Christians and other religious people are often called “people of faith,” but do you ever wonder if your own faith needs a little kickstart? We read in the gospels when Christ tells his disciples that if they have faith like a grain of mustard seed, they could move mountains. If that’s the case, our own faith feels like it’s in the size category of a subatomic particle. Is there a way to strengthen our faith?
What Is Faith?
The concept of faith is on virtually every page of our Bible, especially the New Testament. What is faith, though? Do we really understand it? Although faith has several definitions, we can define it as the heart’s conviction of truth, and mental affirmation of that truth. Faith plays a key role in our salvation as well as our daily life as believers. It is so important, that the Bible uses the single word “faith” to describe the entire Christian religion. We use the same term today to describe an entire systems of belief, such as the “Christian faith.” Faith, however, is something that starts on a personal level.
Understanding what faith is, requires acknowledging that it can grow. This was Jesus’ assumption when he commented on issues of faith (Matthew 6:40; 9:29; 21:21; Luke 17:5). If faith can grow, then, how does it happen?
Jesus tells us the secret of increasing our faith.
Thankfully, Jesus’ disciples had the same question. One day, they asked — demanded is more like it — “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5) We would expect some lesson on belief or trust, but Jesus’ reply seems a bit evasive at first. He told them, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.'”
Well that doesn’t seem very helpful. Why is Jesus talking about mustard seeds and mulberry trees? True to form, Jesus places truth in the accessible imagery of horticulture, things that were familiar to his agrarian audience. Most of us aren’t farmers, but the concepts are still completely understandable if we take a moment to settle in and understand.
Jesus told them that if they had faith like a mustard seed — that is, just a small amount of faith — they could do seemingly impossible things. The point here is not the size of the faith, however. Obviously, it is ludicrous to think that we could quantify faith by some physical size comparison. Faith is not a physical entity. Faith is, of course, spiritual reality, but not something we can actually see.
What’s going with Jesus’ words? He is saying simply that the amount of faith is not the issue. The presence of faith in one’s heart is the most important thing. In other words, the pursuit of “more faith” or “stronger faith” is to miss the point of faith itself. Your faith is strong already simply because it is faith. What, after all, is the object of faith? It is God. Faith does not exist in a personal metaphysical vaccum. Faith centers upon a being — God. And God’s power is limitless. His strength is incalculable. That’s the strength of faith — God himself.
Your faith is already strong.
You can have the assurance that your faith is already strong because of its object (God). Of course, now you must exercise it. Take your example from the disciples themselves. One of the themes of the gospels is the faltering faith of the disciples. Whether Jesus is preparing to create a buffet for 5,000+ hungry people, or walking on the water across a stormy sea, the disciples struggled with faith. Over time, their faith was strengthened as they saw Jesus work, listened to Jesus speak, and practiced their own faith.
The same things are true for us today. None of us has watched Jesus heal a leper, or raise a man from the dead, but we can watch God work in our homes, our churches, and our communities. We aren’t sitting on a breezy Galilean hillside listening to the actual voice of Jesus speaking to us, but we have the living and powerful word of God which we can read and study. We, like the disciples, can talk to Jesus, even if the setting is a little bit different than it was for them. Finally, we can live out the reality of our faith (James 2:14) in our daily lives.
Strengthened faith comes by acknowledging the limitless strength of God, the object of our faith. That faith is then exercised as we read the Bible, speak with God, watch him work, and live our lives confidently in his presence.