Only Believe…What, Exactly?

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Only Believe…What, Exactly?

James R. Aist

But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be made well.”

Jesus told Jairus to not fear, only believe, that his daughter would be healed (Luke 8:49-50). Here, Jesus made it clear exactly what Jairus was to believe; namely, that God would heal his daughter. Not just that He could heal her or that He was just willing to heal her, but that He would actually heal her. In struggling to understand what a “prayer of faith” (James 5:16) looks like, I have found that there are three successive steps in our journey toward believing God fully for a miracle: 1) believing that God can do it; 2) believing that God is willing to do it; and 3) believing that God will do it. Having done that, the rest is up to God.

The first step should be relatively easy, for those of us who really believe that the Word of God is true. The Bible tells us that God created the entire universe in all of its vastness and complexity, and that He sustains it with His almighty power (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 11:3). It goes on to say that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37) and that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are replete with accounts of miraculous works done by God. Moreover, there are countless testimonies by reliable witnesses of miracles that God is doing in our generation. So, we can rest assured, based on the biblical witness and contemporary witnesses, that God is able to work the miracle that we need Him to work for us. We believe that God can do it.

The second step may be more problematic, however; is God willing to do it? This question gets to the heart of God’s attitude, purpose and desire for mankind, His heart toward us. We can see a man with leprosy struggling with this issue: “A leper came to Him, pleading with Him and kneeling before Him, saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, extended His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will. Be clean” (Mark 1:40-41). In fact, the New Testament has no record of Jesus refusing a miracle for anyone coming to Him believing He could do it.  And, the Bible clearly teaches that God’s attitude and desire toward us is to enable us to prosper (Deuteronomy 29:9; Psalm 1:3; Philippians 4:10). But, there are at least two well-known biblical accounts of God being unwilling to grant a prayer request: one is Jesus’s request for His Father to let the cup of suffering pass from Him (Matthew 26:39), and the other is Paul’s request for God to remove the tormenting messenger of Satan from him (2 Corinthians 12:7). God was surely grieved to see His Son and His servant suffering like this, but He had a reason for their suffering that far outweighed the gravity of their suffering: Jesus would save from hell all who would believe in Him (John 3:16-17), and Paul would be kept from becoming swell-headed by the torment inflicted by the messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7). God was able, but He was not willing, and for a good reason.

This brings us to the third step which is, for many, the most difficult, and, it is often the most complicated. Will God always do what He can do and is willing to do? The answer, I believe, is “No”, and I will tell you why I believe that. The following encounter with God occurred during the first week after I returned home from burying my 20-year-old daughter, Liesel, who had been struck and killed by a car (Click HERE). I was so stunned and emotionally numb from the events of that “week from hell” that I couldn’t even go to work. I just sat around in my recliner all day trying to process what had just happened. Now, I had never asked God why He had allowed anything bad that happened in my life, but this bad thing seemed too awful to cope with. So, one day as I sat in my recliner rehearsing the details of the past week, I began to wonder why God had not healed Liesel instead of calling her home. I was about to ask God “Why?” when suddenly the Holy Spirit stopped me from saying it. Then, God spoke into my mind saying, “You don’t need to know why, because you know Me well enough to know that I had a good reason.” To this day, I can only speculate as to why God did not heal my daughter. Jesus knew, and Paul learned, why God said no, but I was told to just trust that God had a good reason for telling me “No.” In all three of these situations, I believe that, in some way and at some level, God wanted to say yes, but at the same time He wanted even more to say “No”, for a good, a greater, reason.

That brings us now to the conclusion of the matter. I believe that we should always bring our cares, our concerns and our needs to God in prayer (1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 4:16). And, I believe that we should always pray with the conviction that He can do it, that he is willing to do it, and that He will actually do it. Anything less, I believe, is an offense to the nature and the heart of God, an offense to who He is in relation to us. That way, God is always honored by the manner in which we present our request. And, if God says “No”, then we can rest assured He had a good reason for doing so, even if we never find out what the reason was. In truth, God does not owe us an explanation, regardless of how badly we want our answer to our “Why?” If we pray expecting God to hear our request and expecting that He will actually respond to it, then, I believe, we can expect the best possible outcome, whether or not it is the outcome we had in mind. The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). And remember, God always has a good reason; our God is a good, good God (Luke 18:19)!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE.)

Settling Matters with God

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Settling Matters with God

James R. Aist

When the times are tough and you don’t know why,

So you cry out to God “Please, help me to see”,

Is the silence you get just a heavenly sigh,

Or, is He saying “Dear child, trust fully in me”?

Often we are slammed with trials and tribulations in this life. When that happens, we may be tempted to ask God, “Why did you allow this?” But, when we really know God well enough, all He really needs to say is, “Trust Me, my child.” We must walk in this fallen world by faith, trusting God our heavenly Father to know what’s best for us and that He will do it. To do this, we need to settle some core issues with God “once and for all”, so that we are no longer double-minded, easily tossed to and fro like a leaf in the wind whenever confronted by the trials and tribulations that are inevitable in this life (John 16:33).

Now, what do I mean by “settling matters?” A wise friend of mine once said, “When you find the truth, stop looking for it!” So, when you have searched out and discovered the truth about these matters, it’s time to stop searching for the truth and move on. Just believe the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and make peace with it. Don’t keep asking over and over again the same questions you have already found the answers to. Consider these things to be settled between you and God.

What, then, are some of the most important matters that we, as born-again Christians, must settle with God in order to ride out the storms of life without losing our peace and our joy as God’s chosen people? Here is a short list that I have come up with:

The Bible is God’s word. I can trust the Bible to be the authentic word of God to me. It is God-breathed (or inspired) by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16), not a fanciful invention of mere mortals (2 Peter 1:16). In the Bible, God says what He means and means what He says. This is where I should look first and foremost for answers to the important questions about truth, morality, myself, my future and God (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).

God is sovereign. He is the creator of the universe (Colossians 1:16), and He rules and reigns over everything (Exodus 15:18). With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus claimed to be the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), and God the Father identified Him as “…my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draw him (John 6:44). Jesus is the Messiah, the promised savior of the world (1 John 4:14). As a born-again Christian, I know that I have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

God loves me. I am created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) to be in personal relationship and loving fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3). My true destiny (i.e., the reason God created me in the first place) is to honor, praise and worship God and to obey Him in all things. He hears and answers my prayers (Psalm 143:1). I am so important to God that He sent His only begotten Son (Jesus) to die for my sins, making peace with me forever (John 3:16). He loves me with a steadfast, everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

God is on my side. Through His gift of faith in Jesus Christ, God has made peace with me (Romans 5:1); I am no longer subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Jesus calls me “friend” (John 15:15) and “brother/sister” (Mark 3:35), and I am His co-heir (Romans 8:17)! God actually takes pleasure in making me prosper (Psalm 35:27).

God is faithful. God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He is not a liar (Numbers 23:19). He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). What He has promised me He will do (Isaiah 46:11b; Hebrews 6:13-15).

God owns me. Since I am a born-again Christian, God owns me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). His claim on my life is His right, and my life is His to do with as He pleases. I am no longer living for myself, but for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). I am God’s servant. I have made peace with these realities.

God will reward me. He has promised me that, as one of His chosen ones, my eternal destiny is an everlasting life in heaven with Him (John 3:16), a rightful inheritance that is full of glory, full of peace that passes all understanding and full of joy unspeakable (Ephesians 1:18). And, He has given me His Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will, in fact, fulfill this, the greatest of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:22). The value of this glorious future reward far outweighs any trial or tribulation that God allows me to suffer in this life (Romans 8:18).

So, here is the conclusion of it all. When you have settled these matters in your mind and in your spirit, once and for all trusting God no matter what happens, then, when the storms of life assail you, your “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:13-20), — i.e., your trust in God — will hold, and, in your spirit, you will be able to live in peace and joy even as you are being buffeted in your soul/mind and body by the storms. Let me illustrate this point with an analogy. Picture a sailing ship anchored close to shore. When a storm arises, the wind will come with a fury and try to break the chain and set the ship loose from its anchor, driving it to a place where it shouldn’t go. You are that ship. Your faith is the chain that keeps the ship connected to the anchor. Your soul/mind naturally does its best to resist and withstand the storm, but it is the anchor that enables you to stay put until the storm passes. Your trust in God is the anchor, and it enables your spirit to remain stationary, calm and at peace while the storm rages. You no longer have a need to ask “Why did this storm come?” You can simply trust that God has a good reason for allowing it, because you have already settled these matters with Him; you know Him.

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

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How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

James R. Aist

The Bible says that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet, Jesus Christ lived on the earth for 33 years as a man, was tempted to sin in every way that all other people are tempted, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). How can this apparent contradiction be resolved, and how could Jesus be the only man who did not sin? The full answer to this question may surprise you, as it did me.

The Dual Nature of Jesus

Part of the answer to this question lies in the fact that Jesus was fully man and fully God, at one and the same time. He received His humanity from His mother, Mary, and He received His Divinity from His father, the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). With the Holy Spirit as His father, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception and always had the full power of the Holy Spirit available within Him to resist temptation. Moreover, as the Son of God, Jesus was God, and, as such, it was not in His divine nature to sin, but to be true to Himself as the “Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 43:3). But, there is another unique characteristic of Jesus that gave Him a “leg up” on the rest of us when it comes to resisting temptation, and it has to do with His humanity. Let’s see what that advantage is and how He came by it.

The “Sin Nature” of Man

When Adam and Eve chose, of their own “free” will, to believe Satan instead of God (Genesis 3), they took on a “sin nature” (Colossians 3:8-10), or a predisposition to sin, that has been passed down to all subsequent generations, including ours. We have inherited, so to speak, from Adam and all subsequent fathers, a “sin nature”, an inborn desire to reject God’s provision and follow our own path in life. This sin nature can also be aptly described as an ever present readiness to do evil (i.e., disobey God). This predisposition to sin is so pervasive as to render us, in our “natural-born” state, in rebellion against, and at enmity with, God. Thus, it is relatively easy for us to yield to temptations to sin; it’s part of the nature of fallen man to do so. Note that it is from (i.e., through) Adam, not Eve, that all subsequent generations of men inherited this sin nature.

Now, let’s “fast forward” to the time of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), not by a male descendant of Adam, as were all the rest of us. Thus, the inheritance of the sin nature was not passed down to Jesus. This is huge, because it means that, unlike everyone else since Adam, Jesus was not born with a predisposition to sin, as were all of the rest of us. This is why Jesus could say, in all truth, that Satan has nothing in Him (John 14:30); He did not have the sin nature that Satan takes advantage of when we are tempted. And, I believe, that fact must have had a lot to do with how Jesus could live for 33 years without sin. The “virgin birth” of Jesus achieved even more than I was aware of, until now.

What’s In It for Us?

Well, this changes everything for us, and here’s why. Whereas the First Adam sinned, and from that sin death entered into man’s relationship with God, Jesus, the Second Adam, broke the curse of that original sin by offering up to God a sinless life that enabled Him to pay the price for our sins and restore our relationship with God. Jesus undid the damage that was caused by Adam’s sin! But, without having lived a sinless life, Jesus’ sacrificial death would have paid for His own sins, not ours, and we would still be dead in our sins without any hope of escaping God’s wrath. All we have to do is to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross and our sin problem vanishes; then we will have been made, in Christ, the righteousness that God requires (Philippians 3:9), and we will qualify for heaven. Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross yet? Why not let today be the day of your salvation?

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

The Two Kinds of Faith

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The Two Kinds of Faith

James R. Aist

“There are two kinds of faith. There is the natural faith. But the supernatural faith is the gift of God.” – Smith Wigglesworth, in “Faith that Prevails”

Introduction

Several years ago I heard someone make the statement that “To help someone accept Christ, just show them that they already use faith in their everyday life, and explain to them that all they have to do is use the same faith to believe in Jesus.” Well, I didn’t know why at first, but that statement just didn’t seem to ring true, especially in light of what the Bible actually says about faith. So, I began to search it out more carefully, and that’s how I came to realize that there are actually two kinds of faith, and that they are really very different.

Natural Faith

“He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky…’” (Matthew 16:2-3a). Jesus is speaking here of a kind of faith that I call “natural faith.” Based on the appearance of the sky, we believe that the weather will be fair or stormy. And so, we plan and proceed with our day accordingly, using our natural faith.

What I mean by “natural faith” is the faith that we are born with, the kind of faith that we come by naturally. This kind of faith is in our “nature” from birth. Everyone, including atheists and scientists, has natural faith and uses it every day.

Here are some additional illustrations of the daily working of natural faith, to help you see more clearly what I mean by “natural faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we turn the ignition key, the car will start, and so we do it “on faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that the chair we are about to sit on will be strong enough to support our weight, and so, by faith, we “take a seat.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we put a dollar bill into a change machine, it will return four quarters, and in it goes. By our natural faith we believe that the peaches we see at the supermarket will be juicy, sweet and tasty, and so into the cart (“buggy” in the South) they go. And, by our natural faith, we believe that the pilot will get us safely to our destination, and so we board the airplane. We are all very familiar with this “natural faith.”

So we see that natural faith enables us to operate successfully and productively in this natural, material world in which we live. It helps us to overcome daily uncertainties that would otherwise paralyze us with fear and render us helpless.

While natural faith is a necessary part of successful and productive living in this natural world, it is not perfect, as witnessed by the fact that the car doesn’t always start, the chair doesn’t always hold, the change machine doesn’t always return four quarters, the peaches are not always juicy, sweet and tasty, and the airplane does not always arrive safely at its destination. And still, we continue to use our natural faith. What choice do we have, really?

Supernatural Faith

But there is another kind of faith, sometimes referred to as “saving faith.” Saving faith is the gift of God that enables us to believe the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that saving faith comes from God in Matthew 16:17, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”, and in John 6:64-66, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

Paul spoke of this gift of supernatural faith in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”, and in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…”

And in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul elaborates on the same teaching: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (For a scholarly exposition on the meaning of this passage as I understand it, click HERE). In this passage we have the two kinds of faith juxtaposed and contrasted:

  • this faith is “not from ourselves”; i.e., it is not something that we were born with and possess naturally; and
  • this faith is “the gift of God”; i.e., it is a present that is given, or added, to us by God (hence, “supernatural”)…that’s how we get it.

Likewise, we can see the two kinds of faith juxtaposed in one of my favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 3:5. To illustrate this example, allow me to reproduce this verse with the insertion of two italicized, parenthetical phrases: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (supernatural faith), and lean not on your own understanding (natural faith)…”

So, what does supernatural faith do for us that mere natural faith cannot? Well, among many other things,

  • it enables us to qualify for heaven, (John 6:27-29) “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”;
  • it enables us to stand firm in the faith to the end (Matthew 10:22);
  • it enables us to understand spiritual things, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14); and
  • it enables us to extend the “resources” that we can call upon, as we are no longer limited to what we can do for ourselves, but we can now appeal to God for His help and provision, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).

Will this supernatural faith ever fail us? No, contrary to natural faith, supernatural faith will never fail us: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). God is faithful, even when we are not (Romans 3:3-4), and His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Conclusion

We see, then, that our natural faith is necessary and sufficiently effective to enable us to operate successfully in this natural world, but it will not enable us to qualify for heaven. It takes a special gift from God – supernatural faith – to do that.

(For more articles on Biblical Teachings, click HERE)