“…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17)
Through the night these words rolled over in my mind. I’ve always wondered why this passage included “and hearing by.” Why didn’t it just say “faith comes by hearing the Word of God?” Or, why didn’t it say faith comes by being exposed to the Word of God in any fashion? Surely, both listening to and reading the Word of God increases faith. But, last night I realized that Romans 10:17 actually teaches and reveals the truth I have learned by experience through the years about real faith. Real, solid, life changing faith does indeed come by hearing! Hearing is repeated because it is the focus of the passage.
The Word of God produces faith in our lives when we hear Him speak to us personally! It is not automatically produced when we read words from a page or hear someone read them to us–no matter how encouraging those words are. Faith is only produced when God speaks His Word into our hearts and we receive it and respond to it.
This truth is revealed in numerous passages of scripture. For instance, Job’s statement, “He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him” (Job 23:14). Job recognizes that God’s sovereignty extends to actual events He has scheduled for our lives. First, He schedules events and then He brings them to pass.
We see the same concept in David’s declaration in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Of course He will! First, He gives you the desires and then He fulfills them.
Let me illustrate this concept for you. When I was 17 years old, soon to graduate from High School, and planning for my unknown future, I prayed that God would send me a preacher to marry. Why did I pray that prayer? I didn’t come from a preacher’s home and had no experience to prepare me for what being married to a preacher would require of me. I was simply praying and that request came out of my mouth. About two weeks later my future ‘preaching’ spouse arrived at our church in Cahokia, Illinois, courtesy of U.S. Air Force orders. Now, that story is not about my great faith, it’s about God working out His own plans for my life. And now, when things are tough, He can always say, “Well, you asked for it!” Lol.
No matter what we think we need faith for, God’s will for our lives comes first. So, the first item on the agenda when praying for anything we think we want or need should be requesting clarity from God. Whether we need a spouse, or a healing, or a financial miracle, or salvation; we will not have the faith to see our need met unless the answer falls within the will of God because He won’t impart the faith needed to receive it.
Some people think a “Lord willing” prayer is a cop-out for those with weak faith. The Bible clearly says otherwise. Job was a believer and very high on God’s list of righteous ones, but his trial was not ended until God’s purposes for it were fulfilled. Contrary to the accusations of his friends, his trial was not brought on him because he had sinned or because he lacked faith. He was simply required to fulfill God’s appointment for Him. As are we! And, that is where the need for hope comes in– but that’s another topic.
To round this out, let’s look at the issue of faith for salvation. When Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44), He was expressing the same truth about God’s sovereignty, but He was not saying He only draws a few. No! In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter says God is being patient in wrapping up the events of this age because, “He is not willing that any should perish.” And Jesus said, “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself“ (John 12:32 NLT). To be drawn to God presupposes being given a measure of faith to respond if one so chooses. Also, in Hebrews 12:2, we find that Jesus is both the “author and finisher of our faith” which results in salvation for those who believe. It is God who originates and we who respond; and, for salvation, all have been given a measure of faith.
Now, some folks who have been overexposed to hyper-faith or hyper-grace teachings will have a problem with the idea that there may be some legitimate suffering in the lives of believers because God wills it. They have been taught to “believe and receive” no matter what. And, when they try to believe but don’t receive they easily fall under condemnation. So, I’ll end with another word from Hebrews chapter 12 which tells us why some suffering is necessary. Verses 10 and 11 say, “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” And, verse 14 adds “without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
Do you want to see Him? I urge you to trust in Him as He works out the details of your life. May your faith rest in His goodness and respond to His promptings in every area of life.