Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When He (Jesus) had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word, I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. …… So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
– Luke 5: 4 – 6, 11 (Unless otherwise noted, quoted Bible Verses are from the New King James Version)
This was how Christianity started. The disciples of Jesus forsook everything they had and followed Him after they saw what Jesus could do in their lives IF and WHEN they believe in Him. Though they knew that the odds of getting fish in that particular circumstance were against them and that Jesus was not an experienced fisherman as they were, just because they put their faith in Jesus, they decided to let down their nets at His word. Bible says that faith comes from the hearing of the word of God ((Romans 10: 17). When Simon Peter and his friends heard the words of Jesus Christ, the hearing got transformed into faith in their hearts which led them to experience the power of that faith. This faith was the only investment the disciples of Jesus had when they started following Him. That turned out to be the greatest asset when their fellow followers have grown to one-third of the population in the whole world.
Christian Life is based on faith. It is by faith that we are saved, made right with God, and attained the undeserved privilege of the heavenly inheritance. Without faith, a person can neither come to God nor please Him (Hebrews 11: 6). The whole essence of a Christian life is the faith in Jesus Christ since it is the source of the joy, the peace, and the hope that a Christian enjoys in his life. Bible defines faith as the evidence and the substance of the things we have never seen yet, the things we hope for and the things our Lord has promised us.
Faith is the driving force that helps us to forget the temporary hardships we face in this world, to feel content even in our inadequacies, and to be hopeful about the blessings that await us. So Faith is not a one-time activity for a person in Christ. For a progressive Christian life, a progressive faith is essential. The level and quality of the faith of a child of God has to increase day by day. We cannot live today with the level of faith we had yesterday, as the adversities of today is harder than that of yesterday. In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks “…when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” since He was absolutely sure that as time goes by, the measure of faith in His followers will start to deteriorate. Though this tendency of declination in the faith is natural to human beings, a spiritual person can overcome it by being firmly rooted in the Word of God.
Let us look at 7 major stages in the journey of our progressive faith.
These stages can be portrayed as steps in a ladder. Each day we may find ourselves in one or another step in this ladder depending on the circumstances we face.
But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" – Mark 4:40
In Mark 4:35–41 and in Luke 8:22–25 we can read the story of the storm Jesus calmed down while Jesus and the disciples sailed across the lake. It was Jesus who asked them to cross over to the other side of the sea. He was with them in the same boat as they were. The disciples had seen many impossible things made possible by Jesus Christ and they knew that He is the son of God and the Messiah they were waiting for. Yet, in the face of the death, they were terrified and they screamed to the top of their voices that they were perishing! Fear caused them to lose all faith in their master and they became the victims of the circumstances around them. The killer waves and fierce storm led the disciples to forget about some key facts which in turn caused that fear of death in their hearts
The level of the faith ladder named “NO faith” is not meant for those who have not yet come to Christ. Often we, those who boast ourselves as believers, do not believe in God enough to come through certain storms in our life. Several times in our life we have seen the mighty hands of God. We have experienced the impossibilities becoming possible in our life in several occasions. Still, in the face of certain troubles, we forget that God is leading us and He is with us and with Him nothing is impossible for us.
But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14: 30, 31
It is true that Peter was well over the waves, but right when he took his eyes off Jesus and set them to the boisterous wind against him, he got afraid. Even when he was walking on the water upon Jesus’ command, Peter started analyzing the situations around him, which led him to question the chances of continuing that miraculous stroll towards Jesus. Concentrating more on the surrounding environments rather than the amazing start he had made him tremble with fear.
Like Peter, many of us were very ambitious to jump on the waters of the Christian life with our eyes fixed on Jesus. That faith made us start walking over the trials and troubles in our lives. However, as we continue that journey, we start evaluating the surroundings and applying our human logic to the events of our lives. This causes us to depict our sufferings bigger than the power of Jesus. Just as things become uncomfortable, we forget all about the wonderful ways God has helped us in the past and all about the wonderful future He has in store for us. When we portray our hardships bigger than our God, terror overcomes us, and doubt fills us which causes our faith in Jesus to deteriorate.
This shows that one way of demonstrating the “Little faith” is when we limit God’s ability to easier and simpler things. Peter was not afraid of the high tides and waves that tossed their boat when Jesus commanded him to walk over it. As he started walking over that water, he found the wild wind much more frightening than the raging waves. Peter doubted that though Jesus was able to make him walk on the water, the tempestuous wind may push him down. He portrayed the wind as much more powerful than Jesus and doubted if Jesus could help him continue the walk on water due to the strong winds.
We can see an illustration of this type of little faith in the Old Testament when Israelites started complaining about the lack of bread and meat.
Behold, He struck the rock,So that the waters gushed out,And the streams overflowed.Can He give bread also?Can He provide meat for His people? – Psalms 78:20
Israelites considered that getting water from a rock was easier for God. They belittled the power of their God by looking down on the miracles God had done for them in the past. In their hunger, they tested God by challenging Him to provide them free bread and free meat! When they assessed their situation, they could not find a possibility that God can provide them with meat and bread and they figured that the earlier trouble they were in [thirst] was nothing compared to the current issue [hunger].
In our life, certain problems make us feel that all the problems we have ever faced before are nothing. The more frustrated we are, the bigger the problem would seem to be and hence the miracles God had done for us in the past seem nothing or cheaper to us. By overestimating our issues and obstacles, we underestimate the ability of our God to solve them. Often times, we find ourselves ruling out certain things from our prayers thinking that praying for such miracles is foolishness. It does not make sense to some of us to pray for impossible miracles. By doing so, we are effectively disesteeming our God with our little faith. We have to understand that, if God can make us walk over the water, He very well can make the wind cease. For the God who gave us water out of the rocks, giving meat and bread in the desert is not at all difficult. We do not need to assess the probability of outcome before we start praying for a matter because our God is all-powerful and there is nothing too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:27).
Another area of demonstrating “Little faith” is when we trust ourselves by taking over some seemingly simple things to our own hands thinking not to 'bother' God for such matters. The result is that we end up worrying and troubling ourselves when we find that those matters are too difficult for us to handle.
Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? – Matthew 6:30
It is human nature to worry about everyday life. Consider how many things bother us right from the start of the day till we go to bed at night. Many a time, we lose control over simple matters because we worry too much about them. Jesus advises his disciples that those who worry about petty things like “What to eat”, “What to drink” and “What to wear” are of little faith. If we categorize all the worries in our lives, we can find that majority of them will fall under one or other of the above-mentioned list. Once we start burden ourselves with petty things of eating, drinking, wearing, etc, we are going down the ladder to the stage of little faith. Instead of allowing these worries to take control of us, God wants us to cast our entire burden unto him, however simple and stupid it seems to be. Sometimes, we are reluctant to allow God to take control over some of the troubling matters in our lives since we think that it’s stupid to involve the mighty God into those things that could be handled ourselves. For instance, our little faith prevents us to depend fully in Christ when we omit matters like Personal financial management, steering of official duties, maintaining human relationships, managing the household, and other seemingly simple stuff from our prayers.
Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7)
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you ;( Psalm 55:22)
Remember that when God wants us to put all our burdens unto Him, He means the entire set of it, both simple ones and complex ones. This type of little faith blocks our spiritual mindset so that we see only the terminable things in the worldly life. In Matthew 16:8, notice that Jesus calls the disciples “O you of little faith”.
Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.” But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? – Matthew 16:6-8.
When Jesus compared the false teaching of Pharisees to yeast, his disciples related it to the physical bread. They were so worried about the worldly food that they could not comprehend the higher dimensions of spiritual teachings. Anxieties about the trivial aspects of our life lead us to deviate from our ultimate goal in Christ. If we think or bother too much about our life in this world, it is a sign of little faith and we need to recover from it. Notice what Paul says: But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead (Philippians 3:13) We need to press towards our final goal of eternal life rather than looking around us and worrying about the circumstances.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1, 2) - New Living Translation
We can overcome the stage of little faith by fixing our eyes on to Jesus instead of setting our eyes on the boisterous winds around us [as in Type 1 little faith] or the cheap worldly life [as in Type 2 little faith].
NO Faith: When we stop trusting God by forgetting that God is leading us and He is with us and with Him nothing is impossible for us.
LITTLE Faith: When we underestimate the ability of our God to solve bigger problems / we trust ourselves by taking over some seemingly simple things to our own hands thinking not to 'bother' God
He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God - Romans 4:20
Paul testifies about Abraham that despite the fact that both he and Sarah were unable to produce children, Abraham believed in God against hope. He never doubted the promise given to him by the almighty God. Though he did not get enough support from Sarah to keep on believing the promise, he was sure that God does not make promises he cannot live up to. Wavering in faith is a question of loyalty. It is like keeping our feet in two separate boats.
But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. – James 1: 6 (New Living Translation)
A person with wavering faith has divided loyalty. His faith is not in God alone. If we have a partial trust in our abilities or in the probabilities, we would waver in our faith. Trusting God may conflict human reasoning in certain matters. That causes us to listen to the wrong voices around us instead of God’s promises. Our feelings and instincts drive us away from our loyal faith in our God. When we become double-minded, we become unstable in our ways (James 1:8). Steadfast love and faith in God are what God wants from us. Some people seek God only when they are in need of something and other times just live as they like. Jesus makes it clear that if we love God, we have to be consistent
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. - Matthew 6:24
Only when we have a made-up mind can we become stable and accountable in all our ways. The state of being pulled in two directions results in confusion and disorientation ultimately affecting the spiritual existence.
What could cause this divided loyalty?
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy. 5:8
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy. 6:10
Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge — by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. 1 Timothy. 6:20, 21
But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2: 16 – 18.
... But having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you... 2 Corinthians 10:15
The stage of growth in faith is very much essential in a believer’s life. In the above-mentioned passage, we could see that Paul wants the faith of the church of Corinth to grow so that the sphere of the preaching of Gospel gets enlarged beyond the boundaries of Corinth. As the faith increase, the ministry is drawn to a greater length extending the bounds to carry the word of God abundantly. In other words, the weakness of faith is a hindrance to spreading the Gospel.
A person who grows in faith makes sure that his faith is a blessing to others around him by being an example to others in the journey of faith, and by reaching their supporting hands to those who are weak in faith. Jesus quoted the example of a mustard seed when disciples wanted Him to increase their faith.
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. – Luke 17: 5, 6
Jesus clarifies that there is no shortcut or magic to increase faith. By simply being packed with faith with no room for doubt, one can achieve the impossible. Mustard seed is small when we compare to other seeds. But the enormous power hidden in it causes it to grow to a tree which shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade. (Mark 4.30-32) All the nutrients needed for the roots of a plant of that size is bundled inside that small seed. It is obvious that in order to accomplish that tight packing, no space inside that seed is left empty. Likewise, if our faith is fully packed with confidence with not even a little doubt, the quality of our faith is as good as that of a mustard tree and it can do wonders which no man can anticipate.
In God’s scale, the faith which is capable of pulling a tree and planting it in the sea is compared to as small as a mustard seed. God wants us to grow to that measure of faith as the first step. Once our faith reaches this capacity, it automatically grows out to help others providing shade of faith just as a mustard tree does. It is imperative that when our faith grows, it will be reflected in our day to day life which causes others to come to the Lord.
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other – 2 Thessalonians 1:3
Paul thanks God for the growth of faith in Thessalonians. The seed of faith he sowed in that place has grown well to bear the good fruit of mutual love. As faith multiplied, their love became abounded. This growth was gradual but constant. It might have been slow, but it became exceeding. Their faith was so flourished to show the result of love among them, that the apostles who taught them the word of God boasted of them among other churches. When we read that chapter further, we can understand that it was not easy for them to grow their faith to that level. The growth in their faith was through suffering, trials and tribulations. However, since they were patient enough to endure their hardships for the sake of Christ, they gained maturity in the faith. The word “grows” is used in a continuous tense showing that the growth in faith is not a one time event or which stops after some time. It has to be continuous, consistent and long-lasting to achieve the higher stages of faith.
Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. Isaiah 7:9 (New Living Translation)
Unless we are true and firm in the faith in God, we cannot stand firm in spiritual warfare. Strong Faith is the step in the ladder of faith which makes a person fight for the true faith ( 1 Timothy 6:12). A person in Christian faith has to go through a fierce conflict with temptation, corruptions and other dark powers of this world. Just as a soldier is so careful not to engage in other businesses to keep his concentration in the battle, a believer must fight against the snares and provocations of this world, which always try to lure him off his course. Paul advises Timothy to do so by keeping the consciences clear to cling on to the faith in Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:19) In his epistle, Apostle Jude also urges the readers to defend the faith that God entrusted with us once for all time [1:3].
How to make our faith firm?
Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:14 (New Living Translation)
Being filled with faith is a glorious phase in the Christian life, which comes from Christ Jesus. Once we submit ourselves to grow our faith from mustard seed level to a strong and steadfast level, God is faithful to make us rich in faith. This degree of being filled with faith depicts the maturity in Christian life. Apostle John reminds us that this maturity is obtained when we know the Christ Jesus very well. (1 John 2:13) While young in faith find the battle of faith as something of an effort, for a mature believer, it is a routine which they find themselves doing effortlessly because they know God personally.
Being filled with faith should be a continuous experience. A cup of water is never absolutely full unless it overflows. There is no space of air or other particles than water in a full cup of water. In that way, a person filled with faith should overflow faith to others and there should not be any space for doubt or worry in that person’s life. This is measured in how much we inspire or motivate others in faith.
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 2 Timothy 1:5 (New Living Translation)
Apostle Paul testifies about Timothy's grandmother and mother that they were full of faith. Since Timothy's grandmother was filled with faith, it overflowed to her daughter, Timothy's mother. Timothy's mother also became filled with faith so that she could overflow the faith to her son, Timothy. In the early days of the Christian church, this was one of the criteria by which they elected their leaders. A leader can embolden the followers in faith only if he is filled with faith. For instance, we can see that Stephan [Acts 6:5] and Barnabas [Acts 11:24] were selected for the ministry of God due to this qualification. The overflowing of the faith is displayed when the people of faith encourage one another in faith.
The more the church filled with faith, the more it grew. [Acts 16:5] For church growth, the church has to excel in faith. Since church is comprised of each one of us we have to be filled with faith encouraging others to be strong in faith, so as to expand the territories of the church. Apostle Jude (in verse 22) encourages us to show mercy for those believers who are wavering in faith. We must be compassionate to those who doubt and must try to make them stand firm in Christ. This is where brotherly love is displayed. Jonathan, son of Saul, loved David as dearly as a brother that he continuously helped David to be strengthened in God. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. – 1 Samuel 23:16(New Living Translation) It is to be noted that Jonathan took it as his responsibility to find David even if David doesn't come to him for help. When Paul trains Timothy in the ministry, he challenges Timothy to be an example in faith to all believers in the church [1 Timothy 4:12]. Apostles were so filled with faith that they were confident enough to encourage the church to follow their example in faith [Hebrews 13:7]. That is the dimension of faith where one ought to have. Do we have the courage to enlighten our fellow believers to imitate our faith? If not, we still need to grow to that level. …imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12
Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone 2 Peter 1:5-7 (New Living Translation)
The standard of the Christian faith comes to an ultimate level when it is supplemented by other spiritual fruits. From the above verse, we can understand that faith is the fundamental milestone in the Christian marathon. Faith is put to practice by the next steps in that course. The progression is so beautiful. Faith --> Moral Excellence --> Knowledge --> Self Control --> Patient Endurance --> Godliness --> Brotherly affection --> Love for everyone
As we have seen above, to come to the level of expressing our faith in God's love, we need to go through the milestones of virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, worship, and kindness.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:11 Paul urges to accomplish all the good things our faith prompts us to do. We can please God and live a life worthy of His call only if we put our faith to practice. It is by supplemented faith that we stand firm in the Christian life. Apostle James advises us in his epistle [James 2:17] that faith by itself is not enough. Unless faith is supplemented by the good deeds it prompts us to do, it is useless to anyone.
Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. James 2:26
In verses 21 through 24, he quotes the example of Abraham and explains that Abraham put his faith into action by offering his son in the altar. His actions made his faith complete. Let us submit ourselves to God to make our faith and actions work together as Abraham did.
Moreover, God is the initiator of the faith and the one who perfects the faith in our life. [Hebrews 12:1-2] It is not possible for us to grow in the progressive faith without the guidance and grace from the Almighty. Let us keep our focus on Him stripping off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race of faith that God has set before us.