Experiential Faith

Hebrews 11:1 is a very familiar scripture to anyone who has studied about faith. Hebrews 11:1 (amplified): “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” We have heard it quoted many times, showing us that we need faith in order to receive from God. But the truth is, if that is all this scripture means, then faith could be construed as manipulating God to get what we want. Anything we believe for, so long as someone in the bible believed along the same lines, we can have. However, once we come to understand the larger picture, we see that there is a little more to it than that. Faith (according to Webster’s Dictionary) is an assurance of a belief that one’s desires may be attained, combined with confidence and an expectation of attainment. Assurance, as defined by Webster, is a pledge furnishing ground of full confidence. In this particular verse, the word assurance in the Greek is “Hupostasis”, a noun that conveys the idea of a state of being; the strength of a foundation; steadfastness and confidence. In other translations, faith is the “substance” of things hoped for. Substance means “that of which a thing consists or is made up; that which is real.” So in other words, faith is made up of something real, something we know to be true thrown forward into the future. When reading this verse, we may overlook the word hope, but hope is a significant component to faith. It is very difficult to have faith without hope because hope is what you tie your faith to; it’s what gets the experience out of the past into the future. Many people beat themselves up because they believe they don’t have enough faith, when in reality, in order to have faith, we must have hope. When our hope is eroded away, our faith becomes hollow and lacks living quality. If faith is all we are considering in this equation, we can judge ourselves very harshly when our faith seems weak. Proverbs 13:12 (NKJ): “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” The preceding proverb describes the condition that we find ourselves in without hope; we become depressed, our heart is sick and we are unable to sustain our faith. However, when the desire comes, it is a tree of life! What happens when we experience answered prayer, or see the hand of God at work in our lives? Life comes flooding back in, hope returns and our outlook improves! Faith becomes much stronger! Hope (Webster’s Dictionary): The belief that one’s desires may be attained; trust; someone or something in which confidence is placed; the thing hoped for or desired; to have hope with the expectation of attainment. In Ephesians 3:17-19, Paul prays for the Ephesians that they would come to know the attributes of God’s love in personal experience. He wants them to be strengthened with power by the Spirit, to know the love of Christ. That personal experience creates the faith, which allows Christ to dwell in their hearts. It is by this kind of experience I can share with those I counsel who I know the Lord to be, His character and His nature. When someone expresses to me that the Lord has abandoned them I can say with complete assurance that abandonment is not in His nature. It is NOT something He is capable of doing. Paul expressed to the Ephesians the same process that we must go through in developing our own faith. Let’s look at an example of what this is like in scripture. One of the best examples of taking past experience known to be true about God and throwing it into a place of hope, is the story of David and Goliath. David came to Saul and told him he wanted to go out and fight Goliath. Saul responded by doubting David’s abilities because he was so young. In turn, David told Saul of the times when he was tending his sheep, having been attacked by wild animals and having overcome them. In I Samuel 17:37 he describes faith perfectly. “David said, The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine…” What he was saying was, “The Lord saved me before; it is His nature to defend me and He will do it again.” David made a decision, based on his personal past experience with the Lord, to believe for something that was about to happen. Because we are all different, the Lord gives us different ways to acquire faith, and experiential faith is only one way. Experiential faith works well for those of us who are hands-on learners. Those who are audio learners can learn by hearing about the experiences others have had with the Lord and believe that way, applying what they hear and building on their own experiences with the Lord. (Faith comes by hearing…) Even before we know Him, He can give us a measure of faith, the Gift of Faith, so that we can believe in Him. Then He builds on that faith by showing us Who He is. He gives us experiences to go through where He builds our trust and our faith in Him, a little at a time, so that when the hard circumstances come, there is enough faith built in us to see us through. We reach a point where, as II Cor 5:7 says, “...we walk by faith and not by sight.” We can walk through a set of circumstances, knowing that whatever we are facing, it cannot withstand the character of God and that, in the end, He will cause us to have victory. Our hope is set in the unchangeable nature of our Lord. One important point to remember about faith is that we are not telling God what to do by having faith. We believe in His unchanging character and faithfulness to bring us through to the other side of the circumstances, but we do not tell Him how to do it or what has to happen. Faith has a component of trust within it. We trust the Lord that He knows what is best for us. As we walk through the circumstance, we trust Him to know just exactly how to orchestrate everything so we are walking in victory at the end, even if what we see doesn’t make sense to us. Our obligation is to walk through whatever we are facing in truth. It is not up to us to manipulate people, opinions, or circumstances so they will come out in our favor. God can only honor the truth, so if we are honest on the path, believe that what God has done for us before He will do again, we can just go along for the ride. Individuals develop faith in different areas because we all have different experiences with the Lord. As a counselor, I have great amounts of faith that when I ask the Lord to come heal one of my client’s wounds; He will do it and there will be good fruit. My faith has become strong in that area because I have experienced His faithfulness again and again. Those faithful men and women who work in the Healing Rooms Ministry have superior faith to heal the sick. The word says in James 5:14-15 that if there is anyone sick, others should be called in to pray and their prayers of faith will heal the sick person. Other people have well developed faith in the area of finances. If your faith hasn’t been developed enough in an area, check to see if your hope has been eroded there. Join together with someone whose faith has been strengthened. Let them encourage you, let them pray for you, and let them build up your hope. As a last point, it is important to note that when a person finds no results coming from their faith, it may be time to ask the Lord what is blocking them from receiving. Is there a trust issue that needs healing, or a wrong belief or a decision that has been made which blocks the ability to believe? Does what we believe for come from a wrong motive of the heart? James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Have we interpreted God’s word inaccurately or have we lost hope and now believe in what those painful experiences are saying to us? James says, “And the prayer that is of faith WILL save him who is sick...”(Amplified) James didn’t say “perhaps” or “maybe” or “only at certain times”, he said will. If your faith is not producing good fruit, there is a reason beyond “it simply isn’t working.” The Lord wants you to find out what that reason is so you can know the truth, and the truth will set you free.