God wants us to have faith and to increase our faith. But how? It’s not something we can just wish for or work up on our own. How can we grow in faith?
Regarding His second coming, Jesus asked this question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8, emphasis added throughout).
Why was Jesus concerned about people having faith?
Hebrews 11:6 tells us why faith is so important to God: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
God expects us to have faith! And if we really believe God and live according to that faith, then God will be pleased. And we’re going to be blessed! But lacking faith and failing to live by faith displeases God.
Why? Because God’s honor is at stake!
First, what is faith?
Faith is an unshakable belief in God and the promises of God. Faith also involves God’s commands. We’re expected to put such confidence in everything God tells us to do that we actually do it!
So how do we dishonor God by a lack of faith? When we disbelieve God, we are in essence saying to God, “I don’t really believe You’ll do exactly what You say you will do. And I don’t really believe that You are what You say You are.”
And God’s response to that is, “I am a promise-keeping God!”
So a lack of faith insults God. God has never failed once—He’s always kept the promises He’s made to human beings. And He always will! (Provided, of course, that we meet the conditions He outlines.)
Faith is one of the key qualities God is looking for in us, so it only makes sense that we make sure we have it.
Degrees of faith
When it comes to the subject of faith, is it only a matter of having it or not having it? No, the Bible makes it clear that there are degrees of faith. Jesus described some people of His day as having little faith and others as having great faith.
So it’s good to ask ourselves: How much faith do we currently have? And how dedicated are we to increasing our faith? Our faith needs to be growing. None of us has enough of it.
Belief in God’s promises
Sometimes religious people will try to encourage faith in areas where there are no promises from God. Someone might say, “Our big outdoor picnic is coming up next week. It would ruin things if it rained. If we just have enough faith, it won’t rain! So, have faith!”
How much faith do we currently have? And how dedicated are we to increasing our faith? Our faith needs to be growing. None of us has enough of it.But is there a promise in the Bible that it won’t rain on days when a special picnic is planned? There is no such promise.
Or someone might say, “I’ve applied for a job I really want, and two other people are being considered in addition to me. I’m going to have faith that I’ll get this exact job that I want. If I have faith, I’m sure I’ll get that job.”
But there’s no promise in the Bible that God will—every time—give us the exact job we’d like to have.
When people take this approach to faith, what do they conclude if things don’t work out the way they’d like? They might say, “It’s because I didn’t have enough faith.”
A blank check?
But what about Mark 11:22-24? Jesus said, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Do these verses give us a promise with no qualifications? Can we rightly have confidence that God will always give us everything we ask for?
Do we have a blank check, so to speak?
First, let’s apply some logic to these verses. If there were no qualifications on what we ask, it would mean we would never have to suffer. None of us likes to suffer, do we? We could ask that we’d never have a health problem, never be in an accident, never have a family problem, never have a financial problem. We’d be confident that our lives could be stress-free and problem-free.
It would never rain on our special picnic. We’d get that job at the XYZ Widget Company.
But how can that be? The Bible tells us that it is through “many tribulations” or trials that we “enter the kingdom of God” and that “many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Acts 14:22; Psalm 34:19).
And let’s consider the life of Jesus. When He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before His crucifixion, did He get anything and everything He wanted?
No, in fact, His prayer gives us a perfect example to follow. His example qualifies the words that we read in Mark 11. In Jesus’ prayer, He said, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus made His request, then He left it in God the Father’s hands to do what His Father knew was best. In a similar way, Christians are free to ask anything of God. At the same time, we understand that in order to receive that request, it must be a part of God’s wise, loving and perfect will for our lives.
And if it’s not according to God’s will, we shouldn’t want our request anyway. Consider this helpful thought: “God does not just give us what we want. He gives us everything we would want if we knew everything He knows” (Stacey Padrick, “Living With Unfulfilled Longings,” Discipleship Journal).
Faith involves believing that God knows best. That’s essential.
What God does promise
Faith must be based on God’s specific promises in the Bible. And we have to be sure that we understand the promises correctly.
We have to be sure we’re not assuming that God promises something He doesn’t promise. We have to understand His promises in the context He gives them, which is the context of His plan and purpose for us.
There are lots of clear, easy-to-understand promises in the Bible. Here are a few examples of His promises to His people:
- God will provide us with all our physical and spiritual needs (Matthew 6:31-33; Psalm 23:1; Philippians 4:19).
- He’ll finish the spiritual work that He’s begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
- He’ll give us the wisdom we ask for as we go through life (James 1:5). He’ll never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
- He’ll never allow our trials to be more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- He’ll give us peace of mind (Philippians 4:7).
- He’ll forgive any and every sin, once we’ve repented of it (1 John 1:9).
- He’ll make it possible for us to grow and become like Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
- He’ll cause everything that happens in our lives to eventually work out for good (Romans 8:28).
These are only a few of God’s very clear and specific promises. (For more, see our article “God’s Promises: Rock-Solid Hope and Assurance.”)
Three ways to grow in faith
It’s comforting to know that if we just do the things God tells us to do, our faith will grow. We don’t have to figure this out for ourselves; we just need to do what God tells us to do!
Let’s look at three basic but profound biblical ways to grow in faith:
1. Ask God for more faith.
We very much need for God to give us Jesus Christ’s own faith, through the power of God’s Spirit.
We should regularly be asking for that faith. We shouldn’t just assume that He’ll automatically give us more faith if we’re not asking for it.
God is watching to see just how much we want more faith. He wants to see how important it is to us. So we need to ask for faith.
2. Focus on obeying God.
James 2:14 tells us, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”
It’s comforting to know that if we just do the things God tells us to do, our faith will grow. We don’t have to figure this out for ourselves; we just need to do what God tells us to do!This is not saying that we earn our salvation. Eternal life is a gift, not something that we can earn. But God does expect to see “works” in our lives. What are “works”? They involve obeying and living by every word of God.
In verses 15-16, James supports his statement with a practical example. “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”
What good is that?
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (verse 17).
Faith without obedience is a counterfeit. In God’s eyes, it’s a mockery of true, living faith.
So God tells us that it’s not possible to have faith, unless we’re keeping His law and living His way of life.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (verse 18).
In other words, James is saying, “You can’t show me real faith without works because there is no such thing!”
Our faith is tested in countless ways every day. For example, the Bible tells us that complaining is a sin. That’s an area where our faith is tested. And when we obey the command to not complain, our obedience proves our faith. It proves that we believe that God’s way works.
The same thing could be said about many other commands, such as the need to forgive others, to not let the sun go down on our anger, to give thanks in every situation, to be kind in our dealings with others, etc.
Then James puts belief in perspective: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (verse 19).
No one would say that the demons are pleasing God just because they believe! The same is true of human beings who claim to believe but don’t obey.
James then gives the example of Abraham, showing that his obedience made his faith “perfect” (verses 22-23). When we obey God, our faith grows and becomes more complete.
It’s clear that God was pleased that Abraham was willing to obey Him no matter the request.
Why don’t people obey God? Because they don’t believe God. They don’t believe it pays. They don’t believe God will do what He says. And underneath it all, they really want to do something else.
If we’re not diligently applying ourselves to the things God tells us to do, we’re not going to have much faith.
So what does this mean for us? We need to analyze our lives. We need to ask ourselves, “Where is it that I’m out of step with what God tells me to do in His Word?” We need to think about these things and then make the needed changes in our lives.
When we do—God responds! And we find our faith increasing. No one’s faith will grow unless he or she really focuses on obeying God.
3. Put God’s Word into your mind.
A key verse is found in Romans 10:17: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
If we’re not constantly putting the Bible into our minds, we’re not going to have much faith! It’s as simple as that.
We read more about Abraham in Hebrews 11. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents” (verses 8-9).
What’s the point? Abraham obeyed God because he believed he would receive the promises God had made. That’s why people obey. They believe and act on what God says because they know that if they do, they will receive whatever God has promised.
“For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (verse 10). Abraham heard the truth from God—the truth about this future city—and believed God. This resulted in his obedience.
The more we look at physical circumstances, the less likely it is that we will have faith. The more we look into God’s Word, the more faith we will have.
When we do that, we’re not going to doubt. When we’re studying the Bible and thinking deeply about what we’ve read, then it becomes a very real part of our lives.
And because we’re filled with God’s Word, we will have faith. We’ll step out and do what God says, which will then increase our faith. (And it will increase our blessings as well!)
But if we get away from God’s Word—if we don’t study the Bible daily—then it fades from us. It becomes insignificant in our thinking. Now God is not as real to us as He should be. Now His promises are not as real to us as they should be. That’s just the way we humans are. We forget.
The more familiar we are with God’s Word—and the more familiar we are with what He has done and will do—the more faith we can have. That’s because we will know exactly what He says. If we’re not familiar with what He’s done, how are we going to call on God for those particular promises? How are we going to believe that God will keep those promises?
Let’s look at Mark 11:22-24 again. Was God specifically promising to move mountains, or was He making an even more important point?
There’s no record that God’s people have had the need to move real mountains. But Christ let us know that the Almighty God easily could do it if we had a real need.
Still, we all do face trials and challenges that can be overwhelming—seemingly impossible spiritual mountains that God can move for us if we ask in faith. For “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Faith believes that God watches over us, cares for us and hears our prayers. We may not know how God will work things out for us. But we believe Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
God can answer our prayers in many ways—even ways we can’t imagine! There is no limit to what God can do for us when we trust Him.