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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 am service, 2001-11-04

Text: Matthew 21:18-22; 1 Corinthians 12:7-9

In our study of the spiritual gifts that we started last month we have already looked at two spiritual gifts - the gift of an evangelist, and the gift of teaching. Today we look at a third spiritual gift - the gift of faith. This gift is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:9 'To another [is given] faith by the same Spirit'

I. What Is Faith? 

To understand this spiritual gift, it is essential for us to know exactly what faith is all about because 'faith' is a term that is often misunderstood. To some, faith is just a subjective feeling of assurance or confidence. Some people who even don't believe in God at all, may use the word 'faith'to encourage one another by saying, 'Hey, have faith!' or 'Keep the faith!'But what they usually mean is to have a positive or optimistic outlook on life. To some, faith is merely a matter of mental agreement to some facts. James wrote about saying, 'Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.' (James 2:19). Some think of faith as a supplement to knowledge, saying, 'Where knowledge ends, faith begins.' One little child, when asked to define faith, said, 'Faith is believing in something you know isn't true.'

To us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, none of these concepts or ideas of faith are accurate. One cannot speak about faith without reference to God. To us, faith is a deep-seated assurance in the soul that comes from trusting totally in God, trusting particularly in His Word, in His Power and in His Love. Faith means resting totally upon God. Faith lays down its whole weight and expectation of mercy upon Him, willing to be fully submitted to His purpose and His power. 

Let me illustrate this. In 1860 there was a famous tight-rope walker by the name of Charles Blondin. He was so good that he could walk, run, and do all kinds of things on a rope stretched across the Niagara falls, a span of 1000 feet, 160 feet above the raging waters. Blondin had a wheelbarrow and asked a crowd: 'Do you believe that I can carry a man across this rope to the other side in this wheelbarrow?' The crowd said 'Yes!' Blondin turned to the man who shouted the loudest and asked, 'Sir, will you let me take you across this rope to the other side in this wheelbarrow?' and he immediately said, 'No!' Faith is not just believing that God can do something. It is more than that. It is the act of depending on Him, relying on Him, and entrusting yourself fully to God alone to do it. And in order to make this full reliance or trust in God, we have to abandon every other ground of hope and confidence. 

II. The Spiritual Gift of Faith 

This definition of faith helps us now to understand better the spiritual gift of faith that is mentioned in the Bible. This gift involves trusting in God or relying on Him. It is not just an assuring feeling, a positive outlook or mental agreement to some truths. Let us now consider six distinguishing characteristics of this spiritual gift of faith that moves mountains: The first is that 

A. It is Not Given to All Believers 

This gift is a special endowment from God for Christian service. This makes it different from saving faith, which is given to every believer - when he begins to believe in Christ alone for salvation (Ephesians 2:8,9 'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.'). 

It is also different from the general faith in God by which every one of us should live the Christian life everyday (2 Corinthians 5:7 'For we walk by faith, not by sight'). No one can ever please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), because 'he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.' Such faith is the foundational gift of God to all of us that we must build on (1 Peter 1:5- 7 'And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.') Besides this we are told in Ephesians 6:16 that all believers need to arm themselves with the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the devil. And so I trust that all of us will keep on living by the faith that God has given to us, and building upon our faith. 

The special spiritual gift of faith is different from this faith, because it is something that is bestowed only on some believers, and not all, and it is meant for fulfilling a specific role of service in the body of Christ, rather than for salvation or for living the Christian life. 

B. It is the Unusual Capacity to Trust in God To Meet Special Needs 

Among the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed on the church, faith is the unusual capacity to trust in God intensely on behalf of the church at times when such trust is needed. The person with this gift has the ability to see special needs in God's work that must be met. And he is also given a seemingly boundless reservoir of faith to trust that God will meet those needs through him. He is a man of vision, with firm conviction that God will bring it to pass. Such a man dreams great dreams and attempts great tasks for God, even though they are humanly impossible to achieve. In the Bible's terminology, such tasks are described as 'moving mountains.' This term is found in several passages: 

Matthew 17:20 records an instance when Jesus successfully cast out an evil spirit from a certain child, which the disciples could not deliver. The disciples then asked Him why they could not cast out the demon 'And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: 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.' 

Another instance where Matthew 21:21,22 '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.'

We must be careful about how we apply these passages. Jesus does not mean that we should now go around demonstrating the supernatural power of faith by actually moving huge mountains into the sea, and other sensational acts of power. The fact that none of the apostles tried to move mountains after that shows that this was not the intent of Christ's teaching. What Christ wanted to do was to help His disciples to understand the importance of putting their trust completely in the almighty God, instead of relying on their own resources in carrying out God's work. During His ministry with them He rebuked them several times 'O ye of little faith!' (e.g. Matthew 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). The disciples would need to have faith in God to accomplish their ministry as apostles. They were going to encounter great obstacles that no amount of human effort can hope to overcome in their ministry. And so the 'moving of mountains' here is not meant to be taken literally. 

C. It is Not the Ability to Perform Miracles 

But till today, there are some who love to take this promise of 'mountain moving' literally, and by doing so they confuse the gift of Faith with the gift of working Miracles - e.g. parting the Red Sea, Raising people from the dead, causing the blind to see and the lame to walk. And so there are people today who call themselves faith-healers and they conduct miracle crusades. At some point of the meeting they would call people who are sick to come forward for healing. The ironical part of it is that when there appears to be some signs of success they would takeall the credit for it, but if nothing happened, they would put all the blame on the sick person's lack of faith! 

Let us understand that the spiritual gift of faith is not the same as the gift of working miracles. This can be easily understood from the fact that in the list of spiritual gifts given in 1 Corinthians, the working of miracles is listed in v.10 as a separate gift altogether from the gift of faith, which is found in v.9. Besides this, Bible verses like Hebrews 2:3,4 make it clear that the sign gifts, like tongues-speaking, and prophecy, healing and miracles were all limited only to the apostolic era and not meant for the use of believers today. They were only meant to authenticate the written Word of God, which came from the Apostles. 

Now, unlike these sign gifts, which were temporary, the spiritual gift of Faith has no time limit, and is meant for believers for all time, and even today. This gift is connected with prayer, and with God's answer to prayer, by causing all things to work together for good, and all by the outworkings of His divine providence. But unlike most of us who look to God for our usual needs and blessings when we pray, the man with the spiritual gift of Faith has the unique ability to look to God for needs and objectives that are quite unusual. He looks to God for extraordinary things that most believers would not dare to ask God for, because of the huge, insurmountable obstacles that are in the way. You see, the spiritual gift of faith: 

D. It Enables One to Overcome The Fear of Great Obstacles 

It is needful for us to trust in God when fear grips our hearts. Do you know that the greatest hindrance to trusting in God is fear? Fear ignites despair, doubts, and disobedience in our hearts. It was fear of the Egyptians that caused Abraham to tell the half-truth about his wife instead of trusting in God to protect him. 

It was the fear of facing revenge from the wicked queen Jezebel that caused Elijah to run for his life from her instead of trusting in God to deliver him. It was the fear of being arrested and tried that caused Peter to deny Christ three times! 

But when we trust in the Lord we realise that we really have nothing at all to fear. Faith enables us to see that our God is much greater than all the obstacles we fear. And the person who has the spiritual gift of Faith does not fear great difficulties and obstacles. Instead he sees them all as challenges (E.g. Caleb, Joshua 14:12 'Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.'). Those who have the spiritual gift of Faith are able to believe beyond what is visible (cf. Hebrews 11:1 'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' 

E. It Is Exemplified Through The Many 'Heroes' of Faith in History 

Throughout biblical history as well as the history of the church there have been thousands of saints who looked beyond what they saw, and trusted God for things that were seemingly impossible. Many mighty church movements, Christian organisations, seminaries and ministries have been established through men of faith. We think of the many pioneer missionaries who overcame insurmountable odds and refused to give trusting God to fulfill their vision. 

One missionary named Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), believed that God will win the teeming millions of Chinese people of his day. Without any money, without any support, and refusing to ask for a single cent, he founded the China Inland Mission and accomplished one of the greatest works in the history of missions. Hudson Taylor opened a door and led the way for hundreds into China. He was the father of the many 'faith missions' that have been established in the last 140 years! 

George Muller had the same kind of faith. He saw the need of thousands of orphans in Bristol during those difficult days in England. God confirmed to him that it was His will for him to meet this need. He refused to ask anyone for help to build an orphanage. George Muller was led by God to pray not only for the building but also for the maintaining five orphanages, and the whole project was provided for entirely by faith! 

There have been missionaries who have gone into countries where the Gospel has never been heard before, trusting God to save whole tribes and ethnic groups, and it really happened in response to faith. And what is exciting is that we, who do not have that supernatural gift of faith that these people have, get moved by the Lord through them to join them to accomplish a great work! 

F. It Strengthens the Rest of the Body of Christ 

And this is where their gift proves to be so useful to the whole body of Christ. Do you remember the principle we had seen that each spiritual gift is given to play a specific role in the body of Christ to benefit the whole body and not just itself? The same is true of the spiritual gift of faith! Those of us in the body of Christ who do not have this spiritual gift, need those who have it. They are able to have unusual faith in God on your behalf, and on behalf of the rest of the body of Christ. They are able to see great obstacles as challenges that God wants His people to overcome. Their unusually strong confidence in God becomes our pillar that supports us in the midst of the storm. And so their power to lay hold of God's promises benefits everybody. This can be seen in the lives of many OT saints that are mentioned in Hebrews 11 - the chapter on the heroes of faith. 

For instance, it was the faith of Noah that benefited his family by inspiring them to build the ark with him and take refuge in it. It was the faith of Moses and Joshua that benefitted the whole nation of Israel, leading them across the Red Sea, through the wilderness and into Canaan despite the numerous enemies and problems they faced every step of the way. It was the faith of judges like Deborah, Gideon and Jephthah that helped God's people to rally together and oppose their oppressors who were more powerful than them, and to successfully overthrow them. These heroes of faith were given the ability to trust God for things that God's people by themselves would never dare to attempt. Theirs was the kind of faith that moves God's people to move mountains! 

III. Do You Have The Spiritual Gift of Faith? 

Seeing how useful the spiritual gift of faith can be to God's people, we should then look among ourselves to see who has this gift that he or she can use for God's glory and for benefit of the whole church. But how can you tell if you have this spiritual gift? Here are some suggested indicators: 

Are you a goal-centred person? Are you able to press toward your goals without being distracted from them? Are you more interested in the future than in the past? Do you have unshakable convictions in the face of impossible odds? Do you tend to focus more on the power of God than on the problems of the situation you are in? If most of your answers are 'Yes' then perhaps you have this spiritual gift, and you should ask the Lord to confirm it. 

IV. How to Use the Spiritual Gift of Faith 

And if you have the spiritual gift of faith, then you must cultivate it and use it. Spend time in prayer. Ask God to give you a mission or vision to trust Him for. Then cultivate this sense of mission or vision that will keep you going onward. And then, as your gift of faith begins to bear fruit, allow others to be encouraged by seeing the results that your faith brings forth and get them to participate in fulfilling this vision. Now, if you have this gift there are some important guidelines that should govern your use of this gift. The first guideline is that: 

A. The Will of God must be its Basis 

The gift of faith is not a blank cheque that can be applied to every challenging situation. We cannot just pick any 'mountain' we like and say 'I will exercise my faith to move this - If I believe in God hard enough, I know that it will move.' We must observe that in Matthew 17 and 21 Jesus did not say, 'if ye shall say unto any mountain,' but 'if ye shall say unto this mountain.' Exactly what 'this' mountain is, has to be specified to us by God.

This means that whatever anyone trusts God to do, must be in full accordance with His Word. This is why George Muller defined faith as 'the assurance that the things which God has said in His Word are true; and that God will act according to what He has said in His Word. This assurance, this reliance on God's Word, this confidence, is Faith.' Please be warned that faith that is not based upon God's Word becomes the sin of presumption! 

For example, when God commanded the Israelites to enter the Land of Canaan, they all rebelled in their unbelief. If only they had trusted God and carried out His will, they would have enjoyed glorious success. But since they refused, God's will for them now was to wander for 40 years in the wilderness, to chastise them for their lack of faith. 

At this point, some of them regretted their rebellion and decided to enter Canaan, by faith claiming God's promise to give them the victory. Numbers 14:40 'And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.' 

But since it was no longer God's will for them to enter Canaan, they were soundly defeated. What the Israelites mistook for faith at this point was actually blind presumption. Numbers 14:44,45 'But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: 'Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.' Please remember this: No matter how great your faith in God may be to do something, it will be just mere presumption, if it is not according to the will of God. 

B. Bringing Glory to God must be its Objective 

The second guideline for those who exercise this spiritual gift, is that they must be careful not to claim any glory for themselves when great things have been accomplished for God. All glory for things accomplished by faith in the Lord should be given to the Lord. E.g. Gideon - the people wanted to make him king of Israel because of the mighty feat of faith that God had accomplished through him (vanquishing the Midianites with just 300 men). His reply to them in Judges 8:23 was 'I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.' If you have the spiritual gift of faith that can 'move mountains' make sure that you do what Gideon this in this instance - he gave the Lord all the credit for his victory. There is one more important guideline we need to observe about the spiritual gift of faith: 

C. Manifesting God's Love must Govern its Use 

This guideline actually applies to the exercise of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We must use them with love. However it is interesting to observe that 1 Corinthians 13:2 mentions this specifically for those who have the gift of faith that can move mountains 'and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.' Lest those who have this gift should think that theirs is the greatest gift, let them always remember that the greatest gift of all is still love. And so if you have the gift of faith, pray that you may exercise it with love. May the Lord help us to obey His Word.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11