The Evangelical F-Word


Few words stir more controversy among evangelicals than faith. Churches have split over it, denominations have been formed around it. What is it? How do we measure it? Can one have too little? Not enough? What’s the right amount?

The questions abound. Here’s what we know about faith:

1) It is the essence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1)

2) Jesus said “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John. 20:29)

3) We can have too little faith (Matt. 17:20)

4) But faith as small as a mustard seed can do tremendous things (Matt. 17:20)

5) Our faith needs to be in God (Mark 11:22)

6) There can be no doubting when it comes to faith (Mark 11:23)

7) Faith needs to be motivated by love to be effective (1 Cor. 13:2)

Faith is the conduit through which the power of God works in and through Christians. Through it we receive grace which brings salvation. With faith mountains can be moved, miracles can be performed, awesome wonders can take place. We’ve read about it happening once before, the gospels, the book of Acts, and Paul’s epistles are chock full of examples of the power of faith.

So can we really move mountains with only a mustard seed worth of faith?  Jesus told the disciples they couldn’t cast a demon out because they didn’t have enough faith but if they only had faith as a msutard seed they could move mountains.

One side of evangelicalism touts that healings and miracles can and do occur if the recipients only have enough faith while the other side argues that it only takes a mustard seed of faith. So who’s right?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. My ponderings only bring more questions. How much is enough? How much is too little? How do we measure faith? How do we know if we’re doubting or not?

Here’s what I do understand. Our faith needs to be in God for it is by Him and through Him that all things happen. The focus can’t and shouldn’t be on ourselves, on OUR faith. We pray, we expect, we hope, we love and God does the rest.

Can wonders still happen today if someone has pure faith, directed toward God, with no doubting? I think so. But really, God only knows.

What do you think? Do you have the answers to any of my questions? Have you figured faith out?

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on October 1, 2010, in Christian Living and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Do I have it figured out? No, but I’m learning. One thing I have come to believe—the mountain-moving faith isn’t simply an affirmation that God CAN do the miraculous whatever-I’m-asking. I think it needs to be tied to the certainty that it is His will.

    Jesus, for example, asked that the cup of suffering pass Him by, but God said, No. Did Jesus not have enough faith? Of course not. The fact was, God’s will required Jesus to go to the cross and He submitted to that will.

    Too often today, I think we Christians use faith as a tool to manipulate God. But that’s the way Satan used God’s promises when he was tempting Jesus in the wilderness.

    Faith isn’t a “Gotcha! Now You HAVE to do what You said” kind of thing. It’s aligning our wants with God’s will and believing that He will accomplish what He intends. I may think God failed to answer my prayer, but He may be moving the mountain according to a different time frame or in a different way than I imagined. He may not want that mountain moved, and I was too concerned with my own wishes to realize it.

    But here’s the other thing—related to prayer and faith, I think. James says we do not have because we do not ask. Maybe we’ve gotten gun shy, not wanting to demand of God as some do, not wanting to be disappointed if “He doesn’t come through.”

    I’m thinking, for myself I need to submit more and then ask more and trust more.

    Becky

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    • Oh, Amen, Becky! I totally agree . . . it all comes down to God’s will. If we’re in sync with Him, nothing is impossible. Mountains will move. Walls will be broken down. Wonders will never cease. And as for not receiving because we’re not asking I also agree. I think our expectations of God have been dumbed down. We don’t see miracles because we’re either not looking for them or don’t expect them. But God is still in the business of working them!

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  2. Mike,

    I think you have brought up an excellent topic. And considering the almost utter lack of comments compared to some of your other posts, it shows why this is a topic that should be discussed.

    Coming from a Pentecostal/Charismatic background, and having had a positive experience, and having seen both the excess as well as the good teaching, and having seen good teaching being called excess by people that never understood what was going on to begin with, I think I can mention a few things I’ve learned on this subject over the years if you would allow me the luxury.

    One thing I want to comment on is a verse you could have used, but didn’t, in your list up there when it came to having too little faith. You used the same verse from the mustard seed verse, and really, that verse doesn’t have to do with having too little faith and it not working, but illustrating a small amount of faith can do great things. A better verse would be Matthew 14:31 where Peter had just been walking on the water and when he looked at the waves and started to sink we see, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” And this is what I want to comment on to speak on having “little faith” and things not working for you.

    So we see a moment where Peter has just accomplished what I would say is one of the greatest acts a human in the Bible outside of Jesus ever accomplished. Paul getting bit by the venomous snake and surviving not being ignored here. So now, after Peter has gone and actually freakin’ WALKED ON WATER of all things, and then got disturbed by the waves and started to sink, how in the world could Jesus then say he had “little faith”? What does that say about the size of our faith when none of us are out there walking on water?

    Well, for one thing, I don’t think that Jesus was speaking on the size of the matter. Obviously Peter had GREAT faith. Just look at all the other things he did for Jesus because of how he believed in Him. He was the first to recognize Jesus for who He is, “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” He even cut off a man’s ear there at the end when they were taking Jesus away! So Peter clearly shows a HUGE amoung of faith in Jesus. Yet Jesus said at that moment he had “little faith” when he pulled him up from the water.

    I think that in this instance we are looking at how long the faith lasts, and not just the size of the faith. This is a matter of endurance and not just having the most faith stacked up or whatever. Peter used faith that none of the other disciples used. They either didn’t have it, or didn’t use it. One of the two. But in either case, Peter used it, and it was great. But it didn’t last. He let the “cares of the world” come in on him and cause him to doubt what he was able to do by the power of God, and when he lost his focus, that showed how “little” faith he really had.

    As we go through things, it is not a bad thing to recognize the storms in our lives. We are to speak of things that are not as though they were, not things that are as though they’re not. But we shouldn’t allow our fear (or negative faith) in those storms to ruin our lives to distract us from the faith that God can sustain and fulfill our lives beyond our wildest imaginations.

    Paul likened faith to a race and it’s the runner that can go the distance that finishes – whether they get there first or not. I have muscles and energy to walk and jog some and when needed to run a moment for something, but if you put me in a foot race, I doubt seriously I could last long or even get to the end unless it was such a foot race that it was only a “foot” distance. 😉

    And this is why it is so, so, so, so important that we EXERCISE our faith. We have to believe in God for things, things we actually can BELIEVE in Him for. Remember, believe is the key word here. When we pray BELIEVING we shall receive, then we shall have it. So if you can’t believe that you’ll receive something, you shouldn’t pray for it. Very simple. So start with what you CAN believe God for and as you see things happening, let your Faith grow as you move from “faith to Faith” and reach “glory to Glory”. Let your Faith grow to where you can then say, “Well, if this was able to happen, then why not this?” And then ask God for whatever you can BELIEVE on Him to do.

    One of the both fortunate and unfortunate sides I’ve seen of the Pentecostal and Charismatic circles has been the overused emphasis on prosperity with this. It’s good that it was brought up because, yes, the Bible makes it clear He wants His children to prosper and I think that it’s the job of all of us to help anyone out that is less fortunate than ourselves so that they may prosper as we ourselves are at our own various levels, no matter what level of less unfortunate that is. Yet, He didn’t put a dollar amount on that prosperity He wants us to have, and although material prosperity IS a form of prosperity, it is far from the only form. Most of the people I’ve listend too seem to get this and teach things in that manner even while mentioning money, and quite frankly they are the ones more well known and most criticized about preaching it. My problem has been more with the lesser known people that don’t have that balance, not to mention the outright scam artists that have brought more than their fair share of controversy to the matter by getting back on the air after being caught as red handed as you can get (Popoff and Tilton come to mind).

    So please realize that although it is important to believe you are going to RECEIVE something from God when you pray, the real matter at hand is BELIEVING what you are asking for. Unfortunately, not everyone that prayed for a million dollars when they sent their faith offering in (whether it was to a scam artist or a legitimate minister talking about prosperity) really believed they would get that million dollars so they didn’t. Frankly, they hadn’t believed him for a thousand yet, so how could they possibly expect to have the faith to believe for a million? 😉 In the same manner, when we go to God for anything else we should make sure that it’s something our faith can take. And if God doesn’t answer right away with “Yes”, can we go the distance until we win?

    I ask that last to sort of bounce off of Rebecca’s reply earlier. When it comes to God’s will in the matter, I like to see what He’s already said about things. They way I can do that is by reading the Bible.

    When I was eight years old and had a closed head injury causing brain damage, I had a lot of problems after that. I learned by reading my Bible and by BELIEVING what I saw in the Word of God that among other things Jesus paid the price for my sickness and disease before He went to the cross. Remember that famous whipping scene in Mel Gibson’s movie? One of those stripes was for brain damage. Another was for cancer. Another was for paralysis. Another was for the common cold. And on, and on. Before he went to the cross for our sins, according to Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24 he went to the whipping post for our healing.

    So for ten years I prayed to God for a healing. At various times others prayed with me too. But no faith healer came by and laid hands on me to where I was “suddenly” healed. Yet, nevertheless, God healed me and I had two brainscans done, one with and one without resolution and both came back completely normal. The doctor looking at them that was familiar with the case said it was as if the damage had never taken place. There was no trace of it being “new” cells to take the place of the “old” ones.

    So for ten years I had to endure and keep believing and keep having Faith that God would heal me. Some along the way would tell me it wasn’t God’s will to heal me because if it was, surely He would have answered my heartfelt prayers of Faith. Their doubt didn’t matter to me. I just kept believing what God had already said on the matter and kept praying in Faith to Him knowing that His Word is true and that what He said in His Word applied to me as one of His Children.

    A point about Faith that you forgot to include in your list is that each person is given an amount of Faith, and we really don’t know if we are all given the same amount or not. I do know that we need to exercise it so it can grow, but are we all given the same amount? In either case, the verse reference is 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 the measure of faith.”

    I mention that verse, and I’ve mentioned once again the need to exercise our Faith, because although you are quite correct in that we shouldn’t focus on our Faith instead of focusing on God, yet if we never focus on our Faith at all it is like a police officer that would rather all the time look at the picture of the Mayor and call the Mayor up on the phone that supplied the money for the shield he’s supposed to carry when facing a riot instead of actually checking the strength of the shield and making sure it’s in proper working order and then also making sure to take it on the field where it can do him some good and use the durn thing.

    It is really through the exercise of our Faith and allowing it to get bigger and bigger as well as longer lasting and longer lasting that we can really see the significance of what Jesus is saying about Faith the size of a mustard seed. When you look at a mustard seed, it’s a really small seed. Indeed, there are some seeds even smaller than it, but Jesus used a mustard seed because of the great size of the tree it can grow into. The small mustard seed has the faith that it can grow into a huge big tree in the metaphorical sense. In another more applicable sense, it is seeing that you can have Faith the size of a mustard seed and if you cultivate that Faith and see it grow, your Faith can become the difference in a mustard seed and a full grown tree from that mustard seed.

    That is one of a few reasons why Jesus used the mustard seed in His example on using Faith. Again, it’s not just the size, but the long lasting endurance that is a real key to Faith. We all have the potential to be giants for God, but how many of us are willing to cultivate the seed of Faith He gave us in the measure we have each been given?

    And yes, it’s important to actually ASK Him for something and not remain silent. 😉

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    • Wow, David, thanks for the, um, book-length comment. No, seriously, thanks for your words. Interesteing, enlightening, encouraging. You brought up some really good points. I hadn’t thought about faith being exercised and growing. And, yes, I too was disappointed at the lack of comments on this post. I thought it would get more. I think it shows why I call faith the evangelical f-word. Few people really want to talk about it because we don’t fully understand it and are afraid of stepping on toes. Anyway, you weren’t afraid to talk about it 🙂 so thank you!

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      • You’re welcome, and I surprised myself with the length of the comment. It was late at night and I hit enter before I went back and did any edits (thus the reason a few misspellings and inaccurate wordings stayed in), then I saw just how much I had written and went, “Whoa! Mike’s gonna’ think I was trying to write the entry for him.” But thanks for being a good sport about it. I do hope my long comment helps those that actually take the time to read it. 🙂

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  3. Faith is. . . interesting. To say the least. It is hard to right about, because no one really understands all of it. But here’s what I’ve gathered.

    You can come to God for anything, but must ask according to his will. This way, God is not your slave.

    God wants to bless you. Feel free to ask him for anything according to his glorious riches in Christ. This doesn’t just apply to money.

    Don’t speak doubts. This ruins the faith in you, and God is unable to bless you through your faith.

    Unfortunately, I have a lot of partially-answered or unanswered questions on this. I was hoping it was only my youth showing through, but it seems to be a problem with a lot of people.
    Another thing, I’m not entirely sure of what all I just typed is correct. I’m leaning on memory, mostly, as I don’t have a Bible sitting in front of me. Am I wrong? You can point that out.

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  4. Gah, I was brain-dead the other night. Please ignore that last “I’m not sure what I said” part.

    And I agree, the small amount of comments on this is interesting, especially when compared to to your post about Christian Horror.

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