|Book: Becoming a Secure Christian|
Part 1 : Setting the Scene
Part 2 : A Biblical Security
Part 3 : Personal Security
(Practice and Theory)
Chapter 8: The Level of Your Faith
8.1 Removing the Confusion over Faith
In the Preface I made mention of adding bits and pieces to this book in the future. This chapter, as you will gather by its numbering, is the first of such additions. As I have been reviewing the book and considering the things being covered, I realised that I had not given over any area to the subject of faith, yet faith does seem to be one of those areas that Christians seem to feel bad about, so here it is. I hope you find it helpful.
Faith is the air Christians breathe – an essential, and yet it is something so many of us are confused about, and often in our confusion we feel guilty at the absence of faith, or the smallness of our faith, as we see it, so let's see just what the Bible says about it.
a) Belief in the Unseen
Heb 11:1 faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see
faith is being sure – we have a clear feeling of assurance about something
and certain – you are absolutely convinced of this thing
of what we hope for – Christian hope is a strong assurance about the unseen
what we do not see – faith is about being sure of the unseen!
There is a sense where, for every Christian, this is a very obvious verse. If there is a problem being a Christian, it is that you can't see God, you can't see angels, demons etc. It's all about believing in an unseen world! That's you isn't it? That makes you a man or woman of faith! Start from there – declare it, “I am a person of faith!”
Heb 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
without faith – faith is therefore a key Christian requirement
it is impossible to please God – surely our desire is to please God, therefore faith is vital to us
because – the reason it is so important is given – God is unseen (Spirit) and so if you want a relationship with Him, you have to believe He's there and that He blesses those who seek after Him.
The same thing comes through – very obviously really – if you want to be a Christian, then you'll believe in God, who is unseen, first. When you pray, you talk to an unseen Being and God is pleased that you talk to Him. That makes you a man or woman who pleases God! Go on with this – declare it, “I please God!”
b) How Faith comes
Rom 10:17 faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
faith comes from hearing – faith is a response to what is said to you, not something you conjure up.
the message – a message is a communication from someone, in this case from God.
the word of Christ – this is the Gospel.
Where does faith come from? It first comes when you hear someone share the truth of the Gospel with you and the Holy Spirit speaks it into your innermost being – suddenly it seemed real to you, suddenly you ‘knew' it was true, suddenly something rose in you that said, “Yes!”
Thereafter, it happened again and again – the truth came to you and the Holy Spirit spoke it deep into you and you ‘knew' it was true. As we've said elsewhere, this truth coming to you may come as you read the Bible, it may comes as you hear someone preaching or someone prophesying, or it may simply come from a friend is sharing the truth with you and God, by His Holy Spirit, imparts a sense of the reality of it to you.
Now, if you are a Christian, this HAS happened to you – you heard the Gospel and suddenly it seemed very real to you, and you responded positively to it. It's probably happened many times since then as well – somehow the truth came to you and you suddenly knew it was true! You ARE a man or woman of faith! You need to reinforce that and declare it out loud, “I AM a man/woman of faith!”
8.2 So what's your Problem?
The problem for many of us is that we allow the enemy to sow seeds of doubt so that we wonder if we actually hear God, or when something comes, we wonder if it is from God. Then we allow the enemy to tell us, “You're not a person of faith!” and we agree.
Some of us allow the enemy to get us to focus on our feelings, and at the emotional level we don't “feel” people of faith, as if being a person of faith has a particular feeling! It hasn't because faith is simply an obedience response to what you've heard.
Perhaps you were reading the Bible and suddenly you were convicted by something you read, and you knew that in a particular area of your life you weren't what God wanted and you needed to do something to change that. At the point you made an inner commitment to act. You believed God's word was God's will and that it was for you.
Do you realize at that point in time you became just like that man of faith, Abraham, again. Again? Well yes, you were like him when you heard the Gospel and believed it. As you responded you were justified by God, just like Abraham had been –
Rom 4:3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Because Abraham believed what God said to Him, God declared him righteous.
Rom 4;23,24 The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
The same thing applies to us – when you believed, you were declared righteous by God. Your believing was an act of faith – your believing was in the mind and in the will – you decided you would surrender to God – that was a major act of faith!
So, back to our example above, when you read the Bible and were convicted and changed your mind and your will to come in line with God's will, that again was another act of faith. In fact you exercise faith every time you determine to go God's way.
Every time you pick up the Bible to read it, that's an act of faith. Every time you pray, that's an act of faith. Every time you go to worship, that's an act of faith. Every time you share your testimony, that's an act of faith. Every time you tell a non-Christian friend about Jesus, that is an act of faith. And you say you are not a faith person???????
8.3. But it's so little faith!
This is the other cry that so often comes. My faith seems so small. Let's have a look at the truth of this one. There are three aspects to consider
a) A Gift
Rom 12:3 Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
In the passage from which this verse comes, Paul is telling the Romans to keep things in perspective because they each have different gifts according to the measure of faith that God has given them, and he then goes on to list various gifts of service.
What is he saying? That God has made us like we are and He's given us different abilities which are really expressions of faith. In the verses that follow he says that different people are ‘good' at different things e.g. giving (you can go through the list yourself and apply this to the various things he lists). So, he says, a particular person might be particularly good at giving, and so for them, that is a particular expression of faith that they are good at. They've simply heard God speak into their spirit the ability to give fearlessly, but we're not all gifted like that!
So what are you good at? That's the important issue, not how little faith you have to perform miracles! God has put something into you and so the important thing for you is to take note of your particular gifting.
Still not sure? Consider the following two verses:
Eph 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
i.e. when we come to Christ, we open up the way for God to lead us into doing the things He's designed us to do best.
Psa 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart
When we focus on Him and delight in Him, then He will share His heart with us and put the things of His heart on our heart, and then as we let Him lead us, He will lead us to receive those things. Why? Because He loves us and knows best what we're good at, because that's how He's designed us!
Christians sometimes have some bizarre thinking about God's will for them. Sometimes we get into the way of thinking that says God will only work through my weakness so He'll always ask me to do things I don't like. Bizarre thinking! That's not the God that Jesus revealed to us.
Lk 11:11- 13 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
God is a loving heavenly Father who doesn't play mind games with His kids. The Lord knows you're going to have enough trouble feeling weak, even with the gifts He's given you, without having to make it worse by asking you to do things you don't like and are not gifted for. Have you noticed, that the things you are good at and do well, you enjoy? The Lord knows you'll struggle enough with the pride-humility issue without Him making it more difficult for you!
So what are we saying? Take notice of the things God's made you good at. Delight in Him and let Him share His heart for you with you, and be blessed. Dare to believe the glimmerings of things you think you might have heard. Test them out, see if they go anywhere with God's blessing on them. It could be a whole new day!
b) Power of a Seed
A second aspect of this thing about “small faith” that we so often tend to forget, is what Jesus said about small faith –
Mt 17:20 if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Now that is incredible! It basically says you don't have to worry about the ‘size' of your faith. It can be as tiny as a mustard seed (very, very small) but will still achieve amazing things. Why is that? Well, go back to basics. What is faith? It is responding to what God says, so if God says tell that mountain to move, and you do, He'll move it! Remember, that when it comes to the miraculous, you can't do it, only He can. Only He is God, not you. All you have to do is be obedient to Him and speak out what He tells you to speak, and He'll do the rest.
To put it another way, you may have only caught a whisper from God, but if it was God, the thing will happen. Immediately you'll be thinking, “But suppose it wasn't God? Supposing I act and nothing happens?” Well, you've said it, nothing will happen, so the worst that can follow is that you'll look stupid. Oh, you're suffering from pride, I'm sorry! Come on!
If my memory serves me right, John Wimber, of Power Healing fame, caught the sense that God wanted him to pray for healing, and then prayed a tremendous number of times (?getting on for a hundred times?) before the Lord acted and someone was healed, and put an entire, new, incredible dimension to his ministry.
If you're wanting to move out with just a grain of mustard seed faith, you don't have to bolster up your ego by being loud and brash, in fact you can be to the contrary, humble and contrite and say something like this: “I hope you don't mind but I'm trying to learn to listen to the Lord more accurately and I believe He's said I'm to pray like this…..” or something similar. If the Lord turns up and vindicates your faith, great. If He doesn't, go and have a talk to Him and listen out for what you feel He might say.
In this area, it is important, as Paul said in Rom 12:3, to think soberly, or keep things in proportion. If the Lord does great things and uses you as part of them, then remember that it was HIM who did it. It was great that he gave you the privilege of being part of it. As Jesus gently chided his disciples when they came back from a great ministry time, don't rejoice over the authority you've been granted from heaven, but rejoice in the wonder of God's salvation that has included you in this (see Lk 10:20)
Finally, under this heading, perhaps we should consider that if faith comes by hearing, then we should desire to have more than a grain of faith, by seeking to more effectively learn to listen to God. How? Spend time alone with Him, reading His word, praying and listening to what we believe He is saying. That would be a good start.
c) It can come where none was previously
A final thing to think about in this section is the thought that faith can appear where it wasn't previously. Let's look at some verses together:
Mt 6:30 “O you of little faith .”
The first time faith is referred to in Matthew's Gospel! The disciples obviously are not responding well to Jesus' teaching about God's provision. In this area their faith is small.
Mt 8:26 He replied, " You of little faith , why are you so afraid?"
This was when the disciples thought they were going to drown on the lake. Their faith in Jesus' ability to protect them was quite small at this point!
Mt 14: 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. " You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
Here is Peter who has just responded with incredible faith and walked on water, but then he looked at the waves and started to rationalize what was happening, and started to sink! His faith level was also sinking. His ability to believe Jesus for provision of the ability to do the supernatural, collapsed in the face of the wind and waves.
Mt 16:8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, " You of little faith , why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?
The disciples have been misunderstanding what has been happening. Their faith level is low. Their level of understanding spiritual realities was low.
Mt 17:20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith
The disciples have just failed to cast out a demon. Why? Their faith level was low. Power couldn't flow. Here is a mystery. Surely God could have dealt with the demon even if their words were not faith inspired? No, God will only back what He has inspired. We don't know what God had wanted to do here, but obviously the disciples hadn't heard aright and so the power wasn't flowing. Their level of understanding the spiritual authority that had been given them was low.
disciples (us?) have failed in these situations to believe Jesus for:
In each of these cases we have observed the disciples in training being gently faced up with a low level of faith in a variety of situations, yet one has to recognize and accept that these same disciples went on to do amazing things as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Conclusion? They learned.
But wait a minute! We seem to have a contradiction! One minute Jesus is chiding them because they “have so little faith” and the next minute he is telling them that they only need faith as small as a grain of mustard seed to be able to move mountains. How can we reconcile these two things.
A suggestion, and only a suggestion. When you look at each of the situations above where Jesus chided them, actually there was NO faith being exercised! Go back and look at each of them and you will see that in fact they were failing in each case because there was no faith, they had not heard from God and were not responding to what they had heard.
So, when Jesus is using the phrase “little faith” he is in fact meaning that it is so small as to be in reality non-existent! If they'd heard a bit from God and responded, they would have won through, but they didn't.
Now go back to what we said about the disciples (apostles) in the Acts of the Apostles –they may not have had faith in their training phase, but once they had been through the Cross and through Pentecost, they were now so transformed that they were men of faith.
What does this say? It says realize the wonder of Christ dying for you on the Cross and your total inability to be righteous in yourself, or your total inability to earn the right to perform miracles, and you will be half way there. Only half way? Yes, realize that without the presence and power and direction of the Holy Spirit you will achieve nothing.
When these two staggering truths grip us, we'll be in a far better place to respond to the voice of God so that he can do amazing things through us! Let's risk what we think we're hearing and let the Lord do what he wants to do. Today could be a turning point.
8.4 So how can I build my faith?
There's really nothing magical about this. It's simply a case of stepping out in what some in the past have called spiritual disciplines.
We're simply going to consider some of the ways that we can raise the faith level within us, ways that we can hear God and respond. It can really be seen in two parts:
Starting with putting out the things that inhibit faith, consider the following:
Mt 9:24,25 he said "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand...
Jesus had been called to heal Jairus's daughter.
When he got to the house he found all those who believed she was dead.
He challenged them with the truth and so he put them out of the room before he brought the healing
Sometimes we have to put out of our lives or circumstances the people or things who are flying contrary to the truth and who inhibit faith.
Acts 9:40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed.
Peter had obviously learnt some things from watching the Master.
When it comes to healing Dorcas he put outside all the professional mourners
Then he prayed.
We have to "put outside" those who are in faith for nothing to happen!
As a preliminary to building faith, we need to come against and "put out" of our lives things that are working against faith. It may be that we simply have to come against negatives from the past, things that the enemy has said to us and we've believed.
A first stage may be repenting of our past unbelief, of listening to the enemy. Perhaps we have to stop listening to well meaning but faithless people, people whose minds are utterly materialistic.
In all of this we're talking about allowing God to transform our minds via our spirit so that we come to a place of believing the truth - that God CAN transform and WILL transform this situation as we step out in obedience to His word. That is what faith is all about.
Let's move on to the second part, putting on things that build up faith in us. Check out some of the following:
a) Reading the Bible
Christians who don't read the Bible amaze me. Here is one of the greatest sources of God's word to us. Don't say, “Oh it's hard to read.” Recognise that for an unspiritual person it is impossible to understand. So what is a spiritual person? Someone who hungers after God's word, someone who seeks God for help with His word. If you go to the Introductory Pages of this site you will find helps and comments about reading God's word.
All I can tell you is that as I read God's word (and I don't mean just a verse a day and then someone else's nice thoughts for the day!) I find my confidence in God building. Again and again I come away stimulated and encouraged and confident in God. This is faith being built.
Sometimes as we read the Bible we'll find particular verses standing out to us and appearing very meaningful. This is God speaking. Suddenly we find a new confidence in this particular truth that enables us to step out in new ways. This is faith. Unless you read the Bible regularly how can you have your faith built? Settle in to make daily Bible Reading a habit. This is what this entire site is all about.
Start out with small bites. Aim to do it three days running – meaningfully – which means putting aside some precious minutes to devote to reading and taking in God's word. Then extend it to a week and seek how you've been getting on. Extend it to two weeks, and then establish it as permanent habit.
Prayer, as I think I've probably already said somewhere else in this book, is more talked about that actually done. There are praying geniuses around, but perhaps you're not one of them. Why prayer when we're talking about building faith? Because when we talk to God, He talks back. Very often it is simply as a sense of reassurance as we have committed something to Him or asked Him about something. This is faith in action. Sometimes when we are praying we find thoughts going through our minds. This could be the Lord speaking to you. It often happens. When it does, act on it and see what then transpires. This is faith in action.
When we don't pray, obviously nothing happens, but when we do pray, if we are observant, things happen. A friend of mine used to say, “Well, people say answers to prayer are coincidences, but all I know is that when I stop praying, the coincidences stop happening!”
But it's more than this. When we have been praying (or even praying and fasting?) we come away, whether we're conscious of it or not, strengthened on the inside, stronger in God. Sometimes we're not aware of it until something happens and we find ourselves acting well, in faith! There may be lots of other reasons to pray, but prayer builds faith.
For those who are charismatically inclined, (and if you're not, please just jump down to the next paragraph!) if you have the gift of tongues, can I encourage you to use them in prayer, especially when you are on your own. Tongues are another dimension of faith and when you exercise that gift, you will find a new faith level flowing. If you have the gift but don't often use it, stir yourself up and use it daily and see what happens. Faith will rise.
Included in this we will include praise and thanksgiving. When we purpose to acknowledge the Lord and declare His greatness, for not other reason than because He's worthy of it, we find we are declaring truth. The Holy Spirit, who is sometimes referred to as the Spirit of Truth, then acknowledges and confirms it in us. We may start out doing it coldly, but as we do it the Holy Spirit joins in, and it suddenly becomes real and everything in us lifts and we are strengthened and faith flows. We've just 'heard' God in the declaring of truth and we know it's true and He's there. We are strengthened.
This can be something we can do on our own at home or as part of Sunday morning 'worship'. In fact, if we don't do it at home on our own, what we do on Sunday mornings will have a slightly artificial or forced dimension to it. Worship isn't to be something we just do for twenty or forty minutes on a Sunday morning. If we build it into our lives, we find it is one of those prime factors that renews our mind, our thinking, our outlook, our faith.
Perhaps we need, like Bible reading (or prayer), to set aside a set piece of time each day to be on our own and to DO IT. To start it, think about what you know of the Lord and then to declare it out loud. Think of all the reasons you have to be thankful and declare that thanks out loud. If you are not someone who prays out loud, you don't know what you are missing. Get time on your own and start doing it. You'll be surprised at the changes that start happening.
One of the most exciting things in the Christian life is leading someone else to the Lord. It starts with simple witnessing. Now the problem in this area is that so many of us feel defensive and so our witnessing is artificial. When it's working best, witnessing is a natural and spontaneous sharing of our experience of God's love towards us, that others could also experience.
Whenever we do that, it's like prayer or worship, as we declare the truth, the Holy Spirit witnesses to it and we are strengthened. I'm not talking about the outcome here – which may be the person coming through to Christ, or simply going away and thinking about it – but what takes place in you, which is what we're thinking about on this page, your faith being stimulated.
We said about that when it's working best, witnessing is a natural and spontaneous sharing of our experience, but sometimes we have to recognise we have the choice whether to share or not. Break free from the worry of the consequences and whether that other person will respond to Christ or not, and you'll find you do witness more freely and more spontaneously and it will be both enjoyable and faith releasing, and the more you do it, the more you'll do it. And the more your faith is released and built up, the more the Holy Spirit will be able to use you to draw others to Christ.
One of the things about Gifts of the Spirit – and this is surprising to those who are suspicious of Holy Spirit things – is that we have a large say in exercising the gift. Consider the following:
2 Tim 1:6 I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
- the inference is that Timothy could do something about using the gift that had been given him.
1 Tim 4:14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
- similarly the responsibility for using the gift is clearly shown to be Timothy's.
The reality is that when we are aware that God has gifted us in some particular way for service, when we come to Him and ask Him to give us opportunities to serve Him in this way, our faith will be released and built up. Flowing with God as He leads and empowers means faith flows and the more it flows, the more it flows!
f) Simple obedience
This leads us to the last of these suggested means of building and releasing faith. In Acts 5:33, Peter speaking refers to “the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Now undoubtedly that does refer to the Holy Spirit being given to those who surrender their lives to Him and receive new life through the finished work of Christ on the Cross, but the reality is that there is always a release of Holy Spirit life in us when we are obedient to God.
Do you see how this works? God speaks – whether directly to us, through His word, through preaching or whatever, and we respond in obedience. That obedience is in itself an act of faith, and as we do that there is always an acknowledgement from heaven, and the Holy Spirit in us is released more. Faith is stimulated and our relationship with Him is opened up some more. That is what faith is all about.
8.5 And So?
So what have we seen in this chapter?
We have seen that faith is
This in turn will enable us to be used even more if we are willing to be obedient to what we hear. This is what faith is all about. Let's rejoice in the knowledge that as Christians we ARE a people of faith. Let's live it!