Faith Secures the Power of God

Dr. Brian Allison

A little while ago I attended a funeral. During the service something rather unusual happened. The pastor who was officiating allotted a segment of time in which people could offer a final word about the deceased. One middle aged man stood up and announced that the deceased could rise again. He professed to the congregation, "All you have to do is believe and he will be raised from the dead." Well, needless to say, there was a general unease that fell upon the congregation and a keen sense of embarrassment at the remarks of this Christian brother. There was the sense that he was somewhat strange, and perhaps unstable. I am sure most felt uncomfortable. Incidentally, the deceased did not rise again.

Could faith have raised the deceased? We must certainly affirm the Scriptures and say, "Quite possibly" (e.g. Jn. 14:12). Now, I would not advocate fanatical extremes, nor would I condone such a radical action as reported above; but at the same time, I must clearly acknowledge that faith can secure the power of God, even resulting in miracles. Faith can achieve the seemingly impossible, regardless of how the impossible may be defined. Hebrews 11:11,12 reads, "By faith even Sarah herself received ability [power] to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also [as a result of faith], there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE." Clearly faith can lay hold of the power of God.

Faith is taking God at His Word

Recall that Sarah not only had been barren, but she had passed the stage of menopause when the possibility of conceiving had been presented to her. Prior to her expression of faith, she neither had the opportunity nor the ability to conceive and bear. She was about 90 years old, an incredibly impossible situation in which to have children. According to our text, faith dismantled and dispelled the impossible. Faith was able to defy the limitations; faith scoffed at the unthinkable. It is faith that achieves the miraculous, and the reason why faith is able to do that is because faith secures the power of God – "By faith even Sarah herself received ability [power] to conceive." C. H. Spurgeon said, "Oh brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to Heaven, but great faith will bring Heaven to your soul."

How can we have this kind of faith which is able to secure the power of God? What makes faith possible whereby we may achieve the impossible? Or simply, what gives rise to efficacious faith? Well, we need to implicitly and unreservedly accept the truth of God's Word. Notice how Sarah achieved such faith – "since she considered Him faithful who had promised." God had spoken a Word, and Sarah believed that Word. The journey of faith begins with a divine Word – the speaking of God. Faith is simply the human response to the divine Word. Faith is the acknowledgement, or the acceptance, of what has been spoken or revealed by God.

Now, you may say, "Faith is a gift, isn't it? Isn't it something that God must give to me, and unless God gives this faith to me, I cannot believe? What do you mean that faith is a response to the divine speaking, as if I have some responsibility in demonstrating, expressing this faith?" Indeed, faith is a gift; just as air is, or food is; or water is. So, the question is: How does one accept the gift; how does one experience the gift? Faith is not realized, nor essentially identified, by a feeling. "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rm. 10:17). It is not that you must sit down and simply wait for faith to come upon you as a strong feeling of some kind. No, rather faith is revealed and realized when you take God at His Word. Again, air is given to you, but you must breathe it. Food is given to you, but you must eat it. Water is given to you, but you must drink it. All these things are gifts. And faith is given to you through the Word of God, and you must take that Word as God's Word. In a very real sense, you have a responsibility to believe, that is, to personally agree that God's Word is indeed the truth. Yes, faith is a gift, but God Himself will not believe for you; He will not trust for you; He will not hope for you; you must take God at His Word.

I was recently reading some relevant words in this connection. This unidentified writer states in the Sunday School Times, "There is an easy, practical way to have faith. A minister said to an evangelist who was holding services in his church, 'I have no faith in this matter, but I see it in the Word of God and I am going to act on God's Word, no matter how I feel.' And the evangelist replied, 'Why, that is faith!' The Word of God is the secret of faith. We do not attain or achieve faith; we simply receive it as we read God's Word.... Many a child of God is failing to enjoy God's richest blessings in Christ because he fails to receive the gift of faith. He looks within himself for some quality that will enable him to believe, instead of 'looking unto Jesus' who is 'the author and the finisher of our faith'. If our faith were but more simple, we would take Him at His Word."

Realizing God's faithfulness strengthens faith

So, Sarah took God at His Word. But notice, it was not simply a divine Word which gave rise to faith, but a promised divine Word – "since she considered Him faithful who had promised." God affirmed that He was definitely going to do something. He had pledged that He would miraculously provide. He had committed Himself to a certain course of action; and Sarah, in faith, responded something like this, "I know that this is exactly what You are going to do." So, faith is the heart's response and acceptance of God's promises. God's promises provoke personal faith. We read the account in Genesis 18, in which God visited Abraham and Sarah, "Then they said to him [Abraham], 'Where is Sarah your wife?' And he said, 'Behold in the tent.' And he [God] said, 'I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.' And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past child-bearing. And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?' And the LORD said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?' Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.' Sarah denied it however, saying, 'I did not laugh'; for she was afraid. And He said, 'No, but you did laugh.'" God promised that Sarah would conceive and bear a son, a year from the point of the divine promise (and Sarah believed); and that is exactly what happened.

Now, you may object, "Hold it; the Bible says that Sarah laughed when God made this promise. That does not sound like faith to me. It seems that Sarah doubted, that she did not believe. What do you mean that by faith Sarah received the ability to conceive?" I will touch on that in just a moment, but I want to say this to you, by way of encouragement. Just like Sarah initially doubted, so you too may initially doubt when the Word of God comes to you and God presents a promise which sounds utterly incredible. And you, like Sarah, may laugh. My friend, have you laughed at the promises of God, the Word of God? Have you read something and concluded that it is impossible? Have you doubted God's Word? Have you said, "God won't do that for me; He will do it for someone else, but not for me." Have you doubted God's Word? Sarah doubted God's Word and laughed too; and yet we have this testimony given of her – "By faith even Sarah herself received ability [power] to conceive." Don't get discouraged, my friend. Some Christians become so discouraged because they discover in themselves weak faith. But as we mentioned earlier, you should not be looking at your faith, you should be looking at the Object of your faith; not trying to discover something in yourself, but trying to discover something outside of yourself, even God. Even if initially you do doubt, and you laugh like Sarah, do not lose heart. The impact of God's promise may eventually provoke faith, resulting in the miraculous, as was the case with Sarah. Meditate on the promises of God.

Now, the question is this: What was it that gave the divine Word weight and force in order that Sarah moved from doubt to faith? To be sure, many hear the Word of God, many read the Word of God, and still no faith comes to birth. Remember, there is nothing automatic or necessary about faith's birth in the simple reading or hearing of God's Word. Many of you know that. Many have attended the preaching of God's Word Sunday after Sunday and have audibly heard the Word of God, and have left not deepened in faith, not strengthened in faith, but rather have left unchanged. There was no spiritual hearing of God's Word. And thus you have been discouraged, even depressed.

So, what was it that gave the divine Word weight and force, at least from the human side, in order that Sarah moved from doubt to faith? Simply, the faithfulness of God – "since she considered Him faithful who had promised." Receiving the promise alone was insufficient. You can read the Bible, you can hear preaching week after week, and hear the promises; or you may read about the promises, and yet have no strengthening or deepening of faith. You must realize something about the One who gives the promises, namely, that He is faithful.

I have a friend; he, like all of us, has weaknesses. One of his weaknesses is that he is always late for an appointment. No matter what time we arrange to meet, he is always late. When we make arrangements to meet and he says that he will arrive at such and such a time, what do you think my response is? Because I judge him unfaithful in this regard, his words carry no weight. I do not believe the promise because the one giving the promise is unreliable, he has proven untrustworthy. Do you see the connection? The strength of a promise rests on the trustworthiness of the promisor. That is how Sarah moved from doubt to faith. This astounding divine Word came to Sarah, and, in effect, said, "Sarah, though you are barren – you never had the opportunity to conceive – and though you are now years beyond menopause – you neither now have the ability to conceive, you will bear a son." Sarah laughed. And then she eventually said something like this, "Wait, though that is an astounding Word, I must remember who has uttered that Word. God has. And having traveled alongside my husband all these years, I have seen that God is faithful to His Word and He does not lie or deceive." Sarah contemplated the trustworthiness of God. She thought about His impeccable character, and she concluded that God is faithful. And for her, that meant that whatever He said would indeed come to pass. Thus she believed the impossible. What about you?

There are two things that God cannot do: He cannot deny Himself, nor can He lie. Sarah accepted the seemingly impossible Word, and she saw its fulfilment. My friend, if you are doubting God's Word, if you are laughing inside, you need to contemplate God. You need to contemplate His character, you need to realize that indeed He is trustworthy; and that whatever He has said, He will do, because His very name and character are at stake. The great missionaries of the past, like George Mueller, understood this truth. Is that true for you?

Faith secures the power in the Word

So, the promise of God occasions faith. The realization of the faithfulness of God, which gives weight to the promises, strengthens and deepens faith. And thus Sarah secured the power of God. Notice, again, the miraculous effect of faith – "Therefore, also, there was born of one man [because of faith], and him [as well as her] as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE." Faith resulted in the birth of a nation. Israel came forth because of the faith of Abraham and Sarah; they staggered not at the promises of God, but were strengthened (by God and) by contemplating His faithfulness, and they gave glory to God.

Faith secures the power of God. But, notice this: faith produces or effects no greater power than that which is entailed in the promise which faith receives. Faith, for Sarah, brought about the power to conceive because she accepted God's promise concerning such a miraculous conception. The realized promise itself necessitated a display of God's power. The point is this: faith does not so much directly control and tap the power of God, as it accepts the Word of God which itself involves, reveals, and concerns power. In that sense, faith accepts a 'powerful Word'. It is in embracing God's Word, a Word that concerns power, and whose fulfilment involves a display of divine power, that faith thereby secures power. God promised Sarah, "You will conceive." Sarah eventually believed that promise, and thus experienced the power necessarily entailed in the promise – the ability to conceive.

Many of God's promises involve God's power. For instance, John 12:32 reads, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." Do you believe that? Do you believe that Word of power, in the life of the Church and in your individual life? If God grants us the grace to receive, by faith, that promise, then we shall see the power in souls being saved. Again, Philippians 1:6 reads, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Do you believe this Word of power? God is able to manifest His strength in the depths of our souls. Insofar as God gives us the grace to lay hold of that Word, we will see the demonstration of the power of that Word in our lives. Another Word of promise is Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, "...I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it." That bespeaks incredible power. Do we believe that Word concerning our own local situation? Again, insofar as God gives us the grace to lay hold of that promise and enter into it, will we see the power of that Word in our lives. So, many of the promises of God involve power, and in receiving His Word, we will receive power.

What do you think about these truths that you have read? Just another message? Will you turn away from this message just the same way you came to it – cold and indifferent? Or, are you going to take God at His Word? "Yes," you may say, "but God needs to help me." I understand that, my friend, but you have a responsibility to believe. Don't worry about what God has to do; simply be concerned about what you have to do. The above is God's Word; do you accept it? Do you appreciate the faithfulness of God? Who is the God you worship? Will you believe Him for the impossible? The great saints of faith of the past did. They expected great things from God, and they saw them; and we worship the same God Who stills performs the miraculous.