“There is nothing we cannot be made to believe or disbelieve. If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason, but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth.”
Carnal desire is not faith. Faith is often preached as a tool to obtain blessings from God. It is a gimmick which, when used correctly, can produce an abundance of worldly possessions. The argument goes that God has placed all the good things on this earth for His people. Does He not intend for us to have the best of everything? Why should God’s people let the devil’s crowd get all the goodies? One prominent evangelist even went so far as to recently state that if you are a Christian living in poverty, it is an indication that you are not right with God.
The Apostle Paul has some strong words about such men when he calls them “conceited, understanding nothing but having a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5, LSB). When we consider that the Apostle Paul was addressing “slaves” (1 Timothy 6:1, LSB) at that time, it becomes clearer that he was dealing with just such a perversion of truth as we are now. It seems that some of these proud and ignorant men were misleading these slaves to believe that their impoverished circumstances were proof of their lack of true faith in God. Such unwholesome teachings come from envious, covetous, worldly men. Do they not know that Satan is declared to be the prince of this world, and that it was he, not God, who offered it all to the Savior, asserting that it was within his power to give it to whoever he wished? Jesus did not dispute the devil’s claim. He only declared His intention to serve the Lord God without the enticement of carnal motivation.
Recently, I met with a man whose pastor I had been a number of years ago. In the course of inquiring about his family, I asked him about his son. “He’s a Buddhist,” he said. “A Buddhist!” I exclaimed. “How did that happen?” This is the story he told me. While in Japan, he met and became involved with a Japanese girl and ultimately married her. She became pregnant and gave birth to twin boys who, having birth defects, lived a short while and died. He was out of work and in impoverished circumstances. All this time, he had been trying to resolve the religious conflict with his wife by trying to get her to become a Christian. Finally, she made him a proposition. “Pray to Buddha for thirty days,” she told him, “and if Buddha doesn’t deliver us in that time, then I will become a Christian.” He did as she proposed. On the twenty-ninth day, he got a call from a large firm with a fabulous job offer. He became a Buddhist. His father asked him,“Why do you want to serve that false god?” He replied, “Why should I serve Jesus? He never gave me anything but poverty, two deformed babies that died, and a hard time. Buddha has given me a good job, lots of money, and two fine healthy children. I travel all over the world and live like I please. Why shouldn’t I serve Buddha?”
Now, someone may immediately object that this illustration does not apply since the boy was praying to Buddha. What difference does it make what you name your god if you have nothing but an idol in your heart? There were false “Jesuses” in the days of Paul, and there are still plenty of false Christs—demon spirits who are the dynamic behind every form of idolatry, and they will answer the idolator’s prayer. Such is the snare one falls into when he attempts to serve God for mammon. He will serve a god, but not the Savior of the Bible. An image may be only the imaginations of the mind and the heart, but it is an image nonetheless. Such a person does not have his heart set upon God, but upon the things he wants from God. Be careful that you are not guilty of the very thing of which Satan accused Job. “Does Job fear God without cause? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.” (Job 1:9-10, LSB). Satan was wrong in the case of Job. Is he wrong in your case? Are you delighted with God, or the things you get from God?
Carnal ambition is not faith. This is simply another variety of the idolatry described above. An example is given when God speaks to Ezekiel concerning the elders of Israel:
“Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. And the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be inquired by them at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, thus says Lord Yahweh, any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I Yahweh will be brought to give him an answer in light of it, in light of the multitude of his idols, in order to seize the house of Israel by their heart, those who are estranged from Me through all their idols.’” (Ezekiel 14:1-5, LSB).
In the Old Testament, when men sought the Lord, they often would “inquire of the Lord” through one of His prophets. Today, of course, men of evangelical Christianity pray directly through the access that is given to us in Christ Jesus. Now Ezekiel, the prophet, is facing men who are “inquiring of the Lord.” God says they have idols in their heart. The imaginations of men’s minds are nothing but “images” that their hearts fondly dwell upon. And while outwardly they say they are seeking the Lord, the image of what they really seek is in their minds and hearts.
A person conceives an objective or goal in his mind. He sets his heart on attaining it. He, in his imaginations, can see himself as having obtained it, and that image in his mind becomes an idol which he worships and will do anything to get. In the business world, it may be financial success. In the political world, it may be political power, gaining an office. But, in the religious world, it is religious success. A preacher sets a goal to pastor a certain size congregation. An evangelist sets a goal for a specific number of converts, a certain financial bracket. A writer sets out to make a name for himself in the publishing world. A Christian sets his heart on obtaining a certain spiritual gift.
Although all this is undertaken with repeated pious utterances such as, “for the glory of God,” “for souls,” “for the good of the church,” the real driving power behind it is the image in the mind of having obtained the desired success. Success thus replaces God as the central figure in man’s heart. Satan now has an idol behind which he can work.
God says, “I Yahweh will be brought to give him an answer in light of it, in light of the multitude of his idols” (Ezekiel 14:4, LSB). The Lord will let a man have his idols. He will let him obtain his goals, his success, his so-called gifts and leave him in his deception. “I, Yahweh, will be brought to answer him in My own person” (Ezekiel 14:7, LSB). “I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people” (Ezekiel 14:8, LSB).
“Delight yourself in Yahweh; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, LSB). This is a precious promise, but modern preachers have misused it. Those who delight in faithfully obeying the Lord find Him graciously supplying their needs and desires; but their faith is not turned in the direction of their desires, but toward the Lord. Prosperity and success are indicative of nothing. They certainly do not testify of faith.
Presumption is not faith. A pediatrician practicing in Tennessee, near a large fundamental Christian college, complained about being taken advantage of by several ministerial students from the college. They would bring their children for treatment and then explain that they were unable to pay for her services since they were “living by faith.” As the doctor was a Christian and wanted to do the right thing, she was confused as to how legitimate this was. Let’s consider only the “faith” aspect of the students. Let us examine what they were saying. “We are believing God, but God isn’t meeting our needs. We are faithful but God isn’t. We are believing Him but He isn’t giving us enough money to pay our bills. We are doing our part but God isn’t.” Is this not what they were saying? Are they not slandering God and blaspheming the Gospel with such poppycock? That is not faith; it is presumption and closer to unbelief. If they were, as they said, living by faith, then they would have the needed money, for God is faithful. He does not call you out on a limb, saw it off, and expect some man to catch you when you fall.
I have puzzled many people counseling me after a “step of faith” that did not work out. “But God confirmed it,” they said when I questioned if it may have been presumption instead of faith. I then asked, “How did God confirm it?” “I put out a fleece.” “He told the wife the same thing.” “The door was opened.” None of these are infallible confirmations. The devil can pour buckets of water in your fleeces or wring them out as fast as they get wet. The real confirmation comes when the Midianites run from you. Don’t be afraid to say, “I made a mistake.” It is a fool, indeed, who refuses to admit that he may have been deceived and missed the will of God. To maintain such a position is to slander God, blaspheme the truth, and abide in continual defeat. If you have made a mistake, admit it, go back to where you got off track, pick up where you left off, and go on. God is pleased with faith, not presumption.
“Our faith in Christ wavers not so much when real arguments come against it as when it LOOKS improbable… when the whole world takes on that desolate look which really tells us more about the state of our PASSIONS than about reality… When we exhort people to Faith as a virtue, to the settled intention of continuing to believe certain things, we are not exhorting them to fight against reason. The intention of continuing to believe is required because, though Reason is divine, human reasoners are not. When once passion takes part in the game, the human reason, unassisted by Grace, has about as much chance of retaining its hold on truths already gained as a snowflake has of retaining its consistency in the mouth of a blast furnace. Reason may win truths: without Faith she will retain them just so long as Satan pleases. There is nothing we cannot be made to believe or disbelieve. If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason, but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth.” – C.S. Lewis (Christian Reflections, 41-43)
For further reading
Conrad Murrell served in evangelistic ministry for over 50 years and was powerfully used by God in many Assemblies of God and Baptist churches in the United States and around the world. Throughout that time, Conrad pastored churches in Texas and Louisiana, successfully hosted numerous Bible conferences, engaged in continuous itinerant preaching, and diligently evangelized throughout the United States and Mexico. In addition to his fruitful ministry, he also wrote several books, many of which are read worldwide today. Mack Tomlinson's biography of Conrad Murrell is a testimony of God's grace and truth in the life of a man called by God for the proclamation of the Gospel.
Conrad Murrell was a significant contemporary and friend to two of the 20th Century's leading experts on revival, Leonard Ravenhill and Richard Owen Roberts, as well as a dearly loved co-laborer and associate of several other significant evangelists of our age, such as Manley Beasley and Al Whittinghill. Like them, he was a committed, passionate, and anointed itinerant minister. He was a man's man, a man of conviction and grit, but most importantly, he was God's man—a man completely devoted to his Lord and Savior.
October 14, 2023
More from Conrad Murrell
When God speaks to wicked men, they hear no voice from heaven. Rather, they experience His displeasure. He terrifies and troubles them.
The blessed man rests under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty. The righteousness of Christ is his hope and refuge.
The Bride of Christ is not declining. If anything, she is becoming more glorious. Christ is doing to her according to his unchanging and indefeatable purpose and presenting her to Himself unblemished without spot or wrinkle. This MegaMystery is not something created out of time and mortality. She and her Husband are eternal entities. She has ever existed in the Mind of the Almighty, having been brought into manifest light in the fullness of time. And because she always has been, she forever will be.
It is significant that this book of blessed meditations, often set to music and sung, begins with a contrast between the two men who make up the whole of humanity. While there is an infinite variety in the human race, the contrasts set forth here are the only ones that matter in the end.
There is a principle of hermeneutics (the science of Scripture interpretation) that states the first time a subject is mentioned in the Bible, all its foundational principles are present. How valid this is in all cases we are not prepared to argue, but it seems to hold well in the subject of faith.
All the false ideas of faith must be cast down, or they will constantly rear themselves up in the reader’s mind, taking exception to revealed truth.
Do you desire to know what work it is that God wants you to do? Then this is it. Believe Him.