Living in and Developing Faith
We have seen that faith is a gift. It is given by God. Yet we also find in the Bible that faith is being tested, that is to be nurtured and that it is expected that it will grow. This study looks at living daily in faith and how it can be nurtured so that we might grow in faith.
The gift of faith
Faith is a gift from God. “For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God's gift” (Ephesians 2:8). The light of understanding dawns in our soul by faith and drives us to confess our sinful state before Him and seek His forgiveness. Thus it is “the goodness of God that leads thee to repentance” (Romans 2v4) and not any goodness or understanding within ourselves. It is clear by looking around us that we need to be “delivered from bad and evil men, for faith is not the portion of all” (2 Thessalonians 3:2). We cannot claim that we are better than anyone else because the faith we have has come directly from God. It is God, not mankind, that has opened the door of faith to enable us all to be included in His blessings. “They related to them all that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith to the nations” (Acts 14:27).
We are also told that different people have been given differing proportions of faith. The apostle Paul writes that we have “different gifts, according to the grace which has been given to us, whether it be prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith” (Romans 12:6). The fact that the proportion of faith given to us has been given or developed by God in us should make us humble when looking at the faith of others. “For I say, through the grace which has been given to me, to every one that is among you, not to have high thoughts above what he should think; but to think so as to be wise, as God has dealt to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Some people will even have a specific gift of faith, just as some have a gift of evangelism, etc. Every Christian has faith but some may have great faith as a particular gift of God. “And to a different one faith, in the power of the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12v9). We are told that some persons are weak in the faith, nevertheless, the fact that they have faith means we are to nurture them and strengthen them that they may be confirmed in faith. “Now him that is weak in the faith receive, not to the determining of questions of reasoning.” (Romans 14:1). We are not to reason with a person weak in faith but to receive them and teach them.
Growing in faith
However, faith can grow and be developed as well as being reduced. The disciples asked the Lord “Give more faith to us.” (Luke 17:5) and the Lord replied that faith as a grain of mustard seed was all that was needed (Matthew 17v20). This is the starting point, however the Lord praised the great faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman and wondered at the great faith of a centurion. There are a number of scriptures that clearly show that faith is something that should not remain static but should grow and develop.
“We ought to thank God always for you, brethren, even as it is meet, because your faith increases exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all towards one another abounds” (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
“Not boasting out of measure in other people's labours, but having hope, your faith increasing, to be enlarged amongst you, according to our rule, yet more abundantly” (2 Corinthians 10:15).
“Night and day beseeching exceedingly to the end that we may see your face, and perfect what is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 3:10).
Paul sought to give them what would make add to and strengthen their faith.
“But ye, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20)
“And sent Timotheus, our brother and fellow-workman under God in the glad tidings of Christ, to confirm you and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).
A warning ...
We have been warned too that our faith will come under assault and our attentions can be diverted away from faith.
“Nor to turn their minds to fables and interminable genealogies, which bring questionings rather than further God's dispensation, which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
“But the just shall live by faith; and, if he draw back, my soul does not take pleasure in him. But we are not drawers back to perdition, but of faith to saving the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39)
“Maintaining faith and a good conscience; which last some, having put away, have made shipwreck as to faith” (1 Timothy 1:19)
“Besides all these, having taken the shield of faith with which ye will be able to quench all the inflamed darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16)
“For the love of money is the root of every evil; which some having aspired after, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
“Men who as to the truth have gone astray, saying that the resurrection has taken place already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18).
"Clinging to the faithful word according to the doctrine taught, that he may be able both to encourage with sound teaching and refute gainsayers” (Titus 1:9).
“For this reason I also, no longer able to refrain myself, sent to know your faith, lest perhaps the tempter had tempted you and our labour should be come to nothing. But Timotheus having just come to us from you, and brought to us the glad tidings of your faith and love” (1 Thessalonians 3v5-6).
There are some, even within Christendom, who would seek to overthrow faith and draw people after themselves. Likewise, the devil seeks always to draw Christians away from faith in God. We need to cling faith in God as this will protect us (the shield of faith) and we need to cling to the “faithful word” that we might be encouraged and have the strength to resist the attack on us. It is so important to remain strong in faith and to grow in faith as it is this that will give us victory over the world and all its temptations, ideas, philosophies, trends, etc. “For all that has been begotten of God gets the victory over the world; and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith” (1 John 5:4).
How do we grow in faith?
So, how do we grow in our faith?
1. Focus on Jesus
Firstly, we should focus our attention on the Lord Jesus. We do this by reading the scriptures and drawing our strength from God’s living word (see Hebrews 4v12 and 1 Peter 1v23). This will keep our minds on what is above where the Lord Jesus and prevent us from focussing too much on earthly distractions. As a hymn-writer put it:
Helen. H. Lemmel
“Looking stedfastly on Jesus the leader and completer of faith: who, in view of the joy lying before him, endured the cross, having despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
“Rooted and built up in him, and assured in the faith, even as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7).
“That from a child thou hast known the sacred letters, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
2. Imitate Godly men and women
Secondly, we should seek to imitate other godly men and women. This is good as we can draw from the experience of others who have stood faithful to the Lord.
“Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God; and considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
“That ye be not sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience have been inheritors of the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).
Titus is exhorted to only select men who could be an example to others to become elders; “That the elder men be sober, grave, discreet, sound in faith, in love, in patience” (Titus 2:2).
3. Live with a good conscience.
Thirdly, we should seek to live with a good conscience. Satan will use our failures to discourage us but we need to constantly remind ourselves that we rely on faith in the Lord Jesus, i.e. we know that our works, either good or bad, have no effect upon God’s grace towards us. Therefore, we need to be in a constant state of self-judgement to recognise that we are nothing and He is everything. This is partly what is means when the Bible describes faith as a conflict, that we are fighting to maintain a good conscience within ourselves by living in the present presence of Christ.
“Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).
"But thou, O man of God, flee these things [the love of riches and money], and pursue righteousness, piety, faith, love, endurance, meekness of spirit. Strive earnestly in the good conflict of faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which thou hast been called, and hast confessed the good confession before many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
“But the end of what is enjoined is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith” (1 Timothy 1:4-5).
“And father of circumcision, not only to those who are of the circumcision, but to those also who walk in the steps of the faith, during uncircumcision, of our father Abraham” (Romans 4:12).
(Circumcision symbolised the sinful flesh being cut off and a commitment to serving God. Today this is our need for self-judgement and setting aside our own pride to live humbly before God.)
“But youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
Paul said, as he neared the end of his life:
“I have combated the good combat, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
“In such sort that thy participation in the faith should become operative in the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in us towards Christ Jesus” (Philemon 1:6).
We need to focus on the good things that God has done in us rather than our failures. If we take our eyes off our weaknesses, then our faith will become “operative”.
“Let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, sprinkled as to our hearts from a wicked conscience, and washed as to our body with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
Elsewhere we are told that we are washed by the water “of the word”. Reading God’s word can have a cleansing effect on our thoughts and attitudes.
“Whom resist [the devil], steadfast in faith, knowing that the self-same sufferings are accomplished in your brotherhood which is] in the world” (1 Peter 5:9).
“I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, I, but Christ lives in me; but in that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
We now live, not to our own will, but by the faith of the Lord Jesus who lived a perfect life of faith while here on earth. The whole focus of our lives should now be focussed on the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ lives in us and therefore we live to fulfil only His will. Focus on Him and not on the world and we will find it easier to live in faith.
4. Allow the Holy Spirit to change us
Fourthly, having removed our own selves from our sight we must allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, change us and be seen in us. It says of Stephen “for he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith; and a large crowd [of people] were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24). The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live by faith (See also the papers on “The Holy Spirit”).
5. Learn from times of testing
Fifthly, learn from the times when God tests His work in us, i.e. proves our faith. This shows us where we have become stronger in Him and also the points of our weakness for which we need to appeal for help to Him. God’s testing will make us stronger if we pass through them in faith and dependence on Him and cause us to praise and worship Him.
“Knowing that the proving of your faith works endurance” (James 1:3).
They were “establishing the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to abide in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
“That the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be proved by fire, be found to praise and glory and honour in the revelation of Jesus Christ: whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom though not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with the glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).
The result of God testing our faith will be our greater knowledge of Him in Jesus Christ resulting in praise and worship. As we grow stronger in faith we will find our souls will be saved from the influences of this world.
6. Learn from and encourage others ...
Sixthly, take encouragement from others who are also passing through life in faith and experiencing the ups and downs of spiritual growth. Then give help to others in the same way by sharing experiences and struggles. In this way we can help one another. In this way we are to be walking in faith together. No-one is above another but all are walking together.
“That is, to have mutual comfort among you, each by the faith which is in the other, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:12).
“Not that we rule over your faith, but are fellow-workmen of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24).
“But even as ye abound in every way, in faith, and word, and knowledge, and all diligence, and in love from you to us, that ye may abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
“For this reason I also, no longer able to refrain myself, sent to know your faith, lest perhaps the tempter had tempted you and our labour should be come to nothing. But Timotheus having just come to us from you, and brought to us the glad tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have always good remembrance of us, desiring much to see us, even as we also you; for this reason we have been comforted in you, brethren, in all our distress and tribulation, through your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:5-7).
7. Be bold in faith
Seventhly, we should be bold in faith not relying on ourselves. Our own wisdom, intellect, abilities and thoughts will only get in the way. We must seek in prayer and daily life to live by faith alone. In doing so we will appreciate God’s faithfulness to us more and more and this will enable us to entrust things to Him more easily and rely more easily on His Word and promises (See “Faith: The Basis for our faith”). This will give us strength for greater faith.
Abraham “hesitated not at the promise of God through unbelief; but found strength in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20).
“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
“For those who shall have ministered well obtain for themselves a good degree, and much boldness in faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13).
“All these died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
Always remember, God’s thoughts go beyond the length of our lives and so promises are always fulfilled though we might not see it until the resurrection.
So, the more faith is used the greater it will become. God has given us faith and He may add to it, but we too have a responsibility to grow in our faith. If we grow in faith towards God then we will be able to glorify God and resist all that comes against us. We “who by him do believe on God, who has raised him from among the dead and given him glory, that your faith and hope should be in God” (1 Peter 1:21). We “are not drawers back to perdition, but of faith to saving the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). I cannot stress enough the importance of continuing to live in faith and prevent ourselves from drawing back or ‘falling away’ from the Lord who gave us eternal life.
In the sight of God, faith is not only desirable but precious. Peter says that we have all “like precious faith with us through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). We have been given the same faith as the apostles. Let us nurture it and as we grow in faith we will know the same boldness and power as they knew.