nature.
Now let’s look at some of the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples in this connection. I want you to look at the incident of the fig tree which Jesus cursed and I want you to compare two gospel versions. We’ll take the one that comes first in Scripture, Matthew 21:18–22.
“Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently [which is the Elizabethan English for immediately] the fig tree withered away.”
Within 24 hours, as we’ll discover in the other gospel.
“When the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
Notice there are two ways of using words that are brought out there. One way is towards things on behalf of God, the other way is towards God on behalf of things. So, Jesus did not pray about the fig tree, he spoke to the fig tree on behalf of God. And, the fig tree did what He told it to do. He also said if you are in prayer to God on behalf of things, whatsoever you say in prayer believing you shall receive. Notice these two ways; I’ll bring them out more completely later. It’s according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, you may either speak to the thing on behalf of God—that’s the fig tree—or you may speak to God on behalf of a thing—this is what we would normally call prayer. The first is not prayer. Jesus did not pray about the fig tree, He did not pray to the fig tree—which would have been in a sense, idolatry—He simply told the fig tree what to do and the fig tree did it within 24 hours. He said to His disciples, “You can do what was done to the fig tree. What’s more than that, if you speak to a mountain it will have to obey you just the same.”
Let’s read the same incident as recorded in Mark 11 because there’s one further thing said there by Jesus which really is the key to understanding it all. Mark 11:20:
“And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. But that is not a literal translation, and I think the literal translation is right. It says, ‘Have the faith of God.’ It’s God’s faith expressed in utterances which are just as authoritative as if God Himself had spoken them. Because, in a certain sense, being breathed forth by the Spirit of God they are God-given utterances.”
Then He went on to say in verse 23:
“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
Leaving out the example of the mountain and just taking the opening and closing words of that 23rd verse, you have the most remarkable truth. “Whosoever shall say ... shall have whatsoever he says.” That doesn’t leave anybody out and it doesn’t leave anything out. It’s whosoever and whatsoever. What’s the condition? Divine faith. Have the faith of God. The suggestion is that God is more willing to give us this faith than many of us are to receive it. Jesus said, “Don’t marvel. You can do it. Have the faith of God.”
Then you notice He went on also to make this statement about prayer in verse 24:
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that you’ve received them [that’s the literal], and you shall have them.”
I often ask people, When do you receive? And the answer, of course, is, When you pray. The moment you pray you receive. You don’t necessarily have but you’ve received. Having may come later, but receiving comes when you pray. This is the great secret of getting things. The devil always has a tomorrow and if you let him keep you at bay with his tomorrow you’ll never get what God has. But, the Bible says, as far as God is concerned, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. God lives in an eternal now. There’s this point of settling it.
I’ll tell you, there’s a certain supernatural faith involved at times. I remember when I was planning to marry the lady who is now my wife and I was contemplating what was involved in becoming a faith missionary in the land of Israel. I remember some of the stories my wife had told me about having to get up in the middle of the night to pray for the children’s breakfast the next morning. I can see this scene vividly in my mind’s eye. I was walking along the Mount of Olives from south to north just in that little bit between the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus. I was telling the Lord, “Lord, I don’t really think that I’ve got that kind of faith.” I at that time told the Lord, “I never want to be brought so close to the margin as that.” I settled it forever with God. I know it will never happen. I just look back to that point, at that point I received. It wasn’t a struggle, it wasn’t an effort, I just knew that that was the way it was going to be. I can look back on very nearly 25 years of married life and know it’s been that way.
I can’t take any credit for that, but there’s just a moment when God dropped that mustard seed of divine faith into my heart and I settled it for the rest of my life. This is possible, you can do it. You can’t do it by a lot of struggling and effort, but you can do it by receiving divine faith when God imparts it to you.
Let’s go on looking at Scriptures that are listed there. First Corinthians 13:2. Paul is here pointing out that all these gifts without love are of no value to the person that has them. This is very interesting because they still may be valuable to somebody else. See? If I have the gift of healing and I exercise it without love, it doesn’t profit me anything, but it may profit the person that gets healed. I heard Brother Oral Roberts relate an incident about that I’ve never forgotten. A woman was bothering him after a meeting. She had no right, and she was running after him. He said, “The meeting is closed; I don’t pray for people privately.” She stuck to him so long that eventually in a fit of impatience he put out his hand and touched her and she got healed. She got healed but he said, “I got no blessing from it, it didn’t profit me anything.” So there you see you’ve got to be very careful how you read the Scripture. It doesn’t say it profits nobody anything, it doesn’t profit the one who’s exercised in the gift unless it’s exercised in love. I’ve had some similar experiences at times. I’ve been surprised at the results considering how I felt! But, God is greater than we are.
Notice now Paul is giving a list of possible gifts. It’s not complete, but he speaks of quite a number.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love ... verse 2:] And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries [the word of wisdom, though I have] all knowledge [the word of knowledge]; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains [that’s faith]...”
Notice faith is the mountain-moving gift. You don’t lay hands on a mountain, you don’t perform a miracle over a mountain; you just speak to a mountain. If you speak with divine faith, that mountain has to do what you tell it to do.
Now let’s look in Matthew 17 for a moment. Matthew 17:20. The disciples had failed to cast out a demon out of an epileptic boy and when they got alone with Jesus they said, “Why could not we cast him out?” You see that in verse 19?
“Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?”
And you know, of course, today some would say, “It’s not the will of God to heal,” or “That was too difficult a case,” or anything like that. But Jesus had one simple answer. Because of your unbelief. Then He went on to say:
“For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
Let’s compare with that Luke 17:6.
“The Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea...”
Have you ever noticed that? The tree is not just cast into the sea but it’s planted in the sea. It actually starts to grow in the sea.
Notice, in both these cases the Lord says all you need is a mustard seed of this kind of faith. This is not true of every kind of faith but this is divine faith. One little mustard seed is sufficient to move a mountain. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality of faith that Jesus is speaking about. If it’s God’s faith you don’t need a great spoonful of it, you just need a mustard seed.
Let’s look for a moment at what to me is always a very dramatic example of this type of faith and its power illustrated in the calling of the prophet Jeremiah. I don’t know why, but this Scripture always appeals to me. Jeremiah 1:5, God says:
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
Jeremiah said, “I can’t; I’m too young. And God said, “Don’t tell Me you’re too young because you’re going to do it.” Then in verses 9–10 of that chapter it says this:
“Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”
Here was a man who thought he was too young to be a prophet and God says, “From now on, you’re over the nations and over the kingdoms to root out, to pull down, to throw down, to destroy, to build and to plant.” How was that achieved? Verse 9 is the answer. “I have put my words in your mouth.” And when God’s word went forth out of Jeremiah’s mouth by God’s Spirit, it was just as effective as if God Himself had spoken it.
If you care to study the prophecies of Jeremiah you’ll find that many, many nations: Israel and many Gentile nations, nations of the Middle East and other nations for the past 2,500 years, their destiny has been settled by the prophecies of Jeremiah. This was exactly fulfilled. That’s the power of the word of God through the Spirit of God in the human mouth.
Notice also the condition for being a mouthpiece of God in Jeremiah 15. This is very important also.
Jeremiah 15, and I’ll read verse 16, 17 and 19. This is Jeremiah’s testimony:
“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”
If we are to bring forth God’s word, we must have digested God’s word first. You’ll find likewise with the prophet Ezekiel when God called him he stretched forth a roll in his hand and said, “Eat that which I give thee.” Then he said, “Go and prophesy.” See, prophecy and spiritual gifts do not come out of the natural mind. It isn’t just getting it into your mind; it’s digesting it in your spirit. When it’s digested there, and you’ve hidden God’s word in your heart, as David says, then it’s available for the Holy Spirit to bring it forth as He sees fit.
But you see, Jeremiah’s testimony was that “when thy word was found, I ate it, I lived on it, I fed on it.” The testimony of Job was “I esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” I would say when I was newly saved as a soldier in the British Army in North Africa this was really my testimony. I preferred the Word of God to my food. If it was a choice between eating breakfast and reading the Bible, I would take the time to read the Bible. For about three years in the desert I lived on God’s Word. I have to look back and say it made the most profound and permanent changes in every area of my being. I had nothing else, there were no churches, there were no chaplains, there were no padres, there were no preachers. I had two things: the Word and the Spirit of God. We have no right to cut ourselves off from fellowship or preaching if it’s available, but when it’s not available we have all that we need in the Word and the Spirit of God.
Let us read on, verse 17:
“I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.”
When we are identified with God’s word it separates us from many things. Again, I learned this in the army. I learned what it was to sit alone simply because I could not identify myself with the things that were being said and done. And it’s very lonely being alone in a crowd. But looking back, I realize that was a formative process in my spiritual dealings, God’s dealings with me. When I lived on His word and ate His word, it separated me, it sanctified me, it set me apart. I just could not react, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak like the people round about me. There was no one following me up with a list of rules, don’t go here and don’t go there and you mustn’t drink this and you mustn’t drink that. But there was something inside me that was so alien to the things of sin in this world that they could not mingle. Believe me, if you’re ever going to be truly sanctified it’s going to come from within, it’s not a list of don’ts and do’s and you mustn’ts. That’s what the Bible calls “a humility of the will.” It’s not the inward spiritual humility of the heart.
And then notice in the 19th verse of the same 15th chapter of Jeremiah:
“Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me...”
This is the position of the prophet, the one who stands before God, hears His word and delivers it.
“... and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth...”
God wants a pure mouthpiece. And then He said this—and this, too, is very important:
“... let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.”
When God sets a standard, we cannot lower it. When God sets conditions, we have no authority to change them. We cannot go down to man’s standards; we have to stand where God sets us and let them return to us, but we cannot return to them.
Now let’s look a little further in detail on the two different ways of exercising this kind of faith which I’ve already spoken of briefly. The two ways are listed there in your outline if you’re interested to read.
A. Words spoken to God on behalf of a person or object or situation.
B. Words spoken to a person or object or situation on behalf of God.
The first is what we would call prayer, the second really doesn’t have a name in common theology but I would say it’s the power of the believer’s decree.
Let’s look in 1 Kings 17 for a moment. Here’s one of my favorite Bible characters emerging with this dramatic utterance. He has no background, nothing is told of his past except that he came from Gilead and here’s the prophet Elijah. In a time of total wickedness and backsliding—my wife and I were reading these chapters together just the last few mornings. I got an absolute picture of chaos and disorder of the kingdom in which Elijah emerged. He came and said these words, and I can never read them without being thrilled. Reading 1 Kings 17:1:
“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand [there’s the prophet again standing before the Lord], there shall not be dew nor rain these [three] years, but according to my word.”
That’s a word, isn’t it? That’s power. When you control the rain and the dew, that’s authority. And the Bible reveals for three and a half years there was no rain and no dew. We were reading this morning the 18th chapter. It says that Ahab, the king of Israel, sent to every kingdom and every nation looking for this troublemaker Elijah. Because he thought if he could get a hold of him and somehow torture him into saying the right thing then the rain would fall. See? And then when they met, Ahab said to Elijah, “Art thou he that troublest Israel?” You’re the one that’s making all the trouble; you’re the reason why we don’t have rain and dew; you’re the reason why the crops are all failing and the beasts are all dying. It was a responsibility.
But notice, it was under the control of Elijah’s word. Not God’s word, but Elijah, because Elijah was the visible representative of God. And the 18th chapter, the first verse, see what God said to Elijah? He said:
“Go, [and] shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.”
Elijah was the message. He didn’t take the message, he was the message. “Show thyself and I’ll send rain.” As I quoted in another context the other day, God uses men and not methods. Elijah was God’s message.
Then when Elijah wanted the rain, notice, he had to pray through. This is a remarkable fact. Although he was the one that had withheld the rain he had to pray through for the rain. I’d like to read that prayer theme for a moment at the end of the 18th chapter of 1 Kings. Verse 41:
“And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees...”
I wonder if you’ve ever been in that position. I must say I have. There are times when I felt God had bent me into that position in prayer. I wouldn’t say Elijah was praying, I would say Elijah was his prayer. The whole of Elijah was a prayer: spirit, soul and body. He was totally identified with his prayer. He prayed until the little cloud appeared and by his words spoken to God he liberated the rain.
That is what James calls “the prayer of faith.” You’ll notice that James in the 5th chapter takes Elijah as the example. Maybe we should look there for a moment because James says one interesting thing about Elijah. He says he wasn’t any special kind of person; he was a man just like you and me. James 5:15:
“The prayer of faith shall save the sick, ... [Verse 16, the latter part:] The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Some churches, they don’t like fervent praying but the Bible says sometimes you have to be fervent.
Then the example is given, verse 17:
“Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are [just the same person as you and I], [but] he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
In other words, you can do the same. The same power is available to you and to me.
Now let’s look at the other example, which is in the book of Joshua only briefly, just for a moment.
Joshua 10:12–14. In the middle of a battle:
“Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. [verse 14:] There was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man...”
You see, although it says Joshua spoke to the Lord, when we get his actual words, he told the sun and the moon what to do. “Sun, stand still. And Moon, you stay over there.” I heard somebody say once, “God didn’t bother to explain to Joshua that it was really the other way around. He just saw to it that the results followed.” I mean, today we understand that it isn’t the sun and the moon, it’s the earth that changes its behavior. But that wasn’t important. The result followed. A man by the words that he spoke affected the course of the heavenly bodies. Tremendous!
I believe that, and I, furthermore, believe exactly the same privileges are available to you and me today. That’s my personal conviction.
In closing this study, let’s look at some examples of this type of faith: the utterance of faith, the word of faith, miraculous faith found in the New Testament. We’ll commence in Mark 4:39–41. Jesus is at sea in this small boat and a tremendous storm arises. The disciples come and awaken Him and say, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Verse 39:
“He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
He didn’t lay His hand on the sea; He just spoke to it. Here is the utterance of faith, divine authority. Actually, what He said was, “Be muzzled,” in the Greek. It would appear to me, I don’t want to speculate about this now, but it would appear to me that behind that storm Jesus saw something satanic. See, it’s very interesting. He was on His way to what I would call His toughest case of deliverance, the Gadarene demoniac, whom He met on the other side. I cannot but believe myself that all Satan’s forces ganged up against Him to prevent Him getting to the scene of the deliverance of that man. I have seen—and probably you have—sometimes when we’re on a particular assignment which means a lot to the kingdom of Satan he’ll have his agents planted all the way along every situation and circumstance. Even a traffic light will seem to be abnormal in their behavior. That’s a good sign God’s going to do something special if you don’t get discouraged and lose the victory on the way. So, behind this abnormal, sudden, dramatic storm Jesus saw an enemy at work and said, “Be muzzled.” It’s very, very vivid. And the storm was muzzled, it shut its mouth immediately. It couldn’t utter another sound.
The authority of God. Think of that. When Israel went out of Egypt on the passover night not a dog wagged its tongue. God can silence anything if we have faith.
Notice the three cases of Jesus raising a dead person. The first two are in Luke. Chapter 7, verses 12– 15, the son of the widow of Nain.
“Now when he [that’s Jesus] came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her…”
The Greek word means “His bowels were moved.”
“... and said unto her, Weep not.”
This is divine compassion. And here is another sure evidence that God wants to do something. When you are moved with divine compassion it’s God that’s doing it.
“And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.”
I don’t know whether you notice that every time Jesus raised the dead He was very specific. He always called the person, designated. Some people will tell you that if He hadn’t designated the person, all the dead would have arisen because He has the power to call them out of the grave.
Let’s look in Luke 8:54–55, the daughter of Jairus. There was a great weeping and a wailing and it says in verse 54:
“He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.”
Some people say this never happens these days. But in East Africa where we worked as missionaries there are many well authenticated cases of people being raised from the dead. During the time that my wife and I worked there with students, we were in contact with two occasions in which by all normal standards the person was brought back from death. One was very like this. One of our woman students, the whole family was in the clinic and the body was stretched out on the bed and they were weeping and wailing and praying. We said, “Would you like us to pray?” They said yes. We said, “You all go out.” We didn’t plan this thing, but we just knelt down on either side of the bed and prayed and at a certain moment we both got the assurance of victory and the girl sat straight up. Do you know the first thing she said? “Has anybody got a Bible?” I said yes, and she said to read Psalm 41. I read Psalm 41, we took her home with us, and she was perfectly well within a day or two. I afterwards said to her, “Why did you want us to read Psalm 41?” She said—and the African never talks about a vision—she said, “At that time two men in white stood beside me and I walked with them on either side down a very, very long, straight pathway. It took us to a place that was full of lights and people in white clothing all singing. There was a man reading out a very big book and he was reading Psalm 41 and I wanted to know what was in it.” So, that’s what happened. So far as we could say, we didn’t have a medical certificate, she told us what happened to her spirit when it left her body.
Then in John you have the raising of Lazarus, John 11:43–44.
“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth...”
What a dramatic moment! You’ll notice in every case He didn’t lay hands on the sick, He spoke.
And the same thing happened in Acts 9:40 when Peter raised Dorcas. Just looking at that one Scripture, I’m going very rapidly now. Dorcas was dead, she’d been washed and laid out ready for burial. Verse 40:
“Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; [then when he got the faith] turning him to the body he said, Tabitha [notice he called her by name], arise. And she opened her eyes: ... she sat up.”
The same thing.
Notice Acts 13, a very remarkable situation here. A false prophet, a sorcerer, a magician, a witchdoctor, whatever you’d like to call him, opposed the preaching of Paul and Barnabas on the island of Cyprus. Paul turned to this man in Acts 13:9 and it says:
“Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost [notice it was the Holy Ghost that took over], set his eyes on him [this false prophet], and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.”
Paul really pronounced God’s judgment on that man. The power of the spoken word. Divine faith, a mustard seed, a word of divine faith placed by the Holy Spirit in the lips of the believer.