According To Your Faith
By Fred Pruitt
"According to your faith be it unto you." (Matt 9:29) This is a scary verse. Depending upon how you take it. More and more I realize this is an immutable law that is always operative. Therefore the world before and in us is always a product of our faith. This is an absolute fact. Where does this lead us?
I've always been moved by a story Agnes Sanford told in her autobiography, "Sealed Orders." She grew up the child of missionaries in a missionary community in China. An event that greatly shaped her future occurred when one of the young missionary wives went into a deep depression from which she could not escape. As her depression worsened over time, the missionary community tried everything they could think of to bring her out of it. They prayed, they fasted, treated her medicinally as best they knew how, but in the end put it off on her. She wasn't healed, they told her, because she didn't have faith to be healed. Her depression was her fault, and her lack of deliverance from it was her fault. After that, Agnes relates, the young woman went into a despair so black that she committed suicide. The good that occurred from it was that it drove Agnes, in later years, to find the true Source for healing, and she went on to have a renowned healing ministry and to author many books.
But we all know situations where people have been beat over the head with their supposed "lack" of faith, because they did not exhibit physical healing, changed circumstances, or improved moral behavior.
Compassion compels us to want to find an answer other than to say to someone: "It's all your fault."
Yet we are faced square in the eyeballs in the scriptures with words that can't have any other than a literal meaning.
Like, "according to your faith be it unto you," quoted above.
Or, "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Part of that verse also includes: "and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith."
Then there's Paul praying three times for a thorn to be removed from his side, and seemingly surprised that after THREE prayers for the same thing he hasn't had deliverance.
I'm thinking, Paul prayed ONLY three times??? And for only ONE thorn??? How 'bout the THOUSANDS of times I've prayed for deliverance from my pincushion FULL of thorns? Is there something wrong with me, if Paul could be satisfied with his answer after only three prayers, while mine have gone on almost nonstop for years and years and years? "My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?" (Ps 42:3)
Are you like me, (if we're having an honest moment), where these scriptures almost seem to mock us, mock what we "believe"? We DO believe them, but do we FULFILL them? I've never made a mountain pick up and cast itself into the sea, and don't know anyone who has to my knowledge.
One time back in the mid-70's, when I was part of a Pentecostal church that was trying to upgrade in social standing to charismatic, we had a problem with our kitchen sink in our rented house. It was stopped up. So I called the landlord's handyman and he came out to fix the sink. The fellow showed up and being the aggressive evangelist I was in those days, I found out in our conversation (before he got to fixin' the sink) that he was Jewish. So then the thought occurred to me how wonderful a miracle would be to demonstrate Jesus for our young Jewish handyman. So before he took the trap off to unclog the sink, I told him I would pray for the sink, and that God would unclog it. I had every confidence He would, too. (Why I hadn't thought of that before calling the handyman, I don't know.) But what better confirmation of my witness to this young Jewish fellow than Jesus demonstrating Himself in the miraculous unclogging of a P-trap?
So, I leaned under the sink, laid hands on the P-trap, closed my eyes, and prayed. It was a great prayer, with all the right words and emotional fervency. Had the trap been a person, no doubt it would have been slain in the spirit. The young Jewish handyman, obviously raised by his mama to be polite, kindly shielded the mirth in his eyes and was reverentially quiet during my prayer. When I finished, I told him to check the sink, and the drain would be unclogged.
Turned out, however, that it was still clogged. Uh-oh. I don't come by the title, "white person," without reason, so therefore embarrassment shows up in my face instantly. And apparently the Lord wanted this one unclogged the old fashioned way, but somehow I had not received that memo. And boy, did I look like a complete idiot. Go figure.
So, I've been a bit gun-shy since then. Wanted to make damn sure that if I declare a miracle, it was gonna happen.
But there is something inherently wrong in that thinking, isn't there? It's because "faith" has no guaranteed answer beforehand. Else it wouldn't be faith. Faith, in any circumstance, is stepping out into the great wide open, where anything can happen, and nothing is certain.
What is faith? What does it do? How does it work?
In the mid 1800s a movement began in this country, a push westward. It had been going on little by little since the nation's birth, but the discovery of gold and the prospect of free land caused a mammoth migration that eventually inundated the whole continent.
What was in the minds of the individual pioneers, as the first wispy tales of the mythical West reached their ears? The boundless skies, the rivers teeming with power and life, grasslands as far as the eye could see, mountains full of wildlife and endless beauty, bountiful meadows just waiting to be planted with the bread of life. It stirred their hearts, as the West's first explorers, the "Mountain Men," told their tales to the settled folk back east.
And by the thousands upon thousands they sold everything they had, bought Conestoga wagons and horse or oxen teams, and wagon-trained into the vast wilderness that was the American West.
Some didn't make it, died on the way. Others made it to their destinations, but tragedy struck in other ways. But the vast majority did make it to their destinations or some stop along the way, and they built lives, and towns, and eventually the Society we call this country.
How did they do it? Faith.
They heard the dream. It stirred their hearts. Families talked about it, prayed about it, until eventually they came to the crucial decision: "We're selling everything, and it's 'California or Bust.' We may meet enemies on the way, outlaws or hostile Indians. We may run out of food before we get there. Our horses may die or our wagons may break. But by hook or by crook, we're going!"
So they went. But not only did they have faith for the going, they had faith for what they would do when they got there. They had envisioned in their minds the farms and ranches they would carve out of Paradise, and the towns and cities that would come following. And true to their vision, the West conformed itself over the last 150 years to the vision of those pioneers, and far beyond what they saw.
This is a perfect example, in the natural, of faith and how it operates.
Faith starts with the seed of a dream. It may be wispy at first, and hard to define. But you feel its stir in your deepest places, where you can't quite put your finger on it. It comes from somewhere beyond, from some deeper place inside us than we ourselves are, and eventually comes to the forefront to confront us with its decisive moment. The moment of entering into faith is as cataclysmic and poignant as our wedding ceremony, because it portends to a complete change of life. We've all no doubt heard how faith is like the act of sitting in a chair. Prior to our sitting down, there is no guarantee the chair will hold us. The decisive "moment" of faith, is when we reach the point of no return in bending our knees and placing our posterior on the chair. Once having sat, the chair -- that in which we had placed our "faith" -- now holds us. What we had "trusted in uncertainty" by our committal to sitting, has now proved itself reliable by holding us up. We have now become our faith.
Now we come to the place of "sitting" in God. There is no one more "invisible" than God. No one more unproveable, more lacking in scientific detection, more undetectable to the human mind or senses. Having now seen ourselves through the Cross as having died and risen with Him, we have found Him to be reliably the True Self of our human selves which express Him. Our first expressions and experiences of faith testify to the fact that God Himself now lives in us, and has overcome the wicked one.
And now in this new life, we are called to be "kings and priests" unto God. Having found our "All" in Him and forgetting ourselves (for "we" have been taken care of), living in Him Who is our Only Sufficiency, we are ready to speak the word of faith for the world we live in.
Here is the lesson for us from the history of the American West.
Your faith, which comes out of your dreams and visions in remembered moments, builds the world. We are not speaking of the faith that got you "saved" or caused you to "know your union." The faith we are speaking of here is the faith that goes out, unconcerned for itself, to build a city that it sees afar off. It may not see every step on the way, and it knows that dangers are part of the journey. It doesn't even know if it will survive until the end. But this faith has foundations, not in a temporal building of wood and brick and mortar, but in an eternal building, whose foundation is the unknowable Living God.
Your faith, in the slightest matter, changes the whole fabric of the universe. The universe is Freedom at its basis. Your faith operates the Freedom into coherency, into form, into the expressed Love of God.
But what IS faith?
It is that decisive moment. THE Word. The "I will."
God's "Will" is His "faith." What He "wills" becomes Reality.
Same with us. The pioneers said "I will" when they sold their property and signed up for wagon-trains. That "I will" propelled them into the wilderness, battling sicknesses, starvation and thirst, and attacks by enemies in the night and day. That "I will" brought them to the lands they tamed and settled. Their "I will" shaped the Society we now call America.
In the same way, and even more so and for even more eternal fruit, our faith "I will" changes the world. Because we do not seek a temporal society, or even temporal solutions. We are the pilgrims in Hebrews 11, who see a city afar off, whose builder and maker is God. We build an eternal city. A city unseen in the heavens.
Therefore all we "believe for" is not seen in this world. It does not make it less true. Because we have believed the Only True One, Who IS All in all. And we have been translated into an entirely NEW kingdom, where "nothing shall hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." The TRUE kingdom of God!
Now our job, as Kings and Priests unto God, who hold royal commissions in the Court of the Lord, is to declare the decrees which come out of Eternity. As our earthly forefathers sensed the dream of the freedom of the West, even so do we sense the stir of the dream of the ultimate Freedom of God, bursting at its seams in our inner selves, it building pressure like an inner volcano in us, waiting for the right moment to erupt in flames and clouds to engulf the world we live in.
The Word of God, Christ in us, is now "our" Word. All the tensions and strains in our lives are building in each instance into the outgoing Word, the Word by which the world BY US is blessed and changed.
Do not despair! Your Word IS going forth!
Think of this:
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Is 55:11)
This is a familiar passage to all. But have we ever considered it, not from God's perspective, but from our own? In other words, "so shall MY word be"!
MY word, that goes forth out of my mouth, shall accomplish that which I please!
And that which "I" please, is that which pleases Him, since as Jesus said, "for I do always those things that please him." (Jn 8:29b).
That means that every word of His you have spoken will come to pass. Without fail. Today, tomorrow, next week, next year -- doesn't matter. Time is not the issue. Even if it seems to be. HE is the issue. "Yea, let God be true and every man a liar."
According to your faith be it unto you.
"With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." (Ps 18:26).
"Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." (Titus 1:15)