The Work of Faith
[A response to a question about the power of faith.]
When Jesus was walking as a man on the earth, He was manifesting in many outward, visible ways what the power of God desires to do inwardly in the soul of every person. I don’t mean to suggest that he no longer works or heals outwardly, but I think it is generally safe to say that his outward works and miracles are signs or arrows that point to a work that is more inward, spiritual, and permanent. And you will notice that Christ was often saying things about how faith was the means by which the power of God was reaching, or touching, or healing the people. “Your faith has made you well.” “According to your faith let it be done to you,” etc.
It’s important that we humble ourselves and begin by asking the simple question, “what is faith?” True faith is something far different than what is commonly thought today. Faith is generally understood to be a mere belief, or a spiritual opinion, or conclusion in our mind about unseen things. But this isn’t the substance or experience of true faith, because any natural mind can have that kind of faith. Any human can have a spiritual opinion, or a belief about spiritual things that comes from his own mind, or even a correct doctrine that they assent to. A demon can have that kind of faith, as James says: “even the demons believe, and tremble.” But, like with all words that we find in the Bible, there is always a natural idea about it, and then there is the spiritual reality of it. And the natural idea doesn’t really exist. I mean, it certainly exists in our mind, but it doesn’t exist in reality, in God’s view. These ideas and beliefs are simply misunderstandings, or lies, or things we haven’t seen, things we haven’t truly understood or experienced. And that is why there are so many contrary opinions in the church about the meaning of every word in Scripture.
For example, everyone in the Christian world believes in grace, and talks about grace, and yet there are so many contradicting opinions, conclusions and ideas about grace. Everyone believes in the love of God. But when our natural mind defines the love of God, we find that there is a wide variety of different human opinions. It’s the same with all spiritual words. And there’s a very good reason why this is so. If you want to know what is in a house, you have to go into the house and see it. But if you stay outside the house, then every idea that comes to your mind is just a guess, or an opinion. That is how it is with man and his knowledge of spiritual things. The natural man (as Paul says) cannot understand spiritual things. And so whenever the natural man is trying to understand spiritual things, he is always inventing, imagining, and guessing about something that he doesn’t truly know, and his definition and understanding (of course) aligns with his own ideas, his own will, his own desires. But when the Lord begins to teach by His light the living substance that is behind the words we find in the Scriptures, when He lets us into them, and lets us see, feel and know them in His light, then different people begin to both see and experience the same reality. This is called “the unity of the faith” (Eph 4:13), or “the faith of the Son of God.” (Gal. 2:20 KJV)
It’s a bit hard to offer you a perfect definition of faith; in part because our natural minds already have so many fixed ideas, but also because the true faith is something spiritual that comes from God and causes many effects, or does many things in man. But if I were asked to define it with words, I would say that true faith is a kind of inward perceiving and receiving of the living Truth, and all the subsequent beliefs, hungers, responses, and actions (i.e. feeding, willing, adhering, following, and growing) that are empowered by it, which keep the soul in the path of redemption, in the light, under the cross, in the way of purification.
God is always desiring to give us faith. Faith comes from God. Hebrews says, “Christ is the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2) Paul says, “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Rom 12:3). And what I believe I have seen about faith, is that God is always trying to share His light, and that this light is the source of His power that works in man, much in the same way that the sun is the source of power and growth that works in a plant. It is the means by which the work of God begins to take place in a person. So again, faith is a kind of inward and spiritual perceiving and receiving of the power of God, or the work of God, and that is why the Bible speaks of us experiencing the grace of God by faith. Paul says “we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand,” (Rom. 5:2), and “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8). And the writers of the New Testament often say that we are “saved by faith.”
So we need to understand that this spiritual perceiving and receiving (that is a gift of God, and that works by His light) creates in us, or BIRTHS in us, various things or effects. And when we love His light, cling to and obey His light, room is made in the heart for the power of the Lord to do many things. For example, true faith creates in us true spiritual understanding, as it says in Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Here we see a spiritual understanding that comes by faith. It also creates in us a kind of spiritual seeing. The same chapter of Hebrews says that faith caused Moses “to endure as seeing Him who is invisible.” (11:27) It creates in us a new spiritual hunger and will. This is unarguable, because there is a seed sown in our hearts that (like all other seeds) desires to eat and grow. Now, it is true that there are many people who cannot feel the hunger of this seed, or the will of this new life that God has given us, but that is because so many are continually feeding upon and satisfying themselves with the will and hunger of this world. This can be compared to a disease or sickness. When somebody has a natural sickness, many times they don’t feel hunger, even though their body is hungry. In the same way, when we are spiritually sick, when faith is quenched, resisted, and disobeyed, we do not allow it to do its work in us. We can’t feel its hunger or its will, we can’t see with its light, we can’t understand spiritual things.
In addition to this, this living faith produces actions or works that are the fruits of faith, which is why James speaks so much about faith without works being dead. He is correct in saying this. And Paul is also correct in saying that we are saved by faith, and not by works. Both are true, because it is not the works themselves that save, but rather, the works (or outward manifestations of Christ’s nature) are always the result or byproduct of that faith that comes from God.
Faith also produces other responses in the human heart. It produces correct beliefs, or a correct perspective of God, or His will, His ways, and our relationship with Him, etc. It creates hunger and thirst for righteousness. It produces a new will in us, a desire to follow Him and cling to Him, and to remain in His light. Faith is like the vehicle or the means by which the grace of God (or the power of God, the understanding of God, the hunger of the seed of God, etc.) is felt and experienced. This is something that all true Christians experience (whether they can put words to it or not). They experience God’s light (when loved and embraced, and not rejected or grieved) making more and more room in their hearts for God’s power and will to be done.
And it is for this reason that we are told to walk by faith, to live by faith, and also to pray in faith, etc. Because true prayer does not arise from the desires and perspectives of man, but from the true desires and needs that the Spirit makes us feel by faith. And this is why Scripture often talks about the necessity of praying “in the Spirit”, or praying “in faith”, or praying “in the name of Jesus,” and not simply praying our own fleshly desires, in our own name, and from our own darkness. True faith gives birth to true prayer, because by it we see and feel our true lack, our true needs, our true hunger for God; and therefore drawing near to God in this kind of prayer, or waiting upon Him, is like feeding with the mouth of our soul. Your soul has a mouth, and that mouth needs to feed on the flesh and blood of Christ, or you have no life in yourselves. (John 6:53) This is what Isaiah talks about in chapter 55.
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live.”
Faith is how a man begins to receive what God desires to give him, and how man sees what He sees, how he understands spiritual things, how he feels his real need and hunger for them, and how he receives from Him true food for his soul. Loving His light brings the soul into the experience of His power, and His power has many good effects on the human soul. It has many good effects on the human soul because the lack of light (or the kingdom of darkness) causes many different kinds of damage, problems, sickness, dissatisfaction, and deception. “We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” There are verses that say you are saved by faith. There are other verses that say we are saved by grace. They are both correct, but you don’t grow in the experience of grace unless faith makes room for it in our heart. By faith we feel, see, know, experience, and lay hold of the power of God and progressively experience its working in our hearts.
But again I say, true faith is NOT a human belief. It’s not an intellectual conclusion, or a spiritual opinion. True faith comes from God, and has a spiritual work that it does in the heart, creating or birthing many things (i.e. new sight, new hunger, new works, a new creation). And this is why Jesus said that all things are possible by faith, and that even a grain of true faith is enough to move mountains. But the faith of man, I mean the faith which comes from man’s head or heart, is so weak and powerless, that it cannot prevent one sin, or change a single bad habit.