(Getting Things from God)

Question: How can I use my faith to obtain blessings from God?

Answer: An interesting question! Another way to consider it is to ask: what is the purpose of faith? And for some reason I find your troubling--at least, in the way it's worded. Though you may not have intended it so, it sounds very self-centred and utilitarian. Like God is simply a celestial vending machine, and faith is the coinage we stick in the slot to get the goodies we want!

We ought to bow the knee to God, and put our full trust in Him, simply because of who He is, not for what we can get out of it. However, the Bible clearly reveals that God, in abundant grace, blesses the saints beyond measure. Consider a few Scriptures on the subject:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has [already] blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (I Pet. 1:3). "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits" (Ps. 103:2).

We are called upon to "walk by faith" (II Cor. 5:7), not "use" our faith to get more from God–who has already assured us we have "all things" in Christ. The old gospel song makes a point: "Count your blessings, name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!" The New Testament describes something like three or four dozen things the Lord does for a sinner the moment he/she trusts in Christ as Saviour. In Him we have all we need, and we are "complete in Him" (Col. 2:10).

Now, am I saying we should never ask the Lord for things? No, of course not. We are invited to do so (Phil. 4:6; Heb. 4:15-16). But it's also clear that a carnal, selfish attitude can sometimes infect our prayers. ("You ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures," Jas. 4:3).

What is the purpose of faith, and the purpose of prayer? Not self interest, but service, to the glory of God. A good prayer would be, "Lord, make me more and more aware of the blessings I have." And a better question than the one you pose would be: "How can I grow in faith, so that I can serve the Lord more effectively?"

The answers there are commonly known--if not consistently practiced! Things such as:

☼ Regular study and meditation upon the Word of God (II Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; cf. Acts 17:11)

☼ Regular times of prayer (Phil. 4:6; I Thess. 5:17; I Tim. 2:1-2; Heb. 4:15-16)

☼ Christian fellowship in a good Bible-believing church (Heb. 10:23-25)

☼ Confession of sin (I Jn. 1:9)

☼ A commitment to get involved in serving the Lord, according to whatever gifts and opportunities He gives us (Rom. 12:1; I Pet. 4:10).

When we do these things, we can be sure that testing times will come–which, if we respond to them in a godly way, will result in the growth of our faith. Perhaps we can compare faith to a muscle in our bodies. As it is exercised against resistance, in the power of the Holy Spirit, it grows stronger.

The Bible assures us, "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (I Jn. 5:14). And what is His will for each of us, as believers?

☼ To His own glory, God is working in all things, in our lives, to make us more like Christ (Rom. 8:28-29; II Cor. 3:18).

☼ We are also called to be "ambassadors for Christ" (II Cor. 5:20; cf. Mk. 16:15). "Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (I Pet. 3:15).

Committed to cooperating with the Lord in fulfilling these goals, we can be assured that He will strengthen our faith to trust Him for all we need to accomplish them.