BY DAVID K. BERNARD
The nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit are vital to an apostolic church. One of them is the gift of faith (I Corinthians 12:9).
Faith means confidence, trust, acceptance without tangible proof, reliance, commitment. Every child of God possesses saving faith and lives daily by faith (Romans 1:1617). In addition, every Christian
should manifest faith, or faithfulness, as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But I Corinthians 12 describes a supernatural gift of faith that transcends the faith required for salvation and Christian
living. While everyone can and should exercise faith in God on a continual basis, the gift of faith is an extraordinary measure of faith for an individual in a special situation.
The gift of faith, then, is the supernatural ability to trust Cod, or to inspire trust in God, for a particular need or circumstance. It often comes in response to a trial or a crisis that would overwhelm a person except that God grants special faith to overcome in spite of the circumstances. It may be a situation in which there is apparently no escape, but God gives faith to move a mountain out of the way.
When Paul was shipwrecked in Acts 27, the sailors lost all hope of life. But an angel appeared to Paul and assured him that God would deliver him and his fellow travelers. In Acts 27:25 Paul spoke confidently to them: “Take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (NKJV). Although there was no human reason to have hope, God gave Paul the ability to believe for protection and deliverance in the impossible situation, not only for himself but for the unbelievers on board also.
In such a situation, a child of God, who is filled with the Holy Spirit, could nevertheless think that disaster will strike. A person could have total confidence in God and yet conclude that the end of his
life had come. Indeed, this conclusion would be the only logical one under the circumstances. In other words, faith for salvation and Christian living does not automatically result in faith for a miraculous deliverance.
The gift of faith may operate even when no miraculous deliverance is forthcoming. Stephen was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), and he exhibited an incredible faith when he was stoned to death,
faith beyond the ordinary ability of humans. Instead of displaying fear, anger, bitterness, or pain, he faced martyrdom courageously and with a Christ-like spirit of forgiveness, enabled by the Holy Spirit.
“He, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…. Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with
this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:55, 60, NKJV).
In 1978 a cousin of mine who was a preacher was killed at age twenty-four in a tragic accident in Alabama. A preacher friend of his shot him by mistake while they were hunting together. My uncle, the
father of the slain man, had lost his wife to cancer five years earlier; she was in her forties. The friend who had accidentally killed my cousin came to the funeral home where the body lay but was understandably reluctant to see the family.
When my uncle heard he was there, he insisted on meeting him. Although grieving deeply himself, he ministered to the young man, telling him, in essence, “Do not torture yourself with guilt. Satan
would like to use this event to destroy your ministry, but you must go forward, do the work God has called you to do, and help fulfill the unfinished work of my son. God could have miraculously blocked this accident, but He did not, and we must accept what has happened. I forgive you for your mistake. Now we both must place everything in God’s hands.” Then they prayed together, weeping and speaking in tongues. Surely it was the gift of faith that enabled my uncle to act in such a Christ-like manner under the bleakest of circumstances.
In 1980, the church in Korea faced an urgent need for Bible college facilities. My parents obtained special permission from the Foreign Missions Board to travel in America to raise the necessary funds even though their regularly scheduled furlough had not yet come. After traveling for three months they were still far short of what they needed. One night they attended the annual camp meeting in Louisiana
and sat toward the back of the tabernacle. In the middle of his message, the evening speaker felt impressed to stop and make an appeal for their need. He took a check from his pocket, which represented the price of a truck he had sold that day, and gave it toward the Bible college project.
A spirit of sacrifice swept the congregation, and people streamed to the front with sacrificial gifts, including cash, tape recorders, watches, rings, and coats. In about ten minutes, the crowd gave fifty-
five thousand dollars, enough to meet the need. This offering transcended human generosity; it was divinely orchestrated. A spirit of extraordinary faith began in the speaker and overwhelmed the
congregation as they reached beyond themselves and allowed God to work through them to accomplish His purpose.
When I was a teacher and administrator at Jackson College of Ministries, we employed an independent Baptist minister who had recently been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. An African-American, he had many contacts in the black religious community and a strong burden to see his friends and associates receive the same message and experience that had transformed
his life. Together, in 1985, we designed a plan to reach them. Since he knew many ministers who wanted theological training but did not have an it, we decided to offer an evening class called “The Theology of Acts.” About twenty preachers and deacons enrolled. In addition to the two of us who organized the class, several others had already been baptized with the Holy Spirit, but most had not.
I began at Acts 1 and taught on repentance, water baptism in
Jesus’ name, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and
so on. At the conclusion of the fourth lesson, I felt the time was ripe
for God to move in a special way. I acknowledged my students’ previous
experience with God but urged them to press on to receive everything
God had for them. I explained that the only way to do so was not by
trusting in past accomplishments but by approaching God in humility,
repentance, and surrender. I asked everyone who wanted the fullness of
the Spirit and who wanted an apostolic ministry to stand and step
forward. Then I told them to confess all sin to God and yield their
lives completely. After they had done so, they were to begin praising
God and thanking Him for His promise. Their praise would be the sign
that they were ready to receive the Holy Spirit, and I would lay hands
on them according to the examples in the Book of Acts. At that point,
they were to believe God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As we followed this simple plan, faith began to rise and the power of God fell. No one told the students that they had to tarry for hours, days, weeks, or months, or that they had to seek the Lord many
times before the Holy Spirit would come. They only knew what I had shown them in the Bible. We all began to pray, and in about fifteen minutes five preachers and deacons received the Holy Spirit with the
initial sign of speaking in tongues. A transcendent faith permeated the classroom, working through the Spirit-filled members and inspiring others to receive their own personal Pentecost.
Let us seek the gift of faith in times of need and as God wills. As it works in our lives and in our churches, we will experience apostolic revival and spiritual victory.
Brother Bernard is the associate editor in the Editorial Division and pastor of New Life United Pentecostal Church in Austin, Texas. This article was excerpted from his book Spiritual Gifts.