On Faith – Volume 1

Posted on 26. Aug, 2010 by in Faith

The Lord has done a lot in the last 2 years to teach me about faith, a subject that is often times mis-taught, misunderstood and misapplied.  Having come from a Charismatic background, I had a lot to relearn about faith, although it is interesting how close the Charismatics are to having understanding, and yet how far away they are.  The importance of faith is apparent in scripture (Hebrews 11:6), and therefore I think it is an issue that we should understand.  I recently had a conversation with my sister, who is struggling to overcome her religious background as I have, and that conversation sparked me to share here what I have learned.

Faith as I Used to See It

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17

This scripture was used ad nauseum in the churches I attended.  The idea was that, simply by reading the bible, your faith would increase.  Now, I am sure there was other teaching on faith, but the use of that scripture, to me, highlights the problems with the way Charismatics approach faith.  The problem was that faith was approached as an asset, to be sought after, as a means to getting other things.  In order to have healing you had to have faith.  In order to have prosperity you had to have faith.  Whatever things a person might want, faith was the key to getting what you wanted.  Now, it is true that faith is the key, as Hebrews mentions.  The problem lies in our priorities, in what we’ve made important.  As a churched Christian, I sought to be wise, I sought to be healed, I sought to be prosperous and I sought to be godly.  The problem with this is that I sought THESE THINGS, without seeking the giver of these things.  I now see that faith comes from a life lived in service to Christ, and grows as we mature, and as we begin to exercise our faith at some level.  If we are not seeking Him primarily the process will never advance.  Certainly reading the bible plays a part in this process, but reading the bible in and of itself will not increase faith.

The difference described above may seem trivial, but it is vital, as an improper understanding of faith can result in misapplication of that faith, and frustration when the things we stood for in faith don’t come to pass.  It also causes Christians to live in false restriction of thought and word, for fear of counteracting their faith.  I will give further explanation of these things below.

Case Scenario 1:

Shelly (name made up) has lived her whole life attending church.  She has taught sunday school, served on boards and otherwise been very active in her church.  She truly loves the Lord, and listens to lots of tapes on healing, faith, the end-times, etc.  She believes her faith is strong, and when she develops stomach symptoms she begins standing on her faith, believing that she is healed.  Shelly’s symptoms continue, and in fact worsen.  She develops severe pain, but still refuses to seek care.  When she does seek medical care there is concern expressed by her doctor that further testing is needed, but still she refuses to be evaluated, and continues to stand in her faith.  As time passes, her condition worsens.  She finally agrees to an evaluation, and a diagnosis of colon cancer is made.  Because of the delay in diagnosis, the cancer has now spread to her lymph nodes and liver, making her tumor inoperable.  She continues to stand in her faith, reading the bible regularly, listening to more tapes and discussing with friends what the bible says about healing.  She continues to worsen, eventually internally giving up on being healed, and entering into an abject depression, as she just can not understand why she wasn’t healed.  Eventually the cancer runs its course, and she passes on, to meet her Savior.

The story above is a variation of a true story, which was an object lesson for me in faith.  Some may disagree with the conclusions I have drawn, and I am more than happy to hear other people’s ideas.  Here are the problems I see with this scenario:

  1. Shelly truly did love the Lord.  She was sincere in her fervent pursuit of her faith.  The problem was the model in which she lived, “the organized church”.  You see, Shelly did all the things that her upbringing told her she should do.  Unfortunately, she was misinformed.  She didn’t understand that participation in “church” does not bring maturity.  She never got to experience true community, and never knew that following Christ means much more than going to a building, reading the bible, praying and listening to teaching tapes.  Reading the bible, praying and listening to others teach are fine, but in and of themselves they don’t bring maturity, and therefore don’t increase faith.
  2. Shelly fell into the trap of believing that, if she truly had faith, she didn’t need to, or shouldn’t, seek medical care.  She could not make contingency plans for the event that she wasn’t healed, because in her mind this would be countering the work of her faith and admitting defeat.  This also kept her from grieving with her family, and allowing her family to grieve and process with her.
  3. Finally, she thought that faith could be “mustered up”, so to speak, to allow her to walk in the healing she had been promised.  She thought if she read enough scripture and listened to enough tapes she could increase her faith so she could stand and be healed.

I use this example with a certain amount of risk.  This person I am describing was near and dear to my heart, a close family member.  I do not say the above things to downgrade her, because she did the best she could with the misinformation she was fed about what it means to be a Christian.  She had a huge heart for people, and truly loved:  her family, her friends, her neighbors.  She was the last to give up hope in anyone, and the first to come to help in times of need.  Her story is a tragic example of the failure of “modern Christianity”.  I hope not to bring offense to my family, who will obviously recognize “Shelly” for who she really is (my attempt to change details of the story is probably stupid, I just felt better doing it that way, to keep it somewhat hypothetical?).

So, the crux of the post is this:  faith is an important part of our Christian walk, and faith is a bi-product of our Christian walk.  We use our faith to walk in Christ, and like a muscle, the more we use it the more it grows.  As a charismatic I felt condemned if I didn’t have enough faith.  Now I understand that there are things I will stand in faith for, but haven’t walked in Christ long enough to grow into that level of faith, and so I may not see the final manifestation of what I prayed for.  This is no cause for guilt or condemnation, it just is what it is.  The longer I walk the more I will grow in faith, and the greater works He can do in and through me.

OK, this is the end of part one.  Sorry its long.  In my next post I’ll discuss my current understanding of faith.

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11 Responses to “On Faith – Volume 1”

  1. Louise 26 August 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    Excellent!!! And you write so well. Again that English teacher! And your own God-given ability for writing.

    • Mark 26 August 2010 at 4:06 pm #

      Thanks, Mom!

  2. Dan Allen 27 August 2010 at 7:40 am #

    Mark

    Great post! Looking forward to the rest of the series. I used to do the charistmatic thing… I think looking back on it and from reading your thoughts here that the biggest misconception I had when I was involved in that stuff was that faith was some kind of work, something I could do or make myself have. I have since learned that faith is a gift, a working of the Holy Spirit, and not something I can just do or have. That really helps with the guilt and frustration that I struggled with during that time.

    Thanks!

    Dan

    • Mark 27 August 2010 at 10:54 pm #

      Amen, brother. I agree. Faith is a gift, and we’re each given a measure!

  3. Alan Knox 27 August 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Mark,

    Thank you for this post. I hope your family does not get upset, but your story helped me understand your point. And, I certainly don’t look down on your relative for her faith response.

    Lately (in the last few years), it is helped me to use the term “trust” instead of “faith”. “Faith” had become such a nebulous term for me. But “trust” seemed more intuitive. Instead of wondering “Do I have faith to do this,” I started asking “Do I trust God enough?”

    I understood that my use of “faith” was putting things in my hands, while “trust” shifted the emphasis back to God. If I became sick, I might be healed or I might not, but did I trust God regardless of what he chose to do?

    Anyway, thanks for helping me think through some of these issues.

    -Alan

    • Mark 27 August 2010 at 10:57 pm #

      Alan,

      Thanks for your comment. I recently read Philippians 2:19-20:

      19for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance (AM)through your prayers and the provision of (AN)the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20according to my (AO)earnest expectation and (AP)hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with (AQ)all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be (AR)exalted in my body, (AS)whether by life or by death.

      Paul knew he would be delivered, but didn’t know what his deliverance would look like. Either way he trusted God, and his death was not viewed as failure!

  4. Jack Watkins 29 August 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Mark,

    I loved your post. I too am a former charismatic. I learned a lot when I was there but became troubled with many things. Faith is so important because without faith it is impossible to please him.

    I could tell you many stories of my experienced in the charismatic church. Hopefully I kept the meat and tossed out the bones. I look forward to hearing more.

    I read a book this year that I think you would enjoy called “Post Charismatic” by Rob McAlpine. It helped me as I have tried to deal with my past.

    BTW, I found your blog thru a link from Alan Knox.

    Blessings,

    Jack

    • Mark 2 September 2010 at 9:45 am #

      Jack,

      I appreciate your comment, and appreciate your readership. I’ll try to check that book out. I am amazed at how long it takes to “reprogram” the mind, no matter one’s background, but I think charismatica was particularly damaging for my personality. I’ve been out 10 years, and think I’m pretty much “recovered”, but who knows when something else will pop up? All I can say is that God has been so good to me! Sorry it took me so long to respond. I tried to several days ago and then lost internet connection, and then forgot until now!

      Blessings,

      Mark


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