aith! At times, it is not given much thought, though we exercise it every day. Other times, it consumes our entire being as we wrestle with flesh and spirit for an answered prayer in a desperate situation.
Sometimes, our sanctification is almost tested to the limits, trying to understand exactly what faith is and how it is supposed to operate Biblically in our lives. And about the time we think we have a handle on “everyday” faith, someone asks about the gift of faith.
Most of us can quote the most famous faith verse: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 NKJV). But do we understand what that means and how it applies to the different facets of faith found in Scripture? Perhaps a brief survey will help clear up some confusion before we examine the gift of faith.
Faith in its simplest form is our response to God’s love, actions, and gift. All faith is a generous gift from God (Rom. 12:3). Yet, God demands that we exercise the faith He has given us, for we cannot please Him without it (Heb. 11:6).
The foundation of faith is the revelation of God through His Word, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. Because of this revelation, we believe God exists and that He rewards those who search for Him with their whole heart (v. 6). This brings us into a covenant relationship with Him that empowers us to know Him, believe Him, and please Him.
Faith has different shades of meaning in the New Testament.
- Intellectual faith is mental acknowledgment that there is a God (James 2:19-20).
- Saving faith is a deep conviction that God lives, loves, and redeems (Rom. 10:9-10).
- Living faith is the belief necessary to live the Christian life, which makes us dependable; it is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
- The Faith refers to the whole realm of truth that we embrace as Christians (Jude 3).
- The gift of faith is listed with the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.
Understanding the Gift of Faith
Paul utilizes two distinct words in 1 Corinthians 12 to remind us that the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of faith, are not normal abilities. First, he calls them pneumatikos─a spiritual enablement that is the total opposite of the flesh or things of this world (v. 1). These spiritual gifts operate way above and beyond the limits of this physical world. They enable the believer to accomplish things that are not humanly possible.
Second, Paul calls them charismata, or “gifts of grace” (see v. 4). The gracious gift of faith does not originate with humans; it is a “God thing.”
The gift of faith is an unshakeable belief in God’s ability to break into our present circumstances with His Kingdom power and sovereignty. It is a supernatural belief that defies impossibilities, for with God “all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). It is mountain-moving faith (Mark 11:22-24).
To illustrate, imagine being placed by God on the top branch of the tallest tree in the world. God hands you a saw and commands you to start sawing. You eagerly obey, thinking this is a test and that God will stop you before any danger befalls. You keep sawing and anticipating the command to stop─a command which doesn’t come. Yet, God has placed you here and commanded you, so you trust God completely and keep sawing.
Suddenly, there is a resounding cracking of the wood. You hear a thunderous crash; the tree has fallen and the branch upon which you stand is suspended mid-air by the powerful right hand of God. That is the gift of faith in operation.
The Purpose of This Gift
Have you ever given a special gift to someone, only to find out they never used it, or they “re-gifted” it? The gifts of the Spirit were not given to the body of Christ to sit on a spiritual shelf; or as status symbols; or to establish ranks of privilege, authority, or priority in the church. There are no unnecessary gifts, just as there are no unnecessary members in the body of Christ. They were given to edify the church and glorify God.
The gift of faith inspires us to be more faithful in our daily lives and encourages us to yield more fully to God’s operation in our lives. We understand God more fully and hunger to know Him more.
Through this gift, we hunger to allow God’s power and Kingdom to operate more fully in our lives and our church. The gift of faith allows God to show Himself strong in our midst (1 Cor. 16:9).
The Gift in the Early Church
The New Testament church faced many seemingly insurmountable obstacles, just as the church today does. Persecution and peril abounded. In 2 Corinthians 11:25-28, Paul gives a brief synopsis of the dangers he personally faced as a servant of the Lord.
One particular instance is found in Acts 27: the famous story of Paul’s final journey to Rome. Having been arrested by Roman soldiers in Caesarea, he exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed for a hearing with Caesar. This required that he be transported to Rome for that hearing. Winter was quickly approaching and would make the journey extremely dangerous─an observation Paul shared unsuccessfully with those in charge (vv. 10-11).
As they sailed on, they encountered a typhoon─the modern equivalent of a nor’easter (v. 14). For two weeks they could not discern the difference between daylight and night (v. 20). Paul received a word from the Lord concerning the situation and shared it with his 275 shipmates: the ship would be destroyed, but no one would be harmed (v. 22). He declared, “So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said” (v. 25 NLT, emphasis added).
The gift of faith filled Paul’s heart and mind. He was so convinced that he persuaded everyone to eat and prepare for the end of the storm, and they were encouraged (vv. 36-37)! His faith was not misplaced. The ship was destroyed, but everyone made it safely to shore whether by swimming or hanging onto pieces of the ship (vv. 41-44).
Regrettably, the Bible can become a record of history; the gifts become testimonies of the past; the operational power of God is no longer anticipated.
The Gift Today
The gift of faith is still in operation today, though probably not as prevalent as it should be. We should zealously seek God and pray that the gifts of the Spirit are manifested through us (1 Cor. 14:1). God wants us to experience these gifts firsthand, not just through the record of the Word or testimonies of the past. The Spirit of God is able to supply whatever the church needs to accomplish the will of God. If we line up with God’s will, He will supply the necessary power and gifts.
The gift of faith often operates in conjunction with the other “power gifts” (working of miracles, gifts of healings; 1 Cor. 12:9-10). There are many in the church and the world who need a miracle, healing, deliverance, or supernatural encounter with God. Missionaries and church planters need the gift of faith operating in their lives and communities.
A pastor of a vibrant church, meeting in a rented facility, was recently given 60 days to move out of the place they had been in for 10 years. Prompted by the Spirit several months prior to the notice to vacate, the pastor had been looking for a different building. A six-month search produced no prospects. The congregation started to panic, but the gift of faith was in operation. He did not know where or how, but the pastor assured them God would intervene. A few weeks before their vacate date, God opened up a better facility for the congregation and an opportunity to buy prime land on a main highway.
Faith can be frustrating at times. Paul’s writings are praxis-oriented. That is, he is less concerned with giving answers to address our objective questions, but focuses instead on the intended result: motivating individuals and their communities to embrace and experience the transformational power of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:1-5; Gal. 5:16, 25). The Spirit transforms us from sin to righteousness (Rom. 14:17), from death to life (8:6), from enmity to sonship (vv. 7-8, 16-17), and from observation to participation (Eph. 5:18-20).
Application, rather than full understanding, is what God expects of the gift of faith.