. . . but let him ask in faith without any doubting. (James 1:6)
James, the brother of Jesus, the one who calls himself the slave of the Lord Jesus Christ, commands us to consider all things joy. You can never do this without perfect endurance, and without perfect endurance you will not make it to the end. You will be like Solomon, who began well but finished his race shamefully. You need perfect holiness and you will never reach it without perfect wisdom, and you will never gain perfect wisdom without perfect prayer, and lastly, you will never gain perfect prayer without perfect faith. In a day when we preach a truncated gospel, heavy on grace but light on holiness, we need diligently to heed the words of James.
What is perfect faith, how do we get there, and what results from it? James commands us to ask in faith (James 1:6, 5:15). Paul speaks of praying in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18), of being devoted to prayer (Col. 4:2). Jesus promises to answer prayer if we have faith (Matt. 21:21-22). Perfect faith means simply to take God at his word and act on it accordingly. It means you do not doubt, fall into unbelief or uncertainty. It means you do not waver in unbelief or rebellion. Paul tells us that with respect to the promise, Abraham did not waver in unbelief, but grew in faith, giving glory to God (Rom. 4:20). Amazing! Abraham heard Yahweh who told him to leave his pagan lifestyle and move to Canaan where he would give him a son in his old age, making him a father of many nations, providing him a land for his offspring. And when Yahweh commanded him to sacrifice his son, Abraham immediately submitted, not for a moment doubting that God would somehow raise Isaac from the dead if it came to that. Jesus did the same thing in perfect measure. He said that he came, not to do his own will, but the will of him who sent him (John 5:30). This required an unquestioning trust in his heavenly Father.
Like a young child, who not for a moment doubts the provision of his earthly father, we ought to take God at his word. This means, practically, that you know, understand, and apply the promises of God to your specific circumstances. Are you fearful? Talk to yourself and God about the promises that deal with fear. 'Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will be with you. I will help you. Surely I will uphold you by my righteous right hand' (Isa. 41:10). Are you worried, anxious about the future? Say, 'I am to have no anxiety about anything. Instead I am to give thanks to God, making my requests to him, believing he will give me the peace that passes all understanding' (Phil. 4:6-7). Are you worried about your financial situation? Say to God, 'You promise to meet my every need in Christ Jesus' (Phil. 4:19). While God is not guaranteeing your current standard of living, he is promising to provide the basic necessities of life if you seek first his kingdom (Matt. 6:33).
Without this perfect faith you will go nowhere fast. You will be like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6-7). It also means you will get nothing from God. Again, the principle of sowing and reaping applies. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please God, for if we come to him we must believe that he is, that he rewards those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). Could it be that you are not progressing in holiness and faith because you are weighed down in doubt, refusing to take your merciful, all powerful heavenly Fatherís word at face value? Why is God so adamant about the need for us to increase in faith? Because those who hear the word and fail to act upon it are double-minded (literally two-souled), people who at one moment say they trust God but later deny him in abject fear and worry. And double-mindedness makes people unstable in all their ways. The emotionally and psychologically unstable are ravaged by the circumstances of life, not prepared to stand strongly when life comes in like a flood.
How do we get to a place of perfect faith? First, you will not reach it in this life, but this does not preclude your need to seek it! No one rich in faith gets there without extended periods of time alone with God. Jesus, after a day of active ministry, the next morning, before daylight, rose and went out to a lonely place and was praying there (Mark 1:35). When we see the shallowness of the western church, the prayerlessness and powerlessness of so many ministries, should we be surprised to find a survey of evangelical ministers in America revealing that the vast majority of them pray no more than ten minutes per day!1
How much daily time should we spend with God? Thatís like asking how much time a man must spend with his wife. If he loves her then he is lost in the beauty of the time with his beloved. Paul tells Timothy to discipline himself2 for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Simply put ó without extended periods of time alone with God, you should not expect progress in faith or holiness. A man who wants to whip his body into shape does not accomplish it without setting aside time to sweat in the gymnasium. Hereís what I do daily. I am not saying that you must do this, nor am I saying that I have always done this, but I generally spend three hours, from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., six days a week in Bible reading, memorization, and meditation, along with reading for an hour or so in two or three Christian books, followed with thirty minutes in prayer. Do you have a regimen? Perhaps you have a plan for physical exercise. Thatís good, but how much more important is the exercise of your soul!
And what can you expect from perfect faith? You can expect progress in holiness. You can expect a growing stability to your mind and emotions. You can expect the God-given ability to handle the tragedies and disappointments of life. You can expect to finish your race well, dying well, growing in your love for Jesus, longing to be with him, eschewing the things of this world, being most delighted in him.
We donít seek God as we ought because we do not realize our need of him. We are lulled to spiritual slumber and laziness because we have believed the worldís lie that we are good and acceptable to God as we are, that we have what it takes, due to our gifts and status in life, to accomplish whatever we put our minds to do. You are to grow in faith. You are to pursue perfect faith. Will you purpose to run passionately after Christ, acknowledging your desperate need of him, like the desperation of a man who can think only of water to quench his dying thirst!
1. I heard Archie Parrish make this statement in 2000 in a Kingdom Campaign meeting I attended. This is based on a survey he has given hundreds of pastors.
2. The Greek word is gymnazo, from which we get our word gymnasium, to workout, to sweat.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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