First the Blade
© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven
I have always been intrigued by the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth, a Pentecostal pioneer. He has touched millions of believers with his exploits and teaching.
Wigglesworth (1859 – 1947) was born into a poor family in Yorkshire, England. As a child, he worked in the fields pulling turnips and working in the mills rather than attending schools. As a teenager, a man taught Wigglesworth the plumbing trade, which he worked at until he became a full-time evangelist.
After his marriage in 1882, his wife Polly eventually taught him how to read when he was twenty-seven years old. He made up his mind from that point forward to read little else but the Bible.
Many of his Christians peers referred to Wigglesworth as the Apostle of Faith. Their reasoning was based on his successful world-wide ministry that saw tens of thousands of people saved, thousands healed and hundreds of thousands taught to walk closer to the Lord. Numerous accounts even testify that Wigglesworth raised at least fourteen people from the dead.
Wigglesworth’s quotes still inspire Christians today:
“Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.”
“It is better to live ready than to get ready!”
“There is nothing our God cannot do. He will do everything if you dare to believe.”
“Some read their Bibles in Hebrew, some in Greek; I like to read mine in the Holy Ghost.”
“A man is in a great place when he has no one to turn to but God.”
“God wants us so badly that He has made the condition as simple as He possibly could: only believe.”
“There is something about believing God that will cause Him to pass over a million people to get to you.”
“If you seek nothing but the will of God, He will always put you in the right place at the right time.”
Once, Smith Wigglesworth was talking with some Bible school students when one asked, “How can I be like you?”
“First the blade, then the ear and after that the full corn in the ear,”Wigglesworth replied.
Wigglesworth used Mark 4:28 to underline an important point to the young man. He wanted the student to understand it takes time and proper preparation for a new believer to grow in his spiritual walk with the Lord. It’s not an overnight happening!
My hope in writing this book is to encourage Christians – young and old – to take the time to build a proper foundation for their spiritual journeys with the Lord.
Can We Trust the Bible?
On May 20, 1985, I gave my life to the Lord. Yes, I was a changed man, but I had no clue about what to do next. And to be honest, I didn’t even know how to label myself.
I phoned Bill Sheridan at 8 a.m. the following morning and told him about my conversion on the bathroom floor. Then, I asked, “What am I? Am I a follower of some weird cult like Hare Krishna? Or what?”
Bill laughed. “No, you’re not a follower of Hare Krishna or any weird cult. You’re a born-again believer. A Christian.”
“A Christian? I’m just a Christian! I’ve never met a Christian like me in my whole life.”
We talked a little longer and he advised me to read the Bible, beginning in the Book of Matthew. A couple of hours later, I bought a New King James Bible for $7.95 at Nelson’s Bookstore in downtown Fort Dodge, Iowa. I took it home and then was faced with a new dilemma.
You see, two days earlier I was an agnostic who believed the Bible was a man-made book of religious gobbledygook. Now, I held one in my hands and the friend who was instrumental in bringing about my salvation advised me to read it. What should I do? I thought.
“Lord, You showed me how real and alive You are yesterday when you saved me from committing suicide. So, I’m going to read this Bible and trust that it is Your truth. I may not understand everything, but if You help me, I will do my best,” I said aloud.
The Lord honored my prayer, but I wish the following information about the Bible would have been available to me back then. It would have erased every doubt in my mind:
The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by over forty different authors from all walks of life. There were fishermen, politicians, generals, kings, shepherds and historians. These men were born on three different continents and wrote in three different languages. They wrote on hundreds of controversial subjects, yet they wrote in perfect agreement and harmony. They wrote in dungeons, in temples, on beaches, and on hillsides, during peacetime and during war. Yet their words sound like they came from the same source. So, even though ten people today could not write on one controversial subject and agree, God picked forty very different people to write the Bible—and it has stood the test of time.
But is it accurate?
Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 prophecies in the New Testament, for a total of 1,817. These encompass 8,352 verses.
In the Old Testament there are prophesies against Tyre, Sidon, Ammon, Moab, Philistia, Egypt, Edom, Syria, Elam, Damascus, Gaza, Judah, Israel, and Babylon, to name a few. Not one prophecy failed to be fulfilled with complete accuracy.
Let’s take a look at how many prophecies there are in the Old Testament that were fulfilled by Jesus. Alfred Edersheim concluded that there are at least 456 passages in the Old Testament that Jewish Rabbis historically have interpreted as being about the Messiah.
What would be the odds of just eight of these prophecies coming true, especially since they are from five different authors writing hundreds of years apart?
(1) Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
(2) Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. (Zechariah 11:12-13)
(3) Messiah’s clothes would be gambled away. (Psalms 22:18)
(4) Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced. (Psalms 22:16)
(5) Messiah’s bones would not be broken. (Psalms 34:20)
(6) Messiah would be born of the tribe of Judah. (Isaiah 37:31)
(7) Messiah would be called out from Egypt. (Hosea 11:1)
(8) Messiah would be buried in a rich man’s grave. (Isaiah 53:9)
The odds of all eight coming true are virtually incomprehensible! The number is written mathematically as 1014 or 100,000,000,000,000 to one.
But according to Edersheim, there are 456 scriptures that speak of the Messiah! I am not sure there is a number high enough to express the odds of fulfilling all 456 of those—not to mention all 1,817 prophecies found in the Bible. This is proof that the Author of these prophecies knew the future. The God who created the universe out of nothing knows the past, present, and future.
(All of these Bible facts are provided by Mario Murrillo and Dr. J. Smith at mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com, September 15, 2019, in the article, “Believers are leaving the Bible but the Bible will survive.”)
I am a believer who believes we can trust the Bible. How about you?
Is it Important to Grow our Faith?
But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 AMP)
For our salvations, God gives everyone a portion of faith which is more than enough for us to say, “Yes,” to His being Lord of our lives. Yet, this saving faith is only a miniscule amount compared to what is needed to truly “fight the good fight of faith” throughout our journeys with the Lord.
Some may be satisfied with the amount of faith they received at salvation and aren’t willing to put any effort into growing their faith. That is their choice. At least, they are saved! Yet, they need to understand that this is not pleasing to God and will cause them problems throughout their lives. Maybe in finances, sickness, relationships or whatever.
Now, for everyone else, let’s learn how to trust God more and more by growing in our faith on a daily basis.
Twenty-five years ago, I had a vision of thousands of Christians walking along a high mountaintop. Life was good. Everyone enjoyed the blessings being given to them by God. Then I saw a tsunami of calamities strike the Christians. So overwhelming were the calamities that almost all of the Christians lost hope and were swept off the mountain and over a cliff into a chasm of deep despair and defeat. A few believers still hung onto the edge of the cliff by their fingernails after the wave of calamities passed.
But as I looked on, I knew these few survivors could not last through another wave of calamities without giving up and also falling into the chasm of despair and defeat along with the others.
As I looked at this horrible scene in the vision, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “These Christians did not like the Word of Faith messengers I sent to the Body of Christ. They did not like their hairstyles or their clothing or the way they talked or acted. But most of all, they did not receive the revelation of faith, which I wanted the Body to have so they could withstand the trials, which are heading toward America. I want you to go and tell them they need the Word of Faith revelation.”
I am certainly not what you would call a Word of Faith teacher, but I do have a deep revelation of faith, which I received from Word of Faith teachings. My faith revelation has allowed me to walk through a divorce, snowstorms with wind chills of -50 degrees, sleeping in cars, digging in garbage dumpsters, and business reversal after reversal, all without ever falling into despair and defeat.
When I had this vision twenty-five years ago, I did not have a revelation about the End-Times because that wasn’t on my radar screen until the last four years or so. Now, I’m convinced the tsunami of calamities I saw in the vision are a part of the tribulation and persecutions awaiting believers in the soon arriving Great Tribulation.
It’s my belief that if we American Christians do not prepare ourselves for the End-Times that maybe 50 to 75% or more of us will be a part of the Great Falling Away the Apostle Paul mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Those percentages could add up to forty to seventy million believers. Unbelievable, right?
So, I don’t want to be disobedient to the heavenly vision, which was given to me over twenty-five years ago. Thus, I will be writing about faith in the next few chapters.
Building a Foundation of Faith (a)
The four Gospels provide us with an interesting study on faith in the life of Peter:
According to Josephus, Peter was in his early to mid-twenties when he began following Jesus. He was married, had a house, owned a boat with his brother, Andrew, and partnered in a fishing business with James and John, who also owned a boat.
During his three years of following Jesus, Peter watched Jesus turn water into wine, heal his mother-in-law, raise three people from the dead (Talitha, man from Nain, and Lazarus), cast out two thousand demons from one man, feed the five thousand, feed the four thousand, and do countless miracles, which John stated “if they were written in detail…the world could not contain the books that would be written.”
Besides all the signs, wonders, and miracles, it was Peter who called out to Jesus, “…command me to come to You on the water.” Why did Peter make his request to walk on water in such an odd manner?
When Peter saw the wind and waves, he began to sink. Jesus reached out His hand and saved him, but why did Jesus say to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After all, there were eleven disciples still sitting safely inside the boat who had zero faith to step out of the boat and walk on water. Why would Jesus be so tough on Peter who at least had enough faith to get out of the boat?
There was also the time the temple authorities asked Peter whether Jesus would pay the two-drachma temple tax. Peter said, “Yes.” But when Peter arrived at the home of Jesus, the Lord spoke first and gave him a short teaching on sons versus strangers. Jesus said to Peter:
“…go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me. (Matthew 17:27)
Why was Peter given such an unusual supernatural assignment? Why not one of the other disciples?
It all goes back to when Peter first met Jesus along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus used Peter’s boat as a teaching platform and afterward He directed Peter to sail his boat out into the Sea of Galilee to drop the nets into deep waters. Jesus’ words were totally opposite to how a Galilean fisherman caught fish, as fishing was done at night, never during the day.
Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets. (Luke 5:5)
When Peter obeyed Jesus’ words, the results were so successful Peter had to signal for James and John to bring their boat out to help with the fishing catch. That experience caused Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave the fishing business and follow Jesus. (29)
This revelation of listening to the words of Jesus and then obeying His directions became a foundation for Peter’s faith. If you look closely at the four Gospels, you will notice it was usually Peter who answered Jesus’ questions or had inspired revelations which he then spoke.
Before the apostle Paul arrived on the scene, Peter had this revelation:
So then, faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
It was Peter who denied Christ three times. And why did that happen?
Jesus prayed and worshipped with eleven of His disciples on that Passover night in the Garden of Gethsemane. The scene then quickly changed when 300 Roman soldiers, and thirty or forty temple officers and slaves, showed up with swords, clubs, lanterns, and torches.
But even in that moment, Jesus was in charge. At His words, “I am He,” the cohort of soldiers and the temple group stepped back and fell to the ground. This demonstration of power and authority by Jesus most certainly inspired his eleven disciples, who were not only outnumbered thirty to one, but they were armed with only two swords.
Judas stepped forward and kissed Jesus. The temple officers seized Jesus when they saw the kiss.
“Lord, shall we strike with the sword,” said one of the disciples.
In that same instant, Peter drew his sword and sliced off the ear of the high priest’s slave, a man named Malchus.
Let’s pause and consider the scene in the garden that night, okay?
Peter stood there, holding his sword, ready to protect his King David from the Romans and the Temple group. Adrenalin pumped through his veins. Maybe he envisioned himself as one of the two men who stood with David in the middle of a barley field, slaying an entire Philistine army. But no matter what, Peter stood there, boldly willing to die for what he believed.
The wounded man, Malchus, writhed in pain. Blood gushed out of the wound and his ear lay on the ground. No one paid much attention to the wounded man because all eyes focused on Peter and his sword.
Three hundred battle-hardened Roman soldiers, who were armed with lances, shields, swords, and armor, readied themselves to attack the insurrectionists. They had no fear of a fisherman with a sword and were ready to kill Peter and the other disciples, thus ending the rebellion at its outset.
The new King David – Jesus – then revealed His kingdom to everyone in the garden. He reached out and healed Malchus. He turned to Peter and said, “Put the sword into the sheath.”
In that moment, I think Peter realized what he believed about his King David and His kingdom was incorrect. He had been deceived. His faith for the deception instantly dried up. He and the other disciples fled the garden without uttering another word.
So crushed was Peter’s faith that when he stood in the courtyard outside the Sanhedrin, where Jesus was on trial, he no longer had the heart to die for his King or the kingdom. A servant-girl and a few bystanders even heard him deny Christ three times.
When the women told about the angel and the empty tomb, Peter along with the other disciples believed it was nonsense. Jesus, upon His appearance, rebuked the eleven for their unbelief and hardness of heart in the matter.
We all know about Jesus telling Peter at the Passover supper he was about to be sifted by Satan and also, that Jesus had prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail. But have you ever noticed these two scriptures:
Saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon. (Luke 24:34)
And that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:5)
These are the only two scriptures, which mention Jesus had a special meeting with Peter alone before meeting with the rest of the apostles. We have no scriptural record of what Jesus said to Peter.
What do you think Jesus said to Peter at that special meeting?
Building a Foundation of Faith (c)
It was Peter who had the heaven inspired revelation of Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16: 15 – 16)
Even though Peter had a deep revelation and knew Jesus had words of eternal life, Peter had years of Jewish teachings on all of the unfulfilled prophecies for Israel. The unfulfilled prophecies must have seemed to be at odds with Jesus’ teachings. How could the promises for Israel’s restoration be fulfilled if you had to become like a child to enter into the kingdom of God?
What did Peter do?
He probably put two and two together to figure out the kingdom of God from what Jesus taught and what he already knew. Therefore, if Jesus was the Messiah and Israel had been promised that a Redeemer would restore Israel to its former prosperous place in history, then the Kingdom of God would be much like Israel was under King David, except the new King would do miracles. Peace would come. The lamb and the wolf would graze together, the lion would eat straw with the ox and dust would be the serpent’s food.
There are numerous scriptures backing up Peter’s logic, but it was neither God’s way nor His timing. So, when Jesus taught the disciples He was going to suffer, die, be buried and then be raised up again, Peter could not believe his ears and even rebuked Him. Jesus said to him:
Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matthew 16:23)
This particular exchange took place a little more than six months before Jesus’ death on the cross. All through the weeks following this particular event, Jesus continued to teach His disciples.
“Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. (Luke 9: 45 – 46)
Remember: the Kingdom of God − between Jesus first coming and His second coming − is a spiritual kingdom, which is not seen with the human eye. It is one which has to be received by faith and cannot be understood by logic or knowledge.
Thus, Peter’s faith in his deception came to an end in the Garden of Gethsemane.
I believe Jesus said approximately the same words to Peter, which He spoke to Cleopas and the other traveler when He met them near Emmaus:
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24: 25 – 27)
All of these Old Testament scriptures spoken by the Living Word would have opened Peter’s eyes so that his heart would have burned in his chest once more, filled with faith.
What can we learn about faith from Peter’s experience?
And Jesus answered, saying to them, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11: 22)
Our faith must always, always, always be in God and not in our interpretations of Scripture. It is God who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, not our traditions.
Building a Foundation of Faith (d)
Almost everything we do for the Lord requires faith on our parts, but some things may require even more faith on our parts.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17: 19-20)
In the late fall of 1995, I lived with a friend in an apartment in Ames, Iowa. To say I was going through bad times would be a classic understatement. My truck had been repossessed. My painting company had collapsed. There were a couple of dollars in my billfold with few hopes of earning more. I had to stand on a stepladder to touch bottom in my life.
My roommate and I felt we should pray for Northern Ireland on one particular morning. We began praying in tongues, waiting on the Holy Spirit to show us how to intercede for that war-torn area.
As we prayed, I had a vision in which I saw the bodies of young people piled up in the streets of Belfast. There were thousands of them. All had their lives snuffed out by the continued violence between the Catholics and Protestants.
The vision so disturbed me I could do nothing but weep. We eventually prayed as best we could to stop the vision from happening in Northern Ireland, but I had no inner peace. The main problem seemed to be that I knew I had an important prophetic word for Northern Ireland within my spirit, waiting to be given.
I went to my bedroom and prayed some more. I asked the Lord to give the prophecy to a well-known preacher. After all, who would listen to me? As soon as I prayed these words, I knew it was a bad idea so I quickly repented.
“Okay, Lord, show me how to speak the prophecy to Northern Ireland,” I prayed and with those words, I finally had peace.
A couple of days later, the Lord impressed me to visit a Catholic church near the Iowa State University campus. I walked in the door and asked if anybody knew someone in Northern Ireland. They laughed, but one person told me to talk with a secretary in the basement.
I went to the secretary. She did not know anyone in Ireland, but she knew the name of the Catholic Charismatic leader in Des Moines, Iowa. “Maybe that person knows someone in Ireland,” she said.
I phoned the Catholic Charismatic leader in Des Moines. “I don’t know anyone in Ireland,” she said, “but my husband knows the head of the Catholic Charismatic movement in England.”
Her husband got on the line and gave me the phone number.
I phoned the number in England early the next morning and talked with the leader’s wife because the leader was busy at some meetings in London. I told her why I was calling and what I needed.
“Funny,” she said, “but I’m looking at the exact person you need. His picture is on the cover of a book.” She then gave me the information for the man.
After hanging up, I sat down at the table and wrote the prophetic word, which I had for Northern Ireland. I mailed it to the Charismatic leader in Belfast.
Now, this whole experience was by faith, and as soon as I dropped the letter into the mailbox, all of my faith was used up. Every doubt in the world hit me. Who did I think I was? A nobody. A failure. I didn’t even belong to a church. No pastor would ever vouch for me. The Irish leader would take one look at my name, my handwritten letter and laugh.
But in the midst of those doubts, I knew enough to run to the throne of grace and ask for grace and mercy to help me.
A week or so later on a Sunday afternoon, the telephone rang.
“Hello,” I answered.
“Larry, I’m Cecil Kerr from Belfast, Ireland,” he said, “and I’m calling to thank you for the prophetic word you sent me. Our prayer group had been waiting for weeks for just such a word and we are already praying your prophetic word into fruition. So, from all of us, we thank you for your obedience to the Holy Spirit.”
We talked for a few minutes and then we said goodbye. As soon as I hung up, I fell on my knees and cried. I can still feel the emotions of that moment and how small I felt compared to a big, big God.
The next day, our phone was disconnected because we owed two months of phone bills.
If we want to change our community, our state and our nation, we can do it, but we must build our faith so mountains will move out of our way.
Building a Foundation of Faith (e)
In Jesus’ third year of ministry, the twelve disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith. You would expect the disciples to sit on the ground, pull out their notebooks and write down His every word because this was such an important question.
Maybe Jesus could have rolled out a large blackboard in front of the twelve. He might have reached for a piece of chalk in His robe and wrote the top ten points on how to increase the disciples’ faith.
But instead of a ten-point lecture, He gave a simple, one sentence illustration:
“If you have faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17: 6)
Scripture does not reveal the disciple’s reactions. Thus, we must assume the disciples were satisfied with His answer because Scripture does not suggest they ever asked the same question again.
How does this one sentence explain how we Christians can increase our faith?
First of all, who spoke the simple, one sentence illustration? Jesus – the Living Word – did.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Faith instantly arises in our hearts when Jesus speaks to us.
This can happen while we are reading the Bible and a verse jumps off the page, touching our hearts with a deep impression. The verse may be the exact answer we need at that moment or sometime in the future. Thus, our faith comes alive because we believe the Lord has spoken to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
It could happen while we are grilling hamburgers on the patio, our appetites hungering for a tasty meal and our minds solely on the task at hand. Out of nowhere, we know how to handle a situation, which had been bugging us for days. We then have the faith to apply the answer because we know it came via the Holy Spirit, who only speaks what the Lord tells Him.
Other possible ways the Lord may speak to us are through prophetic words, dreams, visions, songs, movies and whatever. The list is endless because our Lord is a creative speaker. But no matter how He does it, we end up knowing the Lord is speaking to us because of the lasting impression it leaves on our hearts.
Okay, we understand how faith comes alive when Jesus speaks to us, but why the mustard seed?
The mustard seed was the smallest seed in Israel. When germinated and under the proper growing conditions, the seed grew into a mature bush within three months’ time to an average height of seven feet tall. The mature plant was strong enough for birds to nest in its branches.
Therefore, when Jesus used the mustard seed as His example, He was talking about the seed’s one-sided genetic focus (or faith) to be the largest garden plant. The seed never doubted or waivered in its faith to be all it was called to be. The seed could even lie dormant for over sixty years, but when the conditions were right, it would fulfill its genetic calling by growing into a mature plant.
Although the mustard seed is tiny, mustard-seed faith is not a small amount of faith. It is 100%, put-your-hand-to-the-plow-and-not-look-back, all-in faith. It is the pinnacle of faith and where we need to set our sights.
How can we have mustard-seed faith for ourselves?
First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. (Mark 4:28)
Building a Foundation of Faith (f)
I received a lump of faith when I gave my life to the Lord on May 20, 1985. It was my unique lump, not your lump or Smith Wigglesworth’s or Francis Chan’s lump. It was the lump the Lord knew had the potential to bring me through every trial, every battle, and every circumstance, which laid ahead of me in my life.
I emphasized the word potential because our individual lumps of faith can best be compared to the muscles of a newborn baby. The newborn’s undeveloped muscles can move the baby’s arms, hands and legs a little bit at first, but not much. It takes time and effort for the muscles to develop so a baby can crawl, walk, run, or ride a tricycle.
When the baby reaches his teenage years, maybe the youth is a good athlete and has a dream to play pro football in the NFL. To achieve this goal, he will have to lift weights and work out on a regular basis. He may not like lifting weights. It is boring and painful, but the competition is so great he has no choice.
Nike’s motto sums up what the athlete’s attitude must be: “Just do it!”
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Most of us believers understand why athletes have to develop their muscles to compete in sports, but yet, very few of us realize we need to develop our individual lumps of faith. After all, didn’t Jesus already win the victory for us? Can’t we just sit back and enjoy ourselves until Jesus returns? Why build faith now?
And to be honest, the word faith has a stigma attached to it. Who has not heard of the excesses of the Word of Faith movement? “The prosperity gospel.” “Seed faith.” “Name it and claim it.” All of this has contributed to the muddied waters for teaching faith.
But I consider myself fortunate to having been saved during the 1980′s when the Word of Faith teaching programs were aired on many Christian radio stations. I listened to Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, R. W. Schambach, Joyce Meyer and others every day. I read over a hundred and fifty books by these teachers.
The Word of Faith teachings have built a strong foundation in me. So, beginning next time, we will be looking at the important revelations of the Word of Faith teachings and how we can use them to build up our individual lumps of faith.
Building a Foundation of Faith (g)
Like I wrote earlier, I am not a Word of Faith teacher, but I am a beneficiary of its teachings. Most of the teachings have worked well in my life, but a few have not. Over the next few chapters I will outline which teachings have built me up and which have not worked well for me.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the father of the Word of Faith movement: Kenneth Hagin.
If you have read any of Hagin’s more than one hundred books, you are bound to read his testimony about being a sickly child and how he was bedfast with a deformed heart and an incurable blood disease. How he then had a powerful conversion experience, after dying three times and visiting Hell, all within a period of ten minutes.
Hagin remained in bed after his conversion, suffering from his ailments, for many more months until he received his revelation of the following scripture:
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. (Mark 11: 24 King James)
Before August 1934, countless Christians had read Mark 11:24, but few had the exact revelation which Kenneth Hagin had on that summer day. Hagin stated he was talking to the Lord about the verse and how he especially agreed with the words: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray.”
Hagin desired to be healed. Thus he kept praying and asking and believing the Lord heard his prayers.
As he continued talking aloud, he heard the Holy Spirit speak to him: “You do believe all right – as far as you know.”
The Holy Spirit then quoted the rest of the verse: “Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
At that moment, the lights went on inside of Kenneth Hagin:
“I prayed for healing because that’s what I desired, but I was trying to have my healing first, and then I was going to believe I received it. But when do we believe we receive what we desire from God? When we pray! That means before we see a change in the circumstances we must believe that God has heard and answered us. We are to believe we receive whatever we desire from God the minute we pray and ask Him for our petition.”
I said to the Lord, “Now I know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to begin to believe I receive healing for my paralyzed body right now, while I’m still lying here helpless. While I’m lying here bedfast, I’ve got to believe I receive healing for my deformed heart and incurable blood disease.” (Word of Faith, Kenneth Hagin, 1990)
Kenneth Hagin eventually jumped out of bed, totally healed. He became a young preacher, a pastor, and an evangelist in the Healing Revival of the 1940′s and 50′s. He then began his teaching career, which led to radio programs, founding the Rhema Bible Training Center, and the Rhema church system.
If you check out Kenneth Hagin on Google, you will find various sites, which accuse Hagin of being a plagiarist, a heretic, a false prophet, a serpent, and a false teacher. What’s with this, huh? How can a godly man have so many accusers?
Most of his critics’ biggest complaints are that he taught and preached like a Pentecostal, which he was. That’s like complaining Charles Stanley taught like a Baptist pastor because he is a Baptist pastor.
There are no perfect teachers, except Jesus. As Mike Bickel says, “God loves to use people who offend us so that He can show us our hearts.”
Kenneth Hagin never once took the time to answer his critics. He never once defended himself. When his critics called for a comment about a critical book or article they were writing about him, he always said, “No comment. God bless you.”
My only disagreement with Kenneth Hagin’s teachings is he looks at salvation and grace from an Arminian/Pentecostal point of view while I agree with the Baptist/Calvin one. You can be the judge on that one for yourself.
I recommend his books.
Since, he has sold over 60 million copies, you can buy them on Amazon (new and used), from numerous other sites (new and used), from Salvation Army stores, from Hagin’s ministry site, and wherever.
Building a Foundation of Faith (h)
Kenneth Hagin authored over 120 books, which were not really written as books. They were actually teachings, which he gave on his radio programs, at conferences, or wherever. Another person then transcribed the teachings into book format. The average book size is thirty pages.
I myself have read over a hundred of Hagin’s books. Each one was a day in the classroom as I sat at a table with my Bible, a scratch pad and Hagin’s book. As I read the book, I studied the scripture references and took notes. When I finished the book, I tried to immediately put into practice what I had learned that particular day.
Looking back, I would have to say the #1 principle I learned from Kenneth Hagin’s teachings was: God answers prayers.
Many believers might look at the simplicity of this revelation and say, “Big deal. So what?”
But when I say God answers prayers, I mean He answers every prayer, every time and never ignores one of them. Period.
Does this mean you can pray for a new Rolls Royce Phantom ($437,000 sticker price), go to the dealer and drive it home? Probably not, but you will get an answer for your prayer about the Rolls Royce.
In 1987, I lived in a small one-room apartment in central Iowa, was separated from my wife and family, had no telephone and no car. I worked as a minimum wage laborer in a motel, which was a three-mile walk from the apartment.
I woke up one morning and discovered the temperature had dropped to 30 degrees below zero and because of the high winds, the wind chill factor was a minus 50 degrees. Plus, six inches of snow had fallen and swirled on the winds.
It was a Tuesday, which meant I was scheduled to begin work at 8 a.m. What did I do?
I bundled up as best I could and before stepping out the door, I prayed, “Lord, I’m walking to work. I ask that You either give me the grace to survive this weather or have someone stop and offer me a ride. The choice is Yours, but I know You love me and always hear my prayers.”
Did a car pull up to my apartment as I walked out my door so I would not suffer from the cold? No, absolutely not, nor did I expect one.
You see, one of the foundational precepts of receiving answers to prayers is we walk by faith and not by sight. Thus, you can almost always expect to start out walking through the storms of life – after praying – without seeing any improvement whatsoever in the circumstances.
That particular morning was no different.
After walking a mile and a half, my face was frost covered and my feet felt numb. Numerous cars passed me, hurrying off to work, but no one had even slowed down. A car finally pulled over. A young woman opened the door and said, “Would you like a ride?”
“Yes,” I answered. She dropped me off at my workplace.
The following morning, the weather conditions remained the same. I followed the same routine as the day before. This time, a man picked me up at about the same place as the young woman had the day before and took me to work.
On the third morning of the storm, a person volunteered to pick me up. A week later, the motel decided to have me picked up each morning by an employee. Soon after, the motel decided I could just drive one of their trucks back and forth to work. All of this happened without me ever asking anyone for help.
Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. (Mark 11: 23)
Okay, why do we not receive answers to our prayers?