– What does an ‘increase in faith’ in God look like? –
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 KJV
What about “increasing our faith “when the object that faith concerns is God, Whom we cannot see physically? God is not an animate object which I can touch and feel and examine. God is Spirit; He is immaterial, and transcendent. He is a living, dynamic Spirit and quite different to anything material like car brakes.
At times, God seems to be silent; God seems to be indifferent when dictatorial regimes crush the life out of innocent people and small countries for their own imperial aggrandizement. The scriptures very frequently reference various individuals crying out to God in their despair. God seems so silent and detached from the affairs of humanity, to mention just one of so many references in the Psalms [for further insights please check out https://bible.org/seriespage/psalm-13-when-god-seems-distant].
JB Cachila, writing in Christianity Today (Feb 16, 2017) says,
“When God seems silent, it’s not because He’s deaf or is simply unconcerned about us. Isaiah 59:1 tells us, ‘Certainly, the hand of the Lord is not so short that it cannot save, nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.‘
“He is able to hear us, and is also able to save us.
“The problem is that we humans don’t trust Him that much. Many of us say that we trust Him, but trusting Him goes beyond mere lip-speak: It has to be followed up with actions.”
Faith in God as an object is based upon knowledge, in the sense of knowing something about something, in this case God. The scripture is clear, however, that those who believe [have faith] in God do so through His grace, and by His Spirit working within their human spirits. ‘You shall know the Truth [aka God] and the Truth shall set you free (John 8:32). This is solely the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
You can increase your knowledge by study. But your faith is strengthened by prayer. “Lord, increase my trust, my faith” is a prayer. Faith goes where knowledge simply cannot. The leap of faith is simply trusting the unknown, the unknowable, to God. The leap is faith in action. Our faith, if premised only upon knowing about something, would either be very small, or non-existent, most especially in these days of fake news. Do not try to know what God deems to be in the realm of unknown/unknowable and SIMPLY trust. This is what faith in God is all about.
Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8,9,10) from God. You either have it or you do not. It can no more be increased or decreased than love can. Only the behaviours – actions which are driven by love and faith – can be increased. Therefore, the hymn says, ‘TRUST (= believe in God, have faith in God) and OBEY, for there’s no other way to be happy, but to trust and obey” [youtube.com/watch?v=4dh02OnJpIE].
I am intrigued by a question the large crowds who followed Jesus [John 6:28] after witnessing His many miraculous displays of power asked … and more intriguing, the likely reasons why the question in the first place: ‘… then they inquired, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus replied, “The work of God [you must do] is this: Believe in the One He has sent.”‘
Faith is not a quantity, but rather a quality! The crowds, for apparently selfish reasons, wanted to be able to do the same miracles that Jesus performed. They wanted to perform God’s works entirely for the wrong reasons. This is not faith at all.
When Jesus says in the Bible “Oh ye of little faith“, I choose to believe that He is saying more about their lack of “actions” driven by doubt, not the degree of their faith. At least, this is my opinion. For example, this quote from Luke 17:5 says, ‘the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry bush, ‘Be uprooted and thrown into the sea’, and it would obey you!”‘ We are urged to act in accordance with our belief, not our experiential knowledge!
The words of Acts 6:8 might lead some to think that faith is quantifiable. The evangelist, Stephen, chosen as one of seven deacons, was ‘full of faith and power, and did great wonders and signs.’ This might infer that others were less full of faith, thus making it quantifiable. But some original Greek manuscripts use the Greek word translated ‘grace’, and as such Stephen was full of grace (that is, God’s blessing and favour) and power (the outworking of God’s blessing). This makes more sense to me.
The notion ‘leap of faith’ is attributed originally to Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, in his attempt to connect human being, being physical in nature with God, who is Spirit (John 4:24). But the leap does not increase our faith; it is only the foundation … the starting point of one’s “faith in the Lord” journey. Faith without any ‘outworking’ is meaningless and dead: ‘As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead’ (James 2:26). You simply cannot ‘increase death’! Dead is dead, period!
In the mid 19th century, tightrope walking across the Niagara Gorge was a popular tourist attraction, and Charles Blondin was among the most famous of those who dared it. The Charles Blondin Story [Creative Bible Study, youtu.be/64dArrMt90A] very nicely illustrates what faith in action is all about.
“Not only was he a fascinating man, but the story of his pushing a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls is one in which kids as well as adults can identify the difference between mere belief (head knowledge) and true faith (belief in action; heart knowledge).”
In the summer of 1859, Blondin stretched a rope over a quarter of a mile across Niagara Falls at a height of 160 feet, according to this account. He walked back and forth between Canada and the United States several times “as huge crowds on both sides looked on with shock and awe”. At various points he crossed in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, and even with a stove on which he cooked an omelet!
It is said that after walking across with a wheelbarrow while blindfolded, Blondin asked his audience if they believed he could carry a person across in the wheelbarrow. The crowds shouted “Yes!”, but when he asked for a volunteer, no one came forward.
“The story of Charles Blondin paints a real life picture of what faith actually is. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They said they believed, but their actions proved they truly didn’t.
“It’s one thing for us to say we believe in God. It’s true faith though when we believe God and put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.
“Don’t worry, Jesus has carried many across to Heaven’s gates. He can be trusted!”
So what the apostles were asking Jesus in the question, “ Lord increase our faith?” is not possible in and of itself. You simply cannot dream into existence having a more muscular figure. Yes, there is such a thing as a more muscular figure, but it is only possible by acting on what you know. Yes, it is true that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The disciples were in the process of becoming believers [having faith] through hearing and being with Jesus. But their faith was increased only through their actions once they came to know (NOT merely know more about) Jesus as Lord and Saviour. To that end, they were willing to die for their faith in the Good News.
Simply trust God with the unknown or the unknowable. Jump, like the trusting child, from the staircase railing of knowledge by faith, into our Father’s arms. He never has, nor ever will, fail you. This is faith in action. “Show me your faith by your works (actions)” to paraphrase the Biblical book of James. Note the word ‘faith’ is in the singular while the word ‘works’ is in the plural.
Now that’s what I call increase!
May the Lord increase the evidence of our faith today. Praise be to our Lord God, the one and only God of grace, love and faithfulness.
Postscript: The Gospel of John has so many references to faith in action; I urge you to thoughtfully, prayerfully read it and obediently take action, thereby increasing your faith.
Part 2: Can we increase our faith in mechanical things?
Part 3: Can we increase our faith in humanity?
Our thanks to Paul Cornish for this devotion, one of many by various contributors posted by Haliburton United Church and Haliburton Pastoral Charge. If you would like to submit a devotion for consideration, please email us.
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