A couple decades back, my wife and I had moved out of the city we had lived in most of our life due to a work transfer. We were there about a year and a half, when I received a phone call from my boss asking if we wanted to return home.
A lot of good things happened while we were gone, but both of us felt it was time to go back.
Of course, we had bought a house and needed to sell it before we could move. As we pondered the sale, we considered the possibility of selling it ourselves instead of using a real estate agency that would charge us a few thousand dollars for their service.
While in the throes of making the decision, a brother, who knew we were moving, called. The Lord impressed on him that we should consider selling the house on our own rather than using a real estate agency.
The phone call confirmed what we had been feeling and we decided to try selling the house ourselves.
Our home had increased in value rather dramatically since we bought it. If we used a real estate agent to sell, we would have paid a 7% commission (approximately $7,000) which would take a substantial bite out of our potential windfall.
As we prepared the house for sale, I began to experience a horrid struggle with unbelief.
Our initial plan was to hold an open house each weekend until it sold. I made signs to post around the neighborhood and created information sheets to hand out to the people who showed up.
As our first open house approached, I half-jokingly told my wife I only had faith to believe four people would come through. I made up enough sell sheets and coffee to handle four visitors.
Sure enough four people came through. But the house did not sell.
During the following week I was again plagued with doubts on whether we could sell the house on our own. As the weekend approached, I had faith to believe eight people would look at the house.
Incredibly, eight people came through. But still the house did not sell.
As each day passed, the intensity of my unbelief multiplied. With the next weekend approaching, I remember standing in our bedroom, trying to psyche myself up for 16 people to come through.
As I was working up the faith (a useless exercise by the way), I felt God ask me, “Do you want 16 people to come to the open house or do you want to sell it.”
I glumly answered “sell the house.”
In that moment, I felt something well up inside me, a surge of faith that lasted only a millisecond and as quickly as it had appeared it was gone.
After that brief moment, the unbelief returned and I trudged on preparing for the next weekend’s open house. I was not sure what to make of the experience.
That weekend, only two groups came through — a couple and an older man and his 20-year old son.
None made an offer and we were now considering our next option of listing the property with a real estate company.
It was the middle of the week, when the call came. Somebody was interested in buying our house. He wanted to take a second look. I thought, the couple was coming back.
When the doorbell rang, I was shocked to see the 20-year old boy standing alone in front of me.
He did another quick look through the house and then told me he wanted to buy. We quickly agreed on a price. Dumfounded, I got out the papers and we started filling out his ‘offer to purchase.’
In the process, I found out he was a truck driver for Coca Cola.
As we filled out the offer, I asked for a $4,500 deposit — approximately 5% of the agreed to price. Standard for most real estate transactions, it penalizes the purchaser should they change their mind and walk away from the deal. It is intended to be large enough to prevent people from backing away from the deal.
At that point he told me that he only had $500 to put down. When I insisted on more, he said that was all he had and if I couldn’t agree he would pull out of the deal.
The next step in the ‘offer to purchase’ involved completing the financial arrangements. I asked him how much he would put down as a down payment, and how much would be borrowed from the bank?
He told me he was going to pay cash.
Initially, I completely misunderstood him. I thought he said he was borrowing the whole amount and told him the bank would require a down payment. He corrected me and said he was buying the house with cash.
Here was a 20-year old truck driver for Coke, who only had $500 for a deposit, who now insisted he was going to buy this $98,500 home with cash.
Then it got worse. He asked for an extension on the possession date to give him time to cash out his investments. What investments does a 20-year old driver for Coca Cola have, I wondered?
Against my better judgment, I reluctantly agreed. The deal completed, he left.
The unbelief that had surged through my life the previous three weeks turned into a raging waterfall. We were now in a position where he could walk away from the deal and only be penalized the $500 deposit.
When I turned in the papers and check to my lawyer, he told me that the deposit should have been much larger.
I knew that and was already having problems falling asleep at night worrying about it.
With this deal in our pocket, my wife and I needed to buy a new house back home. All the while I was consumed with unbelief. I believed at any moment the 20-year old was going to walk away from the deal and we would be stuck with two homes and two mortgage payments.
My wife was well aware of my struggle. Fearing the worst, I was convinced we needed to rent instead of buy. When we found a house we really liked, I put in a low-ball offer. Our real estate agent said it was too low. I told her I wouldn’t accept a counter offer and would walk away from the deal.
Secretly, I was hoping they wouldn’t accept and we would rent instead.
But they did accept.
Through the whole time I was overwhelmed with unbelief, worry and fear. But incredibly despite my fears, the deal went through. This 20-year old truck driver for coke, who only had $500 for a deposit, managed to come up with just under $100,000 cash for the purchase.
The Gift of Faith
After we had moved into our home, I looked back on the events of the previous few months. I realized I had been given a gift of faith that Paul talks about in Corinthians.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit… But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same spirit; To another faith by the same spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one spirit.” (1 Corinthian 12:4-9 NASV)
The Holy Spirit is the source of these gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and He is the one who dispenses them. I suspect the activation of these gifts in a believer’s life is enhanced by the Baptism or Filling of the Holy Spirit.
The gift of faith is not to be confused with faith listed as a fruit of the spirit in Gal 5:22. Faith, as a fruit of the Spirit, is a character trait. It speaks of an individual who has a positive outlook on life because of their confidence in God to provide all their needs.
No strings attached
But the gift of faith is different. The word gift (Greek charisma) used in v 4 is rarely used in the New Testament era. At its root is the idea of mercy. As a gift, it was proof of favor from the individual bestowing it — in this case the Holy Spirit.
As a gift there are no strings attached. God gives the gift because He loves us (see Rom 11:29).
We need to understand the gift of faith from this perspective. It was a gift the Holy Spirit gave me in my hour of desperation. It was all mercy.
Once I received the gift of faith on the sale of our house, it was a done deal. Though the money was still in the buyer’s bank, in fact it was in ours.
But perhaps the most stunning feature of this whole ordeal was it didn’t matter how much I disbelieved, I could not change the circumstance. The sale of our house was signed, sealed and delivered.
We need to understand the gift of faith is completely separate from our own faith. It is a deposit of faith into our lives by the Holy Spirit. In the middle of my struggle with unbelief, the Holy Spirit through me a life preserver.
From my own experience it was smaller than a mustard seed. The surge of faith that I felt was over in a millisecond.
But it was powerful