Listen: LifeWords Q&A Podcast, Episode 87
Every believer has ups and downs in their faith. Can God answer our prayers when we’re not feeling confident? What do we do when our faith feels weak? This episode of LifeWords Q&A, addresses this topic. Listen above, or read below.
CB: This question, “Do I have enough faith?” Is this one that you hear people expressing a lot, in your role as a pastor?
DR: Yes. And it’s such a pity, because it’s a question that obviously gets people down, “Have I got enough faith?” And I think it’s almost like the wrong question. Jesus was asked a very similar question from his disciples, “Lord, please increase our faith.” And Jesus’ answer was very interesting.
He said, “Well, if you’ve got a mustard seed amount of faith, that’s enough to move mountains.” Now he’s obviously using exaggeration. But what he’s really saying is, you don’t need a lot of faith, in other words, we don’t measure faith in terms of quantity. The measure of our faith is not the quantity of our faith as though we’ve got to have huge huge amounts or bucketloads of faith. The strength, or other words of our faith, actually, is related to the object.
Let me give you a couple of examples. I can have a strong, passionate belief that if I flap my arms long enough, I can fly. That’s a lot of faith, but
CB: I’ve got the mental image there, David. It’s very funny.
DR: It’s very funny. And also, I mean, I can be wanting to change a light bulb on the ceiling and I get the most rickety chair in my house to stand on. “Oh, I believe so strongly, that rickety chair will hold my weight,” but hey, wait a minute. It won’t, and I can come crashing down. So all I’m saying is a little bit of faith in a sound object is a whole lot better than lots of faith in a poor object.
So when people say, “Oh, have I got enough faith?” It’s sort of the wrong question.
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The basic question is, “Do I appreciate the faithfulness of God?” Because if I’ve got a tiny mustard seed amount of faith in the God of the Bible, then that’s enough. But if I’ve got loads of faith in a false god, or an imaginary God, it does me absolutely no good at all.
So I think it’s a pity to hear people as I have heard people say, “I don’t know whether I’ve got enough faith”. What I want to say is that the worst thing to do or the unhelpful thing to do is to sort of try to psych yourself up. I know some Christians who emphasise faith as some sort of psychological sort of thing, where I’ve got to emotionally sort of boost myself, I look myself in the mirror every morning and say, “I’m a person of great faith. I’ve got great faith.”
That’s rubbish. I think the better thing to do is if someone said to me, “how can I increase my faith?” it’s actually not a bad question. If you answer the right way. You increase your faith by having a deepest possible grasp of the faithfulness and the greatness of the object of your faith, which is the God of the Bible.
So I would say to people, echo the psalmist’s approach. The psalmist was often in deep trouble, the psalmist was in despair, the psalmist was hanging onto God by his fingertips. But the way the psalmist often sort of strengthened his faith was by reminding himself of the great historical works of God, to say, “it’s not so much I’ve got to feel more faith”. It’s a case of “I’ve got to have a deeper and richer and wider grasp of the greatness and the faithfulness of God”.
CB: Yeah, that’s amazing. So the more we know the bigness of God, the more our faith will grow as a natural outcome.
DR: It’s okay to have your faith grow. But as long as we’re not sort of measuring it by “I’ve got 10% faith today and I’ve got 40% faith tomorrow. Your faith grows in as much as your appreciation of God grows. Yes, your faith can grow. I think that’s important. But it’s not a case of sort of pouring a bucket load of extra faith into the little bit of faith we’ve got. It’s more a case of appreciating more and more the object of our faith.
Because let’s face it Clare, in our everyday lives, and personal feelings of faith and go up and down. Some days, I seem to have, you know, strong faith that God will do this, and God will do that, and other days, I feel I don’t think He’ll do anything. But that’s a reflection of how I’m feeling. It could be my health, it could be hormones, it could be anything, you know. If you’re going through one of those days where “God I don’t have that much faith in you at all,” just say to God, “This is the way I feel, and bring that little bit of faith and let Him get to work on it rather than beat yourself up. Anyone who cries out to God in any certain way, is expressing faith. So I think you just go to God with the little bit of faith you have, rather than, feel as though you’ve got a sort of psych yourself up to feel more faith.
CB: I just want to dress for a minute, that idea you mentioned about people kind of looking themselves in the mirror and psyching themselves up as if they’re about to go into the grand final of the State of Origin or something.
I know that that’s something that a lot of Christians do, sticking up the Bible verses on the wall and on the mirror and speaking them out loud over themselves and speaking words of faith. I’ve been that person and I am that person. But I’ve learned the difference, and I think this is what you’re getting at, the difference between speaking those out of our heart out of communion with God, as opposed to, tacking them on like a mantra and, you know, just reciting things ritualistically as if saying those words is a magic spell that will change us.
DR: That’s right, Clare, I think that’s so important and nothing that I’ve said I would ever want to say, “Don’t do that”, putting Post-It notes on the fridge and all this sort of thing and having verses in your car. I’ve done that. And I continue to have Bible verses and good Christian thoughts surrounding me. Absolutely critical to do that. Because what you’re doing there is you’re filling your mind and your heart with the realities, the scriptural realities of God.
It’s not just sort of “God help me to feel more faithful”, but you’re using what I would call Biblical resources to strengthen that faith that you have, because again, strengthening your faith comes from a stronger understanding of the object of your faith.
So putting up Bible verses around the place, absolutely wonderful to do that. But as long as it’s not become sort of just an automatic mantra, robotic sort of thing. But if we truly read the Scriptures, that’s one of the reasons we want to read the Scripture so regularly, we want to fill ourselves up as it were, with our understanding and a deep personal grasp of the love and the faithfulness of God.
But I don’t call that “psyching myself up”, because I’m not so much trying to sort of “summons up faith from my own resources”. What I’m trying to do in those cases is to strengthen my faith through looking outside myself to the objective resources and the objective truths, of God revealed in the scriptures.
CB: And I think also, sometimes feeling a lack of faith or a lack of courage, it could be an opportunity to get excited that you’re about to get to know God more, because those are the times that we have to lean on and trust that God will be with us, that God will support us when we don’t have the resources ourselves. And that’s actually when we do see his greatness come through for us.
DR: Yeah, that’s right. That’s why the Bible repeatedly says, you know, that these trials come to you so that your faith be strengthened. I mean, most of us would testify to the fact that we cry out to God more and call out to God more and depend on God more when we’re going through a tough time. Not that God is punishing us through those tough times, and not the tough times automatically bring a benefit to our faith. But they can do that, because sometimes all our other resources are like crutches that have been kicked away from us. And the only means of support we’ve got is a living God.
It’s not a question of “I’m going to God with all this mega faith, and therefore God’s got to answer me” as if God’s sitting in heaven saying, “Wow, this person’s got a lot of faith. Boy, I better answer that prayer.” It’s nothing like that. I think we come to God as dependent people who say, “God here are my requests, and I put them boldly before you”. As that wonderful guy, I think it was in Mark 9 in the Gospels. He wanted Jesus to heal his boy who was suffering from epilepsy. He said, “I believe, Help my unbelief”. And did Jesus say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I haven’t got enough faith”? No, he healed him.
The reality, bottom line is, you don’t need great faith in God. You need faith in a great God. That sums it up, I think.