WHAT FAITH IS AND IS NOT

Randy Alcorn lost his wife Nanci recently due to cancer. Obviously Nanci and Randy prayed for healing when they first learned the bad news. Fortunately, both learned a great deal about God through the experience and as a result, their trust and faith in God increased. Moreover, we are benefiting now from Randy sharing their story with us

Nanci Alcorn, wife to best-selling author Randy Alcorn has passed away on March 28th after a long batter with colon cancer.

On November 14, 2019, Nanci wrote the following in her journal:

Today I am thinking about “faith.” I have learned so much about faith.

What faith is not:

Trying to gather as much hope and “possibilities” in my own mind to reach a certain level.

Believing in that level of possibilities as hard as I can.

Presenting that package of my own hopes and dreams to God as my personal qualification to receive my hopes and dreams

God weighing the level of that package in order to determine the level of His answer to my prayers If I work up enough hope on my own, God will answer my prayers according to my wishes

What faith is:

A deep and continued study of the character and work of God Almighty

A deep and continued discipline of prayer—listening to the Holy Spirit—praying Scripture—seeking forgiveness—asking for enlightenment—praising Him for His character and works

Then, based upon the above, submit your requests to God Almighty—placing your well-grounded knowledge of His character and works into each request, always asking His will be done

Faith is being assured that God Almighty always acts according to His character and works. He never waivers. You can trust in God Almighty to always do the right thing. Nothing slips through His grid. God has everything planned, and all His plans will succeed.

The more I understand God’s character and works, the stronger my faith will be, and the more I want His will to be done knowing God does all things well.

The more I understand God’s: – Omniscience, Omnipotence, Grace, Mercy, Justice/Worth, Immanence, Immutability, Faithfulness, Love, Unity, Trinity, Holiness. The more my faith in Him will calm my soul.

Randy adds the following:

Some people hold tenaciously to a faith that their child will not die, that their cancer will disappear, and that their spouse will recover from a stroke. Do they have faith in God or is their faith in what they desperately want God to do?

If we base our faith on lack of affliction, our faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart at any moment because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. Token faith will not survive suffering, nor should it. Only when we jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can we replace it with valid faith in the true God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life’s tests.

God tells us that trials in which evil and suffering come upon us “have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). Paul Tournier wrote, “If healing through faith is striking, how much more so are spiritual victories without healing.”

Several years ago, before Nanci was diagnosed with cancer, I wrote this in a blog titled “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”:

We should pray for ourselves and our suffering loved ones, not simply try to pray away suffering. ‘God, please heal this cancer is appropriate. ‘God, please use for your glory this cancer, so long as I have it’ is equally appropriate.

Let me be clear: God can and sometimes does heal presently, and whenever He does we should celebrate His mercy! I have often prayed for healing and sometimes I have witnessed it, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold and celebrate. But ultimately, all healing in this world is temporary, since people’s bodies inevitably deteriorate and die (after Lazarus died and was risen in his mortal body, eventually he had to die again) Resurrection healing will be permanent. For that our hearts should overflow with praise to our gracious God.

Nanci and I have long known that prosperity theology, or the health and wealth gospel, is a deception, not the true gospel. So we did not even once cling to the “certainty” that God would heal her in this world under the Curse.

Nanci’s journals overflow with the promises of God, and many quotes from Spurgeon and the Puritans, people who died long ago (some of whom she probably already met—if there is a line for those waiting to meet Spurgeon, she’s probably in it having delightful conversations). Nanci never quoted from aging and dying prosperity preachers, who will all die of something and daily get closer to death even as they promise “It’s always God’s will to heal you,” typically adding “send us your prayer requests for healing, along with a love offering [money].”

Though we prayed for it every night for four years, we understood that healing was never a certainty, and also knowing full well that sometimes He chooses to heal and sometimes He doesn’t, and even when He does the healing is temporary, and death always comes. “For death is the destiny of every person, and the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). When doctors told us Nanci was going to die, she told me, “We always knew that, we just didn’t know when, and we still don’t.”

But of course, God promises the death of death. He will not let it die a natural death, He will decisively “swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8). Death will not have the last word. God will.

Jesus said to Martha, mourning the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Answering the question Jesus asked Martha, Nanci and I both said yes—we DO believe you, Jesus. We believe that even when we die, we will live, and in the sense of final death, we will never die at all. We will depart a cursed earth to live with Him in the present Heaven, from which He will one day bring our spirits down to join our bodies in resurrection, and we will then live forever on God’s New Earth.

Randy, God does not bring our spirits down to join our bodies in the resurrection. God raises the dead first and then raptures the living Saints and they meet Jesus in the air in their new bodies (changed in an instant). Later, they come down from heaven in their resurrected bodies to rule and reign with Jesus during His Millennial reign on this earth.

For the Lord, himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.1 Corinthians 15:52-53

IN WHOM DO YOU TRUST AND FOR WHAT?

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday ... Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.Psalms 91:1-6, 9-11

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.

Now, this magnificent poem does not necessarily mean that the faithful – those who dwell “in the shelter of the Most High”– will not get the pestilence or suffer the other afflictions mentioned. 

Satan used this Psalm in his temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:5-7), trying to get him to invoke its promise that angels “will bear you up” by throwing himself off from the pinnacle of the Temple.  But such an interpretation, Jesus points out, would be to put God to the test, violating Deuteronomy 6:16.

But those who trust God as their refuge will be delivered from the evil of the pestilence and from fear of it.

Look at these promises of God to David. They are yours if you hold fast to God in love.

Because He holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect Him because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life, I will satisfy him and show him my salvation
.” Psalms 91:14-16

OBEDIENCE AND LISTENING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

These interviews and testimonies will help you to acknowledge the necessary actions we need to take to disciple and make a difference in other peoples lives. There is 6 minutes of introductory music so you can do something else while you listen to the delightful music but the testimonies that follow are worth the wait. The TLR movement is being used by God mightily to bring many into God’s Kingdom. The healings and the miracles demonstrate that the power is back in the church as disciples move out into the marketplace totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do ministry. For me in Australia it was wonderful to learn what God is doing in Eastern Europe. It is wonderful to see how God was moving in wonderful ways so it was obvious God was doing the work. His children were just doing His will. The testimony of the couple Abraham and Annemarie Levy is powerful. You must listen to them on “love”, Abraham makes three important observations of being a disciple that stand out: “You cannot follow Jesus without sacrifice”, “You must deliberately bury your own life”, “The flesh will always war against the spirit”, tough but exciting when you learn what God has done and is doing with their lives. If you live in Poland make sure you connect with this couple.

HOW DO YOU PRAY?

DO YOU BELIEVE ?

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:12

God is able “to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or thinkEphesians 3:20

Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8

You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2

Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” Hebrews 4:16

But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” Matthew. 17:21

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.John 15:7

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What are you petitioning God for in this new year? Are you desiring to go into the land promised to you by the Lord? Whatever you are taking to the Lord in prayer, refuse to advance without His presence and intimate fellowship with Him. Refuse to view other people as a structure to build your own platform. Value the relationships God has cultivated in your life. Give honour to them without idolising them, all the while maintaining that deep personal relationship with God, giving thanks to Him in everything.

Moses understood that unless the Lord went with them there was no point going anywhere. Same goes with us, unless we know we are hearing rightly from God, then spend more time in prayer, prayer and fasting if necessary until breakthrough comes. It will, if you are serious and have a humble and contrite heart.

If your presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how will it be known that I have found favour in Your sight, I and your People? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we will be distinguished, I and Your people, from all the people who are on the face of the earth?Exodus 33:15-16

Remember also, vague prayers are inferior to specific ones.

TRUST AND OBEY FOR THERE’S NO OTHER WAY

Deuteronomy should make us conscious of our responsibility for obedience.

Deuteronomy is a record of the words that Moses spoke to the people of Israel just prior to their entering the Promised Land. In fact, the first line of the books states, “These are the words,” giving Deuteronomy its Hebrew title Devarim – “Words.” The original adults who fled Egypt have all passed away, and a new generation has risen up. God is going to give them great victory against their enemies in Canaan, but many temptations are also going to face them. Moses gives the Israelite’s one last sermon to reiterate God’s instructions for them.

The children were not held responsible for the cowardice of their parents. They were assured possession of the land while the parents were sent back to the desert. The author of Hebrews later points to the wilderness strewn with the corpses of that faithless generation as a grim reminder.

There are consequences for lacking confidence in God’s power.

God provided for the Israelites. He did huge miracles on their behalf. He wanted to bring them into the Land, but He had to let the faithless parents die in the desert. He could not pollute the land with unbelievers right from the beginning.

When we fail to appreciate the power and love of God, it’s like we’re poking a finger in His eye.

That’s disturbing stuff. We get enamoured with grace, but we fail to realise some of these implications. God loves us completely, and He has tremendous patience with us. That’s why it is such an incredible insult to suggest He doesn’t love us. He gave us everything. He gave us His Son. All eternity is ours because of God’s self-sacrifice. How can we be so cruel and foolish to think for a moment He doesn’t love us or that He can’t be trusted?

Trusting God is loving God. If we trust Him, though, that also means we trust Him enough to obey Him. Real trust says, “I know Your way is best.” 

We are saved through the blood of Jesus, not by our works. However, in His seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, Jesus repeatedly offers rewards to the “overcomer.” Overcoming is incredibly important. The fruit of our lives is at stake. The lives of other people are at stake. Our rewards in Heaven are at stake. Moses was saved, but he didn’t get to enter the Promised Land he’d worked so hard to reach.

Let’s get to the end of our lives and be able to say, “I fought the good fight. I finished the race.”

LIKE PAUL & HARRY, WE NEED TO ASK, WHAT SHALL I DO, LORD?

So I said, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord said to me, “Arise and go….”  Acts 22:10

In his autobiography, Our Incredible Journey, Word of Life co-founder Harry Bollback and his wife, Millie, wrote about their years of missionary service in Brazil, where they lived in very primitive circumstances. “Living under these conditions was truly difficult,” Harry wrote. “But neither of us thought of it as being hard at the time. We had made a decision to serve the Lord, and we were just doing what we thought the Lord would have us do. We were enjoying the good hand of God’s blessings.”

In Acts 22, the apostle Paul recounted his conversion for the Jewish Ruling Counsel. He told them of the light that blinded him on the Damascus Road, and he recounted the two questions he asked God: “Who are You, Lord?” (verse 8) and “What shall I do, Lord?” (verse 10)

When we come to Christ for salvation, we need to ask, “What do You want me to do?” Then, we just need to have a submissive spirit to His guidance, and He’ll use us in ways beyond our expectation.

I’m convinced that when you are serving the Lord, there is never a question of sacrifice. It’s just doing what we are supposed to be doing for His glory. You don’t think of the sacrifice—you think of your mission.
Harry Bollback

ARE WE BLOCKING THE FLOW OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?

“Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thess. 5:19  “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit..” Ephes. 4:30

This testimony by J Lee Grady will challenge you. He was editor of Charisma Magazine for 11 years before he launched into full time Holy Spirit led ministry.

flow-of-holy-spirit

A few years ago the Lord challenged me about my level of spiritual hunger. He showed me that even though I had stood in many prayer lines and repeatedly sung the words, “Lord, I want more of You,” I wasn’t as passionate for Him as I thought I was.

My church sponsored a conference on the Holy Spirit. At the close of one service, I was lying on the floor near the altar, asking God for another touch of His power. Several other people were kneeling at the communion rail and praying quietly for each other.

Suddenly I began to have a vision. In my mind I could see a large pipeline, at least eight feet in diameter. I was looking at it from the inside, and I could see a shallow stream of golden liquid flowing at the bottom. The oil in the giant pipe was only a few inches deep.

I began a conversation with the Lord.

“What are You showing me?” I asked.

“This is the flow of the Holy Spirit in your life,” He answered.

It was not an encouraging picture; it was pitiful! The capacity of the pipeline was huge—enough to convey tons of oil. Yet only a trickle was evident.

Then I noticed something else: Several large valves were lined up along the sides of the pipeline, and each of them was shut.

I wanted to ask the Lord why there was so little oil in my life. Instead I asked: “What are those valves, and why are they closed?”

His answer stunned me. “Those represent the times when you said no. Why should I increase the level of anointing if you aren’t available to use it?”

The words stung. When had I said no to God? I was overcome with emotion and began to repent. I recalled different excuses I had made and limitations I had placed on how He could use me.

I had told Him that I didn’t want to be in front of crowds because I wasn’t a good speaker. I had told Him that if I couldn’t preach like T.D. Jakes does, then I didn’t want to speak at all. I had told Him that I didn’t want to address certain issues or go certain places. I had placed so many cumbersome conditions on my obedience.

After a while I began to see something else in my spirit. It was a huge crowd of African men, assembled as if they were in a large arena. And I saw myself preaching to them.

Nobody had ever asked me to minister in Africa, but I knew at that moment I needed to surrender my will. All I could think to say was the prayer of Isaiah: “Here am I. Send me.” (Is. 6:8). I told God I would go anywhere and say anything He asked. I laid my insecurities, fears and inhibitions on the altar.

Three years later I stood at a pulpit inside a sports arena in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. As I addressed a crowd of 8,000 pastors who had assembled there for a training conference, I remembered seeing their faces in that vision. And I realised that God had opened a new valve in my life that day when I was on the floor of my church. Because I had said yes, He had increased the flow of His oil so that it could reach thousands.

Many of us have a habit of asking for more of God’s power and anointing. But what do we use it for? He doesn’t send it just to make us feel good.

We love to go to the altar for a touch from God. We love the goose bumps, the shaking, the emotion of the moment. We love to fall on the floor and experience one filling after another. But I am afraid some of us are soaking up the anointing but not giving it away. Our charismatic experience has become inward and selfish. We get up off the floor and live like we want to.

Pentecost is not a party. If we truly want to be empowered, we must offer God an unqualified yes. We must crucify every no. We must become a conduit to reach others, not a reservoir with no outlet.

Search your own heart today and see if there are any closed valves in your pipeline. As you surrender them, the locked channels will open, and His oil will flow out to a world that craves to know He is real.