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Throughout the gospels, people ask Jesus to increase their faith.
Interestingly, he doesn’t. He just tells them that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains. He also constantly berates his followers for their lack of faith.
Faith seems to be a pretty important part of being a follower of Jesus, yet how many people actually know what it is (or how you can increase it)?
Paul defined faith as being “evidence of things unseen”. This view of faith quantifies it much like Jesus quantifies it in comparing faith to a mustard seed. Faith here is a measurable and palpable ‘thing’ that can even be used as evidence (presumably, in God’s court of law). But this definition doesn’t explain how faith can be increased or why it’s so important.
Here’s another definition that expands the idea of faith to include its mechanism of growth: “Faith is the means to and the measure of your relationship with God.” If we see faith both as a “way” (a means) and a quantity (a measure), faith becomes dynamic. In other words – we not only see that faith can grow, but we see how it can grow.
Every time you know God’s will and choose to do it, your faith grows. Every time you know God’s will and choose not to do it, your faith shrinks. It’s a very simple dynamic that even a child can understand. People who claim to have “lost” their faith actually still have a tiny fraction of faith (God never lets our faith balance go to zero), but their choices have put them in a near faithless state. That’s a sad and painful place to be. They got there by their choices, not because of something God did or didn’t do to them.
Faith is not something that someone else can increase for you, so Jesus could not have increased his disciples’ faith just because they asked him to. Faith is something you have to increase yourself. You increase it by your choices, just like you decrease it by your choices.
When a soul enters a body, it’s given a measure of faith. This is the capacity to be obedient to laws that God’s written on our hearts. Everyone knows those laws, though most people ignore them. Each time we ignore the laws written on our hearts, our faith decreases. But each time we heed those laws, our faith increases.
We born-agains have an even greater potential to increase our faith because of our one-on-one relationship with God through his spirit. We don’t have to guess whether or not we’re doing God’s will, we can know for sure simply by knowing scripture or asking God directly. This is why Jesus’ faith was so strong. He knew scripture, he had a one-on-one relationship with God, and he always chose to do God’s will.
Many people confuse faith with belief or a set of beliefs, but these are not faith. Your faith is intensely personal and entirely unique to you. It’s quantifiable and measureable. You’ve built it over the course of your lifetime. Every time you choose to do God’s will, you expand it. Every time you choose not to do God’s will, you shrink it.
OK, you say. I get it. I understand faith, and I understand how I can increase my faith. But why is faith so important? And why did Jesus always get in his disciples’ faces about their lack of faith?
We know faith is important because Jesus told us it was. We need great faith not to move mountains but to have the best possible relationship we can with God. The greater our faith, the closer we grow to God; the closer we grow to God, the greater our faith.
And here’s the kicker – the closer we grow to God, the more God can work through us in the world.
This is why having great faith is so important. This is why not only knowing God’s will but choosing to do it is so very, very, very important.
God works through the strength of our faith. God loves through the strength of our faith. God makes the world more endurable through the strength of our faith. God brings people back to him through the strength of our faith.
People of great faith can do great things not by their own power, but by God’s.
We are all gifted with an equal measure of faith. How great that initial measure of faith grows depends on the choices we make in our lives. The more we choose God’s way, the greater our faith grows, and the closer we grow to God; the closer we grow to God, the more likely we are to choose God’s way, which in turn increases our faith, and so on, and so on. This is how faith grows exponentially.
This is also how a thing as tiny as a grain of mustard seed can turn into a great spreading tree, through which God spiritually feeds and shelters his loved ones.