A dear friend is going through a hard time and he recently told me, “I just wish I had your faith. Right now, I’m just scared.”
It kind of made me laugh…partly because, right now I’m a little scared, too, and partly because everyone wants to have faith, but no one wants to “get” faith.
My friend and I have been through this before. The reality is, God’s been trying to give him a stronger faith for a while now, but faith is a muscle and every time my friend gets an opportunity to strengthen that muscle, he gets frustrated with God and blames Him because He is allowing things to get “hard”. (Note that he has faith that the sovereign God could intervene so that things would only ever be easy, but he doesn’t have faith that that same sovereign God would intervene to rescue Him once things get really hard!) He quits God before God has a chance to show up for him. I’m being a little harsh, perhaps. I’m actually encouraged that my friend keeps coming back to God and I know that God’s not done with him yet. I’m actually quite convinced that God is determined to do something wonderful in my friend, and so He keeps giving Him lots of opportunities to have the kind of faith he says he desires…and He’s going to keep giving him opportunities until something sticks!
You see, God often grows our faith by putting us into situations where we have no choice but to trust Him. He grows our faith by taking away everything else we might put our faith in (unless of course we are willing to put those things aside ourselves…which is better by far… but most of us aren’t so willing, so God has to do it for us). It’s a hard, painful process. We like our security blankets. We like to see security nets under the security nets under the security nets. God wants us to only see Him.
My friend wants to have stronger faith. It’s not just him—I hear it all the time, from lots of people. It’s about as common as hearing people say they want to lose 15 pounds. Everyone wants to be in better shape, but no one wants to do what it takes to get there—myself included. We know what it takes, right? A healthy diet and more exercise. And maybe we go down that path for a little while, but then it gets hard. Then it gets costly, and we get discouraged because we don’t see results. So we give up and blame all kinds of things, but the problem was simply that we quit before we reached our goal.
Our faith isn’t so different. There are some things we can do to help strengthen our faith muscles. Read our Bible, pray, maybe even fast and pray (but that’s really radical talk, right? Who does that?). And obedience is a big one—that’s often the kicker. Being willing to do what God says, even when it seems crazy, even when it means we step out on a wire without a safety net. You know, when God says something crazy like walk into the sea (and he doesn’t part it before we venture in), or walk around the walls of the city every day (because that’s a fantastic military strategy, right?), or build an ark when there’s no sea nearby and rain’s something man has never seen, or give up all your possessions to the poor and follow Jesus, or stand up for your faith though you lose your job or even face a den of lions or a fiery furnace… or take a job that requires you to raise support (i.e. there is no salary except what GOD provides)…
Obedience is hard when what He’s asking you to do is trust Him—but it’s how we grow our faith. We grow our faith when we are willing (or forced) to be in a vulnerable position where the only safety net we have is Jesus. It’s not a position we want to be in, but it’s a good one to be in, nonetheless. Hurts so good, you know. And because our Loving Father knows that we may not voluntarily put ourselves there, sometimes He just helps us along and puts us there anyway. Sometimes, in His great love for us and concern for our spiritual growth, He takes away all the other options so that we choose faith in Him. We choose to trust Him (wink, wink—because we have no other choice left to us), and then we see that He was faithful …and then we are encouraged to choose to trust Him again next time, and to do it more easily, and even trust Him with something bigger.
It’s kind of like going to the gym and your trainer says, “Come on, let’s see if you can bench 200 today.” You’ve been working out a while, but you know 200 is just a bit more than you can do. “No…I can’t do that,” you say. The trainer already has the bar set and people are watching and you find yourself kind of trapped. You lay down on the bench and put your hands on the bar, knowing you can’t. You push and nothing happens at first, but suddenly the bar lifts… You didn’t do it, not really. The trainer did. He supplied what you lacked and got you much further than you thought you could go on your own. So the next session he says, “Today, let’s try 300!” Now you know 300 is definitely out of your league, but you are learning to trust that crazy trainer and so you say OK. If he wants you to try, you are willing. If you fail, that’s OK. You’ve learned that you’re strengthened by trying, even when you fail. But you also know that He is able to supply whatever you lack—so even 300 is very doable—because HE is VERY strong. And every time you try to lift something that is beyond your reach and find that His strength is sufficient, you have more courage and faith to try to lift the next ridiculous challenge He throws at you. Not because you are so strong, but because your faith in His strength is getting stronger. It’s not that you are able, but that He is able.
So I ask you, do you wish you had a stronger faith? What are you facing right now? Is it possible that God is trying to grant your wishes?! Be encouraged! Your circumstances may be fearsome. You may be facing far more than you can lift or handle. You may find yourself in a risky position with no safety net in sight. That’s OK. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He is teaching you that He is Provider, Healer, Comforter, the Great I AM, the King of Kings… All Knowing, All Mighty God. HE is Able, dear friend. He is able. Trust Him.
6 And 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. Hebrews 11:6
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him Isaiah 64:4
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7