"If you just had more faith, you would see more miracles happen in your life." The idea behind this challenging statement has become prevalent in the Christian community and shows no sign of going away. Is it biblical, or is it the result of misinformation?
Certainly faith in God is important, and strong faith is better than weak faith. But the Scriptures indicate that the object of one's faith is more important than the strength of that faith.
When Jesus commended or rebuked the faith of people, He did so because they either did or did not believe that He was able to do what they asked. For example, He did not refuse to provide healing because a person had weak faith but because that one had no faith. In fact, on one occasion He provided healing even though the man requesting it admitted that his faith was weak (Mark 9:24). The crucial thing for Jesus was that people who made requests of Him believed He could grant their requests.
To see miracles happen in our lives we need to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the Cross as our substitute and thereby paid the debt that our sins incurred to God. The person who believes this experiences the greatest miracle possible: deliverance from eternal death into eternal life (John 6:47). After that, we need to continue to believe that our great Savior can do anything for us; He has already done what is most difficult. We can and should present our needs and our desires to Him (1 Thess. 5:17).
Rather than become discouraged about the nature of our faith when we do not receive what we request, we should focus on the many miracles that Christians experience daily simply because of what the Lord Jesus has done for us. Throughout Scripture God urged His people to remember what He had done for them with the expectation that this exercise would strengthen their faith (Deut. 4:32–40; 1 Thess. 5:18). When we view all that God has done, we observe that He is sovereign; He makes decisions about what is best in view of the total picture that He alone can see. Since He is all powerful, we know that He can do anything that He wants to do. His ability is not in question. Since He is all loving, we know that He always acts for the welfare of everyone involved, even though we may not see how right now. Since He is all wise, we know and believe that His solution is the best solution, all things considered.
When we pray for someone's healing, we do not know if it is the Lord's will to heal that person. Of course, some Christians believe it is never the will of God for any believer to be sick, but this opinion ignores the fact that many godly people have suffered with sickness and God did not heal them. Consider Paul's thorn in the flesh, which the Lord said He would not remove (2 Cor. 12:7–10), or Job's suffering, which God also permitted (Job 2:1–10). The view that Christians should never be sick underestimates the significance of sin in the world (Rom. 6:23; 8:18–23), and it takes a shortsighted view of life, believing that God must deliver the sufferer before death.
Since we do not know that the healing of a person in any specific situation is the will of God, we cannot know what God will undoubtedly do. Consequently, it is unnecessary and unrealistic for us to think that in order to experience healing we must believe that God will heal in that specific situation.
When my father was suffering with bone cancer, I wanted to believe that God would heal him, but I had no basis for believing that He would. Rather, we should follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ's prayer to the Father, "Yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). This prayer is not a cop-out that allows us to save face if God fails to grant healing, as some have suggested. It expresses submission to the will of God as the most important thing for those who pray, even more important than that God would give us the healing we desire. We should request what we need (Matt. 6:11; James 4:2) and leave granting the request with the Lord. Jesus wanted to do His Father's will even more than He wanted to avoid the Cross. Disciples of Jesus should reflect that same attitude.
Prayer, after all, is not a magic device that enables us to manipulate God; that is a pagan concept of prayer. Promises of answered prayer in Scripture always condition God's response on His own will. Sometimes the condition is not obvious in the context of a particular promise given to encourage us to pray. Nevertheless, the total teaching of Scripture on prayer makes clear that prayer is a privilege that God has given people so that we can communicate with Him and, yes, even influence Him, but not coerce Him.
If answers to prayer depended on our having perfect faith, few of us would ever receive anything from the Lord. Daily, God graciously provides miraculous answers to the prayers of His children.
He does not withhold them because of our weak faith but because of His loving wisdom.
About the Contributors
Thomas L. Constable is a former faculty member of DTS. Dr. Constable is the founder of Dallas Seminary’s Field Education department (1970) and the Center for Biblical Studies (1973), both of which he directed for many years before assuming other responsibilities. Today Dr. Constable maintains an active academic, pulpit supply, and conference-speaking ministry around the world. He has ministered in nearly three dozen countries and written commentaries on every book of the Bible. Dr. Constable also founded a church, pastored it for twelve years, and has served as one of its elders for over thirty years.