Faith has been on my heart recently: firstly, because a number of friends have been faced with faith-testing trials, either in terms of their health or finances; and secondly, it is so hard when we have been praying, but our prayers do not seem to be answered, even though we may believe we have been praying in faith.
Yet, faith is at the heart of Christianity, for it is our faith in Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our risen, living Saviour, which is granted to us by the grace of God, that defines us as Christians.
Most Christians will agree that faith in Lord Jesus Christ is the experience that sets us apart as Christians.
In fact, Christianity is sometimes known as the faith and Christians as believers, and faith and belief are often synonymous within Christianity.
Trust and self-abandonment
Our Christian faith is an act of trust and self-abandonment. As followers of Lord Jesus Christ, we no longer rely on our own strength, but depend on His strength, because we have surrendered ourselves to Him and are committed to following His way and truth and life, being obedient to His commands, observing His gospel guided and empowered by His Holy Spirit.
Although for most of us, this abandonment of self is more of a process than an act, we, nevertheless, have faith that we are adopted children of our Holy Father in Lord Jesus Christ’s name, not through any of any our own doing, but through the grace of God.
This is expressed in Galatians 2: 20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”.
Ephesians 2:8 and Hebrews 11:6 emphasise this centrality of faith telling us that “it is by grace we have been saved through faith” and “without faith it is impossible to please God for whoever would draw near to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.
With all this in mind, I sat down at my desk early one morning and idly picked-up a book by Kathryn Kuhlman entitled I Believe in Miracles, which my pastor had given me to read, but had been lying unread for about a month.
As I picked the book up it slipped from my hands and fell open at a chapter entitled “Mrs Fischer’s baby”, which I commenced to read.
Mrs Fischer’s baby suffered from a tragic affliction of hydrocephalus (water on the brain). Her head was nearly twice the size of normal, so grossly misshapen that someone who looked at her had nearly fainted.
In the book Kuhlman describes how baby Billie’s 12-year-old sister, Helen, would arrive at the Carnegie Hall, where Kuhlman was holding a series of services, at 4pm to keep a seat for her mother who would arrive three hours later, baby in her arms, at 7pm when the service was scheduled to start.
Mrs Fischer could not get to the service earlier as she had to cook for and feed supper to the rest of her family (she had seven daughters), so Helen would go directly from school to the Carnegie Hall to reserve a seat for her mother, because the services were immensely popular.
Missed out on supper
When her mother arrived Helen would relinquish her seat and stand for the entire three-hour service having missed-out on her supper, but having ensured that her mother got a seat.
At ten months old Mrs Fischer’s baby “was deficient in every way. She could not sit; nor hold her own bottle; nor turn over.”
“There was never a sign of recognition for anyone or anything,” reports Kuhlman.
The baby’s head was huge, “her face disproportionately small” and “her eyes were completely hidden in their sockets and turned upwards”.
“On the basis of tests given at the hospital, there had been made the diagnosis of a malady which no medical techniques could correct”:
Kuhlman says Mrs Fischer was told her child was hopelessly retarded and she would have to be institutionalised.
However, Mrs Fischer refused to institutionalise her, because even if the baby was not aware of anything else, Mrs Fischer felt she was aware of the family’s love for her.
It was at this time that Mrs Fischer decided to take baby Billie to Kuhlman’s services at Carnegie Hall, “praying with all her heart and soul that the healing hand of Jesus would touch this defenseless, defective baby, making her whole and perfect as she was meant to be”.
But in seeking healing for baby Billie, Mrs Fischer she could not abandon the rest of her children.
Kuhlman informs us that Mrs Fischer happened to mention the problem to her oldest daughter, and the young girl immediately volunteered to go right from school each time and hold a seat for her mother.
“Not only that, but she announced to her mother that I am going to fast, too – right along with you.
“And thus week after week, they followed this procedure – the young sister holding the seat in the auditorium, while her mother fed her family at home, then quickly dressed herself and her little water-head baby, and took the long streetcar ride to Carnegie Hall,” says Kuhlman.
As the many weeks went by baby Billie’s head slowly grew smaller.
“Perhaps the most thrilling day of all was the day that Billie looked at her mother with recognition in her eyes, and smiled at her,” writes Kuhlman.
“Never, for one moment, had little Helen doubted that her baby sister would be healed by Jesus: and no one, not even the baby’s mother, was more thrilled than her twelve-year-old sister to see little Billie’s condition slowly but surely being healed through the power of God.
“Little Helen never grew impatient; she never once grumbled at giving-up all her afternoon activities so she could go early to the service”.
Kuhlman says that waiting three hours before each service in order to hold a seat for her mother; standing three hours during each service, helping her mother with little Billie – taking her little sister’s bottle to the ladies’ room to warm it if the baby grew hungry – this was the kind of active faith honoured by God. He did not turn a deaf ear to these acts of faith offered by a little twelve-year-old girl.
“The greatest power that God has given to men and women, is the power of prayer, but always remember, God has established the law of prayer and Faith. Prayer is conscious of the need, while faith supplies it.
“Prayer never obtains anything from God unless faith is present; and again, faith never receives anything from God unless prayer makes a petition. Prayer and faith work harmoniously together – both are necessary in their distinct functions, but are quite different in their nature,” says Kuhlman.
She says it is only through prayer that the soul can establish communion with its Creator, and it is only through faith that spiritual victories are won.
“Prayer knocks at the door of grace, while faith opens it.”
Kuhlman says no one but God knew the perfect faith in the heart of the twelve-year-old girl, and He honoured it.
When Mrs Fischer took baby Billie back to the hospital and she was examined by a panel of nine doctors, including the brain specialist who had formerly taken care of her. They were amazed to find the child perfectly normal in every respect. The brain specialist was heard to remark: “The Man Upstairs gets the full credit for this.”
Kuhlman says God honoured the faith of a twelve-year-old child. He touched in His mercy, the defective baby who was her sister, and He made her whole in every respect that she might live and work to His glory.
She says at the heart of our faith is a Person; the Person of Jesus Christ, the Very Son of the Living God.
Reading Kuhlman’s account made me realise there is something about faith that has to do with simple child-like trust, which has certain expectation for as Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.
However, the real lesson lies in the truth that the simple faith, the certain expectation of twelve-year-old Helen for her baby sister’s healing was translated into an “active faith”.
James 2:14-26 emphasizes the importance of this “active faith” asking us: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can faith save him”?
“If a brother or sister is naked, and destitute of daily food,
“And one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled’; but you do not give them not the things which are needed for the body; what does it profit?
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble.
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
“Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
“And the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the Friend of God.
“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
“Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way?
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
My morning lesson on faith became clear to me. My faith lacked action it was stuck in thoughts and words, but had not translated into an “active faith”.
For the subject of our prayers to materialize into our objective reality it is necessary for us not only to think and speak in faith, but to act in faith as well; to turn our thoughts and words into deeds as young Helen did by going to reserve a seat for her mother and baby sister diligently every week in the sure expectation of baby Billie’s healing.
Andrew Murray, in his 365 Day Devotional reminds us that scripture teaches us there is not one truth on which Christ insisted more frequently, both with His disciples and with those who came seeking His help, than the absolute necessity of faith and its unlimited possibilities.
He says the person of faith recognises, by faith, the inseparable link that unites God’s promises and His commands, and he yields to do the one as fully as he trusts the other.