While defining Faith it finally emerged as an internal conviction, based on the Word of God, that substantiates what that Word promises and in this light bringing the future blessings to a present existence as objects seen and not only hoped for. In arriving at this, all faculties of man are exercised through a well analyzed and thought out conviction with his emotions and will also prevailing in the exercise. Faith is as much of the heart as of the mind and the spirit of a man and is thus a tangible product of the whole being. The act of Peter to step out of the boat is not an impromptu act but is based on several factors experienced by him, during his walk with the Lord, giving him the courage and conviction to walk out. Apostle Paul further explains that the gift of salvation itself is an act of grace of God but we receive or reject it through our faith or unbelief (Ephesians 2:8).
Where does faith come from? This is the moot question since faith is a living and vibrant entity within us that leads us on to act in a certain way. If we see the above definition, then in a sense, it is something that we develop on our own through a careful study and analysis of the Word of God. Apostle Paul mentions faith as a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9) and that too given to ‘some’. The Word again is a living being and “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16) through the urging of the Holy Spirit to different writers over the ages. As an act of grace, after forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of the Lord, the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Scriptures remain just printed words if the mystery and meaning of the same is not revealed by the Holy Spirit and that is the reason that “Jesus is (said to be) the author and finisher/ perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and we are advised to ‘look unto Him.
The real meaning and intent of the Word can only be known to the author and He alone can reveal the same to enable us to understand and substantiate what the Word commands. Without the ‘Ruach ha Kodesh’, another most important part of YHWH God given to us through the Messiah, breathing life into the Word to make it understandable to us, we remain in the dark. The Living Word becomes alive to our dead souls only as a revelation and faith comes through that revelation. John the Baptist was blessed with this in his mother’s womb only and to others it may come later in life, who receives it through a reasonable investigation of the Word. This is further clarified through the Old Testament, wherein the coming of the Redeemer, who is God, is expected but the same is hidden and the Lord walking with the two to Emmaus “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).
In the same vein it is mentioned that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), since the message of and concerning Christ comes through the Word. The Lord exhorts the listeners “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9), after telling them the parable of the sower, for many hear and see but “seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand” (verse 12). The requirement of submission comes into play in development of faith, since only then does the light dawns and fills the soul with truth to nourish our faith. It is therefore apparent that faith itself is a gift of God and is not available to everyone since “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mathew 22:14).
The other two words linked to Faith are trust and belief. Trust is based on concrete evidence which is measurable, can be repeated or cannot be denied and thus can be duly attested. These facts then corroborate the evidence to conclude and arrive at a decision and trust the same. Belief is defined as confidence in the existence of something which cannot be put to specific proof like we believe that the earth is round. Immediately after transfiguration the Lord is faced with the inability of the disciples in driving out a demon from a young boy and the boy’s father has heard of ‘multitudes being healed’ by the Lord and in his despondency exclaims “if You can do something” to be rebuked. He immediately responded “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24), a contradiction of sorts in the statement. The boy’s father was desperate for a cure for the boy and knew that it was only possible with the Lord but was unable to accept that the Lord would be willing to do it for him. It is like the people of Nazareth where hardly anyone was healed by the Lord.
Many a times when what we ‘demand’ from the Lord is not provided we sulk and eventually our heart starts to turn away from God and we know that He can but start thinking that He will not for us. The faith is then overpowered by ‘evidence’ selected by us as per our choice. The mind knows the fact of Divine power but heart overrules the faith leading to unbelief. Faith is based on evidence of the Word and the testimonies of others “the so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) and is not blind but rational. Even Christ Jesus Himself has encouraged evidence based faith and willingly offered to show the wounds of His hands and side to Thomas to make him believe. Faith thus becomes a supernatural habit in us to lead us to believe and act accordingly. Since it is the result of the combined partnering of our mind or intellect and our will which moves us, perfection or increase of faith also must involve the two. But if it is only the result of thought and will only, it will be without emotion and barren, producing little result. The act of faith must also involve the heart to make it a voluntary exercise which would seek Divine grace without doubting.
Can we lose faith? Faith becomes firmly implanted in some compared to others because of their conviction and belief in the Word being stronger. It is like the seed that fell on good ground and took deep root and could not be shaken as compared to the seed overpowered by thorns or trial of the world. God has promised ‘never to leave or abandon us’ and He is faithful and true. We can however “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) by repeatedly and deliberately acting in contravention to the Word of God. Paul gives the examples of grieving the Spirit in his epistle to the Ephesians (4:26-29, 31-32). Faith being a gift from the same Holy Spirit, His grieving would cause punitive action of withdrawal of the gift of faith. Such punishment would cause the person to fall into ‘the black hole’ sinful existence and destruction like Judas Iscariot faced.
Do we need to increase our faith? The disciples made the same request to the Lord, “Increase our faith” and His answer is categorical (Luke 17:5-10). It is often propagated that faith moves mountains but the illusion is broken by the Savior. It is not the size of our faith that produces results but the power of God. Our faith merely brings us before His Divine throne to ask and the Scripture clarifies further that He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). The Divine power working in us is of and through the Holy Spirit which leads and guides us to act in faith. The answer to the disciples has two parts and the second aspect deals with our duty towards Him who ‘alone is able’ and Almighty. We have a duty to obey the commands given to us like a faithful servant and after doing our bit surrender and “say, we are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do”. We are and shall never be in a position to repay what God has done for us and in any case He does not demand that. We on our own are like the Prodigal Son and his brother; while the first craves justification through talk and repentance the elder brother demands it for his works.
Faith being a living entity in us needs to get energized regularly to remain active and not become redundant and dead. Some of the ways to achieve this are:
- Read and meditate on the Word- The Holy Spirit plants the seed of faith in our spirit and this seed gets its life from the light of the Word. The more the light the better the growth. It is therefore imperative to study the Bible daily and also seek Divine revelation about the mysteries of the Word be revealed. Romans 10:17 asserts the growth of faith through the Word of God alone.
- Live the Word- Obey the Word and the commands explicitly for the Divine statute is “his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not whither; and whatever he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2-3). A similar instruction goes out to Joshua to ensure success and victory in all battles that he is to face in the conquest of the Promised Land. Faith gets supercharged on success and the ‘mantra’ for success lies in the Word.
- Exercise faith- The Word commands “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16) and Satan receives the same answer from the Lord in the wilderness, while being tempted. However, God does command us to test Him through the exercising of our faith (Malachi 3:10-11). Obey the commands, come before Him like a faithful servant, report completion of His given task, ask and see the results.
- Examine “the great cloud of witnesses”- Apostle Paul lists out the trstimonies of various faith heroes after defining faith with the sole purpose of providing us with credible evidence to believe. In like manner we are supposed to test our faith in the light of what blessings others have received. It is for this reason that Psalm 78 records the miracles performed by God while leading the Israelites out of Egypt, so that the following generations learn and get restoration of their faith in Him.
- Pray- Jesus alone is the writer of our faith and He alone can perfect it. It is natural then for us to seek His intervention for increasing our faith to whatever level he desires.
Faith is a Divine gift and like all such gifts the one and only way we can further enhance it is through the power of the provider. Regular fellowship, complete surrender and obedience are the way to follow and this is the way taken by our Savior also. Only then could He say “Father I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me” (John11:41-42), while apparently nothing had yet been spoken and in faith called out to Lazarus to ‘come out’ of the tomb. Christ Jesus obeyed God in every way for His axiom was “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30). The Son was obedient as a servant and could then exercise His faith decisively as a rightful act performed in the power of Divine grace. It is only with obedience we can have the ear to “hear what the Spirit says” (Revelation 3:6).
We can increase our faith through daily prayer to Him who has given this precious gift, thanking Him and humbly seeking its further strengthening with Divine guidance for exercising it for His glory and in this for our growth and joy.