The Bible defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, faith is deciding that what is unseen is greater than what is seen, but subscribing to such a mentality is easier said than done. More often than not, we sympathize with the father in Mark 9:17-24 who asked if Jesus could heal his demon possessed son. Jesus answered, “All things are possible for one who believes,” to which the father replied, “I believe; help my unbelief!” In saying, “help my unbelief,” the father acknowledged that he possessed doubts, and, if we are honest, there are times that we possess doubts, too. Is it a sin to experience doubt? Why is it so difficult to have faith sometimes? How does one overcome doubt? Over the next few weeks, we will explore what the Bible has to say about faith and doubt in an effort to answer such questions. We begin by examining what the Bible says about faith, and there are three biblical truths about faith that must be acknowledged.
The first truth about faith which must be acknowledged is that faith is an ongoing journey rather than a final destination. All too often, we think that faith is something at which we arrive. In other words, we tend to think that at some point in our life we will arrive at a place where we can say, “I’ve got faith.” However, that is not how the Bible describes faith. The Bible describes faith as a development process. It is described as something to be pursued (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22), built up (Jude 20), grown (2 Corinthians 10:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:3), progressed (Philippians 1:25), and added to (2 Peter 1:5). Additionally, faith is described as something that can be shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19), abandoned (1 Timothy 4:1), denied (1 Timothy 5:8), and wandered from (1 Timothy 6:10, 21). All of these descriptors speak not about something that is stagnant or finalized but, instead, speak about something that is alive and growing. In other words, faith was not designed to reach a resting point; therefore, faith is more like a journey than it is a destination.
The second truth about faith which needs to be acknowledged is that it will be tested. The Bible does not shy away from this fact. In James 1:2-4, as James addressed the subject of faith, he said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Thus, James indicates that the testing of our faith is inevitable because such testing is essential for maturation, and the end product of a successfully tested faith is the “perfect[ion] and complet[ion]” of the individual. Peter also talked about the testing of faith in 1 Peter 1:6-7. He wrote, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Peter, in effect, said that the testing of our faith is something to celebrate. Why? Because such testing authenticates our faith, and authenticated faith brings glory to God. These two passages reveal that tests are a necessity for faith maturation and authentication. At some point in time, you are going to face a challenge to your faith, if you have not already, because faith was meant to be tested.
The final truth about faith which needs to be acknowledged is that the object of our faith is more important than the volume of our faith. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed could move mountains. What I think He means by that statement is that when you place your faith in God, you place it in a source that has unlimited power because God can do a lot with a little. He demonstrated this with David who as a young shepherd boy possessing no military training nor proper military equipment defeated a well-trained giant who was equipped with all of the best weapons and armor of his day. He demonstrated this when Jesus took two small fish and five pieces of bread, which was apparently just enough to feed a boy, and turned it into an all you can eat buffet for five thousand plus individuals. In both of these well-known biblical stories, God produced big results from little substances, and, in so doing, He taught us that the size of our faith does not matter as much as the placement of our faith. Our faith may be as small as a mustard seed, but it can still accomplish big things as long as it is placed in the One who is “faithful” (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 31:5; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
All of these facts about faith reveal that it is not designed to be easy. Faith is not like a mathematical equation that is based on facts. Two plus two equals four is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of fact. Faith is not based on such empirical evidence—it is “the conviction of things not seen” as Hebrews 11:1 says. Nor is faith guided by our physical senses—“walk by faith and not by sight” according to 2 Corinthians 5:7. Thus, faith is difficult because it requires the unseen to be greater than the seen, and, since faith is not easy, the opportunity for doubt arises.