“‘Word of Faith’ Stupidity” or “Standing on the Promises”?


Ha! Ha! I Named It and Claimed It! Certain memes travel around the Godblogosphere in curious outbreaks. It’s as if a dozen people at once blog on the same subject without any prior knowledge of each other’s posts. Someone like me who reads blogs via an aggregator sees the impression of oddness double when so many of my regular reads are talking about the same point of doctrine.

Recently, there’s been a rash of Word-of-Faith postings out there, most of them negative. Brad at The Broken Messenger and Steve Camp at Camp on This are two that recently addressed this topic, Brad with “Word of Faith” and Steve with “Stupid People in the Church…and How Not to Be One.” I suspect that their reaction must be to the recently posted list of 50 most influential Christians that was curiously stacked with a large number of Word of Faith’ers. (Perhaps those on the list are being blessed the way they pray they will be! – Ha! Ha!)

I’ll come right out an say that I’m not a Word-of-Faith guy even though I go to a Pentecostal church, a familiar haunt for such folks. I regularly “must…restrain…the fist…of death” when listening to prosperity Gospel acolytes, but I’m also perturbed when I read something on the other side of the fence that seems resigned to whatever fate one has befallen. Steve Camp here:

What is the N.T. formula for “success” or “prosperity?” Paul gives us the clear biblical answer in 1 Timothy 6:6, “…godliness, plus contentment is great gain.” Are you living a godly life in accordance with the Word of God; are you content with what you have from the Lord—not seeking more or complaining of less? Then the Lord calls that, “great gain.”

I’m not sure an entire theology of God’s provision can be wrapped up in a portion of one verse. I’m sure that Steve Camp would tend to agree with that point. But what of his argument then? First of all, I think there’s “contentment” and then there’s “contentment with exception.”

A survey of the Bible contains person after person who cherished God, but there were a few lacks in their lives and they sought God to change their situations. One obvious example is Hannah. Barren and desperate for a child, she pleads before God and He blesses her with the future great leader of His people, Samuel. We saw the same request earlier in Rachel, likewise barren, who also petitioned God and was blessed with a son, Joseph, who grew up to save the lives of thousands, including his own family. And Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, whose barren womb was opened to give Christ the Elijah that would prepare His way. Three women, none content in their childlessness.

Samson was not content with his role as a blind Philistine toy, but prayed to God that he would be granted one last curtain call, and with it he brought the house down—literally. Solomon was not content with his position as king as long as he was lacking the one thing he knew he needed to govern, wisdom. Jacob was not content with the wife he’d been fooled into accepting. If Lot had been 100% content with his lot, would he have fled Sodom at the Lord’s urging? Would Paul have cast out the spirit of divination from the slave girl who followed him around in Acts 16? Would the centurion have asked Jesus to heal his slave? Or Mary and Martha requested that Jesus come see their dying brother?

Lack of contentment, in many cases, is what drove great men and women of the Bible to pray big prayers and expect big things. But even the nameless people were not always content with their station in life. Lepers, the blind, and the lame all came to Jesus and asked for healing because they were not content with being infirm or diseased the rest of their days. Contentment does not mean resignation, but too often I see Christians treating it as if it were such. Being content means always keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, but it does not mean being a doormat for every lousy happenstance that comes our way. As Jesus Himself said:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
—Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

I think the lesson here is that God is not against us petitioning Him because of a heart longing. John Knox in his zeal for souls went so far as to pray, “Give me Scotland or I die!” That doesn’t sound like someone who’s perfectly content. God honored Knox’s bold discontent.

I don’t believe the only kind of prayer that God answers is one for salvation for others, though. As I noted above, Christ healed and gave us the gift of healing. There’d be no reason for such a gift if people were to always be satisfied with illness. It seems to me that too many of us take God’s promises too lightly. We say that we believe the Bible, but then we start making excuses when it comes to certain promises. However, promises of God are not to be taken lightly. Take for instance the following:

You [God] keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
—Isaiah 26:3 ESV

Simple, right? Who out there does not believe this verse? Now what about this?

Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!
—Psalms 113:5-9 ESV

Much harder, right? Do we believe that God raises the poor up to sit with princes? Do we believe that God gives the barren woman children? Why are we so quick to believe the promise in Isaiah 26 and not the promise in Psalm 113? Did that passage pass away with the coming of the New Testament? Should we chuck the Old Testament because the New replaced it entirely and it no longer contains the accurate truth about what God promises? Certainly not!

I said earlier that there was a difference between contentment and contentment with exceptions, and this is the key to knowing what to ask God for and how. The state of one’s heart must always be centered on Christ or else what we ask for is meaningless. As James writes:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
—James 4:1-3 ESV

Paul’s infamous thorn in the flesh is allowed to continue for the very reason that it kept him from becoming too prideful, what with all the amazing visions and healings that happened around him. So even a man of God as extraordinary as Paul can fall prey to passions that can undo him, just as James notes. Pride may have always been Paul’s chink in the armor, given that he was highly educated, a Pharisee, and a Roman citizen, all distinctly lacking in the other apostles.

So I don’t believe that Paul’s thorn is a prooftext for claiming that all requests for personal help go unanswered. Too many people claim just that and they derail the kind of faith that believes God’s promises as they are written. The Word of Faith’ers stumble because they often fall prey to what James describes. Nor are they always asking with their eyes on Jesus alone. Yet as much as their antics are a disgrace, they do a better job than some of us at taking God at His word.

In conclusion, the hymn “Standing on the Promises of God” and an appropriate promise of God:

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
—Numbers 23:19 ESV

22 thoughts on ““‘Word of Faith’ Stupidity” or “Standing on the Promises”?

  1. I think your choice of the word “resignation” is just right. I was part of a charismatic church plant about 25 years ago that admitted too much Word of Faith-type teaching. And the pastor often challenged me when I sounded too resigned to my circumstances with “Where’s your faith?” The effect of that was to get me praying again and doing what I could, even if it didn’t seem like much. And it was usually good advice.

    In many circles there is plenty of “belief” (i.e., in creeds and statements of faith) but not much “faith.” I learned that that applied to me. I have since seen over and over how Word of Faith teaching is like faith on steroids, but that does not excuse the problem of too little faith. Let’s face it: Unbelief is an offense to a powerful, promise-keeping God. Not a vending machine-type God who dispenses blessings by application of the right words, but one who hears our prayers and acts on our behalf.

  2. Steve S

    Great balance on this issue, Dan. I think you articulated it well. The phrase often comes to my mind: “…having a form of godliness, but denying its power.” I get frustrated by the resignation that is so often taught (it’s all over Christian radio preaching).

    It appears to be the typical pendulum swing that often happens in Christianity (well, probably in human nature, in general). The thinking is something along the lines of, “Word-of-faith is wrong, and therefore, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.” So, we preach the opposite. Sad, really.

    I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I have come to a point where I don’t subscribe wholesale to the WoF teaching anymore, but I do believe there is a lot of truth being taught there. Likewise, I believe a lot of truth is being taught in the opposite camp (should we coin it “Word-of-Resignation”? hehe), but I don’t buy into all of it, either.

    The answer, it seems, lies somewhere in the middle.

    steve 🙂

  3. Bob

    Great post, Dan. As a pastor I’ve often railed against the “Word of Faith” movement, only to struggle with finding the balance point between opposite problem, which you have accurately described as “resignation”.

    The contentment issue is also an interesting one, since the question really is what we are content with. The godly man is never fully content with their own personal walk with God. When Paul says “I beat my body and make it my slave”, it just doesn’t sound like contentment to me. His fervent evangelistic zeal certainly proves he wasn’t “content” with his accomplishments. The contentment he writes about in Philippians 4 seems to be focused on his personal physical and material desires, which certainly runs contrary to the WoF folks.

  4. pgepps

    Overall, I think you’ve expressed the reservation many of us feel when the criticisms are too slapdash. Certainly, “resignation” is too close kin to “despair” to be part of the Christian’s spiritual development.

    However, you need to be more careful in developing your argument. There is no promise in the text you cite from Psalm 113—there is an admiring recognition of God’s work in history, and the indifference to human categories of worth or wealth, but there is no promise that God will lift us up any more than there is a promise that God will bring us down. You’ll need to find that elsewhere, and I suspect you’ll find that it preserves the distinction the critics of WoF are enunciating.


  5. OK Dan, you’ve done it again..LOL….you’ve inspired another blog post from me at my blogsite. It will up by tomorrow morning (Friday).

    Thanks for doing this as you are being very “Christianly politically incorrect” you know…:)

    I am convinced that we need to take a few things from the Word of Faith movment that are NOT BEING TAUGHT IN OTHER CHURCHES. In the future, without the type of faith they are advocating which I firmly believe is the Biblical faith, we will go down, down, down.

  6. Broken Messenger


    I’m not sure what my post has to do with your article in substance or with Steve Camp’s completely different approach….but thanks for the mention..I think. My first name is Brad, not Brian.


  7. Brad,

    A total mental breakdown on my part concerning the wrong name. I’ll fix it.

    Wasn’t knocking your post, it just happens to be one of a few that I remembered I’d read in just the last few days. I’m taking issue with Camp’s piece more than anything else

  8. Gina

    Hi Dan,

    Great post. Our women’s group recently did a Beth Moore bible study called “Believing God.” In it she attempts to strike a balance between the two extremes that we often find in the church today. I think that is the key. God is not a genie in a bottle, waiting to induldge our every whim. But, he is still God, and with him all things are possible.

    It’s too bad that so many flakes in the WOF movement have given faith a bad name. But, we can’t dismiss faith because some people abuse it, anymore than a Calvinist can abandon the doctrines of grace just because there are hyper-Calvinists out there.

  9. Steve B

    Thanks for this enlightenment. I was never one who was following the “word of faith” movement. In fact, I was the opposite. I always had a problem with churches stating that said you will get a hundred fold for you tithing.

    I thank the Lord every day with the church I attend. Never once have I heard such nonsense. It’s sad that many Christians do. I’m in agreement with Gina, G-d isn’t a D’jinn and will give us what we want. He gives us what WE NEED.

    I always enjoy reading your blog!!

    Bless you

  10. Broken Messenger


    Thanks for the clarification. I was scratching my head a bit…. Steve’s blog is provactive to say the least.


  11. Bob

    Dan, I think you get the balance right here. Sure, the word of faith folks seem to have gone off the deep end in some ways, but we cannot afford the unmistakable note, struck frequently throughout the Bible, of great blessings coming through faith. We can’t just explain them all away by saying, oh, that’s for the next life. By that means we instinctively guard ourselves against disappointment, I suppose, but you said it best: “The state of one’s heart must always be centered on Christ or else what we ask for is meaningless.”

  12. Chris Stiles

    I think the lesson here is that God is not against us petitioning Him because of a heart longing.

    I’d agree – with the caveat that sometimes the answer to the petition may not be the one we are looking for, though we should feel free to petition until we receive an answer – one way or the other.

  13. I think it is worth noting that the line Christians are so fond of quoting “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is led by a discourse on physical needs and wants, and how Paul has learned to deal with both poverty and wealth. In other word, to be content and to keep his focus on God.

    Humans, by definition, are not noted for being content with whatever situation they are in. But we can learn to be content in knowing that God gives us the strength to deal with whatever situation we are in, allowing us to keep our focus on God and not our well-being.

  14. Chris Stiles

    On a similiar note .. Matthew 7:7 is preceded by the Lord’s Prayer where we are taught to ask; our daily bread, forgiveness for sins, not to be lead into temptation and deliverance from evil.

  15. Diane Roberts

    I was thinking the other day on how hypocritical churches are to blast Hagin’s “Name it and Claim it” (a truly wonderful principle but a truly awful name and description -why didn’t he think up something better than that?) – and then right afterwards these criticizing churches sing “Standing on the Promises.” It’s very clear that few churches and pastors understand Hagin’s theology.

  16. Jennifer Smith

    Dan: I think there’s also a great tendency to legitimize your own will by following this particular Charismatic teaching (to an extreme, of course.) It’s so easy to decide that what you want to “claim” in a situation must be God’s will, too. Prayers of relinquishment to God’s will often require greater spriritual discipline and maturity, and that should not be underrated. Also some of the Charismatic teachers seemed to imply that you could create reality by your “claiming” or “confession”, and that does verge on an occult doctrine. I’m not sure if Steve or Brad touch on this in their postings, but it is worth mentioning. Overall, though, I do agree with your thoughts; they strike a much-needed balance.

  17. I appreciate this re-post, and I sorely needed it today. Thanks! I particularly concur with your statement, “Contentment does not mean resignation, but too often I see Christians treating it as if it were such.” So do I, and what is most discouraging for me is that they try to force me into that box as well. Thanks for the refreshing, and balanced viewpoint on taking God at his Word, but also keeping Jesus at the forefront of his promises. After all, he is the one that does the fulfillment.

  18. Peter Smythe

    I sat under Hagin for two years as a Rhema student and I have never found anyone to have been so balanced in doctrine and in the Word. Hagin, however, did not teach or preach the extremities that form the bulk of the criticisms of the camp. Some of the criticisms have been justified of the second-generational preachers, such as hundred-fold return and the misapplication of Mark 11:22-24 and “naming seed.” Those extremities should not form the basis of leaving the sound doctrine of the Word.

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