by NAKKOLACKAL V.L EAPEN
“God is Spirit.” (Jn. 4:24). Being made in His image and likeness, man is a spiritual being, NOT a rational animal, as taught by the ancient Greeks. God the Father sees us always as spiritual beings, and calls us to live victorious abundant lives in His Son, Jesus Christ, and be”more than conquerors”, “blessed with all spiritual blessings”, “complete in Him”, “to reign in life”, “to prosper, be in health, even as our souls prosper” etc.
In utter disregard of the Heavenly Father’s persistent call, believers mostly live in bondage to fear, doubt, worry, resentment, self-pity etc. which are ALL forms or variations of UNBELIEF. Unbelief is NOT the absence of belief; it is NEGATIVE, WRONG or ILL-DIRECTED belief. For instance, when we ‘fear’ that we may not be healed, we ‘believe’ in the symptoms of our sickness; when we ‘doubt’ the prospect of our being short-listed for promotion, we ‘believe’ in the likelihood of our being overlooked or ignored; when we ‘worry’ about our future, we ‘believe’ in the probability of our failing or lagging behind in the future and when we feel overwhelmed by the odds against us, we ‘believe’ in their invincibility while denying the overriding power of Almighty God. Likewise, ‘resentment’ is the byproduct of our ‘belief’ in the hopelessness of our current plight, and ‘self-pity’, the proof or symptom of our ‘belief’ in the inevitability and irreversibility of fate. Wrong belief rationalizes failure, condones sin, accepts ailments and concedes defeat. Wrong belief magnifies obstacles, brings them in bold relief, and thus, handcuffs the One Who, at Nazareth, “could do no mighty works … and marveled because of their unbelief.”
Faith, on the other hand, is RIGHT, PROPER or WELL-DIRECTED belief. IT IS TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD. It is believing that God means what He says in His Word, the Holy Bible. It is trusting that God is faithful enough to fulfill, without fail, what He has promised in His word. God promises: “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.” (Psalm 92: 15-16). There is then no reason for anyone to be anxious and worried. God further promises, “With His stripes, we are healed.” In fulfillment of that promise, the Risen Jesus will descend from heaven, with His ministering angels, to bind and cast out the afflicting spirits of infirmity, and heal us if we accept that promise with unwavering faith. Praise and glory be unto the Lord “Who keeps faith for ever.” (Psalm 146:6).
It is not out of context to examine the implications of fear now. We have the innate capacity ‘for’ fear, but we are NOT born ‘with’ fear. The capacity for fear is implanted to facilitate self-preservation by being cautious and by guarding against danger. WE ALONE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN FEARS. “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7). The characteristics of fear are the following:
In Numbers 13 and 14 is the tale of the twelve spies whom Moses sent on surveillance to the Land of Promise. Ten spies believed in the GIANTS and said, “They are stronger than we.” Two believed in the promises of God and said, “The Lord is with us; fear them not.” Their assessment of the same situation is diametrically opposite in accordance with the level of their faith and the condition of their hearts. Ten looked at the giants, and felt like being dwarfs. Two, Joshua and Caleb, focused on God, and the giants became dwarfed in their sight. For the ten, the giants were not outside, but INSIDE them. They were overcome with FEAR – i.e. unbelief or wrong belief.
The heart of FAITH and the heart of FEAR view, for instance, a Bypass Surgery in opposite perspectives. The heart of Faith says, ‘What a unique opportunity for complete recovery!’ The heart of FEAR says, “Oh, it is awesome, scary and risky,” forgetting that NO risk is too big for the Nazarene to tackle and surmount.
St. Paul exhorts us to walk BY FAITH and not BY SIGHT. A ‘spiritual’ man walks by faith, unlike a ‘natural’ man, who walks by sight. Walking by faith is the same as walking through fire WITHOUT the fear of being burnt, and emerging UNSCATHED. Mark 9:23 declares, “… all things are possible to him that believes.” Walking ‘by faith’ means walking ‘in the Spirit’, and walking in the Spirit is walking in the awareness and assurance of our regenerate life in Christ Jesus, and His in us. “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Cor. 5:17). As we learn walking in the Spirit day after day, our faith correspondingly starts increasing by leaps and bounds. In Gal. 5: 22&23 faith is named as a fruit of the Spirit. Constant praise and thanksgiving are the means to cultivate faith in our lives. So is the Word of God. Rom. 10:17 states, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.” (Revised Std. Version). In the New King James Version, the same reads, “So then faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Hearing and/or reading the Word of God is sustenance or nourishment for faith.
‘Faith’ is, in fact, a faculty of the ‘inward man’, which is the indwelling spirit, whereas ‘Fear’ is the ‘acquired’ frailty of the ‘outward man’. “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16 – NKJV). Renewal is through abiding or enduring faith in Christ Jesus. Faith is the inward certainty, confidence or conviction that transcends and goes beyond the senses. It is the assured anticipation of things, yet imperceptible to the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. We need to accept the answers to our prayers with an inward assurance BEFORE we can experience them outwardly in a material/physical sense. For instance, accepting the desired healing inwardly, even when the symptoms persist outwardly.
Often we hear people say that nothing happens in spite of their intense faith. Faith that does not translate itself into the desired outcome is ‘dead’. The Lord’s advice in Lk. 8:50 is, “Do not fear, only believe.” Personal faith has infinite potential unless limited by a believer himself or herself through fear, doubt etc. The sky is the limit. Vicarious faith too works effectively – e.g. our being blessed on account of others’ prayers for us.
Undergoing Bypass Surgery is similar to walking “Through the valley of the shadow of death.” Thanks be to God that it can comfortably be walked through BY FAITH, adhering to the steps listed below.
I conclude with the prayer, may the Compassionate Lord’s consolations cheer our souls when the cares of our hearts are many.