What can we say about the gift of faith? How can it be lived out in practice?
After elaborating on several aspects of the gifts of the spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul continues by speaking about love:
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing”.
1 Corinthians 13:2
Paul emphasizes that is not the gifts, but love that should be at the core of communal life in church. Nevertheless, I would like to point out a remarkable secondary aspect in this verse: Paul obviously characterizes the gift of faith as a faith having the potential to remove mountains. Even Jesus spoke about faith that removes mountains (e.g. Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23). It seems that the Holy Spirit – through the gift of faith – enables certain persons to cast mountains into the sea, figuratively speaking, i.e.to remove obstacles. It is not about letting the beautiful mountain range of the Alps disappear, but – in a metaphorical sense – mastering hindrances, blockades and difficulties. In this sense the gift of faith produces groundbreaking faith, which is an unshakable confidence and unwavering trust in the efficacious power of God. This gift is to be used when obstacles block our way. This could be conflicts in our private life or in church, challenges in our job, financial needs, sicknesses, etc.
James writes that the prayer of faith will save the sick. In this context he mentions the prophet Elijah who was a man just like us. However, because he prayed full of faith in a certain situation his prayer was answered (James 5:15-17). Also Peter’s prayer was full of faith when he prayed for Tabita who had already died. God answered his prayer and brought her back to life (Acts 9:40). So there are situations when mountains tower up before us. But when the spirit of God activates the gift of faith in us we are enabled to remove these mountains. And those whom the spirit of God activates he also commissions and expects a reaction of faith. But let us be careful: We cannot simply produce this faith, we must receive it. It is the works prepared beforehand by God we are to walk in (Ephesians 2:10)
Many years ago a woman approached me after a service. In my spirit I sensed an unpleasant stench of death. To avoid misunderstandings: The stench did not proceed from the woman, I sensed it spiritually. At that moment supernatural faith arose in me. I realized the Holy Spirit was at work. Without knowing anything about her situation I spoke a verse from Psalm 118:17 into her life: “You shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord”. Deeply moved she told me she had just received a medical diagnosis that she would not live much longer. But now she met someone who acted in the gift of faith. I had not produced this faith myself, but had received it out of God’s hand. He makes his spirit blow where and how he wishes to. Many a time I have hesitated fearfully, but in this situation I boldly spoke what I had perceived in my spirit. Und this woman lives and is in good health up to this day.
I have also learned not to trust in my feelings. In some situations I feel strong in faith, but nothing happens. Many times I feel puny and insignificant, but something does happen. It is not my feelings that determine reality, but God’s spirit. The faith he gives is sufficient – even when it is as small as a mustard seed – to cause great things (cf. Matthew 17:20). Maybe one could say: Our problem is not that our faith is too small but that our unbelief is too great. For it is through unbelief that we obstruct the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus frequently criticized his disciples on account of their unbelief. I think it is our task to remove unbelief. However, it is God’s task to bestow on us the gift of faith.