Thursday, September 21, 2017

What Faith Is

When you have cancer, especially the terminal kind, people tell you to have faith. They tell you to believe in miracles. They tell you to trust God. Well, now I'm doing that, literally. I'm trusting God with everything, including my life. And despite what the odds are, I believe that if God wants me here, I will be here. If he wants me active and at work doing what I love, he will enable me to do it. Cancer can't stop that.

But if he allows me to deteriorate over the next few months and takes me home even earlier than predicted, does that mean my trust was misplaced? Was my faith in vain? Not on your life. My faith is not in a desired outcome. It's in God himself.

I've been waiting to write this post for a long time. My faith has been a hallmark of this blog. It has sustained me through this trial. I've come to some conclusions about what faith is, and what it isn't. All of my conclusions are based on what I believe the Bible teaches, and I've studied this subject intensively for years. But this isn't a debate. It's not theology class. It's real life and death stuff.

I wrote extensively on the subject of divine healing in a pivotal early post titled My Complicated History With Divine Healing. I won't repeat what I said there. Much. But these two posts are related, and they show that this issue has been with me from the beginning, and it's still an issue. Just as there are those who, even at this stage, try to tell me a treatment or diet or supplement will cure me, there are still those who say that if I have enough faith, God will heal me.

But even Christians have different ideas of what faith is. That's why I've wanted to write this post. For two years, some fellow believers have tried to tell me that not only can God heal me, he will, because certain verses in the Bible seem to say that. I just have to have enough faith. But I do have faith. I just don't think faith is believing that a certain thing I prayed for will happen. Faith is being willing to trust, and act on that trust.

I'll never convince those who are already convinced. All I can do is tell you my experience, and what God has shown me.

In church last Sunday, the pastor asked a young girl if she would trust him to catch her if she jumped from the platform into his arms. She said no, but she trusted the tall, strong youth pastor. He told her to jump, she jumped, and the youth pastor caught her. The pastor (who she didn't trust to catch her) asked her, "If you had said you trusted him to catch you, but wouldn't jump, did you really trust him?" The girl said no. She was right. That's what faith is. It's being willing to jump when God says jump, no matter how it looks.

The two most used verses to support what I regard as the "transactional" version of faith are Mark 11:22-24, (and their corresponding verses in Matthew 21, where the same story is told) and Matthew 17:19-20. In both passages, Jesus tells his disciples that if they have enough faith, they will receive anything they ask for. The problem is, we don't get whatever we ask for from God, no matter how much faith we have. Thousands of people have been praying for my healing for two years now. They can't all have no faith. I was anointed in a Pentecostal church recently, and all there seemed convinced I had been healed. But here I am, waiting for a call from Hospice.

This means one of two things. It either means those passages just aren't true, or it means they don't mean what some think they mean. I choose to believe the latter. All of the biblical scholarship I've read on both of those passages holds that Jesus was talking to his Apostles here in private conversations. Matthew clearly states in the above passage that the disciples came to him privately. (v19) He wasn't talking to us. He was conferring power on his Apostles so they could establish his church. So these verses are true, they're just not intended for anyone but Apostles. If you've personally witnessed the resurrection of Christ, (which is the definition of an Apostle) maybe it's for you. Otherwise, you probably don't have that kind of authority.

Keep in mind that even Jesus had to say, "Not my will, but yours be done" in Gethsemane. If even he could not claim what he asked for, what makes us think we can?

But those aren't the only passages in the Bible about faith. For every verse like those, there are at least a hundred where faith was shown by people who trusted God enough to do whatever he asked, no matter the consequences to themselves. The best example of that, to me, is the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews. The famous "faith chapter." This is the only place in the Bible where a definition of faith is given. Many think that definition is the first verse, but really, it's the whole chapter.

Most of that chapter consists of examples of obedience. God told somebody to do something, and they did it. Most of the time, what they were asked to do seemed impossible. But they trusted God enough to do it anyway.

I prefer that kind of faith to the kind that says, "I asked in faith, so you have to give me what I want." I think it's the most biblical. And it certainly fits better with my experience, and that of most people. My faith in God is unshakeable. I talk incessantly in this blog about how real God is to me. The reality of God is right in my face all the time now. I have no doubt whatsoever about God's power, or his goodness, or his love for me. I know nothing is too hard for him. So if I am not healed, it doesn't mean I don't have faith. It means God has shown his hand.

This is my favorite passage from Hebrews 11:
13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

I am living by faith in a more literal way than I ever have before. Some may feel that I've not been given what was promised. And I'm definitely an alien on earth, but God has prepared a city for me.

As I've said from the beginning, I am open for whatever God chooses to do. I have so much faith in God that I'm willing to let him do whatever he wants with me. Because my faith is in him, not in my own prayers. Faith is not believing that I can tell God what to do. It's being willing to do whatever he tells me to do. #waroncancer #bearingwitness


  1. Great perspective, Mark. Thank you.

  2. This part of Heb 11 shows exactly what your saying !!! This is real Faith !!!
    The last phrase I printed always moved me very much !!! Blessings my Brother !!!

    Hebrews 11:35-38 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy.....

  3. I love this. Thank you for sharing. ❤️