Trusting the Giver of the Gift
In Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey eloquently surmises his perspective on faith: “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Have you ever wondered how Noah had the fortitude to spend 120 years building a massive, meticulously designed boat in preparation for a coming flood, when it is likely he had never even seen rain? After waiting so many years for his promised son, how could Abraham draw back the knife to sacrifice Isaac, trusting that God would keep his promise by raising Isaac from the dead? These heroes of Hebrews 11 had something in common: the gift of faith.
The Gifts of the Spirit
The Bible instructs us to seek after spiritual gifts, revealing God’s desire for believers to be used in this realm. When God’s measure of grace meets with our humble desire, we become candidates for the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, if we live a Spirit-led life, we will become more attuned to God calling us to new dimensions with Him.
I Corinthians 12 lists nine gifts of the Spirit, each gift divinely imparted, with a separate function. The beauty of the gifts of the Spirit is that they demonstrate the biblical principle of unity through diversity. Distinct in manifestation, each gift has the same source and the same purpose: building up the body of Christ. Through these gifts, the natural world is transformed by a divine encounter. The gifts of the Spirit are not simply a manifestation of someone’s personality. Instead, the individual acts as a conduit for the Holy Spirit, yielding results that could not have been achieved in his or her own ability.
This passage reveals three guiding principles regarding the nature of the gifts of the Spirit:
- they are given at the discretion of God (I Corinthians 12: 4-6, 11)
- they exist for the good of the entire church (I Corinthians 12:7, 12)
- we should earnestly seek after these gifts, to glorify God (I Corinthians 12:31)
The gifts of the Spirit are typically categorized as gifts of utterance (prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues), gifts of revelation (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discernment of spirits) and gifts of power (faith, healing, miracles).
The gift of faith is an impartation of faith on a divine level that empowers the recipient to envision the impossible and trust God to bring it to pass. People with the gift of faith are often considered visionaries, those who pray bold prayers, dream daring dreams, and attempt audacious things for God.
Faith Versus the Gift of Faith
What is the difference between faith and the gift of faith? The essence of both is the same, for any level of faith is a gift from God. We were created in God’s image, with an innate longing for connection with Him. Any faith that is demonstrated in our lives comes from the hand of God, and not from within ourselves. The challenge of answering this question has to do with the quality of the manifestation of the gift.
It is interesting that all believers must have the element of faith working in their lives to some degree. While all Christians have not been used to interpret tongues or work miracles, every believer must have faith to enter into covenant relationship with God. Saving faith, as described in Ephesians 2:8, is a gift from God, yet it should not be confused with the gift of faith. Both examples bring glory to God, but saving faith is for the individual, whereas the gift of faith is for the benefit of the body of Christ as a whole.
Beyond saving faith is the faith that many believers exhibit along their journey, that which would be considered a fruit of the Spirit. This level of faith trusts God in daily situations, with the cares of life and with crises. All Christians are called to this life of faith, for living an abundant life in Christ can only be achieved when our trust is in God. A hallmark sign of walking in such faith is lack of anxiety, as described in Philippians 4: 6-7 (NKJV): 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The shared element between saving faith, abundant living faith and the gift of faith is that all three come from God, yet these three can be discussed distinctly because each one varies in quality. Each person is given a measure of faith from God (Romans 12:3), so what is the distinction between these three types of faith? The difference is the level of trust. For the gift of faith, there is complete surrender to the sovereign will of God. Said another way, the trust is in God, not in the outcome.
Faith is tricky because, on one hand, it requires absolute belief in God for the impossible, in the face of everything that declares it will not happen. On the other hand, true faith acknowledges the lordship of Jesus Christ. A person cannot beg, bribe or coerce God into doing anything. Complete trust comes when someone believes that God will do it, yet surrenders to God’s plan even if His answer is not what he or she had hoped. In that regard, the gift of faith strongly resembles spiritual maturity. It is bold but quiet. The gift of faith moves mountains, but only for the glory of God. It is confident enough to accept “Keep praying”, “Not yet”, or even “No” as the answer to a desperate prayer.
When faith is taken to the next level, believers are open to receive the gift of faith. On a practical level, it seems that the distinction between faith as a fruit of the Spirit and the gift of the faith is the level of impartation received, demonstrated by the unwavering manner with which we operate in that faith. When we flow in the fruit of the Spirit without concern for the outcome, we become candidates for the gift of faith. This is because we operate in the realm to which God is calling us, without the question of “what if”. The gift of faith is not merely positive philosophy or hoping for a miracle. It is characterized by simple obedience, without the need to control God or the outcome.
The tightrope that believers often walk concerning faith is wrestling with how long to keep asking. The gift of faith empowers a person to continue to seek with faith, even when answers seem elusive, because diligent, tenacious prayers honor God. If Christians should not keep knocking in prayer, then why would the Bible provide the example of the persistent widow? When the pressure of controlling the outcome of the prayer is removed, it becomes easier to keep pressing and to continue believing. The gift of faith is not tied to a result. This unrelenting faith is bound to an unwavering God.
In my own life, I realize that the gift of faith has been granted and cultivated out of necessity and humility. It came through the honest realization that when I have absolutely no power over a situation, I have the privilege of being in a covenant relationship with the only One who has all power. The gift of faith was imparted when I understood that my faith is only a response to God’s Word and His grace in my life. Faith became a simple act of obedience, not a down payment on something I earned. Further, I grasped the concept that God’s time is sovereign, and only in due season will a breakthrough come. This did not absolve me of my responsibility to diligently seek God, but it dissipated the quest to control the outcome of my prayers. When the gift of faith is in operation in my life, it empowers me to trust the Giver, not the gift.
If God has empowered you to serve Him with the gift of faith, ask God how you can best use that gift for His glory. What does God want you to pursue in prayer? In what ways can the gift of faith empower you to partner with God to achieve His will? If you have not been given the gift of faith, but you desire to be used in that area, prepare yourself now for God to bestow that gift upon you. Humble yourself and build up your faith through the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Trust God in all areas of your life, dream big, and believe the impossible!
Lisa Reddy earned a Master of Divinity from Urshan Graduate School of Theology, and a Master of Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is an ordained minister with the United Pentecostal Church International. Lisa serves as the Associate Pastor at The Sanctuary, in Cedar Park, Texas, where her husband, Mel, is the Lead Pastor. Their home is full of joy and laughter thanks to their four year-old miracle from God, Jude Jameson Reddy.