Building People of Substance for Works of Power
I’m Grateful for the Word of Faith.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.Hebrews 11:6 NLT
Just recently I’ve seen a resurgence of a mosquito that has been trying to bite me since 1980. That’s when I first got among the folks who were known as “Word of Faith” people. I was a spiritual babe, but I liked what I found there. These people were fired up! It wasn’t long before I learned that not everyone was thrilled with this group. In my first pastorate I was called names such as “Prosperity Cult,” “Name it and Claim It,” and “Faith-Healer.” When we moved to New York in 1985, one fellow had the audacity to say we were just like Jim and Tammy (Google it). If you know us, that ought to give you a chuckle. Please, bear with me while I vent just a bit.
Certainly, over the years some of our “faith” crowd have done and said things that caused me to cringe. I am not a little god. God wants to heal all, but I know not all are healed. Going to the doctor or the twelve-step group is not a sin, or even unbelief. And the guy who said you would get rich if you gave him a buck is probably either over-zealous or under-ethical. All that aside, this message of being doers of the Word of God and expecting His promises to be fulfilled took me out of the doldrums of addiction and depression and gave my life purpose and hope. I’ll take it.
It occurred to me that there is no central authority who can define what it means to be “Word of Faith.” Most critics name people, and cite passages from some sermon or book, but the doctrinal peccadillos of the few don’t define the beliefs and practices of an entire movement, or for any individual who has been therewith associated. So, for my own edification and hopefully yours, check out some of these personal favorite distinctives:
What is the “Word of Faith” – the good, the bad and even the ugly?
- The Bible is truth. Jesus said, “Thy Word is truth.” (John 17:17) If I can dig in and find what God says about something, then I can count on that to be true. His Word is His will.
- The Good: I learned to search the Word for the guidelines to life. If the Bible says I am righteous, then I am. If it says He heard me when I prayed, then He did. If it says Jesus is coming back, then look up! This has changed many devastated lives.
- The not so good: Poor Bible interpretation can lead to some very odd doctrines. (See “little gods”) Many of the faith bunch had little or no training on such things and made some egregious errors. Good heart, bad hermeneutics.
- The power of the tongue. James 3 is a primer on the importance of what comes out of my mouth. It also tells me that what I say springs from my heart.
- The good: I learned that I could speak to the devil and he has to go. My life was forever changed when I learned that the faith in my heart found expression in the words of my mouth. I also learned that the real battle is to guard my heart. Ephesians 6:17 / 2 Corinthians 4:13 / Matthew 12:34
- The not so good: Some folks got the idea that they could simply say something enough times and it would come to pass. That is delusional or fantasy at best and witchcraft at worst. In fact, it easily evolves into a doctrine of works and with God, works never works.
- The authority of the believer. In Eph 1:15-2:6 Paul prayed for a revelation of the power released toward us in the resurrection. We are seated with Christ in a position of eternal authority over all the forces of darkness.
- The good: I learned that I could quit talking about the mountain and start speaking to it. What a change, from beggar to king! Thank you, Jesus, for the Name that’s above every name. In His Name I can do Kingdom business. Philippians 2:9-10 / Mark 16:15-18 / Luke 10:17 / Acts 19:12-16 / Matthew 17:20/Luke 17:6/ / Mark 11:23
- The not so good: The only thing that comes to mind is the groups who decided that every bad thing is directly caused by demons. This leads to trying to cast out stuff that is just flesh. It doesn’t work. (Anybody remember the little barf bags for spitting up devils?) For some, their prayer life is spent yelling at evil stuff instead of talking to their Father. Not good.
- Seed plant and harvest. The whole Kingdom works on this simple principle. The Scripture says “seed” can be the Word, money, good works, or even people. Plant them, water them, be patient, and harvest comes.
- The good: Another life-changer. Have a need? Plant a seed! So simple, so sweet, and so true. This changed my financial life and my interpersonal relationships in profound ways. I’m living in the harvest. Mark 4:1-21, 26-29 / Gal 6:6-9 / 2 Corinthians 9:6-10.
- The not so good: For whatever reason, this idea got twisted into a “get-rich-quick” scheme for some. “If you send me the offering, you’ll reap 100 times over.” I have to be careful not to judge, but just don’t be gullible. Give where you know what is being done and don’t give with avarice in your heart. Generosity is safe. Greed is not.
- The Holy Spirit as Person. He is real and He is in me. He teaches me, guides me, and empowers me for ministry. Thank you, Jesus.
- The good: Wow! Too many good things to count. He is in me to guide and correct. He is on me to empower. I have a hard time imagining life without the baptism with the Spirit. Yes, I pray in tongues, and it’s wonderful! I am edified, and I can pray when I don’t know what to pray for. The so-called gifts of the Spirit are real, and they have positively impacted my life. John 16:7 / 1 Corinthians 6:19 / Acts 1:8 / 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 / 1 Corinthians 14:2-5,13-15
- The not so good: As with anything subjective and anything that produces emotional responses, there are strange things done in the name of the Spirit. When there is no accountability, no testing by the Word, no real eldership to judge, people just flat make things up. Pastor, take your place and protect your people. People, find a good pastor and stick with him.
- God is good. This may be the greatest thing the “Word of Faith” folks have given me. I thought God had it in for me. I knew I deserved it. But the truth of His positive attitude toward me still brings tears to my eyes.
- The good: I am loved. God is not mad at me. He is my Father, and He will never mistreat me. He provides for me because I’m His child. He heals me for the same reason. He corrects my errors by His word and by His Spirit and will keep me until I see Him face to face. 1 Chronicles 16:34 / 2 Chronicles 5:13, 7:3 / Ezra 3:11 / Psalm 106:1/ 107: 1 /118:1 / 136:1-26 / Jeremiah 33:11 / Matthew 7:7-11 / Acts 10:38
- The not so good: I can’t think of any downside to knowing that God is good. In fact, if you start questioning His goodness, be careful. You are headed for deception. ( James 1:16,17)
There are probably other things I could list, but these are the big ones in my life.
I was blessed to be a student at Rhema Bible Training Center way back when Kenneth E. Hagin was teaching every day. I went there expecting to learn faith. Oddly enough, my two biggest take-aways were the primacy of God’s Word and the importance of living in love.
Somebody Said: “If you want to walk in the perfect will of God and experience His richest and best for your life, you’ve got to do the perfect will of God. That requires honoring and obeying God and His Word.” Kenneth E. Hagin
“When you walk in love, you fulfill the Law — all of God’s requirements. Without love, you won’t be able to walk in God’s ways because God is love” Kenneth E. Hagin
Here’s the Point: I am a grateful product of the Word of Faith movement. I am painfully aware of many of the excesses and deficiencies, but the net impact has been very positive in my life. Indeed, I have had the privilege of knowing many ministers who came from the same stream, and the vast majority are good people who love God and lay down their lives for others. These people never make the headlines, but they do make a difference.