The Faith Dilemma - Peter Youngren

The nineteen-year-old preacher was crouched on a rock just behind the little country church. Desperate to remain unnoticed by the people entering through the front door he agonized, “Oh God, give me faith. I’m trying so hard to believe. How can I have the faith of those early disciples?” He was clenching his fists in turmoil until his knuckles began to turn white, sincerely pleading with God. That young preacher was me. - Peter Youngren

Oh, how I wanted to experience God’s power just as I saw it in the Book of Acts. The healing ministry of Jesus intrigued me. I wanted to see miracles, but I knew from Scripture that I needed faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and I sure wanted my life to be pleasing to the Lord.

Many people feel they have some faith, but not enough. They wonder; “How can my faith grow large enough, so that I can receive from the Lord”. It is as if you were dangling a succulent bone in front of a dog, but you never let him put his teeth into it. Sincere Christians know that they need faith, and they seek for it, but it seems so elusive. In spite of sincere attempts to produce faith, many find themselves coming up short. At times this can feel like an endless treadmill to nowhere. To chase after faith as if it was a divine empowering to be caught only by those who try hard enough is tiresome, frustrating and often leads to complete resignation; “faith just doesn’t work for me”.

Others experience anguish over their perceived lack of faith; especially those who are in a desperate need, and who may feel that a miracle has eluded them due to their lack of faith. Often this leads to self-condemning thoughts, “what’s wrong with me, why can’t I have faith like others have?”

This book is an invitation to a discovery. We will look at what faith is, what makes it work, and how you can enjoy the same faith that Jesus demonstrated. We will look at two people, the only two, to whom Jesus ascribed not only faith, but “great faith.” By the time you finish the pages of this book you will rejoice because you will know that you too can enjoy this “great faith.”

Everyone who has received Jesus Christ as Savior already has faith; we only need to know how to work with what they have. God has dealt the measure of faith to every person (Roman 12:3). Just like a car must have an engine, or it cannot be truly called the car, a believer has faith; otherwise he is not a believer. The moment we respond to God’s love through Jesus, He imparts faith to us. You will discover how the faith you already have will increase and flourish: it will be made easy. 

Faith will flow through you as freely as the blood flows through your veins.

This “real faith” will not depend on your performance, but instead it is fully wrapped up in Jesus. Once you experience this kind of faith, a new world of possibilities will open to you.

One of the two to whom Jesus ascribed great faith was a mother crying out for her child, and the other was a Roman military officer desperately looking for healing on behalf of a paralyzed servant. Who were these two? What were their secrets? What is “great faith?” How can we enjoy this kind of faith today?

Both of these individuals encountered Jesus before he died and rose again. They were still in the time period that the Bible refers to as the Old Covenant. Their stories are included in the Scriptures for our benefit. The principles of faith that were applicable to these two are examples for us who live in the New Covenant – the time period after Jesus died and rose again. The only difference between them and us is that we live in the “it is finished” time of history. As we will see in chapter 3, the gift of faith that they enjoyed is now readily available to everyone.

Faith is the key to everything God has promised us. Jesus stated that even the smallest measurement of faith, a grain of mustard seed, is enough to speak to a mountain of impossibilities and it will be moved. Consequently, to have faith is a key to God’s unlimited blessings. We certainly want to know what faith, the real faith, is, but more importantly, how do we get it?

The answers may surprise you. In fact, the two individuals Jesus referred to as having “great faith” didn’t even seem to know that they had any faith at all. Furthermore, they were not looking for faith, or even aware that they were supposed to have it. Neither one of them suggested that they had faith or lack of faith. They seemed to have no concern about attaining faith, it was not on the radar screen of their mind. Still, Jesus said they had it.

This tells us that faith may be different than what we have been taught to expect. After all, how is it possible that those who struggle and search for faith don’t have it, while others have faith, even great faith, though they are unaware that they need it?

Here is the dilemma for many. On the one hand, believers acknowledge that God is the source of everything. Everything we need is already available from God. If we need healing, joy, prosperity, blessings or miracles, God has all of these for us and the Bible gives us numerous promises about God’s willingness to give to us. Jesus said, “Ask, and you shall receive.” James writes, “You have not because you ask not.” Jesus stated that God’s willingness to give far exceeds that of a parent desiring to give good things to their children. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)

If God has what we need, and if He is willing to give to us, then why is it that some find it very difficult to receive anything from the Lord? This is a valid question. Often the answer given is, “God is not the problem: we are.” At a glance this statement seems reasonable, but before accepting it as truth, let’s examine further.

First, God has never changed. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. When we read of Jesus’ ministry, He never refused healing or blessing to anyone who came to Him. Jesus was never the problem. So far, so good!

Are we then the problem? In the only instance in Jesus earthly ministry, where a group of people did not receive a blessing, the reason given is unbelief. I’m referring to the case of the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Scripture is clear that Jesus ‘marveled’ at their unbelief and He could not do any mighty miracle there. It’s a clear-cut case, Jesus was not the problem; the people of Nazareth were.

Before we jump to conclusions, we need to also ask, “Other than the people of Nazareth and their obvious rejection of Jesus Christ, in what way could we be a problem, since all we want is to receive from God, and He is willing to give to us”? Here is where we easily get caught in a trap of self-loathing and condemnation, which is never from God. Jesus stated unequivocally that He did not come to condemn people (John 3:17). The book of Hebrews clearly tells us that Christ’s finished work is to free us from sin consciousness (Hebrews 10:2), so an introspective self-analysis of your supposed faults and failures is not helpful.

The trap is that we may erroneously conclude that the reason that we have not yet received from God is to be found by looking within ourselves, search our hearts, to see what hindrances to faith may be in us. Though this may sound holy and religious, it is the opposite. It is destructive. Introspection will not produce positive results or bring God’s blessing into our lives. On the contrary, to look inwardly will only lead to disappointment and insecurity.

To look at our self and how well we have performed our religious duties is called “dead works”, a phrase found several times in the book of Hebrews. We are called to turn from dead works. The remedy for unbelief is not in introspective condemnation, but to look at what Christ has accomplished for us. This serves to “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). Faith and religious “works” are opposites. That’s why real faith does not operate well in an environment that is focused on religious works.

Our perception changes in the light of what Jesus Christ has done on our behalf. Good things happen when our eyes are open to Christ’s finished work. The problem of the people of Nazareth was simply that they did not view Jesus properly. If they had only recognized Him for who He is, they could have received the same healing, blessing and miracles that people in other towns enjoyed.

Many determine that the reason they have not yet received from God is lack of faith. They question how they can acquire more faith. This idea that you lack faith is reinforced by people who remind you that “you need more faith.” This statement is often followed by a suggestion how to obtain this elusive quality called faith; study the principles of faith, read the Bible more, make positive confessions of God’s promises, visualize positive results, rebuke the devil, and so on. These are certainly valuable spiritual activities, but when the answers to their prayers still elude earnest believers, they are told, “You still need more faith,” and so their struggle continues.

Some work very hard at controlling what they say so as not to speak anything negative. Others put Scripture verses on prominent display in their home and car to always remind them of what God has said. This is good. I also display Scripture verses and statements by Jesus to keep them ever before me. However sadly, some do everything that they can possibly think of and still it seems nothing happens. Faith appears increasingly to be a mystery. “How can I have more faith?” becomes the nagging question without any real answers - Peter Youngren.

If you pay attention to the words of Jesus, you notice how important faith is. Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith with words like, “Oh ye of little faith,” or “Why do you have no faith?” The only time you see Jesus slightly irritated with the disciples is when He notices lack of faith. So much more reason for us to pursue faith, since we certainly do not want to frustrate Jesus.

To some the struggle for faith is compounded by the words in the Book of Hebrews, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Again, we are faced with the crucial necessity of faith. Sincere Christians don’t want to displease God, so once again many conclude that we must try harder to have faith. You’ll notice that I refer to ‘believers’ and ‘sincere Christians’, because I realize that it is highly unlikely that anyone, who is not sincere in their faith would even bother to read this book. That’s the point, sincere believers struggle for faith, while all the while feeling that they have come up short, that they are not good enough. Surely, God must have a better way.

Some may have encountered what I call the “faith police.” These are individuals who think they have great faith and like to point out lack of faith in others. They seem to have all the answers for others: “You were not healed because you need more faith,” is their explanation. These individuals are often well-intentioned, but their words still condemn others for not thinking, confessing or imagining the promises of God as they should. The problem is further compounded because many of these who I call the “faith police” do not themselves enjoy the blessings of God. In fact, some of them are grumpy and condemning of others. When they themselves face impossible circumstances they also become discouraged and find themselves unable to obtain the answer to their prayers.

Do you see the perpetual problem we encounter on this treadmill of the pursuit of faith? The more we try to have faith, the more it seems we never quite have it. It seems as elusive as the rainbow. You see the rainbow in sky with its beautiful colors and majestic arch; yet as you race toward it, it vanishes out of sight. Some have given up on faith all together. You can hear them sigh, “Faith is not for me. It works for others, but I can’t get it to work in my life.”

Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” [Matthew 17:20].

There is no ambiguity in Jesus’ words.  Faith, in the mere size of a mustard seed, will enable you to speak to a mountain to move, and it will move.  We must take Jesus’ words at face value.  There are only two possible explanations of His statement.  Either Jesus was telling the truth or He wasn’t.  Again, since you are reading this book, I assume that you believe that Jesus is the truth. What then are we to make of the fact that many people claim to have faith, but their “mountain” has not moved?  Could it be that what we may have called “faith” is not the kind of faith Jesus spoke of at all? Consider this:

The God-kind of faith, mountain-moving faith, is completely different from mental believing.

The contrast is like night and day.  Mental believing is exercised by almost every person on a daily basis.  Our whole system of society, whether banking, postal service, or business is built on mental believing.  When we open a box of cereal, we do not logically and scientifically scrutinize every fiber or every flake; we believe what the package claims about the content.  When we drop an envelope in the mailbox, we believe it will be delivered.  With little exception, and unless we hear something different on the radio, television, or read it in a newspaper, we believe in these functions of society. This kind of believing has to do with the mind.  It is metaphysical. It has to do with reason, logic and mental comprehension.  As beneficial as mental believing is in order for us to function in society, it is not the kind of “faith” Jesus spoke of when He referred to faith as a grain of mustard seed, the kind which enables you to speak to a mountain and it will move.

Jesus didn’t say that if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will at times be able to move mountains.  No, Jesus made a blanket statement that “Nothing will be impossible for you,” and the mountain “will move.”  This seems totally unrealistic and illogical to natural thinking.  After repeated attempts at this kind of faith some shrug it off, “It doesn’t work for me.”

In many churches today if the pastor were to announce a series of teachings on faith, there would be little excitement.  The reason being, that people have already heard numerous teachings on faith and feel disillusioned when it has not worked as it was told to them that it would.

I have seen thousands of people healed: the lame, blind, deaf, mute, lepers, cancer cases, humanly impossible cases.  I have walked away from many a gospel service with shouts of rejoicing echoing in my ears as people celebrated what Christ had done for them. I rejoiced with them, but in my mind’s eye I could also vividly see those who had not been healed.  My heart ached for them. I have seen the lame walk, but I have also witnessed scenes where concerned Christians gathered around a wheelchair encouraging the sick person, rebuking the devil, even lifting the suffering one out of the wheelchair and trying to get them to walk only to have to put them back in the chair.

This is a far cry from Jesus, who said that faith in the smallest measurement, like a grain of mustard seed, means that “nothing will be impossible.”

I don’t claim to know everything, but the truths I share in this book are answers to questions I have had.  Is there a faith that works? What is a real faith? My own soul has been satisfied by the answers I bring to you.  Jesus has ministered these truths to me and faith has become easy. I don’t struggle for faith, because the more I struggle the less real faith I have. There’s a whole other way. The moment we cease our pursuit of faith and allow the ability of Jesus to flow through us, something remarkable happens.  All things are possible when Jesus’ own faith becomes our faith.

“I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20), is how Paul, the apostle, said it.

Unfortunately, some translations render this verse, faith in the son of God, not faith of the Son of God. There is a huge difference between faith in Christ and the faith of Christ. While faith in God is wonderful, this term can be misconstrued into a religious self-effort. When some hear of faith in God, they go back on that old treadmill of dead works, which only leads to more complaining and wondering why they don’t have enough faith. Gratefully the King James Version of the Bible translates this verse in the only way that makes sense in the context:

The faith of the Son of God.

The apostle is not describing his attempt to have faith in Christ, but he is declaring that the very faith of Christ has become his. My faith is the faith of Christ working through me. That’s the topic of this book. We are not exploring more hoops that we must jump through in order to have faith; we are 100% focused on the only faith that works – the faith of Jesus Christ.

Simon Peter gives a corroborating testimony when he explains how the man, who had been lame from birth, was healed, not by Simon Peter’s faith or holiness, but by the faith that works through Jesus (Acts 3:16).

Maybe you, my reader, have struggled and wondered what could be the obstacle in your life.  Possibly you have been encouraged to look inwardly to discover and root out hindrances.  A lady recently approached me, “Peter, I am concerned that there are hindrances in me and that’s why my family is not enjoying healing.” I responded gently to her, “Surely there are hindrances in you, and furthermore there are hindrances in me and in every person who ever sought for God’s blessing. If the truth were told, we could find hindrances in every person if we look hard enough.  However, we are not to research or try to discern the hindrances within us, because it would be an endless and fruitless pursuit. The more we look at ourselves and others, the more we will invent reasons that explain to our mind why we should not experience the blessings of God.”

I continued my response to the woman, “Don’t look for hindrances in you, because you’ll find too many to ever deal with, but rather look at Jesus in whom there are no hindrances”. I tried to help her by pointing her to the Scripture which says that all the promises of God are ours in Christ Jesus, not on the basis of what we have done, but because of Him.”

Paul, the apostle, said it this way, “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you…was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.  For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20)

Notice that God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus.  This way God gets all the glory as He works through us. There’s a human propensity towards religious legalism that blinds our eyes from seeing the obvious. Often this Scripture has been taught, as if it said that the promises of God are yes in Jesus Christ and that we had to add our amen to it. That would make the fulfillment of God’s promises a joint effort. A plain reading tells us that both the “yes” and the “amen” is in Jesus Christ. He has accomplished it all and our part is simply to receive.

Don’t construe my words to mean that we should not obey God, or that it doesn’t matter how we behave or act. On the contrary, when we discover that the promises of God are already ours in Jesus, we will want to be even more obedient to Christ and His finished work.

In the Old Testament, before the death and resurrection of Jesus, people tried to obey God in order to obtain His promises. We, who live in the New Covenant, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, also obey God, but our motivation is different. We are obedient, because God’s promises are already ours.

It’s a world of difference between trying to get something and knowing that you already have it. If we already know that God’s favor has been given to us, it makes no sense to try to obtain it. At the time of writing this, Taina and I have guests in our home. We have told them to help themselves to whatever they need, that whatever is in our house is theirs. It would be frustrating every time they wanted a glass of water, a cup coffee, or a piece of bread, if they came asking for it. 

What’s been given is given. Similarly, we don’t seek for God’s favor; it is already given in and through Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament people made sacrifices and said prayers in order to obtain blessings from God, while now in the New Testament we do good works because of all Christ has done for us.  They were obedient to God in order to please Him; we are obedient to God because He has saved us and given us a new life.  God is now pleased because of what Jesus has done.

Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, people petitioned God for His blessings. This kind of prayer is no longer appropriate in light of Jesus’ finished work. The apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)  “Blessed” is past tense. We don’t need to ask for that which we already have. This is an eye-opener to many.  Some may wonder how we pray if all things already given to us. Instead of petitioning God, we thank God for the blessings we have in Christ - Peter Youngren.

We also ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see what we have now. That’s how Paul, the apostle, prayed for the Ephesian believers, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Do you see the stark difference?  We do not pray in order to get blessed, but we pray asking God to show us more clearly the inheritance we already have.

Today, it is very common for Christians to act is if they didn’t have anything. You can hear it in prayers; “Oh Lord, give me your power; Come and bless us; Send your anointing”, etc. While these statements may make the petitioner appear to be humble and dependent on the Lord, these prayers actually fly in the face of what Jesus has done. All power, blessing and anointing has already been transferred to our account.

In order to have great faith it is important to recognize which side of the cross we live in.  We live after the cross; Jesus has already put away the world’s sins and carried our sicknesses.  This is vastly different from life prior to Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ’s righteousness has now been credited to our account, and on the basis of His righteousness we inherit all of God’s goodness and promises - Peter Youngren.

We no longer love in order to obtain God’s love; we love God because He first loved us.  We pray not to obtain the victory or the blessing, but because the victory is already ours. Similarly, we don’t try to have faith by our own effort. Instead:

We have faith, because we are linked with the author and the finisher of faith - Jesus Christ.

In Chapter 4, we will begin our careful exploration of the two individuals who enjoyed “great faith”. We will look at how they connected with Jesus and saw their “mountains” move.  How did they tap into this Jesus-kind of faith?  What was their secret?

But I caution you, don’t jump ahead. In chapters 2 and 3, I will build a foundation for the faith of Jesus Christ to operate in you. You’re about to become deeply rooted in the faith of Jesus Christ. Even the best teaching will be ineffective without the Holy Spirit. My prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit will reveal Jesus, the source of faith in you.