Faith in Faith

A friend… said, “You were healed by faith.” “Oh, no,” I said, “I was healed by Christ.” What is the difference? There is a great difference. There came a time when even faith seemed to come between me and Jesus. I thought I should have to work up the faith, so I laboured to get the faith. At last I thought I had it; that if I put my whole weight upon it, it would hold. I said, when I thought I had got the faith, “Heal me.” I was trusting in myself, in my own heart, in my own faith. I was asking the Lord to do something for me because of something in me, not because of something in Him. A. B. Simpson (Canadian preacher, theologian, author, and founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

I have yet to meet a Christian who does not agree with the above verse. It is, in fact, the archetypical and classic Biblical definition of faith, and Christians right across the globe regard it as such.

Sadly, not everyone agrees on the meaning of these words. I was recently reminded of this when told of a well meaning Christian who blamed the cause of an elderly person’s sickness on her lack of faith. She did not understand the formula of faith, it seems. If only she could be certain of her unseen healing, if only she could be sure of the healing she hoped for, God would raise her up.

It seems we have to choose between a ‘faith in faith’ and a ‘faith in God’ approach when reading Hebrews 11.

Having faith in faith could be described as having faith in one’s own ability to believe, in the potential unleashed thereby, and in the outcome of your wishes. Faith, according to this thinking, is an impersonal force operating in line with universal principles quite independent of the practitioner’s religious beliefs. For this reason, religious systems as diverse as Shamanism, New Thought metaphysics, various branches of Occultism and certain streams of modern Christianity, as well as much contemporary motivational theory, are characterized by it.

Having faith in God is quite different. According to this view, the ‘unseen’ refers to the sovereign God Himself, and ‘what we hope for’ to an eternal reward, or ‘heavenly country’ (verse16). This is confirmed by the fact that none of the faith-heroes of Hebrews 11 ‘received what had been promised’ whilst on earth (verse 39), and neither shall we (verse 40). The focus is clearly on God’s ability, God’s wishes and God’s kingdom, not ours.

These two types of faith are so far apart that they cannot be reconciled. I think I shall settle for the latter interpretation. How about you?