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[Home]>[How to Measure Your Beliefs]>[5. Levels of Faith]

 

This is the 5. Chapter of

"How to Measure Your Beliefs

by Frank L. Preuss

 

5. Levels of Faith

5.1 Unbelief
5.2 Little Faith
5.3 Doubt
5.4 Faith
5.5 Great Faith
5.6 Victorious Faith

Graph

Table 2: Faith Levels

 

When we start measuring faith - the beliefs of people and our own beliefs - and we consider Table 1: "Jesus Measures Faith", we come to the conclusion that the faith of different people differs, and that it changes in individuals. Generally believers will grow in faith, especially when they study faith and receive instruction in it. But there might be cases where believers are strong in faith just after they became spiritual alive, but their faith diminishes afterwards. If a teacher rejects the supernatural all the time, his student might soon walk in unbelief.

When we measure our faith or that of another person, we should perhaps take some action in order to help that person to come to a higher level of faith. In doing so, we should consider that a person can be on different levels of faith in different areas. A person might have no problems believing that all material needs are met and is therefore financially blessed, but might have problems believing for divine health and therefore suffers from physical ailments.

 

5.1 Unbelief

Unbelief is probably the most important level of faith. People on this level do not believe what they perceive with their own senses. It seems difficult to understand that there are people who don't believe and trust their own eyes and ears. But we know from the Bible that they exist. They are described in Mark 6:1-6; they are people from Jesus' home town. They even talk about the miracles that Jesus performed, but because they know Jesus' background they took offence at him and rejected him. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

Often this happens to us believers as well. We are amazed at some people's lack of faith. People close to us: our family, friends, work-mates, reject spiritual things when we talk to them about them. If an unknown person comes from the other side of the world they are more open to receive. But they refuse to listen to the words of the person they know so well. They suspect us to be a know-all; that we are trying to teach them something; trying to show them that we are better than them and they react negatively.

In Mark 6:2-3 these people are quoted: "From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?"

Everything we receive from Jesus - even signs and miracles and supernatural healings - they speak about, but they reject it. They don't believe.

We can't understand it; it is so clear to us and we tend to get impatient and therefore make the situation worse. In John 12:37 we find a good description of these people: "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believe not on him."

This level of faith is so important, because the unbelievers are to be found there. We have to influence their eternal destiny. As a general rule, we can say that it is better for us not to speak to them. We should live a life that shows Christ, but to speak about Jesus should be the exception. Sometimes the members of our families are the most difficult people we can deal with when it comes to spiritual things and the supernatural.

Here we must take up the spiritual battle and pray for three things.

There is somebody who can speak to our relatives and friends when we can't do it. Firstly, we therefore pray according to Matthew 9:38 that the Lord of the harvest sends out labourers into his harvest field. The Lord has many possibilities. He can send somebody who speaks to them; he can use a book; it can be a radio broadcast or the television. Also in Luke 10:2 we find the order to pray for labourers in the harvest field. When we pray this prayer, we don't, of course, exclude ourselves as this worker, if the occasion should arise.

The reason why these people don't believe what they see with their own eyes is that the devil has blinded their mind. Secondly, we therefore pray according to 2 Corinthians 4:4 and bind the god of this world that he will not blind the mind of the unbeliever anymore, so that the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

Thirdly we prepare the heart of the unbeliever. According to Acts 16:14, we pray that they will listen to the worker God sends to them and that the Lord will open their heart and that they will respond to the worker's message.

This prayer we pray only once. If we were to pray it twice, we would only be showing that we did not believe the first time. When we think of this person afterwards, we don't pray for this person again, but we confess God's word over him and in so doing confirm our belief that this person has made peace with God.

In this category, we also find people who are perhaps Christians, but don't believe in signs and miracles. They don't believe that God heals today. They reject the supernatural. Such people can hardly believe in praying, because praying is speaking to God, who is a supernatural being. To believe in God but not in a supernatural being, is therefore a contradiction. To pray to God but not to believe in supernatural beings is self-contradictory. Such people practise religion, but not faith in a living God.

Also for these Christians on the lowest level of faith, we have to pray and break the influence the devil has on their minds. We have to use our authority over the god of this world and bind him. In Romans 10:9 it says, that if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. A Christian should therefore believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and consequently in the supernatural, and should not be found on this lowest level of faith. But since it is difficult to know if somebody is really a believer, it is always good to confess his salvation; to speak God's word over him and to bind the devil in his life.

 

5.2 Little Faith

In the technical, scientific times we live in, many people seem to have difficulties believing in the supernatural. Already 2000 years ago, Thomas was unbelieving; he wanted to see and touch. We find this described in John 20:24-29. His biggest drawback was probably his mouth, because he said, "I will not believe it." The key to faith is always the control of the tongue. How did Jesus help him to gain more faith? He allowed Thomas to see and touch his resurrected body. And this is the simple solution for people on this faith level. To take them to believers where the word of God is proclaimed and where God confirms his word by signs and wonders is an ideal solution.

When a Christian or a non-Christian who does not believe in the supernatural or has difficulties with it, hears teaching about Jesus as the healer and then witnesses how people get healed through the laying on of hands, then he will grow in his faith. Books reporting on miracles, extraordinary healings, signs and the acts of the Holy Spirit are for this reason recommended very highly to all Christians and non-Christians. It is always constructive to report on miracles, to talk about them and to see them for oneself.

It is an experience of God's word working; of it achieving the purpose he sent it for.

Faith comes when, in a certain situation, the right word is spoken and heard, and the result is experienced. If, for example, an unbeliever sees a cripple who is known to him, and sees him getting healed, and sees him still healed later, his unbelief will certainly diminish and his faith will grow. When the supernatural has become natural, when the word of God manifests itself, when we can see and touch, then the faith of these people on the second level of faith grows.

When we look back to the happenings of the Old Testament, we can see how God roused the children of Israel from unbelief by performing miracles. The bondage in Egypt was ended through a series of almost overwhelming miracles. The climax was the dividing of the Red Sea, and this did not only lead the Israelites back to their faith in the Almighty, but is today still a sign for Jews and Christians of the power of God to save and redeem people in every situation.

A second example is the miracles of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. God sent these men to win back an apostate and unbelieving nation, and God achieved his goal: many turned and served him. Today so many unbelievers are searching for something they don't know; for something they don't know how to describe. In reality the spirit of man seeks reunion with the spirit of God, from whom he comes, and the reunion with the God, that created him.

It is therefore of such importance to have the supernatural, because it is the supernatural that makes a believer out of an unbeliever and brings him back to God. Israel needed Jesus; they were in bondage; they had an occupying power in their country, and for many their faith had become a religion with traditions. Jesus did a great number of miracles, and in this way achieved a revival in Israel. He has not changed, wherever he is proclaimed today, he confirms his word with signs following.

To see miracles and to remember them is important. In Psalm 105:5 we are exhorted to do so: "Remember his marvellous works that he has done, his wonders, and the judgements of his mouth."

That is why it is so important to read the Bible and about spiritual things, to think about God's wonders, about how he created the world, about how his prophets accomplished these extraordinary miracles and about how Jesus, in almost uninterrupted succession, worked miracles and about how his followers, the believers and apostles of the book of Acts, carried on with this work and how signs and wonders today follow the words believers speak today.

A miracle that was predicted in the Bible and that became reality in our time is the gathering of the Jews in their original home land. In the year 70 A.D., Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews banished. Last century, more than 1800 years later, God made a reality out of what was prophesied in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 11:12, it is said: "And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcast of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."

This scripture says that the restoration of Israel is a sign and miracle of God; a sign for the nations and for us. Every time we hear news about Israel and the Middle East, we should be reminded of the power of God that this rebirth of Israel is a sign for the nations that God is on his throne. In the year 1948 Israel again became a sovereign nation and 1967 Jerusalem became part of it again. This was prophesied in many places in the Bible, and we can read about it in the books of the prophets like Isaiah (Chapters 11 and 43), Jeremiah (Chapters 16, 30, 31 and 33), Ezekiel (Chapter 36) and Amos (Chapter 9). The impact of these repeated prophecies is enormous. They are witnesses of a miracle-working God. We believers should draw the unbelievers' attention to this miracle of the restoration of Israel; the prophecy that became reality in our time, a miracle that can be verified without problems.

John 2:23 states: "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did."

This sentence confirms that signs and miracles are there to bring faith.

The greatest miracle that ever happened was performed when God raised Jesus from the dead. Faith in this miracle is therefore stated in Romans 10:9-10 as one of two conditions to getting saved. The second condition is to call Jesus Lord. The confession out of our mouth: "Jesus is Lord" and the believing in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, are therefore the most important things in the life of a person, because they bring life and make us a believer, because when we confess Jesus as our Lord with our mouth and believe in his resurrection, we are become spiritual alive. It is at this moment that we become a new creature; obtain righteousness; are brought from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of the Son; become brothers of Jesus, reject the devil and leave our old lives. The separation between us and God has ended. Unity is reinstalled.

"Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did" (John 2:23).

We want to mention three more examples of our second level of faith:

First, Jesus said (to Nathanael), "Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?" (John 1:50). Second, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words which Jesus had said (John 2:22). Third, Jesus said unto the nobleman, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." (John 4:48).

All three examples show that miracles lead to faith. People with plain, natural, human faith believe in earthly, physical things. They don't believe in the heavenly, spiritual things, in the supernatural. They don't believe in what the word of God says, but what their senses perceive. What they can touch and what they can see, what they can check is what they believe. Probably the most important reason why God performs miraculous signs, is to help people on this level to believe in the supernatural, to become believers.

 

5.3 Doubt

Unfortunately, a lot of Christians remain on this level of faith. The problem is probably simply that they did not learn and that nobody taught them how to believe. They waver from faith to unbelief and don't know that they are doing it or don't know how to overcome it. People on this level of faith believe what the word of God says, but they always slide back, because they get impressed by what their senses perceive. Actually, they don't really believe, because if they believed, they would react differently. They rather try the word. They try the word as one of several possible solutions to their problem. Doubting is an expression of a hesitation which vacillates between faith and unbelief and inclines toward unbelief. They are dubious, undecided and wavering in all their ways. Their loyalty is divided and they reveal instability at every turn. They can never make up their minds, and are quite unable to steer a steady course. They are double-minded and unstable in all their conduct as well as unable to make up their minds. Therefore, they are in two minds, oscillating between different ways.

We cannot serve two masters. If we want to be successful, we must become single-minded. The word mind is the key. We have to sort this out in our mind; we have to fight the battle for the mind. All these descriptions of a doubter we find in James 1:8. "A doubter is a man of two minds - hesitating, dubious, irresolute - he is unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything he thinks, feels and decides."

A good example of a doubter is a worrier who says that he trusts God, but then worries about food and drink and clothing, or a person who fears or someone who has witnessed miracles, but forgets them and therefore forgets that God can act again in a new situation.

In the following, we want to take a case - a problem - and look at it from different angles. This case shall serve as an illustration of how doubt can occur in daily life.

The problem is a back-ache. The solution to the problem is the healing of the back-ache. We have a person that suffers from a back-ache, and this person wants to get rid of the pain. Before this person asks God for deliverance from the ache, he might have studied the word of God and knows that God has the ability to heal and the will to heal. A study of the character of God is of course very helpful, but on the other side not absolutely necessary. A simple trust in the almighty God is quite sufficient.

For whatever reason, the person decides to ask God for healing. We want to give this person a name. Let's call him Harry. Harry has got a problem, he is sick. At the very beginning we want to differentiate between the problem and the solution. The problem is the sickness, the pain, in our case the back-ache. The solution is health, the healing, a state of lack of pain, a lack of back-ache. The solution is something positive, it is the condition which we aspire to, which is good for us.

Now, Harry has got a problem and he wants to get rid of it. During the next gathering, his Christian brother Bob offers to pray for Harry. He decides to accept this offer and he lets Bob pray for him. Harry sees it as an attempt to get delivered from his pains. Therefore his faith is small and in this case everything will depend on the faith of Bob. Two weeks later Bob meets Harry in the street and asks him how he is. Harry replies: "As you know I have this back-ache and it causes me a great deal of trouble." Bob thoughtfully walks away and gets impressed by what he just heard: he heard a bad report. He forgets the word of God. God says in 1 Peter 2:24 "By his wounds Harry has been healed" and this is a good report, but unfortunately, for some reason, the good report is not accepted and the bad report gains the upper hand. Bob's thinking proceeds in a negative direction. He reflects upon the apparent failure and his unbelief is finally expressed in words. In his endeavour for clarification, he asks God "Why couldn't I heal Harry?"

He does the same as the disciples did in Matthew 17:19: "Why couldn't we drive it out?" and Jesus replied, "Because you have so little faith."

Bob had accepted the thought of doubt which he received from the devil. He adopted it and in the end he spoke it out: with it, he expressed his unbelief. With this question to God "Why couldn't I heal Harry?" Bob decided that Harry remained sick. He would have reacted differently if he had had more experience of the deceptions of the devil. He would have said good-bye to Harry and on his walk he would have decided to oppose the devil, to discard the bad report and to believe the good report - to believe God's word. His words might have been the following: "I am subject to God, I resist the devil and he flees from me (James 4:7). I am not getting influenced and impressed by what my ears heard Harry say. I believe God, because God's word says that by Jesus' wounds, Harry has been healed. Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus I thank you that Harry is healed." With this prayer he would have wrecked the devil's attempt to foil his success and he would have caused Harry's healing.

Let us take up this story again from the beginning, and change it. Let us assume that Harry is convinced that God can heal sick people and he is already waiting for Bob's offer. Harry lets Bob pray for him, and he agrees with this prayer. Harry takes part in this prayer and his own faith is involved. Two weeks later Harry meets Bob and he still has the pain. The back-ache gets the upper hand over the word of God, which he knows. His reply to Bob's question is that he still has the back-ache. The devil was successful because he caused Harry to think on what his senses perceived - his pain. And his confession was according to that, he confessed the problem, not the solution. And that is what he received, the problem. The back-ache remained.

Had he confessed the solution and said: "Thanks to God I am healed - by Jesus' wounds I have been healed", he would have resisted the devil and placed the word of God above the momentary facts. He would have confessed the solution and the back-ache would go.

Let us carry on with this story and let us assume that eventually Harry successfully spoke the word of God, got healed and enjoyed good health.

A few years later Harry's company arranged for a medical check-up. To the question of the doctor, whether he has any afflictions or diseases, he replies: "Yes, sometimes I have a back-ache." With this statement, Harry speaks against what the word of God says about him: By his wounds you have been healed. With this short sentence, with this confession, that he has pain sometimes, he opens the door for the devil, and it is very likely that there will be a recurrence of the pain.

Actually Harry does not have any pain; he learned from God's word to live in divine health and has been without ailment for years. He only gives a positive answer to the doctor's request because he does not want the form to be completely empty; after all, people sometimes have ailments, it looks strange if somebody replies in the negative. Maybe the doctor wouldn't believe that one is completely healthy, or perhaps he might think that one is lying or even arrogant when one claims to be without physical problem. Sometimes we make such statement just to appear normal.

It is imperative that we do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our minds. We have to adjust ourselves to God's word; we can't confess the devil's word any more. Here Jesus is a good example. Despite healing sick people all the time, he never talks about sickness. We have to simply give up talking about sickness. We should keep quiet when others speak about sickness; we should not get drawn into it. If we listen and we hear of cases we can pray for, we should do it - but we should not talk about the problem, the sickness.

The same applies to conversations about financial needs and shortcomings. Talk about any kind of financial lack should never come over our lips. When we believe that God meets all our needs (Philippians 4:19) we can't confess lack.

And this principle does not only apply to health and money of course, it is also valid for wisdom, guidance, victory, peace and eternal life. We simply don't confess that we are stupid, that we don't know what God wants from us, that all the time the devil has victory over us, that we are jumpy and fearful, or even that we are going to hell.

We want to resume the case of Harry again. Let us assume that Harry prayed for healing and received it, and has now for several years had no back-ache. But suddenly this pain returns. Harry's faith and his reaction to a health problem is being tested. Harry's thinking could take this direction: there is probably a natural reason why I did not have a back-ache all these years; the problem was probably present all the time in my body, it never really disappeared, only the pains went and now they return.

If Harry maintains such thoughts and does not reject them, it will become a stronghold in his mind, it will become something that has a strong hold on him. The thinking will be followed by speaking and believing and the result will be that Harry keeps the back-ache.

We want to read a scripture that again tells us that we operate in the spiritual realm, but it also lets us know how to fight spiritual battles (2 Corinthians 10:3-5):

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Harry has to use his weapons; he has to demolish this stronghold in his thinking. Harry thinks in accordance to the proposals of the devil and this structure of thought sets itself up against the knowledge of God. But Harry is led by the Holy Spirit, and he will draw Harry's attention to his wrong thinking and Harry will realise that for quite some time now he has been thinking the thoughts of the devil. Harry will know how to react to this. He will take these thoughts captive and put an end to them and start to think in agreement with the word of God; he will make his thoughts obedient to Christ. And his weapon will be God's word; it is the sword of the spirit. Harry will pray and speak the word of God as it is described in Ephesians 6:17-18 and may say: He took up my infirmities and carried my diseases (Matthew 8:17); I am healed.

Harry has learned to beat back such assaults and doubts. James 1:6 says: "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed."

We avoid this wavering by not accepting the thinking of the devil. We throw it out whenever it comes into our mind and replace it with thoughts of God's word. We can't stop negative thoughts from coming, but we can stop them from remaining in our thinking. We don't accept meditation on them; we are not captivated by them. We stop thinking the thoughts of the devil and occasionally the thoughts of God; we stop wavering.

We waver when we worry, when we fear and when we forget miracles of the past. In all three cases, we vacillate between thinking of the world and thinking on God's word. We doubt God's ability to organise everything for us, to protect us and to perform miracles in our lives. To worry is to meditate on the devil's ideas; to fear is to believe in the devil's work and not to believe in miracles is to forget that God exists.

This wavering becomes dangerous in cases where we pray directly to God and where no other people are involved. According to James 1:7-8 we will receive nothing from God. "For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."

James says that faith has to comprise all areas of our life. If we don't believe, if we doubt, we are unstable in all our ways. Here we come to an area which can be described with the following words: faithful, honest, conscientious, trustworthy, true, reliable, believing.

These words refer to people who don't waver, but act in faith.

In Table 1: "Jesus Measures Faith," we have some examples of people on this faith level: "Doubt." They come to Jesus because they believe, but then they are impressed by the worldly things and happenings; they stop believing. They waver from faith to unbelief, they run hither and thither, they doubt.

 

5.4 Faith

In Isaiah 28:16 God says: "He that believeth shall not make haste." He that believes shall not stumble. God's salvation is always there for him who believes. A believer will call on the name of the Lord when he is in trouble and God will answer him. In Table 1: "Jesus Measures Faith," we have several examples: The woman with the issue of blood; she received what she said; what she confessed; Jairus, he had a clear faith goal, he kept it and achieved it, and Bartimaeus, his trust was in Jesus, nothing could hold him back.

When we find ourselves in a sudden predicament, a word like "Lord, save me!" as cried out by Peter in Matthew 14:30 is sufficient. Even a prayer that just contains the word "God" or "Jesus" fulfils its purpose. What matters is what is in the heart, and not the ability to formulate nice prayers.

Jesus however, gave us some rules regarding prayer. We have already talked at some length about the importance of faith and now we want to have a look at some other rules. The basic requirement is to be in right standing with God - to be righteous - and to have fellowship with God. Jesus expresses in John 15:16: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." So we pray in the name of Jesus.

The next rule is that we don't pray to Jesus but to the Father. Jesus mentions this in John 16:23-24: "And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." In this passage the rule that we pray to the Father is repeated and the rule, that we pray in the name of Jesus, is expressed twice. Jesus repeats this in verse 26: "In that day ye shall ask in my name."

In Acts 4:24-30 we have a good example of such a prayer. In verse 24 they started their prayer with "Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is" and in verse 30 they closed it with "by the name of thy holy child Jesus." The beginning is addressed to God, the sovereign Lord, and the prayer is finished in the name of Jesus.

In Ephesians 1:17 and 3:14 we can read that Paul addressed his prayers to God. We therefore pray to God our Father in heaven and we do it in the name of Jesus.

In 1 John 5:14 we find another prerequisite: "And this is the confidence we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us."

The aim of our prayer must therefore be in accordance with God's will. In the long run, our prayer life will not be successful if we don't know the will of God. And God has expressed his whole will, what is his will for us and what he wants from us, in his word - the Bible. In the Bible God's will is written down. God's will, concerning all areas of our lives, is recorded in the Bible.

To ask God for something and then close the prayer with words like "Please God, give it to me if it is your will" is a lame excuse. Firstly it shows that we don't believe because it is such a doubtful statement, and secondly that we don't know God and his will. And thirdly it is an excuse for us not to do his will. To talk oneself into not knowing God's will is an excuse to do that which is against God's will - to go the wrong way. Whenever we catch ourselves having such an opinion - not to know God's will - we should know that there is something basically wrong. When we have God's word and the Holy Spirit dwells in us then a statement, that we don't know the will of God, is highly contradictory.

The study of the Bible and of inspired writings is therefore a basic requirement. And this absorbing of spiritual food is an on-going thing. Spiritual growth should never stop. We should always be busy with learning new things and renewing our mind and expanding spiritually.

A Christian should start reading the Bible from the first page and go right through. Everything from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation is important. And when we have read through the Bible we start again at the beginning. We should come to a point where we have a basic knowledge of what is in the Bible.

The reading of the Bible is an important part of our prayer life; of our prayer time. It is the part where we listen to God, where we let God speak to us. While we are reading, we let the Holy Spirit reveal the word to us. We simply thank the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus that he is explaining the scriptures to us.

And we never confess that we haven't got time to read the Bible, that we don't understand it or that we always get tired when we read the Bible. These are bad confessions and these confessions are the reason why we don't have time, why we don't understand and why we get tired. We cannot say that we have no time to read the Bible because work and business do not allow it. If we keep ourselves busy without knowing the word we will hardly be successful - whether we make money or bring up our children - because when we seek his kingdom and his righteousness first, then all these things shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:31). To give an example: to be successful financially, we have to know God first and know his ways regarding finances. Another example is our children; we can work very hard to make them a success, but if we do not bring them up in the way the Bible tells us, we might fail completely.

But we must not see the reading of spiritual writings as a duty that has some negative meaning to us. We must always look forward to the time we read God's word, we must enjoy it. The reading or praying must not become a religious habit. We should actually get excited by all the things God will show us and tell us.

The better we know the Bible, the less interest we will have in the things of the world, and the less time we will have to spend on getting them because God will give us all these things as well.

It is recommendable to read different translations of the Bible. After we have finished one translation, we should start to read another translation.

During reading and after reading, we should take time to think about the subject and to meditate on it. How can I use it? What principle accompanies this story? What example fits this principle? What did the acting persons do right; where did they make mistakes?

A good method of study is to collect Scriptures on certain subjects. If we pray for financial needs, for example, it will be very helpful to know what the Bible says on this theme; what God's will is as regards finances. The more we know about it, the more we can pray in the right direction.

Christian books, time-tables, concordances, Bible dictionaries and handbooks, Bible atlases are valuable helps. When we attend meetings where the Holy Spirit is in control, the meaning of God's word is revealed to us. Discussions are good methods to absorb the word; we read in Luke 2:46-47: "After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers."

What did Jesus do when he was twelve years old? He was in the presence of God. He was sitting where the teachers were sitting. He was listening to good teaching. He had questions and he asked them. His understanding was already amazing. He gave answers.

This is an excellent method to learn: A group of believers discussing the word, being spiritually alive and allowing everybody to participate. Everybody is interested to learn more about God. When Jesus was only twelve years old, his interest was already the word of God.

Often we react negatively if we read or hear something that is false doctrine in our opinion. If we listen to a teacher and the teacher says something that we feel is erroneous; is wrong doctrine; is wrong exegesis; or whatever, and our reaction is annoyance then we should use this engagement. Out of this confrontational situation we should make a situation of learning and build up our knowledge in that field. We should also check the things we heard to see whether they are really that wrong. We should study this subject, or go deep into it. May be we should write down the relevant Scriptures, and we should check the new opinion and inquire into the merits of the case. We should also encourage others to comment on our opinions; to criticise our opinions. When our opinion is criticised we should do a self-examination and correct it or use this criticism to stabilise it. If criticism annoys us, it might be that it was just our exegesis and not God's. If we were sure that it was God's interpretation of the matter then we would not have a reason to be annoyed because it is God's word and not ours.

In 1 Corinthians 11:17-19, Paul says that our meetings must not do more harm than good, there must not be divisions. But it must not go so far that we never discuss the word. Verse 19 says: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

Praying is a communication with God, and the younger we are in the faith, the more we should do the listening and God the talking. An extensive part of our prayer time we should therefore spend listening to God - reading his word. Ecclesiastes 5:1 reads: "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil."

We must not forget that God's word never stops getting revealed to us. God is alive and brings his word to us through people today. So we must not allow the religionists to restrict us and we must seek what God has to say to us these days. The big advantage of inspired writings that are current is that their language is more easily understandable and that they often don't need to get translated because they might be written in our own language.

We want to look again at the faith level "Faith." On this level, we find people who believe when they hear something about God. When they hear about a man of God, they believe that they can make contact with God through him. If such a person prays for them personally, they believe that the prayer will be answered. If the prayer is for their health then they believe that they will be healed. Their own faith is the main reason for success. They come with certainty; they believe that the prayer of a believer will solve their problem. They don't consider this prayer as a trial, as one possibility out of many; they don't doubt. They are convinced of the ability of God. If a person on this faith level calls for the elders, then he believes that their prayer will make him well, that the Lord will raise him up. The faith of this person will be enough to make the prayer successful. It is a joy to fulfil such a person's wish and pray for him, because one knows that they have faith. This person's faith will be combined with the faith of the person praying and it will result in a prayer of agreement.

These people are convinced that God has the power to do what he has promised. The best example is the woman with the issue of blood. She said (Matthew 9:21), "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole."

Her point of contact was Jesus's cloak. She believed that when she touched his cloak with her hand she would be healed. She did it and was healed.

Another example is Jairus, he asked Jesus (Mark 5:23), "I pray thee, come and lay they hands on her that she may be healed; and she shall live." Jairus believed that his daughter would be healed when Jesus came to his daughter in person, and when he would put his hands on her. Jesus' hands were the point of contact.

It helps people on this level of faith to have something of this physical world to use as a point of contact. The contact with a person or with an object makes it easier for them to receive from God, and also to understand God. James writes in James 5:14-15, "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." All these are points of contact: The coming of the elders, the speaking of prayers, the anointing with oil. Faith is initiated through the calling of the elders. The sick person should call the elders. It is the expression of his faith. If somebody else from his family should call the elders, we could assume that the faith of the sick person is not that great.

There are many ways for people to release their faith. Four of them could be the following: a woman believes that she will receive the solution to her problem when a certain person lays hands on her. A man believes that he will be healed when he touches his television set as an expression of his agreement with the prayer of the television speaker. A girl believes her prayer will be answered if she prays it at a certain place. A boy believes that God will grant him his desire when a certain believer prays for him. All such cases should be supported, and we should rejoice in their faith and also in the action they are taking.

But we should make a distinction between using something as a point of contact and worshipping something as an idol. There is a clear difference. An object, a person or an act can be used as points of contact, but they may also be used as idols. We want to use the bronze snake from the time of Moses to see how something was used as a point of contact and later became an idol. In Numbers 21:4-9 we read that God commanded Moses to make a snake and to put it up on a pole, so that anyone who is bitten can look at it and live. Looking at the bronze snake was the point of contact; the bronze snake was a help to receiving life. But afterwards it turned out to become a means of darkness. In 2 Kings 18:4, it is recorded: "He (Hezekiah, king of Judah) brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days children of Israel did burn incense to it." The children of Israel had made an idol out of it. Our point of contact must not become more than a help in our walk towards faith.

Other examples of people on the level "Faith" are Bartimaeus and the 10 lepers; they wanted Jesus to take care of them. The woman who had lived a sinful life used her own actions as her point of contact; she wet Jesus' feet with her tears, she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Good works can be an expression of our faith, they can be used as a point of contact, but good works without faith don't bring rewards in heaven. They can deceive if we try to become righteous through them.

We have heard that Jesus appears to people even today and heals them. Jesus is sovereign; he can meet people on their level of faith. On whatever level of faith a person may be, God has always provided a means of escape.

 

5.5 Great Faith

We have great faith when we turn to God in a negative situation and when we do it with a certainty that God's word is reliable and that it will save us.

The Canaanite woman turned to Jesus and did not let go until Jesus had spoken the redeeming word, the word that set her daughter free. Jesus called her a woman of great faith, because she was bold and wanted to hear Jesus speak the liberating words.

Jesus says about the centurion that he has not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. The centurion understood authority; he knew what a command was. It is clear to him that Jesus was God and that he controlled this world and that he did it the same way the centurion kept control: giving commands and orders. For him there was only one thing of importance: he wanted Jesus to give a command, he wanted for him to speak the word. He did not want more, because he knew that a word out of Jesus' mouth was enough; the healing of his servant had to follow.

Great faith is based on a trust in the words of God. All promises of the Bible are for us, they are words, and we trust in these words, as they are God's words. When we ask God for something that he has promised, we know that we will receive it, because we can trust in his word. To trust in his word is great faith. For people with great faith it is not necessary that Jesus comes to them in person; that he comes to their house and lays hands on their servant. They know that they can trust a completely reliable person when such a person gives his word - and God is such a person. When such a person - absolutely trustworthy - says something, it is already as good as done. God's word is always reliable, that is why we should always trust in it.

It is not necessary for us that Jesus should suddenly appear in front of us and that we should then receive what we have prayed for. His word is enough for us. We believe God's word; it is good enough for us. With this trust in God's word, we confirm our faith in God. If we doubt the words of a person, and we express this doubt, this person will have a sense of being attacked, of being declared untrustworthy. To believe and to doubt the words of a person is the same as to believe and to doubt the person himself.

People with strong faith believe in God's word. In Mark 16:20 we have this concluding statement: "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by signs following."

We can't exclude that God's sovereign will caused these signs, that means that people got healed without them believing in God's healing power. But it is more likely that the people who listened to the preaching of the disciples believed these words and therefore received. They believed that the God who created the heavens, the earth and the sea, and everything in them, could heal them also. They believed it, and God confirmed his word by rewarding their faith - he worked a miracle in their life. Their faith was great, because they trusted his word. Their own faith let them witness a miracle.

For people with great faith, the word of God is the point of contact. Their point of contact is on a spiritual level, because the word is spirit. They understand authority. Authority is expressed through instructions, orders and commands. When they hear a command, spoken in the name of Jesus, they believe in its execution. They have great faith.

 

5.6 Victorious Faith

On this level of faith - victorious faith - we find believers that act like Jesus Christ himself, and carry on his work. To be a Christian means to live like Christ. It goes even further: as Christians we are Christ, because we are parts of his body, the body of Christ. Jesus gave to us the authority that he had and we have to use it the same way he used it.

Many people followed Jesus when he was walking on earth. His closest friend was John; his most trusted disciples were Peter, James and John. The twelve disciples were also called apostles, and of a further group of co-workers we hear in Luke 10:1. "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, wither he himself would come." The appointment of the seventy took place in the third year, and we can infer that these seventy had received a good training and teaching from Jesus. In verse two we hear something about their commission: He told them, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest."

Jesus' first instruction to them was for them to pray for more workers. We would say today to pray that people become believers, and that believers become active believers. In Luke 10:9, Jesus gives two more instructions.

And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

We have to heal the sick and we have to harvest. In Luke 10:17, the success of the mission is reported.

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

They had experienced the glory of God, and it made them glad, because they worked the same miracles Jesus did. They were successful because they used the name of Jesus. So casting out demons was also part of their work. Jesus replies in Luke 10:18. "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." Jesus concludes the list by talking about the protection we enjoy, but the important thing is that he has given us authority over the power of the enemy. Jesus gave us equipment which is equal to his own. The signs and miracles he did, shall also be done by his followers.

Mark 16:17-18 is also a scripture where Jesus talks of this authority. "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

Here we have a similar list, but at the beginning Jesus says that these signs will accompany those who believe. Only those Christians who believe that they have this authority, have this authority. If we command a demon to come out of a person, we must not only say, "In Jesus' name, come out!" we also must believe in our heart that it will happen.

Graph

When we ask God to baptise us in the Holy Spirit, and we want to speak in new tongues, we must pray and believe. While we are praying, and afterwards, we must keep on believing that we have received.

The following are signs that we do not believe. After we have prayed we got the impression that nothing has happened, we don't speak in new tongues. This influences us and we say that we don't, or that we don't yet, speak in tongues. And we pray again, or we let others pray for us, or we ask somebody to lay hands on us. Or we say: I have prayed and I believe that I have been baptised in the Holy Spirit and that I speak in tongues. Or we hope it will happen when a certain person lays hands on us. Or we listen to well-meant advice of friends telling us what to do and what not to do.

All these are actually expressions of our unbelief, because if we have a close look - or better, if we listen carefully to it - we realise and know that there is no faith underlying it. Already to pray for a thing a second time, testifies that we did not believe when we prayed the first time. Also, to say that we believe that we have received, or to say that we are waiting for the manifestation are expressions of unbelief. We look at the invisible and believe; if we turn back to the visible, we turn to unbelief.

Therefore we pray only once, and afterwards we confess the result. The realisation is important, that praying is more a confession. After we have prayed once, we don't pray and ask for the same thing again, but we confess that we have received the thing we have asked for.

Out of this negative experience: praying for the baptism in the Holy Ghost and not receiving, perhaps having sought for an answer to our prayer for months and years, we can, however, learn. We should actually praise and thank God for this situation; we should rejoice, because we can learn out of this and change it into a victory and succeed in all our future praying.

The following advice should be given to a person that sought to speak in new tongues for a long time. He should thoroughly think about his situation and measure his faith according to all the things he has done in the past, considering that all these attempts were actually expressions of his unbelief. He should set himself a clear faith goal - baptism by the Holy Ghost - and he should make up his mind to do the following things on his way towards this goal:

He should pray and ask God to baptise him. This should be the last time he prays these prayers, but this time he prays fully understanding what faith is. And after the prayer he has to prove his understanding of faith and his faith by acting the right way - controlling his tongue.

After the prayer, he has to confess that he is baptised in the Holy Spirit and that he speaks in new tongues. He must thank God for it and he must rejoice that he received from God. He has to confess with his mouth, but he must also believe in his heart.

We express our faith to God and perhaps to people who understand the language of faith. It is good sometimes, maybe even in this case, to make a confession of faith to people who are everything but faith people. But our faith does not depend on how often we confess it. Speaking out one's confessions more often is not a way to gain more faith. This might help in the beginning when we try to get used to a Scripture, try memorising it, try understanding it: then it helps when we speak it at every opportune occasion, but afterwards, after it has sunk into our heart, it is part of us and we don't have to prove our faith in confessing it. Decisive is that we believe in our heart and that we don't speak its opposite.

The critical situation arises when after his prayer his close Christian friend comes and asks him, "How is it, are you now already baptised in the Holy Ghost?" He should have prepared himself for such a question and made up his mind not to answer him, "No". Replies like "I have prayed and I believe that I speak in new tongues" or "I have prayed and I am waiting for the manifestation" are also simply expressions of unbelief; they show that he is still walking in the visible and not in the invisible.

A possible answer could be, "Yes, and how are you?" This is a hint that the subject is closed. Even if the friend does not understand faith talk, as a polite person he will accept this reply. It is wrong to assume that Christians have to consent to every subject and to every question. Jesus was always definite in the way he spoke; he said what he wanted to say and not what other people wanted to hear. In Matthew 24:1-2, the disciples wanted to discuss the temple building, but Jesus did not join in, he talked about the destruction of the temple.

What matters is how strongly we can express our faith. He could say: "Yes, on the 24th May I got baptised in the Holy Spirit" and thus refer to the day of his prayer. But it is also not wrong, after the questioner takes up the subject - which we had closed already - again, to say: "What do you think about 1 Thessalonians 4:11?" The questioner will hardly know this Scripture, and the subject might therefore be changed, or the questioner might go and look it up or ask us what it says. And then we can say: "Paul says there that Christians should mind their own business."

Such a reply is also appropriate sometimes when, for instance, we limp around with a broken leg and a Christian asks us, "Oh, what is wrong with you?" and we have just confessed that we are healed. It is important that we as believers are always polite and do everything in love, but it must not go so far that we enter an area of unbelief and betray our faith goal.

We have to be polite, but we must see to it that other people respect us. If somebody asks us, "Do you beat your wife every week?" it would be wrong if we do not tell this person that the question is out of place. But we must also respect other people; when we tell somebody that we love them, but we don't respect them, we will hardly convince this person.

But let us return to the question, whether a person is baptised in the Holy Spirit. Such a question can also come in a formal way. We have to fill in a school form or an organisation's form. From what we write down there, we can see exactly on what level our faith is. A Christian should always maintain a sphere of freedom to which only God and himself have access. If we don't feel that it is right to answer the way we believe, we could even not answer the question at all. If somebody later wants to know why we didn't answer the question, we could tell this person something about faith principles.

It is always better not to answer a question than to give up our faith. The vocabulary of silence is a key to success. To smile at a person can be a good reply, and helps us to get over an unpleasant situation.

A person that maintains the right conduct and keeps walking and talking in faith, will very soon experience God's reply to the prayer. The person can then talk about not only what exists in the spiritual realm, but also what exists in the physical world, that can now be examined and investigated.

We have dealt with this second item of Mark 16:17-18 at some length, because it is a good example and because many Christians have problems in this area of getting baptised in the Holy Ghost, and don't receive satisfactory counsel. But the principles involved apply to the other items as well: And these signs will accompany those who believe.

When a Christian drinks poisoned tea offered by a witch-doctor, he should refer to this Scripture and believe that God will protect him and that it will not harm him. Poison can only harm us when we allow it to do so - when we believe it will harm us. How many people today believe that poison, poison that comes as part of our food from all sorts of chemicals and preservatives added by the food factories, will do harm to them. It might be a good idea so avoid such food and eat biologically alive and fresh things, but it is also a good idea not to believe in the harm that such chemicals and poisons can do to us. What is really harming us is the fear of these substances; our body is so designed that it can cope with such things and our body is such a wonderful machine that is very able to repair itself - we just have to believe. But we still should eat and drink healthy stuff and not things that make us feel bad and hinder our physical life and well-being as well as our spiritually life and welfare.

And when we rely on this Scripture whilst praying for the sick, we not only have to place our hands on the sick person, but we also have to believe that the person is getting well because we are laying hands on them.

We have to believe that we have this authority; it is a matter of faith. If we do something in the name of Jesus, we can compare it to being employed by a company. We work, act, handle business, place orders and deal with people outside the company. These people know that we are working for that company; that they are dealing with that company when they are dealing with us. They know that the company is able to pay for goods we have ordered in the name of the company. We might not have that kind of money, but the company has. That is how it is with us Christians. When we heal somebody in the name of Jesus then it does not mean that we heal an organ destroyed by cancer, but that God does. The actual healing is done by God; we just do the laying on of hands and the believing.

On this level of faith - victorious faith - we find people to whom the following applies:

Spiritually alive,
doers of God's will,
in fellowship with the Father,
knowledge of their contract: Old and New Testament,
knowledge of their position in Christ,
walking in forgiveness and in love,
led by the Holy Spirit,
praising and thanking God,
calling things that are not as though they were,
binding the devil and loosing blessings,
living by faith and not by sight,
defeats are never accepted,
God's word is always final authority,
practising the presence of God,
full of faith.

They are people who conquer as Jesus conquered. To conquer means that we are not conquered by the devil but that we conquer the devil. To have victory means that we are not led by our own self but by Jesus. The word "overcome" has exactly that meaning that Jesus is giving it when he uses it seven times in his promises to the seven churches in Revelation chapter 2 and 3.

Our example is always Jesus. But there are other examples; we find victorious Christians around us and described in the Old and in the New Testament. King David is a good example. We should study what he said to Goliath before he defeated him (1 Samuel 17:45-47). Firstly, David said that Goliath comes with the weapons of the world but he, David, is fighting in the spiritual world because he comes in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel. Then he spoke the solution, that the Lord will hand over Goliath to him, that he will strike him down and that he will cut off his head. And then David even spoke of the destruction of the whole Philistine army and concludes that the battle is the Lord's.

David was in a very unfavourable situation, but he believed and confessed what would take place later. Even when he spoke to his brothers and to the king, before he went to the place of battle, he was conscious of his authority. He even encouraged the king: "Let no man's heart fail because of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:32).

David knew his contract with God; he knew his testament: it was the Old Testament. He had gained experience of God's testament. He had been keeping his father's sheep and when a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, he went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned to him, he seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. He had killed both the lion and the bear. David had experience; he had practised, he knew he could rely on his covenant partner; the Lord had delivered him already from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear. We have to practise our faith in small things so that we are ready for the big trials.

Jesus also always conquered and he taught his disciples how to conquer. In Acts 3:6 we see how Peter told the crippled beggar, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to walk; he spoke with authority, because he knew his contract; our New Testament. Paul also knew this agreement God had made with him. He said in Acts 16:18, "I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her" and at that moment the spirit left her.

David, Jesus, Peter and Paul spoke the prayer of intercession and they did it with authority.

Finally we want to mention a level of faith that exists, but does not really fit into our sequence. We talk about believers whom the Holy Spirit equips in certain situations with a supernatural faith. It is a special gift for a special purpose, given for a special situation and controlled by the Holy Spirit. The person that the Holy Spirit uses does not exercise an influence over this gift. Paul mentions this gift of faith in 1 Corinthians 12:9. It is there for our benefit, and we should desire it. It is one of the nine spiritual gifts. Being used by the Holy Spirit in this gift of faith is not dependent on having arrived at one of the previously mentioned levels of faith. God can use somebody in the gift of faith without this person being otherwise strong in faith.

A person that acts due to this supernatural gift of faith experiences in his heart a definite, very strong spiritual certainty and proceeds accordingly. These gifts of the spirit are important, because they cause, if the person acts on them, supernatural events that bring faith to the observer.

Table 2: "Faith Levels" comprises a summary of our theme. This comparison table shows the different levels of faith and should be used to recapitulate what we have discussed.

If we want to become strong faith people we have to do some work: we have to renew our thinking and start practising the things we have learned. To read this book will not be enough. We have to come back again and again and pick up the details and put them into practice. We have to become wise. A wise person gains knowledge, but that is not enough. To have knowledge but not using it is not very helpful. A really wise person uses his knowledge - he puts his knowledge into action.

 

 

Table 2

Faith Levels

 

Level of Faith

Example

Gift of Faith

Supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit

Believers

1Co 12:9

Victorious Faith

People who believe that the word of God that they speak out of their own mouth will accomplish what it says: They call things that are not as though they were

David

1Sa 17:46

Abigail

1Sa 25:26

Jesus

Mt Mk Lk Jn

70 Disciples

Lk 10:1-20

Believers

Mk 16:17-18

Peter

Ac 3:1-10

Paul

Ac 16:18

The two witnesses

Re 11:3-14

The overcomers

Re 12:11

Great Faith

People who believe in the word of God

Canaanite woman

Mt 15:21-28
Mk 7:25-30

Centurion

Mt 8:5-13
Lk 7:1-10

Faith

People believe in God and in the supernatural and a point of contact helps them to apply it.

Woman subject to bleeding

Mt 9:20-22
Mk 5:24-34
Lk 8:42-48

Jairus

Mt 9:18-26
Mk 5:21-43
Lk 8:40-56

Bartimaeus

Mt 20:29-34
Mk 10:46-52
Lk 18:35-43

Sinful woman

Lk 7:36-50

10 Lepers

Lk 17:11-19

Sick in the shadow

Ac 5:15

Doubt

It is a wavering between faith in the supernatural and being impressed by what the senses perceive and inclines to the latter

People who worry

Mt 6:24-34

Disciples in the storm

Mt 8:23-27
Mk 4:35-41
Lk 8:22-25

Peter walks on water

Mt 14:22-23

Disciples forgot bread

Mt 16: 5-12

Disciples casting out

Mt 17:14-21

Father of son with dumb spirit

Mt 17:14-18
Mk 9:14-27
Lk 9:37-43

Little Faith

People only believe in the supernatural after it has happened and after they have checked it out

Nathanael

Jn 1:50

Disciples

Jn 2:22

Many people

Jn 2:23

Nicodemus

Jn 3:12

Thomas

Jn 20:24-29

Unbelief

People that perceive signs and miracles with their senses but reject them and therefore reject Jesus

People in Jesusí home town

Mt 13:54-58
Mk 6: 1- 6

Unbelievers in Jerusalem

Jn 12:37-50

 

 

This is the end of the 5. Chapter of "How to Measure Your Believes."

Next chapter: 6. Questions

Contents see: "How to Measure Your Beliefs

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