Our monthly feature excerpted from Dave Hunt's book of the same title.
Is Faith a Power of the Mind?
Question: One of my favorite books has been The Power of Positive Thinking. In it, the author says that “positive thinking” is just another word for “faith.” I notice that his chief disciple says much the same thing: that “faith” is what he calls “possibility thinking.” He has called Jesus Christ “the greatest possibility thinker of all time.” Something about that bothers me, but I don’t know why. Can you explain?
Response: We have already noted that Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mark:11:22), and that faith can only be in God because He alone is worthy of complete trust. Yet an atheist can teach “Positive Thinking” seminars, and many atheists do so. Obviously, then, positive thinking has nothing to do with faith. It is, in fact, the exact opposite of faith.
The theory of positive thinking is that one’s thoughts, whether “positive” or “negative,” influence one’s own body and personality and thus health. Moreover, one’s thoughts are believed even to influence other people and the world around. Thus success or failure is allegedly created by the power of one’s mind. This is actually an ancient occult belief, which its modern proponents claim works through some mysterious psychic power that we all possess but have to learn to use.
Faith, on the other hand, is placed in God and His omnipotence, not in the alleged power of one’s own mind, whether conscious or unconscious. What a difference! For positive thinking, it doesn’t matter whether God is real or not; what matters is one’s belief. Thus, “God” is turned into a placebo that activates belief. One could believe in some cosmic energy source or anything else. All that matters is simply that one believes. It is the power of belief that supposedly causes the desired effect. What triggers this belief is unimportant. Clearly, then, whoever confuses positive/possibility thinking with faith has turned from God and His truth and power and has been badly deceived in both temporal and eternal issues.
An Inescapable and Vital Choice
Here is the choice we face: Either we trust in the power of a firmly held belief activating some mysterious psychic power of the mind, or else we trust in God and His infinite power, which is obviously demonstrated everywhere in the universe. Only a fool would choose the power of the mind over the power of God. True faith looks to God to do that which neither one’s mind (conscious or unconscious) nor talents nor efforts could accomplish.
An important element of faith, therefore, is submission to God’s will. Faith could hardly be expected to believe that God would do what is contrary to His will, nor would faith desire Him to do so. Faith trusts God to fulfill His Word and to effect His will in one’s life.
Here is another error: Many religious people try to use “faith” to cause God to put their will into effect. Many people think of prayer as a religious technique for getting their own way. They set their sights on what they want and then use prayer as a means of trying to talk God into making it work out for them. And if someone comes along offering a seminar on techniques for getting prayers “answered” (such as visualizing what one is praying for, or speaking forth with confidence that one has already obtained what one is praying for, etc.), people will sign up by the millions to learn how to get their own way.
By His example, Jesus made it clear that no one has even begun to pray until he can first say from his heart to God, “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke:22:42). Paul exemplified the same truth. He had an affliction that he referred to as his “thorn in the flesh” and from which he asked Christ to deliver him:
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities [weaknesses], that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians:12:8–9)
No one can have faith in God—that is, absolute and total trust in Him—without knowing Him. And if one truly knows God, then one sincerely wants God’s will rather than one’s own will. Obviously, God is wiser than any mere human. Furthermore, He has proved that He loves us. Then doesn’t it make sense, rather than trying to get one’s own finite and fallible will to be done, to trust God’s infinite wisdom and love to effect what is best in one’s life? That is true “faith in God.” Nothing else makes sense.