Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Is The “Prayer Of Faith”?

Biblegems #250

Question: What is meant by “the prayer of faith” in James 5:15?

James 5:15 reads, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”

Does the “prayer of faith” mean that if you believe hard enough in what you want God will give it to you? Sadly, that turns God into Santa Clause and every prayer request into Christmas morning. Prayer offered in faith, on the other hand, is our response to what God has already revealed.  Faith is “substance” and “evidence” (Heb. 11:1), not blind hope.

For example, Jesus taught his disciples that they could toss a mountain into the ocean if they believed with certainty it would happen:
         Mark 11:23 Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.

Was Jesus worried his disciples would start tossing mountains around like volleyballs simply because they believed they could? No! Biblical faith is based in knowing God and, through that intimate relationship with God, knowing what He wants to do—not what you want God to do for you.

Remember how Jesus prayed at the tomb after Lazarus had already been dead for four days?
         John 11:41-43 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Jesus did not make a practice of throwing mountains around, nor did He make a practice of raising everybody who died. Lazarus was raised, according to God’s plan, for a very specific purpose. Jesus already knew what God was going to do in raising Lazarus form the dead; but he prayed aloud so that those standing around would see Jesus’ intimate connection to God the Father. This is the “prayer of faith”: knowing God’s will before you pray, so that you can ask in confidence (1Jn 3:21-22).

When the elders of the church pray over the sick in obedience to God’s Word, God will often bring healing to both the body and the soul (Ja. 5:13-15). But during such times the Lord may also clearly reveal His intention to heal to one or more present. The person receiving that word from the Lord is to pray aloud, confident in God to do what He has promised. Then “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven” (Ja. 5:15).

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What Existed Before God?

Biblegems #249

Question: If God created the universe, what existed before God, or was He just alone, surrounded by nothing?

Science and the Bible agree: the universe had a beginning. Popular scientific theory calls it “the Big Bang,” where eternally existing matter and energy expanded from a super-heated black hole to the universe we know today. According to this, there was no “before” the Big Bang because time did not yet exist.

The Bible actually agrees—up to a point—with this scenario:
         Gen. 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

“The beginning”—time, as we experience it—had a beginning. Likewise, ”the heavens and the earth”—the universe of matter and energy—also had a beginning, by God’s design and command. The Bible, however, declares that there was a “before” time and a cause behind all matter and energy. That “cause” is God Himself, who brought all things into being through His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
         John 1:1-3, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning. (3) Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. …(14)The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us….

This passage tells us that Jesus pre-existed creation. He “was God,” and He “was with God in the beginning.” God created all that exists through Jesus, as it says in verse three. Then Jesus entered His own creation as a man (v. 14). Throughout Scripture God is described as one Spirit Being who is by nature a plurality of persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This plurality is reflected in the creation of Adam and Eve:
         Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness
Humanity—male and female—in the limited physical realm reflects the plurality of God in the spiritual realm: three persons in one Being.

Before creation God existed eternally, but He was never alone; and creation reflects His nature. Just as a work of art reflects the imagination and skill of the artist, even revealing much of the artist’s personality and values, so creation reflects who God is and what He values most:
         Rom. 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Throughout eternity past God enjoyed perfect love: the wonder and beauty of deep, intimate relationship—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The creation of a universe rich in relationships, community and, especially on the human level, interpersonal love that sometimes even reaches the pinnacle of putting the interests of others above our own, reflects what God has experienced perfectly for all eternity. We love because God is love, for we are created in His image.

         Cor. 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.