Faith or Mental Believing

By: Peter Youngren
From: March 2009
Found in: Grace and Faith
A truckload of mental believing produced by human effort and struggle will do nothing, but a teaspoonful of the faith of Jesus will move mountains every time.

 
There is a huge gap between mental believing and the God-kind of faith.  Mental believing is natural.  It comes by repeatedly telling our mind it is so.  True faith is supernatural.  It moves mountains and is only found in Jesus. 

The four Gospels give us many case studies that contrast mental believing with the God-kind of faith.  Matthew chapter seventeen begins with Jesus and three of His disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration.  When they come down from the mountain, Jesus quickly encounters human pain and suffering.  We read, “And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.’” (Matthew 17:14-16) 

Can you see the desperation?  It’s obvious Jesus’ disciples believed in healing, otherwise they would not have tried to cure the boy.  The father must have also believed in the miracle-working power of Jesus, because later he says, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

We don’t know all the details, but we can well imagine the disciples gathered around the boy while he was rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth.  Maybe they rebuked the devil or commanded the demons to leave and nothing happened.  Possibly they tried repeatedly praying, interceding and pleading with God.  Maybe they encouraged the father to believe more fervently, putting the onus for more faith on him or on the boy.  Did the disciples try to discern the cause of the boy’s sickness?  Maybe they tried to research what had been the entry point for the demons to begin to oppress the boy and his family.  We don’t know exactly how they attempted to cure the boy, but we know they tried.  Still, after all the prayer, rebuking and crying out to God was done, the result was dismal.  The boy was as sick as ever before.  Now some may conclude that this indicated it was not God’s will to heal the boy.  We know that’s not the case because when Jesus came, He said, “Bring him here to Me.” (Matthew 17:17)  After a short conversation with the father, Jesus heals the boy.  Jesus’ action proves that it was God’s will to heal the boy.

Later on, the disciples wonder at what they have seen and why they could not cure the boy.  Jesus explains, “Because of your unbelief; for 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)

A Truckload or a Teaspoon

Do you see the distinction between mental believing and mountain-moving faith?  The disciples had exercised mental believing.  No question!  They believed in healing or they would not have attempted to cure the boy.  Jesus shows that if they had real faith instead of mental believing, they would only need a mustard seed of that kind of faith, and the miracle would happen. 

A billion dollars worth of mental believing and nothing will happen, but a penny of faith - the God-kind of faith - and nothing is impossible. 

What we call “faith” is often only mental believing or “mind over matter.”  People may be heard repeatedly saying, “I’m healed, I’m healed, I’m healed,” or “I got it, I got it, I got it,” or “It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine.”  It is as if we thought that by repeating something enough we’ll convince our own minds that we believe it, and then we’ll get it. 

The faith that Jesus gives, the God-kind of faith, is alive, vibrant and powerful.  Let’s never reduce faith to “five steps, ten keys, seven clues, or ten secrets.”  Faith can never be reduced to a mere principle or a “step.”  It is much more than affirming a doctrine; it is the energy of Jesus Himself flowing through you.  Faith is not a condition of our mind; it is a divine grace. 

A truckload of mental believing produced by human effort and struggle will do nothing, but a teaspoonful of the faith of Jesus will move mountains every time.  The good news is that Jesus makes this faith readily available.  You only have to come to Him, call out for Him, and draw near to Him.  “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)  It’s all wrapped up in “Him,” “He” and “His.”  He does the work and we receive the benefits.

Just as I Am

I cannot brag of a single good thing about myself, including boasting of my faith.  Instead, I simply come asking for God’s mercy.

In every Billy Graham crusade when the invitation for people to come to Christ is given the choir sings, “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.”  I love those words, “without one plea.”  That means that I have nothing to plead of my own.  I cannot brag of a single good thing about myself, including boasting of my faith.  Instead, I simply come asking for God’s mercy. 

Remember the prayer meeting in the temple in Jerusalem with the publican in the back crying out for mercy, and the self-righteous Pharisee in the front of the sanctuary thanking God that he was not as “other sinners.”  Whose shoes would you rather be in: the publican sinner or the self-righteous Pharisee?  There was no blessing in coming to God presenting something of ourselves, but mercy and grace flowed freely to the one who came “without one plea.”  All our mental attempts at faith will avail nothing.  When we come to Jesus without anything of our own, the floodgates of His mercy and love open wide to us.

Peace In The Storm

On another occasion when Jesus and the disciples were in the boat, a raging storm threatened to drown them.  The disciples were on the deck crying out to God, commanding the winds to be calm, but nothing happened.  Obviously they believed that God could calm the storm, but it was a believing produced of their mind.  Jesus simply spoke the words, “Peace be still,” and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39).  This is the distinguishing mark between mental believing and the faith which comes of Jesus.  Mental believing is our effort to believe and see something happen.  Jesus’ faith comes with great peace. 

Believe & Speak

Someone may ask, “Isn’t it important that we speak in faith?”  Yes, faith speaks and confesses God’s Word.  Our positive confession of God’s Word comes from faith, but faith doesn’t come from positive confession, for faith comes from Jesus.  That’s why the Scripture says, “I believe, therefore I spoke,” not I spoke until I believed.  You may ask, “Doesn’t faith act?”  Yes, action comes from faith, not faith from action – for faith only comes from Jesus. 

Vasco’s New Shoes

While preaching in the central square in Plovdiv, Bulgaria a mother brought her five-year-old son, Vasco, who had been born paralyzed.  The mother had heard of the wonders of Jesus that had happened in our previous meeting in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.  She was overwhelmed with what she had heard, and now certain that her son would walk she bought him a pair of jeans, a jean jacket and a brand-new pair of sneakers.  The boy had never owned a pair of shoes; he had no need for them as he could neither stand nor walk.  However, Vasco’s mother was sure he would need shoes because Jesus would heal him.  As I preached Jesus that night a beaming five-year-old and a crying mother came on the platform.  Vasco ran back and forth showing the people the wonder that had happened.  The people were beside themselves with joy.  That’s the faith of Jesus in operation.  He gave Vasco’s mother mountain-moving faith. 

Faith is not a method - faith is a person.

Now I could tell that story and someone else who was lame could also buy new shoes and come to a meeting and nothing would happen.  To the one person this was a living vibrant reality; to another person it may only be another faith technique.  Faith is not a method - faith is a person.

The Man Who Crawled

In one of our Gospel Festivals in India, a man paralyzed from his waist down was lying on the ground listening as I spoke of Jesus Christ.  He pushed himself up leaning on his arms all the while inching his way around the crowd to get a closer view of the platform.  When I spoke in the name of Jesus for the lame to rise up and walk, he tried to get up but fell down.  He did it again with the same dismal result.  I would never have known these details unless a friend of mine, Pastor Frederick Mwassa from the east coast of Kenya, had been present.  He was standing looking at this pitiful sight of a man trying to get up and walk.  He told me after the meeting, “Peter, I approached the lame man saying, ‘Shall I help you?’  The man responded, ‘No, I believe the word of Jesus that I have heard preached.  I believe it more than I believe in my paralyzed condition.  I will walk on my own.’”  Again he tried, and this time life flowed to his limbs.  He jumped to his feet and came running to the platform while all the people who’d seen him began to weep and cry, and were beside themselves at what they had just witnessed.  The Holy Spirit had revealed Jesus to that man.  Jesus had given him faith, and no one was going to talk him out of it. 

I could relate this story and another person in a similar condition could say and act in exactly the same way, and nothing would happen.  It is true that faith responds by acting, that faith without works is dead.  But faith doesn’t come from imitating the action of someone else - faith comes from Jesus.  Don’t try to imitate or copy what someone else has done, instead just draw closer to Jesus.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to you more everyday.  Jesus’ faith, assurance and peace will come into your heart.  This is why every miracle testimony is unique, whether a testimony from the Bible or a current one.  As each individual connects with Jesus, that person will act out their faith in Him.

The more we look at our own effort the worse it gets, while the more we look at Jesus the easier it becomes.

Jesus is the key to everything.  Our miracle is in Him.  The more we look at our own effort the worse it gets, while the more we look at Jesus the easier it becomes.  I have increasingly made my whole focus to lift up Jesus.  The apostle Paul writes, “O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Galatians 3:1)  Faith, miracles, healings and wonders are not produced by methods or faith techniques.  These blessings come when people fully see Jesus portrayed.  This was Paul’s preaching style: to vividly paint a picture of the awesomeness of Jesus.

It Is A Gift

Mental believing comes from within ourselves.  We try to achieve a level of soulish concentration where we think we believe something.  This is the complete opposite of the faith of God.  Look again at this scripture:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

This means:

1. Faith is “not of ourselves;”
2. Faith is “a gift of God;”
3. Faith is “not of works;”
4. If faith came from our works or ourselves we could boast, but since it doesn’t, all boasting goes to Jesus.

We nurture and grow this God-given faith by continually looking unto Jesus.

The next verse sheds light on how real faith comes.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)  Everything we have is because we are new creations in Christ Jesus.  We are believers because Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of faith, is in us.  We nurture and grow this God-given faith by continually looking unto Jesus. 

Do you work for a “gift?”  Obviously not!  A gift must be free or it is no longer a gift.  Faith is a gift of God.

At times we hear people say, “I have seriously studied and prayed and my faith is growing.  I believe I can do great things for God now.”  This type of speaking is an indication that faith’s not at work, because we cannot work for faith and consequently we can’t boast in it.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I practice Bible reading, prayer, and spiritual discipline with all my heart.  Still we may read and pray diligently and yet not have the faith that moves mountains.  Only Jesus can give us this faith.  When His peaceful presence touches you, another world will open up to you.  It’s no longer you trying to have faith.  Instead, His faith, the faith of Jesus, is flowing through you.  He is our TOTAL MIRACLE SOURCE. 

By: Peter Youngren

As founder of World Impact Ministries, Celebration Bible College, Way of Peace and the Celebration Churches in Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara, Canada, Peter is committed to equipping believers to fulfill their purpose before the return of Jesus Christ.

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