Have you ever been in the middle of a faith stand, when suddenly it seemed like your faith just quit working?
Maybe you were believing God for healing, or financial deliverance, or the salvation of your family. Spiritually, everything was in place. You found the scriptures that promised you what you need. You were firing off confessions of faith like a machine gun.
But as time went by, your spiritual battery began to weaken. The power you had when you first took your stand began to wane, and you developed a gnawing suspicion that nothing would happen.
In desperation, you tried to shove those doubts away by confessing louder and longer. You frantically tried to force your faith to work. But to no avail.
You wound up still sick, still broke, still surrounded by unsaved relatives...and wondering what went wrong.
In the end, you probably just chalked it up as a faith failure.
But I'm about to tell you something that will change your life if you'll pay attention to it. It certainly changed mine. It's this: What you experienced was not the failure of your faith...it was a breakdown of your hope.
Most believers don't pay much attention to hope. They don't think of it as very important. They certainly don't consider it to be as important as faith. But the fact is, faith won't function without hope.
That's because "Faith is the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). Sometimes I say it this way, "Hope is the blueprint of faith." When hope is lost, faith loses its aim. It no longer has a mission to accomplish. It just scatters uselessly in every direction.
I remember one time in particular some years ago, when that happened to me. I had given my airplane to another preacher at God's instruction, and then ordered another airplane to replace it. During the weeks while the new plane was being manufactured, I began to believe God for the full amount I needed to pay for it.
I hooked up my faith to the promises of God and I was going along fine for a while. But just a few days before the plane was scheduled to be delivered to me, I realized I was $20,000 short.
As the delivery date grew closer, I became more and more alarmed. I started making faith confessions as fast as I could. I'd say, "Thank God I have that $20,000. In Jesus' Name, I-have-it-I-have-it-I-have-it-I-have-it."
But the problem was, I was no longer confessing in faith, I was confessing out of desperation.
I knew something had to change, so I gathered up my Bible and my tapes, got in my boat, and went out to the middle of the lake to spend some time with the Lord. But when I got out there, I was still saying, "Thank God, I have that $20,000. In Jesus' Name, I-have-it-I-have-it-I-have-it-I-have-it."
Suddenly, the Lord spoke up on the inside of me: "KENNETH, BE QUIET!" He said, "I'm tired of hearing that. Just hush and let Me show you what I can do."
When He said that, something happened inside me. My hope came alive again. Suddenly I was expectant instead of desperate. I started eagerly anticipating what God was about to do, instead of fearing what would happen if He didn't come through in this situation.
Sure enough, the $20,000 I needed for that airplane came in and the pilot who delivered it to me ended up getting saved and filled with the Holy Spirit in the process. But none of that would have happened if I hadn't pulled aside, locked myself away with the Word for several hours, and let the Spirit of God rebuild and rekindle the hope inside me.
Before you can understand how important hope is, you have to realize that real, Bible hope is not "wishing." That's worldly hope. People in the world say, "I sure wish I would get a raise at work," when what they mean is, "I want a raise. I don't think I will get it...but it would be nice if I did."
The kind of hope the Word of God talks about is much stronger than that because it's not based on wishing or wanting. It is based on your covenant with God and the anointing God has provided to carry out that covenant in your life.
In fact, Ephesians 2:12 says before you knew Jesus, you were "...without Christ [or without the anointing], being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."
"But Brother Copeland," you say, "I'm a believer. I know God's promises. Doesn't that mean I have all the hope I need?"
Not necessarily. You see, hope comes when you take those promises, keep them before your eyes and in your ears until they begin to build an image inside you. Hope comes when you begin to see yourself with what God has promised you - instead of seeing yourself without it.
When you have hope, you have a supernatural expectancy that what God has promised will come to pass in your life.
The Apostle Paul talks about that kind of supernatural expectancy in Philippians 1:19-20 where he says, "I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed...."
In that scripture, Paul uses two different words from the Greek language, each of which can be translated hope. One of them means the happy anticipation of good. The other can be defined as eager longing, strained expectancy, watching with an outstretched head, and abstraction from anything else that might engage the attention.
When divine hope comes alive in you, you're so locked in on the Word of God, you can't be distracted from it. I know what that's like. There have been times in my life when I was so focused on something God had called me to do, and I was so tuned in to what the Word said about it, I couldn't think about anything else.
People would try to have a conversation with me and I'd always end up talking about my hope. It would come up so big inside me that at those times, I was bigger on the inside than I was on the outside.
When your hope gets that strong, it doesn't matter what kind of unbelief the devil tries to throw your way, it just bounces off you. You're so one-track-minded, you can't be drawn off course.
Back when Gloria and I first found out about faith, I was like that all the time. If someone walked up to me and said something that sounded like unbelief, I would just explode all over them! (I'm still like that, actually, I've just learned to be a little more gentle about it.)
One night I was in a bookstore in a church where I was preaching when such an explosion took place. I had stepped up to the cash register to buy my book and when I reached in my pocket to get my money, I sniffed.
I just sniffed! I don't know why I did it. I guess I just felt like sniffing. When I did, the lady running the bookstore said to me, "Is it a cold or hay fever?"
Almost before I knew what I was doing, I had opened my mouth and started spurting the Word as fast as I could talk.
"THE WORD OF THE LIVING GOD SAYS IN Galatians 3:13, I'M REDEEMED FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW. Deuteronomy 28:61 SAYS ALL SICKNESS AND DISEASE ARE UNDER THE CURSE AND I AM REDEEMED FROM THE CURSE OF HAY FEVER. I DON'T HAVE COLDS, IN JESUS' NAME! I'VE BEEN WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF JESUS! AND BY JESUS' STRIPES I AM HEALED! HE BORE MY SICKNESSES AND CARRIED MY DISEASES...."
I nearly pinned that lady to the wall with the Word of God. Finally, she exclaimed, "Forgive me, Brother Copeland. I knew I was in trouble when I said that! But I finally understand what you've been preaching about. I've had migraine headaches all my life. I have one right now, but if you'll lay your hand on me, I'll be healed."
I did - and she was!
What happened to her? That explosion of the Word went into her heart and suddenly she could see herself healed. Her hope came to a crisp sharpness. She saw an inner image of who she is in Christ Jesus and that no migraine could stay on her body. The minute she did, the force of faith went to work and brought that image to pass!
That's what the Bible means when it says "faith is the substance of things hoped for!"
Stick Your Neck Out
How do you develop that kind of hope? You stay in the Word until your neck stretches out. I particularly like that part of the definition of hope because I know what it means to have your neck stretched.
When I was a little boy, my grandfather was my hero. He was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian and I wanted to act like him, look like him, curse like him, chew tobacco like him and spit like him - much to my mother's chagrin. When my mother would tell me that he and my grandmother were coming to see us, I would get so excited I could hardly wait.
Every minute or two, I'd run to the window to see if they had arrived. Every noise sent me running for the door. I tell you, my neck was stretched out in anticipation. My Pawpaw was coming and I expected him any moment.
That may sound like a silly example, but the Lord once told me if people would just expect Him to move as much as a child expects his grandparents to arrive, He could move on their situation and change things drastically by the power of His Spirit.
That's what happened in Acts 3 to the crippled man at the gate Beautiful. He had been sitting by that gate begging, his head down and his eyes to the ground. But when Peter and John walked by and said, "Look on us!" that man lifted his head and began to expect.
Hope rose up in him because he was "...expecting to receive something of them" (verse 5).
Of course, he received a lot more than he was expecting - he expected alms, but he got legs! That's because his expectancy hooked into their expectancy - and, believe me, their expectancy was running high!
It hadn't been more than a few days since Jesus had risen from the dead, defeated the devil and all of hell with him. It hadn't been but a few days since Jesus had looked the disciples straight in the eye and said, "Now, you go into all the world and use My Name to cast out devils. You lay hands on the sick and they'll recover" (see Mark 16:15-18).
I can just imagine Peter saying, "Hey, John, you know that crippled beggar down there by the temple? Come on, let's go use the Name on him!"
They could see themselves doing what Jesus said they could do. Their hope was "white hot." So they went charging down to the temple and said to that cripple, "...in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."
When they said it, they grabbed him. He had to walk, brother! They yanked him completely off the ground!
What made them do such a thing? Expectancy!
They didn't tiptoe up to that gate, look around to make sure no one was watching and then whisper, "Dear Lord, if it be Thy will, heal this poor crippled man."
The only people who pray "if it be Thy will" are those who don't have any hope or expectancy. If you've been praying that way, stop it! Go to the Word and find out what God's will is. The Word of God is His will. It is His will for you to be well. It is His will for you to be prosperous. It is His will for you to lay hands on the sick and it is His will for them to recover.
So stay in the Word until you're so confident and expectant that your neck is stuck out in anticipation. Meditate on the Word until your hope gets crisp and that image inside you gets strong and clear.
Stay in there until you're so full of expectancy that when someone walks up to you and says, "Good morning," you jump on them like a chicken on a bug saying, "Yes! Bless God! It is a good morning. Do you have anything wrong with you? I'll lay hands on you right now and you'll get healed!"
Once hope gets that strong, it becomes courage...and hope plus courage equals the spirit of faith in action!
The Spirit of Faith
The Apostle Paul refers to the spirit of faith in II Corinthians 4:13 saying, "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak."
The spirit of faith speaks! It calls things that be not as though they were. It makes faith confessions - not because it's "supposed to" or out of desperation, but because it's so full of eager anticipation and confident expectation it can't keep its mouth shut!
The spirit of faith says, "I don't care what God has to do, He'll turn the world upside down if He has to, but He will change this situation for me."
Every time I talk about the spirit of faith, I think about my high school football team. For years, the teams from that school had been losing teams. But something happened to the bunch on my team. A spirit of winning got into them.
When we were sophomores, we were on the B-squad. We were the nothings. But we somehow got the idea that we could win. Every year the B-squad would have to scrimmage the varsity team, and usually the varsity just beat the daylights out of the sophomores.
But the year our B-squad played them, that changed. We didn't just beat them, we had them down by several touchdowns, just daring them to get the ball, when the coach called off the game. He was so mad at the varsity team, he didn't even let us finish.
What happened to that little B-squad? We reached the point where we expected to win. We had an inner image of ourselves as winners, and it eventually took the best team in the state to beat us.
The same thing happened to Gloria and me in 1967 when we went into the ministry. We began to have an inner image of preaching the Word of God to thousands upon thousands of people. It was 10 years before we could gather up more than a handful of them at a time for one service, but we didn't let that stop us.
We saw the thousands in our hearts and in our minds and we just kept our necks stuck out - in more ways than one - expecting God to bring the people. Sure enough, He did.
Of course, there were some hard times. Times when people stayed away from our meetings by the millions. Times when I preached to 17 people with the same intensity that I would preach to 6,000.
That's what hope does. It keeps you intensely focused on God's promise. It keeps you seeing that promise on the inside, even when you can't see it on the outside. It keeps you operating by the spirit of faith.
When you have hope, the devil can't beat you down. He can't tear you down. He can't stop your faith from working. Everyone around you can just stop in their tracks, but you'll keep right on going.
When the devil knocks you down, you just get up with a deeper resolve to hit him harder the next time...and harder the next time...and harder the next time.
You get to the point where you expect God to move with such vigor that all the distractions in the world can't turn your head. All the failures of the past drift into nothingness. You can't even remember them anymore because you're so absorbed with the expectation of what God is about to do.
When that happens, you no longer sit around wondering what went wrong. You blast off into the glory of God, laying hold of His promises and watching your dreams come true. You live the kind of life that those who give up hope will never know.