Positive Confession - Can we will things into existence?
There are churches today that teach that if you speak of something as if it is truth it will become truth. If you are sick the solution is to “say” that you are well and you will become well. They teach that the Lord wants to bless us with material blessings but we must first claim our wealth by speaking it and we will then become wealthy. We must name what we want and claim it and then it will be ours. Joyce Meyer even has a list of about 70 confessions that she confesses over her own life and recommends that others do the same. This list includes "I am rich - very rich," "My car is paid for," and "pain cannot successfully come against my body."
Where do such teachings as these come from and is it possible that if we confess these things they will become true? They claim these things are based upon Scripture, but that is not true. What they do is take Scripture out of context, insert meanings beyond what that Scripture intended, and then ignore every passage that contradicts what they are trying to imply that Scripture means. Let us look at one of the popular passages that this movement uses to support this teaching.
Mark 11:22-24 is often quoted to support the teaching that we must “say” the words and believe them in order to receive what we ask for. Let us look at this passage in the KJV and see how one such teacher addresses this passage.
Mark 11:22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
Bishop G.E. Patterson puts such an emphasis on the word “saith” from the KJV that after quoting the part in bold he says:
“Whatsoever he thinketh, whatever he imagines, whatever he wishes or hopes for? No, he says that you have got to say what it is that you want God to do for you.”
But is the emphasis really on “speaking” it, or is this passage simply referring to prayer? Looking at the context of verse 24 we can see this is a reference prayer.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. KJV
This passage in no way suggests that words have some sort of power to make miracles happen or grant us material possessions. It is clear from looking at this in context that the emphasis is on belief, not “speaking” it into existence. Read it in the NIV.
Mark 11:22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23 "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. NIV
Note how G.E. Patterson also added to the text by saying that we must “say what it is that you want God to do for you.” This passage in no way says we are tell God what we want him to do for us. The Scripture tells us that we must ask God to do His will not our own. We should not add to the Scripture our interpretation of it and mislead others to think that it is God's will to satisfy ours. We must remember that this Scripture must be interpreted in light of other passages that tell us that whatever we ask for must be in accordance with God's will.
1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us
We are given an example of this when Jesus himself made a request of His Father which was not granted. For while his flesh desired one thing in his spirit He submitted His will to His Father's.
Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me . Yet not what I will, but what you will."
But Word Faith leaders teach that it IS God's will for us to be rich and healthy and therefore we must expect those things. Some people say that you will not have those blessing unless the words are spoken because “you have to participate in your miracle.” But is the passage in Mark 11 really an example of using words to get those things? Does this passage show us that when we “speak” what we want we always get it? Look at what “miracle” was spoken of here. What caused Jesus to say what he said in Mark 11:22-24? Let us look at the context.
Mark 11:20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!" 22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23 "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Christ had caused a tree to wither and it was his response to Peter's comment that led him to say what he did. So now we must look back in this same chapter to see when and why Jesus caused the tree to wither.
Mark 11:12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
So, is this showing us that it is God's will to speak material blessings or healing into existence? Certainly not! Jesus was hungry but yet he did not speak to make the tree grow fruit to end his hunger, instead he withered it for not having any. Notice that He left the scene still hungry! There is nothing in this text to suggest it is God's will to always satisfy our desires nor does it suggest that our words are needed to gain such desires. Let us look at instances where people were miraculously fed in the Bible. In the Old Testament God sent manna, not because the people spoke it and believed it would happen, but rather He did it when they grumbled and lacked faith.
Ex 16:3 "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."
God did not wait to send manna when the Israelites had enough faith to believe He would do it, in fact we see they believed that they were going to starve when God sent it. They were not speaking “positive” words but rather they were “grumbling” about their plight.
Ex 16:8 You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.
In the New Testament we see Jesus feeding the multitude only after his disciples said they were not able to feed that many with what they had.
Luke 9:13 He replied, "You give them something to eat."
They answered, "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish — unless we go and buy food for all this crowd." 14(About five thousand men were there.)
John 6:7 Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"
Did they receive their miracle only after “participating” in it and “speaking” it into existence before it happened or did it happen in spite of what they said? What about the servant who was healed in Matthew 8. He was not even present. It was the faith of the Centurion for which Jesus rewarded it. The servant did not “participate” in his miracle. Lazarus and the others who were raised from the dead were also not able to “participate” or “speak” their life back into existence. You can only participate in something if it is God's will that you do so. No passage suggests that it is God's will to satisfy all of our own selfish desires. In fact, we know that it is not God's will for us to be rich. Jesus said the opposite for he said those who are poor are the blessed ones.
Luke 6:20"Blessed are you who are poor ,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Luke 6:24 "But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Word Faith leaders teach that Christ wants us to be whole, to be well, and that we have the power to speak such things, but the Bible tells a different story. Paul said that his strength came through his weakness, it did not come from speaking it into existence. God said that His strength was sufficient for Paul. Paul did not need nor was he promised comfort and blessings.
2 Cor 12:7...there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness
This certainly does not say our power is made perfect in positive confession. Rather it is only perfected when we are weak and recognize that fact! We are told that trials and suffering bring faith, not that they are signs of weakness! (See our article Trials Prove Faith)
Rom 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
We are not promised to always have material blessings or that we will always be healthy and we are certainly not instructed to speak such things into existence. We are instead told to be content no matter what circumstance you are in.
Phil 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
How often do we hear verse 13 which says we can do all things through Christ as if that means we can be rich? However, in its very context it is speaking of the ability to bear all things for being poor and hungry was part of Paul had the “strength” to do! He did not ever imply that we had some power to speak wealth and happiness into existence! To seek such things is not being content as Paul said here that we should be.
To “say” you are wealthy when in fact you are not, is not faith, it is a lie. To say you are well when in fact you are sick is not faith, it is deception. The Bible tells us we should not speak about what will be or may happen in the future, for that is not ours to know. To pretend that we know what God will do is evil, it is not a measure of our faith. In James it clearly tells us that we are not supposed to boast about such things.
James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow . What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
This verse exposes the falseness of the positive confession movement. To boast as if you have something when you do not yet have it and bragging as if you know it will certainly come is “evil.” Only the Lord knows for certain what tomorrow brings. No Scripture says that if we speak something long enough it will become reality. It is God alone who brings us blessing and curses, there is no one else with such power and it is blasphemous to suggest that we hold such power.
Isa 45:6 I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
So what do the verses in Mark 11 mean then when it says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” It means that we can trust God that nothing for Him is impossible and we can and should expect Him to answer our prayers. However, that prayer must always be submitted to His will not our own. We know that He will do what is right and best that He will give us the supernatural ability to endure any hardship that He has permitted us to undergo. We must rest on His promise, which is not that He does not intend for us to ever suffer, but that when we do suffer it strengthens our faith and walk with God.
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
So instead of trying to name and claim health and wealth let us do as the Word says and rejoice in our sufferings, be content with our circumstances and submit ourselves to God's perfect will.
1 Peter 4:19 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Thess 5:16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.