Issue: 2nd quarter 2015

Why “Faith” Sometimes Seems to Work

Written by John W. Schoenheit

Faith – Part 2

Many Different Reasons 

The unbiblical teaching of the Word of Faith Movement is that “faith” is a power or force that can control things. But if that is not what the Bible says, why does “faith” sometimes seem to work? There are many reasons that come together to give the impression that “faith” appropriates things, and these reasons have been used to support the Word of Faith doctrine. These reasons include the manifestation of faith, prayer, grace, humility, the operation of a gift ministry, and even occasional help from demonic sources.

The Manifestation of Faith

One of the biggest reasons “faith” sometimes seems to bring things to pass is that the “manifestation of faith” gets confused with regular “faith” (trust). The “manifestation of trust,” more popularly known as the “manifestation of faith” or even “the gift of faith,” is one of the nine manifestations of the gift of holy spirit (1 Cor. 12:9).

The “manifestation of faith” works by God (or the Lord Jesus Christ) giving a Christian a specific revelation, which gives the Christian the authority to do what he cannot do by his own human power. For example, if God gives a Christian the revelation to heal a person, then the Christian can operate the manifestations of faith (trust) and healing, and bring about healing. We see this over and over in the Bible: a great believer, like Peter or Paul, commands someone to be healed, and the person is healed. But the person doing the healing was not merely employing “faith,” he was operating manifestations of holy spirit: the manifestation of faith and the manifestation of healing.

The person doing the healing needed revelation from God for the healing to come to pass. The revelation is God’s instruction and indication that He will supply the power for the healing. If the healing was due to a person’s own power, then logically, he or she could simply go out and heal everyone. After all, if faith is simply a power that can be operated, and a person had the faith to heal one person, then he should have the power to heal everyone. But this is obviously not the way faith works. Someone defending the Faith Movement might respond, “But the person being healed needs faith, too.” That is not always true; there are many examples in the Bible and in life where the one healed did not have faith. Dead people have been raised, babies have been healed, and people have been healed who were unbelievers or who did not expect it. So the question remains: why can a person with faith heal some people and not others? The answer is simple: faith is not a force that accomplishes tasks. God is the force; He is the power. The reason we need “faith” (“trust”) is so that when God gives us the revelation to do a miracle or healing, we trust that He will do it.

Confusing regular “faith” (“trust”) with the manifestation of faith misleads people into thinking that the great miracles and healings in the Bible were done simply because the person who did them had great “faith.” Actually, the miracles and healings in the Bible were done by the manifestation of faith and God exerting His power. “Faith” is “trust,” and when God makes a promise, we trust it, but it is God who brings His promise to pass; not our trust. We understand this perfectly in the physical world, and it works the same way in the spiritual world.

Let’s say you promise to give a friend a ride to work while his car is being fixed. He trusts you, and he believes you will keep your promise. Also, you are trustworthy and you keep your promise and give him the ride. Did his trust “make” you give him the ride? Of course not. His trust gave him the boldness to ask you for the ride and the confidence to be ready to be picked up at an appointed time, but it was your power that supplied the ride. Also, you could have said “No” to providing him the ride even though he trusted you enough to ask you for it. In the same way, we trust that God can heal, but that does not force Him to heal. Furthermore, our trust does not give us the power to heal without God. The fact that our trust in God does not “make” things happen explains why “faith” seems to fail so often. [For more information on the manifestation of faith, see commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:9].

God Answers Prayers

Another reason faith sometimes seems to appropriate things in the material world is that answered prayer gets confused with the “power of faith.” The Bible tells us that God answers prayer and that we are to pray for the things we need or desire. Sometimes when people are trying to have “faith” for something, they ask God for it over and over. But praying over and over for something is one of the things God tells us to do to get our prayers answered (Luke 11:5-10; 18:1-8); so if someone gets the thing that he has been consistently asking God for, it is often due to God answering his prayer, not because his human mind and degree of “faith” somehow brought what he wanted to him.

God answering prayers also helps to explain why “faith” seems to fail so often, or takes so long to work. If we really were getting what we wanted due to a power we operated called “faith,” then by our faith we should be able to get anything that is available, and get them quickly. After all, if we have the faith to get one thing we want, then our faith should build and we should have even more faith to get more things we want. But people’s experience is that they do not always get what they “have faith for,” and often if they do get what they want, it takes a long time. This is consistent with what the Bible says about God answering prayers. God often answers prayers, especially those prayed fervently over a period of time, but there are also lots of reasons people do not get what they pray for, including asking with the wrong motives (James 4:3), the spiritual battle (Daniel 10:10-13), the fallen nature of the world (Heb. 9:27), and other realities and laws God has to honor, such as the law of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:7). But the point is that sometimes when people get what they want it is due to their prayers and God’s decision to answer them, not to their “faith.”

Grace and Humility 

Sometimes receiving what we want is not a matter of our “faith,” but of God’s simply giving us grace. God is God, and He has plans and purposes that He will accomplish. Additionally, in our personal lives, sometimes receiving God’s grace is due to our humility. The Bible is clear that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). There are clearly occasions when believers get what they need or want from God simply because He loves them and gives them grace. A good example is John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, getting pregnant. She had wanted to get pregnant for years without success, but because of God’s purposes and plans He gave her grace and she was able to get pregnant (Luke 1:5-25). It is because these occasions are due to God’s grace and according to His plans that they are not repeatable at our will. That people do not repeatedly get what they want even when they are trying hard to have “faith,” is good evidence that it is not our “faith” that brings us things, but sometimes is simply God’s love and grace.

Having a Positive Attitude

Another reason that “faith” may appear to work at times is that people are taught that if they have faith, they are to act and speak in a positive and confident manner, as if they have already received what they were having “faith” for. But psychological studies show that people who are happy and have a positive attitude almost always do better in life than those who don’t. Happy, positive people are more successful than sad, doubtful, disillusioned people. One reason is that they typically work harder and are more productive.

But the fact that people who are positive thinkers are generally more successful than those who see the world in a negative light does not make “faith” into a force or law. Plenty of positive people do not have what they would like to have. In fact, some of the happiest and most trusting people on earth are very disadvantaged mentally, physically, and/or materially.

Furthermore, it is true that having a happy, positive outlook on life is extremely effective when it comes to the health of our own bodies. Our minds cannot generate a faith-force that appropriates things outside our bodies, but the Bible is clear that the way we think is a powerful force inside of us (Prov. 3:7, 8; 4:20-22; 12:4; 14:30; 15:13; 16:24; 17:22; 18:14). If we trust in God, think positive thoughts, and maintain a godly environment, we will be much healthier than if we do not. So it is that many times when sick people are healed, it is due to them getting rest, having loving people care for them, getting away from the worries and bustle of life, and taking time to think, pray, and perhaps read the Bible or inspiring literature. The Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 17:22), and many times people are healed it is due to being relaxed and “merry,” not due to their “faith.”

God Honors the Gift Ministries

Another reason “faith” seems to work for some people is that God honors the gift ministries He has given. If a person has a gift ministry in an area, then success in that area tends to come as well. Thus, if a person has a ministry in miracles or healing, he may have great success in that area, but may wrongly attribute that success to his personal faith rather than God honoring the special gift He has given him. The Bible tells us that God gives some individuals the ministry of healing, miracles, giving, and more (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:28).

There are times when Christian healers start ministering without consciously receiving revelation, and either the revelation comes during the ministering, or the person is healed anyway, seemingly without revelation. Those cases are quite common and are due to things such as we just discussed, including prayer, humility, grace, and God honoring a gift ministry.

Satan’s Deceitful Help

An important reason that people believe there is a law that allows them to control things and bring success to themselves is that the Devil wants people to think they can control their lives, and do it without God. Sometimes when “faith,” or mental power, seems to work in helping people get what they want, it is because the Devil maneuvers situations and circumstances to make it seem like people are receiving things they have “faith” for. The Devil is constantly seeking to lead people away from God and truth, so he will sometimes help people acquire material things if it accomplishes his greater goal.

A good explanation of how the Devil helps people came out many decades ago in the book, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. Mr. Hill is still considered a guru of financial self-help, and in his book, as the title suggests, he gives principles of the mind that supposedly allow people to acquire wealth. However, by the end of the book, he reveals the real secret to his success: getting help from a demon. Of course, Hill does not come out and say his helper is a demon, and he might not have fully understood it himself, although he did know he was getting outside help from the spirit realm, not just from the power of his mind.

Hill calls his helper a “guardian angel,” but the fact that he calls it an angel does not make it one; the Bible tells us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14 HCSB). In the second-to-last chapter of Think and Grow Rich, Hill writes:

This much the author does know—there is a power, or a First Cause, or an Intelligence, which permeates every atom of matter, and embraces every unit of energy perceptible to man…This Intelligence may, through the principles of this philosophy, be induced to aid in transmuting DESIRES into concrete, or material, form. The author [Napoleon Hill] has this knowledge, because he has experimented with it—and has EXPERIENCED IT. …There comes to your aid, and to do your bidding, with the development of the sixth sense, a “guardian angel” who will open to you at all times the door to the Temple of Wisdom” (Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich; eBook, 1937 edition, Chapter 14, “The Sixth Sense: The Door to the Temple of Wisdom.” Emphasis original. See also, Outwitting the Devil, p. 48, 49).

What is Hill saying? By the end of his book it is clear he is saying that if you get to the point that your life’s focus is on material things, then a “guardian angel” will come into your life, do your bidding, and help you get what you want. That worked for Napoleon Hill, and he and many others say it can work for anyone. Actually, although Hill used the term “guardian angel” for his spiritual helper in 1937, in 1938 he wrote Outwitting the Devil, in which he described meeting the Devil himself. Although some people have tried to say that Hill only used the Devil as a literary device, that is not what Hill himself says:

I have had experience with enough of the principles mentioned by the Devil to assure me that they will do exactly what he says they will. That is enough for me. …I believe the Devil is exactly who he claims to be. (Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success; Sterling, New York, 1938, printed and annotated 2011; p. 56).

There has always been a kind of folk belief—one usually made fun of—that you can “sell your soul to the Devil” to get what you want in this life. The fact is, as with most long-standing beliefs, there is some truth in it. The Devil is willing to help people acquire material success, especially since he can do it in a way that excludes God. One reason for this is that people who focus on material success usually do not turn to God for help or salvation, and so they will perish in the Lake of Fire along with the Devil instead of living forever in Paradise along with Jesus. Even if the person is a Christian when he starts his “success by faith” journey, he is taught that “his faith” is his source of supply, not God, and so finding the will of God becomes less important than figuring out how to build his faith and gain success in life. Of course, not everyone who the Devil helps recognizes the source of the help—even Napoleon Hill apparently did not for a while. But just because someone does not realize he is getting help from demonic sources does not mean he is not, especially if he is directly opposing God in asking for that help, such as making wealth or power a dominant motive in his life.

Is There Really a “Law?”

That the Devil sometimes helps people gain worldly success explains why there are non-Christian groups that believe that the power of the mind taps into a “law” that works for both believers and unbelievers. In fact, when the “law” of faith is examined, there is really not much difference between what Word of Faith teachers say about the power of “faith,” and what non-believers say about the power of the mind.

The book, The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, which came out in 2006 and received great publicity, speaks of the “Secret” being the “law of attraction” (p. 25). Byrne, who says the “law of attraction” works for anybody, writes:

“The Secret gives you anything you want; happiness, health, and wealth” (p. 1). “If you can think about what you want in your mind, and make that your dominant thought, you will bring it into your life” (p. 9). “Nothing can come into your life unless you summon it through persistent thoughts” (p. 43). “The law of attraction is a law of nature. It is as impartial as the law of gravity” (p. 43).

Byrne and others who believe in the power of the mind do not include God in their teaching, but still say the principles they operate are in the New Testament. Byrne writes: “The Creative Process used in The Secret, which was taken from the New Testament in the Bible, is an easy guideline for you to create what you want in three simple steps” (The Secret, p. 47). The steps she then outlines are: ask, believe, and receive.

So in the final analysis, Word of Faith Christian ministers and power of the mind unbelievers both believe in a law based on the power of the mind that gets people what they want. Sometimes this law seems to work, often it does not. However, when it seems to work, it does not mean that there really is such a “law” or that the mind is somehow affecting the physical world. If people get what they want, it is often due to things like prayer or grace, or in some cases may even be due to help from the Adversary.

Click here to read PART 3 of this Faith series!

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John W. Schoenheit

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