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According to Your Faith

• Greg Boyd

Continuing in our series on doubt and faith, Greg finally addresses the passages that have caused confusion about faith. He sets aside the mental gimmickry for something much more substantial and beautiful.

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There are some tricky passages in the Bible that have misled people on what faith means. James 1:6 says that when we ask we should believe and not doubt. Mark 11:24 says that whatever we ask for in prayer, we should believe we have received it, and it will be ours. When we read these passages, we can see that prayer might be a kind of mental gimmick where we need to convince ourselves in order for our prayers to be answered and our faith to be secure.

This type of faith and prayer is misleading, and it is best exemplified by a man that Greg knew while at Princeton. “Bob” was a believer in the believing to receiving crowd when it came to prayer. He also wore terribly thick glasses. One day, he decided to pray for better eyesight and left his glasses at home. For four months, he didn’t wear his glasses and continued to pray. After several serious car crashes and almost flunking out of school, he was finally convinced that there might be something wrong with the way he understood these passages.

It was very common in the Bible to use hyperbole. Hyperbole is exaggerating something to make a point, such as “I’ve said this a million times!” When we encounter hyperbole, we must remember that it’s not to be taken literally. Yet, we need to find the point it’s making. These passages are asking us to imagine what we pray for to be true. We should ask and believe in God’s goodness. This doesn’t mean that our prayers will always be answered, however, simply because of how certain we are when we pray and believe.

Jesus exemplified this in Mark 8. He encounters a blind man there, and after spitting on the man’s eyes, he asked the man “Do you see anything?” Now, either Jesus doesn’t believe in what he’s praying for and is a hypocrite, or there is something wrong with how we understand Mark 11. Because, the man couldn’t see correctly and Jesus had to pray again in order for the man’s sight to be fully restored.

Faith is envisioning a concrete reality, and this is what the passages are saying when it comes to faith and prayer. When we pray and have faith, we are envisioning the future where God is working good into everything. When praying for healing for someone, we should envision that person being healed while we pray. This isn’t a mental trick to get our prayers answered; rather, it is envisioning God working in a faithful way. We know that our prayers may not be answered and the healing may not happen, but our faith doesn’t become dependent on how certain we are about our faith and prayers.

The reason why we envision this future is best described by two different marriages. In the first marriage, the husband and wife think good thing about each other during the day. They imagine working together and helping one another. When they get home and are joined together, they have created a ripe environment for love, intimacy and affection. They have prepared themselves for this by imagining the good in their relationship and having faith in that. In the second marriage, the husband and wife think about all the bad things in their relationship, and the ways they have let each other down. When they get home and are joined together, they have created an environment for dissension and conflict.

Jesus wants our faith to be like the first marriage, where we envision the goodness of God and believe it to be true. Then, when we pray and have faith, we are having faith in the husband of the Church, Jesus. And according to that faith, it will be done unto us as Jesus said in Matthew. We trust in Jesus, not our own mental gimmicks, to answer our prayers. And that trust allows for the prayers not to be answered but our faith not to be shaken.

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Topics: Faith, Faithfulness, Prayer

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 9:29

    Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.

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4 thoughts on “According to Your Faith

  1. Reynolds Shook says:

    So needed.You are all doing God’s work!!!

    So exciting.I am tutoring in the S.T.A.I.R reading program for 2nd graders to get there reading skills on level.

    I am so happy God has called me here.

  2. Andy Bethke says:

    I am a regular Podrishoner and a former student of Greg’s at Bethel. I love Woodland Hills because of messages like this! Most churches on either end of the spectrum regarding miracles wouldn’t dare to even broach the subject.

    Allow me to contribute the following comment: In recent months, Greg has brilliantly expounded upon the concept of the Shadow Gospel – the idea that what is MOST true about our God is revealed in the image of Christ, and specifically his death and resurrection. As it says in Hebrews 1:3, Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. Shouldn’t we, then, with the faith of a child, confidently believe that our prayers will be answered according to the model we see in the Gospels? I can’t find a single example where someone asked Jesus for healing and he turned them away saying, “Its God’s will for you to be sick.” His answer was always, “I am willing; be made whole.”

    But I concede that not everyone is healed, and that is where we all struggle. Like Greg, I wouldn’t dare to offer a universal explanation. But I do believe that we need to settle in our minds that God’s answer to us is always, “I am willing; be made whole.” Let me say it more emphatically (and this is literal hyperbole; not for effect!): God’s will is NEVER the variable when a prayer for healing seems to go unanswered. If we can’t agree on that point, then it seems to me that we have abandoned the child like faith to which Jesus called us. I can’t imagine a child believing that its good to be sick. I can’t imagine a good human father who wouldn’t go to the greatest extreme to see his child healed of an illness. If we, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more our Father in heaven?

    It seems to me that when Jesus speaks of asking and receiving, it isn’t so much a formula for miracles as it is a reinforcement of his teaching about the Father’s love for us. When you ask, he says, know that your Father is on your side and wants to help you! Its like he is telling us to hold on to that one central truth even though it often looks like He is absent. We can learn to be more effective in prayer over time, but NOT if we lose sight of our Father’s love for us.

    I’m rambling. But this is my conclusion: Jesus perfectly revealed the Father, and by Jesus’ consistent ministry of miraculous healing, it is clear that the Father’s will is never for you to be sick. The rest, I cannot explain.

  3. Katrina says:

    I just realized that if we could create formula’s to get prayers answered and to use in the Christian life then we would not need trust. I can not manipulate God with his own word. And most important He is God not the formula.

  4. travis says:

    I believe that Greg left the last part of that scripture untouched, and that’s the part that makes my head spin. The part that says “…and you will have them.”

    How would you explain what that part means? Thank you !!

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