Question:

Dear Sir,

Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication on your web site. I have recently started attending a local church of Christ, in part because of the wonderful Scripture-based answers on your web site and the freedom and new life promised by following God's laws rather than man-made directives.

My boyfriend attends a Pentecostal church and believes strongly in faith in God and even faith healing. I have read your Scriptural answers on denominational churches and faith healing and I agree completely! One of the sisters at his church died from cancer after a tough battle -- he feels that chemotherapy is fine if your faith is weak, but it would be best to avoid medical treatment and trust God completely to heal you. In general, his church teaches that if your faith is strong enough, anything is possible, even miracles. I know that faith can move mountains (Matthew 17:20), but how can we presume to know God's will for us and demand a reply that suits us? As Jesus said, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test'" (Luke 4:12).

This church teaches that unbelief is a terrible sin, and if you believe enough and trust in God, you will be able to have a baby, get well, get a better job, or whatever. If the desired outcome does not happen, it's your fault because your faith is weak. I feel this is such a simple point and I don't even know how to argue against their line of thinking. The Creator of the universe is not a short-order cook or a concierge! I know that He hears us and always answers us, but not always in the way we would like. Just because I have faith (more like hoping and wishing for something to happen, in some cases) it doesn't mean I'll get what I want. Is it really a lack of faith to ask God for help and do my part to effect the outcome, but know that He may have another plan for me? How can I explain this, based on Scriptures?

Thank you so much for your consideration of my question. I was saved and baptized when I was in the Navy and ever since then, I have a new life. I have been praying, reading the Bible, attending church and loving God more and more. My boyfriend is a wonderful Christian man and we maintain a chaste relationship. I am hopeful that he will be willing to attend the church of Christ with me, rather than this Pentecostal church.

I love your website because it shows me how to go to the Scriptures for answers, rather than merely accepting what the preacher says or what the church says. I can see for myself what God says and that is best of all!

Thanks again, very respectfully,


Answer:

It is good to hear that the gospel has made such an impact in your life.

I think you hit upon the problem precisely. Jesus said, "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:13-14). Far too many people "ask in my name" just means to address your requests to Jesus. But the phrase has a different meaning entirely. See: All in a Name for evidence, but phrase means in accordance with his desires or authorization. When we pray according to God's Will, we know that His Will because we read what He told us in His Book -- the Bible (II Peter 1:2-4).

When someone was healed in the New Testament, sometimes a person was told they were healed because of their faith (Mark 5:34; 10:52), but there are numerous times when people were healed without even knowing who they were talking to, let alone having faith (John 9:35-36; Acts 3:1-9). It was the one who was asking for the healing who had to have faith, not the one receiving the healing (Matthew 17:19-20; James 5:16).

But this also demonstrates that miraculous healing is not talking place. When Jesus and others healed in the Bible, the cure was instantaneous, with no recovery period. There was no waiting to see if God might answer the prayer at some later time. See: Miracles in the New Testament.

We ask God for favors and then proceed to do what we can, being confident that God will take care of what we cannot accomplish and that however He answer, it will always be for the best of His people. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). When Paul wrote those words, he had in mind the bad things that happen to us as well as the good. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter"" (Romans 8:35-36). The death of the apostles and early Christians martyrs was not due to a lack of faith but because of their great faith in their God.

Faith in God is critical to salvation (Mark 16:16), but it is not a faith that God will do as I tell Him. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Faith is trusting that God will do as He said. Pentecostals demonstrate a lack of faith in one area when they refuse to believe that God said miraculous gifts would come to an end. "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Corinthians 13:8-11).