Does faith guarantee answers?

In my earlier posts, I addressed two major false teachings about faith – mistaking faith for positive thinking and assuming that faith is inherent power. In my last post in this series, we’ll study the popular assumption that faith guarantees answers. It is not uncommon to hear preachers say, “Your prayer was not answered because you didn’t have enough faith!” or “He was not healed because he did not have enough faith!” or “That happened because you doubted!” Have you heard such teachings or accusations? I have heard plenty. We’ll examine this teaching by comparing it with what the Bible says.

False Teaching #3

If you’re not healed or if you prayer was not answered, it is because you did not have enough faith

What exactly is faith?

As I have shown in detail from my first post, Faith recognizes Jesus, His identity, His power and His authority. It is not positive thinking. Faith is not a means to get what you want from God. Rather, faith holds on to Jesus, His eternal promises and the Heavenly calling despite every doubt, fear and chaos all around. Observe these passages:

Matthew 14:31-32 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Jesus rebukes Peter for not focusing on Him. Faith focuses on Jesus, holds on to Jesus and receives Jesus Himself in the end!

Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail – that Peter would not cease to trust Jesus but come back to Him and cling to Him. And Jesus asked Peter to strengthen others once he has turned back to Him.

Faith is all about Jesus. If you look unto Jesus, you will have faith and not be overpowered by the stormy seas of trials and temptations. And Jesus is praying for you that your faith might not fail – that you might continually look to Christ and keep coming after Him.

Just as Jesus is the object of our faith and source of our faith, Jesus is also the end and the reward of our faith!

How false teachers twist faith

False teachers intentionally disconnect faith from Jesus. They turn faith into some kind of positive power, imagination or thinking by which you receive something from God. For them faith beings with your mind, imagination, words and thoughts. Faith, they say, is the currency for buying blessings from God. Dear ones in Christ, that is not what the Bible teaches. For us, faith is the means to secure eternal salvation and hold on to Christ amidst the storms of life without wavering. Faith is the means to grow in our walk with the Lord. Faith is not the means to receive things here on Earth. Read Hebrews 11, the defining passage on faith.

Hebrews 11:1-6  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Observe the first two examples of faith – Abel and Enoch. They received nothing here on earth! Abel was murdered shortly after he offered a pleasing sacrifice to God. Enoch was taken away after he was found pleasing in God’s eyes. What was the reward Abel and Enoch received for their faith? They pleased God and were accepted by Him – that was their reward! The reward of faith is God Himself. Faith is not the means to guaranteed answers to your prayers. Faith is not the means to mere healing. Faith is the means to please God! Faith looks to Christ alone and to Heavenly blessings. Look at the next example of faith

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

The author of Hebrews makes it clear that Noah’s reward for his faith was righteousness – Noah pleased God and that was the reward of his faith! What greater reward can we have! To be righteous before God and to be able to have fellowship with Him is the greatest gift here on Earth. God gives us Christ’s righteousness when we come to Him in repentance and faith – that is the reward for our faith today. And he gives us the assurance of a Heavenly home when we persevere through the storms of life. Look at the next examples – Abraham and Sarah (Hebrews 11:8-12). What reward did they get?

Hebrews 11:13-16  These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Abraham and Sarah did not receive the fulfilment of promise here on earth! They were looking to Heavenly blessings. Faith does not always receive here on earth. Faith awaits the fulfilment of heavenly promises and does not demand things here on earth. From Abel to Abraham, the first five examples quoted by the writer of Hebrews did not receive anything on Earth. Rather they were found pleasing in God’s eyes and lived for their Heavenly reward.

False teachers declare that if you have more faith, your prayers will be answered and that you’ll always be healed, whole and financially well off, having a flourishing life here on Earth. But the Bible teaches the exact opposite – that people of great faith did not receive things on earth but had their eyes fixed on Heaven. Look at the conclusion of the chapter.

Hebrews 11:39-40  And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

People commended for their faith by the Bible – people hailed as heroes of faith by God Himself – did not receive what was promised! They were looking for better things – heavenly things! When a preacher says, “You were not healed because you doubted!” or “Your situation has not changed because you don’t have enough faith!“, you can immediately know for sure that he is a servant of Satan and does not really know God. Only the devil teaches the opposite of what the Bible says. Heroes of faith in the Bible did not receive what was promised but were still holding on to the One who gave the promise – they were clinging to Christ and not to perishable things! Today’s false teachers would have demeaned them as having little or no faith!

Hebrews 11:35b Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life
Hebrews 11:24-27  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,  choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Faith enabled heroes of faith to endure adverse situations on earth because their faith was all about Jesus and His eternal blessings. They saw Jesus and the better life that lay ahead and the resurrection to come! That is the kind of faith God wants us to have! That is the kind of faith that pleases God; Not the cheap counterfeit faith that always demands healing, change of situation and definite answers here on earth; Not a faith that looks for answers but a faith that looks to Christ alone. And God rewards such faith by giving Himself!

God answers prayers

We must not go to the other extreme of thinking that God will not do anything at all here on Earth. In response to your faith and in accordance with His will, God answers prayers and changes situations here on Earth. Hebrews 11 has examples of the same:

Hebrews 11:32-35 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.

God did great things when people trusted Him and prayed. And God still does. But the focus is always on the eternal, says the author of Hebrews. That’s the emphasis and conclusion the passage. That is the kind of faith we are called to cultivate.

Hebrews 11:39-40 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Biblical faith is always focused on Eternity and is not dependent on what happens in your life here and now.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, ​yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.

This is the kind of rock-solid faith God wants us to have – faith that is not shaken by your circumstances, no matter how adverse.

Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling

And such faith overcomes the world and stands firm because it is looking to unshakeable, eternal things.

1 John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.

A faith that always demands change and always seeks answers here on Earth has not and cannot overcome this world. Such faith has not really grasped the glory of Christ or the blessedness of Heavenly rewards.

The conclusion of Hebrews’ discourse on faith

The passage about faith does not end with chapter 11. The author of Hebrews goes on to say in chapter 12 that we must look to Jesus. Chapter 12 concludes chapter 11. He writes that faith is all about looking unto Jesus and running the race with endurance.

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

The author of Hebrews was writing to a persecuted Jewish community and he wasted no time telling them that life will be comfortable here on earth. He keeps reminding them to put their faith on eternal things and Christ’s Heavenly calling. Only then could they endure persecution and stand firm in all circumstances. He is reminding them that just as Jesus endured the Cross keeping the joys of eternity in mind, we too must fight the fight of faith by keeping eternal joys in mind. If you are doing that despite every trail and temptation surrounding your life, then you have great faith! Do not let others judge your faith based on your health or circumstances. Your faith has greater rewards – rewards that are lasting, eternal and incomparable in glory!

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