The topic of faith isn’t usually covered in a course on discipleship. It is assumed that once you believe in Jesus, you’ve already learned enough about faith… you just need to put it more and more into practice. However, many believers have different ideas about what faith is, so I think this topic needs to be understood better.
Without faith in God, no spiritual growth is possible. You must have faith in God in order to please Him:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
– Hebrews 11:6 (MKJV)
“Saving faith” is only the beginning – you are to walk by faith also. You are to live your day-to-day life by faith:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
– Romans 1:17 (MKJV)
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
– 2 Corinthians 5:7 (ACV)
What is faith?
It is commonly thought that faith is the blind belief in someone or something. But this is an inadequate and even dangerous way to define faith. Faith is not supposed to be blind. To have no reason for your faith puts belief in a false god on equal footing with belief in the one true God of the Bible. It turns faith into a gamble with your eternal destiny.
True faith must have a basis. To place your faith in God, you must know that He exists (Hebrews 11:6) and see that He is worthy of your trust. Paul said that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). It is through the Bible that you learn about God and come to see your need to trust Him. You cannot have true faith in God if you know nothing about Him.
Faith is also more than just belief. It is banking on your belief by putting your trust completely in the One you believe in. Faith is completely relying on God. When this happens, faith always becomes evident through your actions because it affects how you live.
The Bible speaks much about faith, but the only place where faith is defined in the Bible is in Hebrews:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
– Hebrews 11:1 (AKJV)
The word “substance” here means confidence or assurance. How can you have assurance of something you cannot see? By trusting in God. Faith is like a sixth sense that allows you to see the unseeable.
Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and good.
– Matthew Henry
[The writer’s] meaning is that there are realities for which we have no material evidence though they are not the less real for that. Faith enables us to know that they exist and, while we have no certainty apart from faith, faith does give us genuine certainty.
– Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary
[Faith] substantiates promises of God which we hope for, as future in fulfillment, making them present realities to us
– Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary
“Substantiate – To establish by proof or competent evidence.”
– Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
… You are familiar with the common English translation of these words, describing faith as “the substance of things hoped for” (A.V.). However, the word in the Greek has in it the sense of an action and not just of some thing, a ‘substance’, and I confess I have personally spent a number of years trying to find a correct word to translate this. But the New Translation of J.N. Darby is especially good in regard to this word: “Faith is the substantiating of things hoped for”. That is much better. It implies the making of them real in experience.
How do we ‘substantiate’ something? We are doing so every day. We cannot live in the world without doing so. Do you know the difference between substance and ‘substantiating’? A substance is an object, something before me. ‘Substantiating’ means that I have a certain power or faculty that makes that substance to be real to me. Let us take a simple illustration. By means of our senses we can take things of the world of nature and transfer them into our consciousness so that we can appreciate them. Sight and hearing, for example, are two of my faculties which substantiate to me the world of light and sound. We have colours: red, yellow, green, blue, violet; and these colours are real things. But if I shut my eyes, then to me the colour is no longer real; it is simply nothing — to me. It is not only that the colour is there, but I have the power to ‘substantiate’ it. I have the power to make that colour true to me and to give it reality in my consciousness. That is the meaning of ‘substantiating’.
If I am blind I cannot distinguish colour, or if I lack the faculty of hearing I cannot enjoy music. Yet music and colour are in fact real things, and their reality is unaffected by whether or not I am able to appreciate them. Now we are considering here the things which, though they are not seen, are eternal and therefore real. Of course we cannot substantiate Divine things with any of our natural senses; but there is one faculty which can substantiate the “things hoped for”, the things of Christ, and that is faith. Faith makes the real things to become real in my experience. Faith ‘substantiates’ to me the things of Christ. Hundreds of thousands of people are reading Romans 6:6: “Our old man was crucified with him”. To faith it is true; to doubt, or to mere mental assent apart from spiritual illumination, it is not true.
Let us remember again that we are dealing here not with promises but with facts. The promises of God are revealed to us by His Spirit that we may lay hold of then; but facts are facts and they remain facts whether we believe them or not. If we do not believe the facts of the Cross they still remain as real as ever, but they are valueless to us. It does not need faith to make these things real in themselves, but faith can ‘substantiate’ them and make them real in our experience.
– W. Nee, The Normal Christian Life
Faith is an often misunderstood concept. Faith is not convincing yourself that something is true through pure mental effort. It is also not a mental power that causes things to happen that would not have happened otherwise. Some churches teach this, but it is not true. Sometimes faith is compared to a muscle that grows stronger as it is exercised (which is a helpful illustration in other ways), but remember that the power of faith does not come from yourself.
Biblical hope is a type of faith. I like to define this kind of faith as the eager expectation that God will do what He promised.
What determines the strength of my faith?
The strength of faith is based on the strength of the object of faith. All faith must have an object. It is the thing you trust in.
What should be the object of your faith? God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If you think of faith as a power to cause things to happen, the object of your faith becomes misplaced – you then have faith in your faith, instead of God, and this turns faith into a work. Paul says faith cannot be a work, because if faith were a work, those who have a stronger faith would have something to boast about. But faith and boasting are mutually exclusive:
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. …
– Romans 3:27-28
True faith in the Bible is always actively trusting God. Faith works like this: God says you are to trust Him in a particular matter. When you do trust Him by doing the thing He asks, you honor Him. He then honors your faith by rewarding your faith. It is not your faith that gives you the results – it is God, who honors your trust in Him.
For example, Jesus Christ sent Paul to preach the Gospel message ( 1 Corinthians 1:17). Paul did what Jesus sent him to do in faith that his ministry would be blessed, and his ministry was successful, not because Paul was a good preacher but because God honored his faith:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
– 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (ASV)
When you plant a field, you do so in faith that God will cause it to grow. You may put a lot of work into the field, plowing, sowing, watering, – things that most farmers take for granted will produce a crop – but you are not the one causing the plants to grow, God is.
The following article is based on a sermon by missionary Del Tarr who served fourteen years in West Africa with another mission agency. His story points out the price some people pay to sow the seed of the gospel in hard soil.
I was always perplexed by Psalm 126 until I went to the Sahel, that vast stretch of savanna more than four thousand miles wide just under the Sahara Desert. In the Sahel, all the moisture comes in a four month period: May, June, July, and August. After that, not a drop of rain falls for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness, and so do your hands and feet. The winds of the Sahara pick up the dust and throw it thousands of feet into the air. It then comes slowly drifting across West Africa as a fine grit. It gets inside your mouth. It gets inside your watch and stops it. The year’s food, of course, must all be grown in those four months. People grow sorghum or milo in small fields.
October and November…these are beautiful months. The granaries are full — the harvest has come. People sing and dance. They eat two meals a day. The sorghum is ground between two stones to make flour and then a mush with the consistency of yesterday’s Cream of Wheat. The sticky mush is eaten hot; they roll it into little balls between their fingers, drop it into a bit of sauce and then pop it into their mouths. The meal lies heavy on their stomachs so they can sleep.
December comes, and the granaries start to recede. Many families omit the morning meal.
Certainly by January not one family in fifty is still eating two meals a day.
By February, the evening meal diminishes.
The meal shrinks even more during March and children succumb to sickness. You don’t stay well on half a meal a day.
April is the month that haunts my memory. In it you hear the babies crying in the twilight. Most of the days are passed with only an evening cup of gruel.
Then, inevitably, it happens. A six-or seven-year-old boy comes running to his father one day with sudden excitement. “Daddy! Daddy! We’ve got grain!” he shouts. “Son, you know we haven’t had grain for weeks.” “Yes, we have!” the boy insists. “Out in the hut where we keep the goats — there’s a leather sack hanging up on the wall — I reached up and put my hand down in there — Daddy, there’s grain in there! Give it to Mommy so she can make flour, and tonight our tummies can sleep!”
The father stands motionless. “Son, we can’t do that,” he softly explains. “That’s next year’s seed grain. it’s the only thing between us and starvation. We’re waiting for the rains, and then we must use it.” The rains finally arrive in May, and when they do the young boy watches as his father takes the sack from the wall and does the most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened family, he goes to the field and with tears streaming down his face, he takes the precious seed and throws it away. He scatters it in the dirt! Why? Because he believes in the harvest (Italics added).
The seed is his; he owns it. He can do anything with it he wants. The act of sowing it hurts so much that he cries. But as the African pastors say when they preach on Psalm 126, “Brother and sisters, this is God’s law of the harvest. Don’t expect to rejoice later on unless you have been willing to sow in tears.” And I want to ask you: How much would it cost you to sow in tears? I don’t mean just giving God something from your abundance, but finding a way to say, “I believe in the harvest, and therefore I will give what makes no sense. The world would call me unreasonable to do this — but I must sow regardless, in order that I may someday celebrate with songs of joy.”
– Leadership, 1983.
When His disciples asked to have their faith increased, Jesus said that even the tiniest amount of faith can be effective:
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
– Luke 17:5-6 (AKJV)
This shows that it is not the size of your faith that is important, but Who you trust in.
As an illustration, remember Elijah and the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah:
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. … Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” … Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention. …
– 1 Kings 18:16-39 (ACV)
I’m sure the false prophets had a strong belief that Baal was able to light the sacrificial fire. If mental power, if sincerity, was able to light the fire, surely theirs would have done it. But faith is not mental power. The strength of their belief didn’t matter. It was the lack of strength of the object of their faith that was the reason they failed. Faith in a false god is weak faith. Faith in other men is weak faith:
The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.
– Proverbs 29:25
Faith in your faith is a weak faith because it makes faith susceptible to your weakness – all believers have doubts at times. Only faith in God is a strong faith, because He never changes. Jesus never taught “believe in yourself” but “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1). Peter didn’t walk on water thinking “I think I can do this”, but “I know Jesus can keep me up.”
Faith that is sure of itself is not faith; faith that is sure of God is the only faith there is.
– Oswald Chambers
Biblical faith is relying on God’s promises, trusting in His nature and character. It is taking God at His word. It is risking it all on God’s promises – without thinking of it as a risk. Hudson Taylor learned faith is not a mental struggle to believe – it is just resting in God’s promises:
I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Saviour, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was I felt the damning sin of the world; yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do?
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory):
“But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.”
As I read, I saw it all! “If we believe not, he abideth faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, “I will never leave thee.”
“Ah, there is rest!” I thought. “I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has not He promised to abide with me – never to leave me, never to fail me?” And, dearie, He never will.
– Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret
Faith is believing what God said. True faith will result in actions, but the faith itself is resting in God’s character and nature. Bruce Olsen, when teaching the Molitone Indians of South America about faith in Jesus, likened it to being suspended from a hammock. In order for a hammock to work, you must rest completely in it. You can’t be on the edge ready to get out if it doesn’t hold you up – a hammock doesn’t work that way.
Faith in yourself is a weak faith, no matter how strong you believe, because your faith falters at times. But faith in Jesus Christ is strong faith, even if it be as small as a grain of mustard seed.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
– 2 Timothy 2:13
who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
– 1 Peter 1:5
True faith also is not blind. It doesn’t see circumstances because it sees God. Peter walked on the water because he had faith in Jesus ( Matthew 14:28-30). It wasn’t until he turned his eyes to his circumstances that he began to sink. Faith sees God’s promises. It sees God’s nature: He is able to fulfill His promises. It sees God’s character: He will fulfill His promises because He Himself is faithful.
Faith does not presume upon God. It is not a way to get what you want from God (i.e. “I’m trusting God to give me a new car.”). True mature faith trusts that God knows what is best for your life, better than you know yourself.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
– Proverbs 3:5-6
It leaves the details and solutions to all of life’s problems up to Him. It obeys Him when to obey seems against common sense. It continues to trust even when it appears God is ignoring our faith. Mature faith is total and unconditional.
Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.
– Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race.
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
– Job 13:15
These all died in faith, not having received the promises , but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
– Hebrews 11:13
Adoniram Judson, pioneer missionary to Burma, waited six years before seeing his first convert. But he kept working, trusting in God, and eventually his faith was rewarded. By the time of his death, there were over 210,000 believers in Burma.
It may seem that this kind of faith is too high an ideal for us “common” folk, but the more we get to know God, the more our faith will grow. Remember that men and women of faith like Noah, Abraham, and Hannah were just common everyday people like you and I.
Growth in faith is measured in quantity, not quality!
This sounds strange, doesn’t it? But this is a helpful way to understand how the typical believer matures in faith.
Since the power of faith is not in yourself but in God (His character, nature, and promises), even the tiniest mustard-seed faith is sufficient. It is not the size of your faith that matters. All that matters is that you have faith, and in any given circumstance, either you have faith or you don’t. Faith must be 100% or it isn’t true faith.
If I say I believe a boat will hold me afloat, but I am only willing to put 95% of my weight in the boat, keeping one foot on the dock, then I don’t really have faith in the boat. Someone who has doubts that the boat will hold him, but gets completely in the boat anyway, would have more faith than me.
To believe is to commit.
– Oswald Chambers
Years ago, Monroe Parker was traveling through South Alabama on one of those hot, sultry Alabama days. He stopped at a watermelon stand, picked out a watermelon, and asked the proprietor how much it cost. “it’s $1.10,” he replied. Parker dug into his pocket, found only a bill and said, “All I have is a dollar.”
“That’s ok,” the proprietor said, “I’ll trust you for it.”
“Well, that’s mighty nice of you,” Parker responded, and picking up the watermelon, started to leave.
“Hey, where are you going?” the man behind the counter demanded.
“I’m going outside to eat my watermelon.”
“But you forgot to give me the dollar!”
“You said you would trust me for it,” Parker called back.
“Yeah, but I meant I would trust you for the dime!”
“Mack,” Parker replied, “You weren’t going to trust me at all. You were just going to take a ten-cent gamble on my integrity!”
– Haddon Robinson.
Faith seems reckless. It is putting all of your eggs in God’s basket. It is burning your bridges behind you. It is doing away with any sort of backup plan in case God doesn’t fulfill His promise. This is the kind of faith that Paul had. He had a big list of things that he could have trusted to save him in addition to faith in Christ, but he completely abandoned them:
though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
– Philippians 3:4-8
As you grow in faith, it is not so much a matter of the quality of your faith growing, but the quantity. You begin your Christian life with faith in one area: salvation. But while you may think you have faith in God for other areas of your life, it is only when you are put into faith-testing situations that you find your faith is proved, or you find it is not as strong as you thought.
For example, you believe God will supply all of your needs ( Philippians 4:19). When things are going well, it is easy to believe that. But then you lose your job. At first, you may trust God for a new one. But as time goes by, and you find a job hard to come by, your faith gets tested. You start having doubts. You worry more. You find your faith is going through a crisis.
When faith is tested, you see the true strength or weakness of your faith. If, when something bad happens to you, you continue to trust God anyway, then another area of your life is turned over to God in trust, and your faith grows.
Growth in faith is trusting God in more and more areas of your life (i.e. quantity, not quality), with the eventual goal of trusting God in all areas, so that He has your total, unconditional trust, regardless of the circumstances.
Although ideal mature faith has no worries, virtually all believers worry to some degree when their faith is tested. This is something you need to acknowledge in your walk towards greater faith. The key is to not act on the worry, but to act on faith. You may have fears getting in a boat, but if you get in anyway, and make no provision for your doubts, you’ve placed your faith in the boat, regardless of your feelings of uncertainty.
The secret to neutralizing fear is to embrace the threatened disaster and count it as not too high a price to pay for obedience to Christ. This attitude of faith may not totally eliminate the uneasiness and apprehension. It will, however, allow you to go ahead and act in obedience to Christ. The problem of fear is not the fear itself, but the fact that we allow it to immobilize us. Being afraid is no sin. Shrinking back fearfully from obedience is sin…fear can stop you in your tracks as a Christian…but it doesn’t have to. You can trust God…(and) move ahead in obedience because you understand fear and know how to deal with it.
– Wayne McDill, Making Friends for Christ, p. 103.
Uncle Oscar was apprehensive about his first airplane ride. His friends, eager to hear how it went, asked if he enjoyed the flight. “Well,” commented Uncle Oscar, “it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but I’ll tell you this. I never did put all my weight down!”
– Source Unknown.
About “Saving Faith”:
This phrase is used to refer to faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning death for sin, but in reality it is not faith that saves you, but God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The power to save is in God.
The New Testament speaks of “the faith” (Acts 16:5, Romans 14:1, 1 Corinthians 16:13). This refers to the message of the gospel: faith in Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has done to save us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
– John 3:16 (AKJV)
Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
– John 6:28-29
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
– John 20:31 (DRC)
if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
– Colossians 1:23
God could have offered salvation on some other ground. For example, if you had to hop on one foot for the rest of your life. But He chose salvation by faith so that it would be available to all. Some people don’t have any legs, so they can’t hop, but anyone can believe. It is only a matter of will. Will we trust God to save us or won’t we?
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
– Romans 3:21-22 (RWEBSTER)
Most believers doubt their salvation at times, but this does not have to be. Just like Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:25-31), you allow doubts to come in when you take your eyes off of Jesus. You look at your own sin and failings and think “I really let God down this time. How could He save me?” You then proceed to beg His mercy on the grounds that if you don’t, you’ll lose your salvation. Doubts come in when you place your faith in your own faith or righteousness, which is weak, instead of God who is strong.
Yes, you need to ask forgiveness when you sin, but it is for the purpose of keeping your relationship with God healthy, not to maintain your salvation. Salvation is based on the efficacy of Christ’s blood to save you. It is God’s grace that saves, not anything of yourself. When Jesus said “It is finished”, it really was finished – leaving nothing left for you to do except believe. Once you ask Jesus to save you, He does. Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, but Jesus still saved Peter from sinking.
Assurance of Salvation:
Salvation is a three-step process: justification, sanctification, and glorification, which happens after we die. Once we are justified, the process will carry on to completion, for it is God who accomplishes it (Philippians 1:6).
Salvation cannot be lost. There are several reasons that we can’t lose our salvation:
1. Because works have no part in gaining salvation, they have no part in keeping it (Ephesians 2:8-9).
2. If you are saved, you already have eternal life ( John 3:36, 1 John 5:11-13). If you could lose it, then it’s not eternal.
3. You are saved because God chose you (Ephesians 1:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, John 6:44). God doesn’t choose in error. He chose you, knowing every sin you would ever commit against Him. This choosing was to adopt you as His own child. There is no “unadoption” concept in the Bible (John 8:35-36).
4. You are saved by God’s grace. God is keeping you saved (1 Peter 1:5, Jude 24). No one can snatch you from Jesus, including yourself (John 10:28-29).
5. The Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee of eternal life (Romans 8:16, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, 1 John 2:27, 3:24, 1 John 4:13). The Holy Spirit is an internal witness and He also produces fruit in our lives.
6. Christ’s work on the cross was finished – complete ( Hebrews 10:12-14, John 19:30).
7. We have been identified with Jesus in His death ( Romans 6:5-11). When He died, it is as if we died. Because He took our sin on himself, and took our condemnation by dying on the cross for our sin, our sin has already been paid for. We cannot be judged for the same sin because there is no double-jeopardy with God. Because we are identified with Jesus, whatever happened to Him will happen to us. We cannot lose our salvation because we are “hid” with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3-4).
Doubts may arise, but if we are truly saved, doubts will not cause us to lose our salvation (2 Timothy 2:13, 1 John 3:19-20). Abraham is a good example of this. God made promises to Him, he was justified by faith (Genesis 15:6), had some lapses of faith later (Genesis 16:1-2, 17:17-18), but God still kept His promises to Him. We are justified not by our faith, but by God’s grace through faith. If you have doubts, address them so you can be sure (2 Peter 1:10). Even the greatest Christians have doubts at times. Doubts will not cause you to lose salvation, for your faith is not in your faith, but in Jesus Christ.
– Andrew Bernhardt, “Doctrinal & Apologetics References”
Saving faith is resting in what God has done and His promise to save you, not struggling for salvation (whether the struggle is of works or of belief). Once this is understood, doubts about your salvation will disappear because you will see that salvation is not dependant on the quality of your faith, but the character and nature of God.
“God has made things so plain to me and enables me to put it plainly to others. Here is the gist of what I tell them. Assurance of salvation depends on the fact that Jesus paid the penalty of your sin, not on any feeling of yours. As Christ died for you, you belong by rights to Him. After further explanation I say, ‘Will you not in a practical business way on your knees yield yourself and all to Jesus?’ ‘Yes.’ Then he or she does it, and I ask if Jesus has accepted them. If they do not know, I simply ask if God is a liar, which at once produces the required assurance, as it is impossible for God to have lied.”
– C. T. Studd, Cricketer & Pioneer
How is faith obtained?
Faith in God comes by hearing the word of God.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
– Romans 10:17 (AKJV)
it’s not good to trust someone you know nothing about, but the Bible tells you everything you need to know about God, who He is and what He is like. It also tells you about your sin. It tells you that God is not only able to save you, He is willing to do so, and has done everything necessary for your salvation. The Bible tells you God is worthy of your trust.
You can also ask God for more faith, because faith is a gift of God. He grants repentance (Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25) as well as faith.
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
– Philippians 1:29
There is also a spiritual gift of faith given to some whereby they are more easily able to trust God to do His work.
to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, …
– 1 Corinthians 12:9
It is this gift that is evident in men and women of faith such as George Muller, who ran a large orphanage and Bible school entirely on faith.
What are the results and benefits of faith in God?
Faith in God has many benefits:
The most obvious and important benefit is that God saves you through faith. He justifies you and imputes Christ’s righteousness to you. This gives you peace with God and direct access to Him:
and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
– Philippians 3:9
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
– Romans 5:1-2
The Holy Spirit is given on the basis of the same saving faith – it is not something you need to ask God for separately once you are saved, but you do need to act on the faith that the Holy Spirit has already been given:
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
– Acts 2:38 (RKJNT)
that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
– Galatians 3:14
God will guide and direct you through life when you trust Him to.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
– Proverbs 3:5-6
God delivers you from the wicked when you trust in Him.
And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him.
– Psalms 37:40
You can resist Satan by remaining steadfast in your faith in God.
Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
– 1 Peter 5:9
above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
– Ephesians 6:16
Paul had patience in trials, and you can also learn patience when your faith is tested (proven). In fact, this is the only way to learn patience!
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
– James 1:3
Faith in God leads to contentment in suffering. Paul had suffered much for the gospel, but he had learned to be content whatever his circumstances because he trusted in Christ:
I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
– Philippians 4:12-13
Confidence in God leads to peace of mind, which is a great benefit:
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
– Isaiah 26:3 (MKJV)
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.
– Psalms 27:13
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
– 2 Timothy 1:12
How can my faith be made strong?
The most important thing you can do to build your faith is to obey God. Obedience is the primary way to exercise faith. View obedience not as a way to gain favor with God, but as the way to know Him better. Obedience matures your faith and leads to a more intimate knowledge of God.
Paul says salvation is by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9) while James says faith without works is dead ( James 2:14-20). Yet both are correct. Salvation is of faith – not works, but works come about as a result of true faith (Romans 1:5). James speaks of the works as an evidence of true faith, and Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that God saved you for good works.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
– James 2:14-26
True faith will result in actions visible to others. In many epistles, Paul commends the local church body for their faith (Romans 1:8, Ephesians 1:15, Colossians 1:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 8, Philemon 1:5). How can Paul commend them for something that can’t be seen? It can only be because their faith became evident through their works.
The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are opposite sides of the same coin.
– A.W. Tozer.
As faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, but unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion. With dreadful reciprocity of influence, the less one trusts, the more he disobeys; the more he disobeys, the less he trusts.
– Alexander Maclaren.
Many times obedience seems to go against common sense. Faith trusts God anyway. A few examples come to mind…
In Genesis 6, God told Noah to build an ark because He was going to flood the earth. Noah spent the next 120 years building the ark, with no evidence that this was going to happen. Remember it had never rained before. He had plenty of time to think things through – to see how absurd it was to build such a large ship on dry land. But he obeyed anyway, and we have all benefited by it.
In Numbers 13, God sent twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan in preparation for taking over the land. Ten of the spies gave back an evil report. Notice that they truthfully reported the facts: the land did flow with milk and honey, its people really were stronger than they were, living in fortified cities, and some really were giants. Only Caleb wanted to obey God in spite of the facts. He said “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (vs. 30). With God on their side, they were well able to overcome the Canaanites. But the Israelites didn’t obey because they didn’t have faith in their God.
40 years later when they did enter the land, they had to exercise faith to conquer the first city:
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” …
– Joshua 6:1-27 (BBE)
This method of conquering a city certainly was not to be found in any manuals on how to wage war. City walls don’t fall by walking for a week and making loud noises. But if God said it, then all they had to do was exercise faith by doing what God told them to do, and He would provide the victory. In this case, they obeyed and their faith was rewarded.
In 2 Chronicles 20:15-24, King Jehoshaphat told Judah to trust God for victory against the Ammonites, Moabites, and people of Mount Seir who had come against them. He instructed the army not to be led by fighting men, but to be led by singers who praised God saying “Praise the LORD, for His mercy endures forever.” The king did this because God had already promised they would not have to fight. Therefore he decided to trust in God by acting in faith. The army did not have to fight at all, for God utterly defeated their enemies.
Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, trusted God to the point of death, refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, and God saved them.
“If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.
– Daniel 3:17
Obedience does not always seem practical. It doesn’t have to be. Don’t look at the practical-ness of obedience before you obey. Leave the practical side to God. He knows what He’s doing. All you need to do is have absolute trust in your God, and to rest in His promises.
God promised Abraham that it was through his son Isaac that He would make him a great nation and bless many nations. When God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, this did not seem conducive to God’s plan, but Abraham obeyed anyway. Abraham knew that God still would (not just “could”) fulfill his promise:
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.
– Genesis 22:8
and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
– Romans 4:21
Obedience is the most effective way to build your faith. Some other ways include:
- * FOCUS ON GOD: Don’t seek a stronger faith. Instead, seek a greater, more intimate knowledge of the One you have faith in. Your faith will grow when you change your focus from your faith to God. Take stock of God’s faithfulness. See how He’s been faithful to others and remember how He has been faithful to you. The more you see His faithfulness in the past, the more you will trust Him in the future.
- * PRAY EXPECTANTLY: Ask God for more faith – then eagerly look forward to Him granting your request. He will do so by providing opportunities for you to trust Him – opportunities that will be disguised as trials, as hopeless-looking situations. Trust God anyway and do what He tells you to do. Do not look at your weaknesses or limitations.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
– Philippians 4:13 (MKJV)
- * PRACTICE: Before great faith-testing circumstances arrive, look for opportunities to practice trusting in God, but always ensure that what you do is in God’s will. Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. Before he did this, he went to a missionary training college where he learned to trust God for his daily needs:
The weeks passed so fast that soon it came time for me to head out on the first of several training trips in evangelism. “You’re going to like this, Andy,” said Mr. Dinnen. “it’s an exercise in trust. The rules are simple. Each student on your team is given a one-pound banknote. With that you go on a missionary tour through Scotland. You’re expected to pay your own transportation, your own lodging, your food, any advertising you want to do, the renting of halls, providing refreshments -“
“All on a one-pound note?”
“Worse than that. When you get back to school after four weeks, you’re expected to pay back the pound!”
I laughed. “Sounds like we’ll be passing the hat all the time.”
“Oh, you’re not allowed to take up collections! Never. You’re not to mention money at your meetings. All of your needs have got to be provided without any manipulation on your part – or the experiment is a failure.”
I was a member of a team of five boys. Later when I tried to reconstruct where our funds came from during those four weeks, it was hard to do. It seemed that what we needed was always just there. Sometimes a letter would arrive from one of the boy’s parents with a little money. Sometimes we would get a check in the mail from a church we had visited days or weeks earlier. The notes that came with these gifts were always interesting. “I know you don’t need money or you would have mentioned it,” someone would write, “But God just wouldn’t let me get to sleep tonight until I had put this in an envelope for you.”
– Brother Andrew, “God’s Smuggler”
EXERCISE YOUR FAITH. Put into practice what you learn in your quiet time and Bible study. Faith must be practiced to grow. Limiting faith to just mental belief is deceiving yourself. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). The only faith you really have is the faith you put into practice.
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?
– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.
One way you can practice your faith is to tithe on all you receive. Do so cheerfully even when you can’t afford to, and God will bless.
Contributions frequently came in the form of produce. In one little town in the highlands of Scotland we were given six hundred eggs…
But money or produce, we stuck fast to two rules: we never mentioned a need aloud, and we gave away a tithe of whatever came to us as soon as we got it – within twenty-four hours if possible.
Another team that set our from school at the same time we did, was not so strict about tithing. They set aside their ten percent all right, but they didn’t give it away immediately, “in case we run into an emergency.” Of course they had emergencies! So did we, every day. But they ended their month owing money to hotels, lecture halls, and markets all over Scotland, while we came back to school almost ten pounds ahead. Fast as we could give money away, God was always swifter, and we ended with money to send to the WEC work overseas.
– Brother Andrew, “God’s Smuggler”
- * BE PATIENT: Remember God works on His own time schedule, which may not be yours. He provides what is needed when you need it. Learn patience waiting on God.
- * EVANGELIZE: Tell others about Jesus Christ, and rely on the Holy Spirit to do His work. Your job is to tell others. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts sinners and grants repentance to them. Don’t try to do the Holy Spirit’s job.
- * GIVE THANKS FOR YOUR WEAKNESS: Thank God – enthusiastically praise Him(!) – for your weaknesses, for God’s power is made perfect in weakness:
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
- * PRAISE GOD FOR TRIALS Praise God even for your trials, for they work for your good (Romans 8:28).
God delights to increase the faith of His children…I say, and say it deliberately–trials, difficulties and sometimes defeat, are the very food of faith…We should take them out of His hands as evidences of His love and care for us in developing more and more that faith which He is seeking to strengthen in us.
– George Mueller.
- * TRUST GOD WHEN HE SEEMS FAR AWAY: When your faith feels weak or when God seems far away, trust God anyway. Put your trust in His promises, not your feelings. Remember that He always cares for you, whether you feel it or not.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
– Matthew 6:25-34
During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb. In the front yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow. Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, “I can’t see you!”
The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, “But I can see you. Jump!” The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.
– Donner Atwood
Don’t think of attacks on your faith as just attacks against your belief that some event is going to happen or not. Instead, recognize that when your faith is attacked, it is really your understanding of the character and nature of God that is being attacked. Because the strength of your faith is really God, not in yourself, all doubts are really directed at God, i.e. “Is God really seeking my good?”, “Will He really keep His promises?”, “Has He forgotten me?”, etc. The way to handle these doubts is to get to know God better so that you can know He is absolutely worthy of your trust. Review His faithfulness to you and others in the past. Trust Him in spite of your doubts.
Trust Him when thy wants are many;
Trust Him when thy friends are few;
And the time of swift temptation
Is the time to trust Him too!
Trust Him when thy soul is burdened
With the sense of all its sin;
He will speak the word of pardon,
He will make thee clean within.
Trust Him for the “grace sufficient”-
Ever equal to thy need;
Trust Him always for the answer,
When in His dear name you plead.
Trust Him for the grace to conquer –
He is “able to subdue”
Trust Him for the pow’r for service;
Trust Him for the blessing too.
Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him! He is ever faithful;
Trust Him – for His will is best;
Trust Him – for the heart of Jesus
Is the only place of rest.
Trust Him, then, through clouds or sunshine.
All thy cares upon Him cast;
Till the storm of life is over,
And the trusting days are past.
– Lucy A. Bennett
In theory you can mature in your faith to the point where you really do have absolute confidence in God in all areas of life. In reality, however, there is always room for growth in faith, and therefore faith must always be growing.
Faith exercised is stepping out into new, unfamiliar areas – out of your comfort zone. In physical exercise, you cannot continually grow stronger by doing the same level of exercise. You must exercise harder to grow stronger, otherwise you will reach a certain level of strength and progress no further. Growth in faith is the same. Stepping out in faith is not comfortable, except on the basis of absolute trust in Jesus. Growth in faith is going from fearful to eager, expectant faith. Don’t be satisfied with your current level of faith. Seek to trust God more and more. Your goal should be a child-like faith that trusts God unconditionally for everything without even being aware of the faith involved. Faith focuses on God, not itself.
If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.
– Robert Murray M’Cheyne