In my lifetime, I have had periods where my faith seemed at a standstill. It was in those times where the things like the concerns of life or of not seeing God at work led me to take Him for granted. My faith became lacking and inadequate. At one point I was not working for over a year. Frustration began to settle into my mind and heart and there didn’t seem to be a light at the end of this long tunnel. I also discovered that it was in those times where temptations seemed stronger because my faith no longer focused on God but rather on my situation.
In the Christian life, faith is a necessity. When you read portions of the Bible like Hebrews 11, you realize it is at the core of how people should live. In reality, we used faith in almost every aspect of our lives. We use it in trusting the chair we sit in and the car we drive to and from work. We trust the doctors who give us medical care as well as the pharmacists who dispense the medication to help our ailments.
But is faith something we possess naturally or do we acquire it? The Bible tells us that faith is a “gift from God” and it is something every believer possesses. But how does faith work? How does it become more of a reality in our lives?
Faith is a gift we receive from God, but like anything we may possess, it must be used in order to be useful. In Mark 4, we find a story where the disciples experience something that puts their faith to the test. As they were crossing a lake, a great storm came upon them. Jesus was having a nap at the time but the disciples, fearing for their lives, wake Him up. Jesus gets up, rebukes the wind and says to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” And of course the winds died down and the waves stopped.
How did the disciples react? I think they reacted the same way we would. They cried out, “Who is this man?” In that statement, we find an important lesson for us to grasp and understand. Faith depends on the object… in other words, who are you putting your faith in? The Psalmist in Psalm 20 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
If the object of our faith is dependable, then we can have faith that the outcome will be for our best good. Ed Welch’s book, “When People are Big and God is Small” illustrates that. Too often our image of God is too small to meet the challenges we face in life. J.B. Phillips book, “Your God is Too Small” also reiterates that same truth.
Our view of God will shape our faith. If we believe our God doesn’t love us or is not in control, we lessen Him and our faith in Him because of it. However, if we believe that our God is the Creator of the Universe who holds all things in His hands and has a loving plan for us, we can trust Him through the most difficult challenges in life.
All that being said we also know that faith is a developmental process. The disciples didn’t fully get it while Jesus was with them. Even after the Resurrection, they still had their doubts. But we see that over time, they developed a strong faith that allowed them to face persecution and even death with strength and confidence. I believe as we grow in our relationship with God, over time, that mustard seed of faith we may have begun with will grow to become something larger and stronger.
Faith isn’t just a set of doctrines or the basics of salvation. Faith is something that grows and transforms us over time. I can remember making a growth chart using one of the door frames of our house. Every so often, we would have the kids stand up beside it and then we would put a pencil mark on the frame to see how much they had grown. Over time, I had to reach higher and higher to mark their development.
With our faith, we too have measuring sticks. One that is often used is knowledge but I’m not sure it is an accurate standard to use. We can know lots of facts and details but if they aren’t lived out or put into practice, they are useless, especially when tough times come into our lives. A true measuring stick is experience. Faith lived out is proof of a growing faith.
When we think about the “heroes” of the faith, one of the names not likely to come up is Caleb. That being said, he is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. He stands as a shining example of one who never quit and never wavered in his faith. Even at 85, he said, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.” I wish I could say that and I’m only 52!
In Numbers 13, Caleb and Joshua give a report back to Moses and the leaders of Israel on what they saw in the Promised Land. The other spies gave terrifying reports of giants and although Joshua and Caleb’s report confirmed that, they still felt they should go in and take what God had promised.
We often joke about some of the struggles we have in life and call them “first world problems.” That being said, too often we tend to focus on the giants in our lives rather than the Giant in our life. Faith is knowing that God is with us and because He is with us, we can trust Him to walk us through whatever challenges lie ahead. And because we know the end of the story, we know the storm will not last forever, therefore we can live in peace with hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.