Appropriating Faith

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Great indeed is God’s faithfulness, and I know that many of you listening in can testify to how faithful He has been. And I have many times testified to you that I have found Him so.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see,
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

From “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, 1923.

“If God is so faithful,” someone would ask the question, “How is it then so few people get things from God?” Well, Christians are divided into two different classes: those who pray and really expect something to happen, and those who just pray and don’t expect anything to happen.

Prayer is first a means unto an end. It is a connecting link between human needs and divine resources. It is a cry of a child to its father, with the expectation that the great Father heart, who is so faithful, loves to give them more than they do to receive. God’s Word says, “If an earthly father knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good things to those that ask him” (Matthew 7:11).

Do you have appropriating faith? Which kind of faith do you have?—The kind that really expects something to happen when you pray? Or is it just a prayer that goes up without any expectation?

Maybe I told you this little story once, but it impressed me so much because I knew the evangelist. One evening in desperation, when he was trying to explain the principle of faith, he offered an Ingersoll watch he held in his hand to a group of boys sitting on the front seat of the church.

“Sonny, would you like to have this watch?” said the evangelist, holding it out to him. “Go along,” answered the little fellow. “You can’t fool me, you don’t mean it!”

Looking at the next lad, the evangelist repeated the question. Quickly there came the answer, “Whatcha think I am? This ain’t any April fool!” And so on. It was repeated again and again; similar answers came.

At last the evangelist offered the watch to a little fellow about five years old who was sitting on the edge of his seat with bright, eager eyes, focused intently on the watch. His little feet didn’t touch the floor; he was balanced on the edge of the seat, just ready to leap.

The evangelist didn’t even have the opportunity of finishing his sentence. He began this way: “Little man, would you like…?” That was enough. The chubby little hand quickly grabbed the watch! That is the only word that would describe the intense, eager action of the child.

Instantly he pocketed the gift and wiggled back on the seat in a pleased manner, a satisfied grown-up sigh, as he said that was just what he had been wanting all the time.

After the service, the crowd of boys surrounded the evangelist with protests. “Well, how did a fella know you really meant it?” Another one said, “That’s just the kind of watch I was wanting. But I didn’t know you were in earnest.” Another one: “Well, why didn’t you tell us that it was really true? If you really meant it, why didn’t you put it in my hand or tell me again, or give me another chance?”

You see, each boy wanted the evangelist to literally put it right in his hand rather than to reach out and take it for himself, or to really believe what he was saying. But that tiny little believing boy had appropriating faith, and he reached out to take it unto himself. He believed what the evangelist said. He really put his faith into action. So many times this is the case—that people don’t really take God at His word.

The man who gets things from God will act out his faith. James 2:17–26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” What is a dead faith? It is a faith that is not working; it is a faith that is not operating.

Real faith is not a passive thing; it acts out what it believes. It is a practical thing; it does not expect God to do the thing that we alone can do.

A believing person puts faith into action. When he has asked God for something, he proceeds to believe God and takes God at His word. He actually believes that God really meant what He said, though the natural senses may deny every step of the way that which his faith has claimed. Yet he knows that God’s Word is true and that God cannot fail that Word. Great is His faithfulness!

Many times that is called “the stand of faith.” A splendid illustration of that is the part of the Scripture where the lepers were told by Jesus to go show themselves to the priests for cleansing. The Scripture says, “As they went, they were healed.” (Luke 17:12–14)

They put their faith into action and God met them. And if we put forth the effort of a believing will, God honors that step and meets us, as in the case of the man with the withered arm. Jesus said, “Stretch forth thy hand.” It was impossible for him to stretch forth his hand. But when Christ commanded, he made the effort and his hand was made perfectly whole. (Mark 3:1–5)

The seat of faith is in the will, and I’ve found that God certainly expects us to put our faith into action. Someone has said, “When faith goes to market, it always takes a basket along.”

You know, faith isn’t some great thing, not some glorious feeling, some wonderful sensation, as many think. It’s simply taking God at His word. It is utter dependence upon the veracity of another. So faith is utter dependence on the truthfulness, the faithfulness of God. How great, how great, His faithfulness! I wonder, can you say “Amen” to everything God says?

God is saying to the discouraged one at this very time, “I am thy God, I will help thee, I will strengthen thee.” (Isaiah 41:10) He is saying to the one who is in deep need, “I will supply your every need according to My riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19).

Are you saying amen to that? Are you truly saying amen to the Word of God, just taking God at His word? “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). That’s God’s Word too. Look up to Him right this very moment and say, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”

He is still on the throne and prayer changes things.