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Progressive Faith

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

 (Note: Unless otherwise noted, Quoted Bible Verses are from 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 stacked 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 (Romans 10: 17) that faith comes from the hearing of the word of God. 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 the God and attain the undeserved privilege of 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 which helps us to forget the temporary hardships we face in this world, to feel contented 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.

Bible teaches us 7 major stages in the journey of progressive faith.

  • Stage 1: NO Faith
  • Stage 2: LITTLE Faith
  • Stage 3: WAVERING Faith
  • Stage 4: GROWING Faith
  • Stage 5: STRONG Faith
  • Stage 6: FILLED with Faith
  • Stage 7: SUPPLEMENTED Faith

These stages can be portrayed as steps in a ladder. Each day we may find ourselves in one or other step in this ladder depending on the circumstances we face. Each of the 7 stages mentioned above are visited in the remaining chapters of this study, in a broader and deeper level, based on the Word of God. 

1.  NO FAITH

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 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

  1. They forgot that it was Jesus who led them to the sea, and he had the responsibility to see them to the safety.  (verse 35) Note that they had to face the extraordinary storm even when they were obedient to Jesus. We have to keep in mind that not all storms are the results of our sins. Sometimes God will lead us to a storm in our lives. We may need to face some Catastrophes where Jesus sends us.  Even if the door of opportunity was opened by God Himself, our journey may not be as smooth as we expect.  Therefore, we should never allow our circumstances to rule over our faith in God. If God leads us to a storm, there is a purpose behind that. Apostle Paul says (Romans 8:28): And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. When Elijah was sent to the widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17), she was prepared to die after eating the last piece of bread. Elijah did not wonder why God sent him to such a place to feed him in the drought. He could see the provision God made for him and that widow, through the inner eyes of his faith.
    Even though God delivered Israelites from the mighty hands of Pharaoh, helped them cross the red sea, and performed many mighty wonders through out their journey, Israelites had to fight Canaanites to occupy the Promised Land,
    Canaan.  The same God who averted wars for Israel by avoiding way of the land of Philistines ( Exodus. 13:17) and by defeating the huge army of Pharaoh in Red sea (Exodus. 15:4), allowed Israelites to fight Canaanites (Joshua. 1:6) by themselves to capture their land.  Several of their leaders doubted the ability to conquer the Canaanites. However, since it was God who led them, they were victorious.
  2. They forgot that Jesus didn’t leave them alone. He was in danger too, as much as they were. They might have thought that Jesus would save Himself and leave them to perish [Mark 4:38]. In Chapter 3, verses 13 and 14 it says, Jesus appointed the twelve that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons. The disciples should have remembered that, if the purpose of their calling was to be with Jesus and to do His ministry, Jesus would never leave them to perish. It will be disastrous to take our eyes off the goal of our salvation. Apostle Paul reminds us that (Ephesians 1:18) we need to know what is the hope of His calling.  We are called by God for a specific purpose. For each one of us, He has a hope to fulfill. However hard the tempests may be, you are not alone in that. The one who chose and called you is with you because He has promised that “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)”.  His presence is neither temporary nor in-need basis. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).”  Simon Peter understood this in his later life and He reminds us in his epistle [ 2 Peter 1:10] that: “Brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble”.  The storms around us could make us distract from the ultimate objective and stray from our most holy faith.
  3. The disciples were expected of rebuking the sea and winds themselves, without being fearful or waking up the Master.  They forgot to apply their faith before applying their experience and human logic.  Most of them were experienced fishermen. They knew what to be done when they are in a storm. Therefore, instead of applying the power of their faith, they took matters in their own hands by doing whatever they could, based on their knowledge.  When all their efforts went in vain, they realized that the probability to save themselves with their knowledge or works is none. They were caught in fear when they calculated the improbability as impossibility. Instead of forgetting the human knowledge and worldly logic, the disciples forgot the mighty things Jesus had done in the past and their capability to do so by the faith in Him. Often in our lives, we find ourselves in great trouble when all our efforts go in vain to make things right.  When some waves break in to our lives and when fierce water starts to fill us with grief, instead of applying the power of faith, we tend to forget that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13)

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. In several occasions we have experienced the impossibilities becoming possible in our life. 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

2.  LITTLE FAITH

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 was afraid. Even when he was walking on the water upon Jesus’ command, Peter started analyzing the situations around him, which led him to doubt about 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 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 characterize 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 our God’s ability to easier and simpler things. Peter was not afraid of the high tides and waves that tossed their boat for 4 days 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 too, 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 makes us feel that all the problems we have ever faced before is nothing.  The more frustrated we are, the bigger the problem would seem to be and hence the miracles God 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 the human nature to worry about every day 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 in to 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 as “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 in 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

3.  WAVERING FAITH 

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 the 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 is 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. 

Let us examine some of the causes of the divided loyalty:

1.      Selfishness

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

When a person becomes self centered without caring for those who are related to him physically and spiritually, he is wandering away from the true faith.  Paul considers such a person as worse than an unbeliever. As believers, we have the responsibility to be as humble as to consider others greater than ourselves. Jesus teaches us to do others what we would like them to do to ourselves.  

2.     Love of Money

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

Another reason for wandering away from faith is the love of money. Those who love the treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal fails to invest in the eternal asset of life with God. In the previous verse, Paul makes it clear that the desire to be rich is a temptation and a snare, which brings about destruction and perdition. It is not a sin to be rich, but it is the love for the money and finding pleasure from the worldly richness is what makes a person stray away from the faith in God. Covetous persons will quit the faith, if that be the way to get money. Paul shows Demas as an example for this type of people in 2 Timothy 4:10. For Demas, world was dearer to God.  To arm ourselves against the love of the world and its money, we need to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness (6:11)

3.     Human knowledge

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

Attempting to perceive God’s mysteries using human knowledge and logic, leads to foolish discussions and boasting of so-called knowledge which ultimately pushes one off the course of true faith.  Endeavoring to become Bible teachers, some people try to apply logic, philosophy and scientific methods used in defining physical entities in interpreting and explaining the word of God. This essentially brings in distortions and contradictions, which causes people to stray away from faith. It is to be understood that the word of God is a communication from the infinite God to the finite man and hence we are bound by the limitation of perception by finite human intelligence. Paul suggests a way to conquer this challenge.

Cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:5

4.     Counterfeit faith

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.

The result of applying human knowledge in the word of God is false teachings, which overthrow the faith of the believers. Those who are not able to come to the truth despite the constant learning of the word of God are the victims of this deception. (2 Timothy 3: 6, 7, 8). The corrupt minds of these false teachings are in Sheep’s clothing, so that the innocent believers fall prey to the ditches created by the profane and idle babblings. (Matthew 7:15). The only way to overcome this is to be rooted in God’s word. (John 16:1).  Since Satan wants to sift us as wheat, he would never miss a chance to cause our faith to fail. (Luke 22:31-32). We have to constantly intercede with God to fill the gaps in our faith [ 1 Thessalonians 3:10], so that when he appears on the skies, he may find faith in us.

4.  GROWING FAITH 

… 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, 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 the 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 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 good fruit of mutual love.  As the faith multiples, 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 sufferings, 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 sometime.  It has to be continuous, consistent and long lasting to achieve the higher stages of faith.

5.  STRONG 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 in firm in the 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?

1.     Be rooted in Christ

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 (New Living Translation)

The first and foremost way to attain strong faith in Christian life is to have strong and deep roots in Christ.  We know that if a tree does not obtain deep and strong roots it cannot grow strong. Likewise, for a believer, the strength of the faith depends completely in how he stands in Christ.  The deeper he knows the God; the firmer will be his faith. The growth of the faith closely depends on the truth which is taught by the word of God. Since faith comes from hearing of the word of God, to grow strong in faith, one has to allow the word of God (the truth taught) flourish in his life.

Notice the two metaphors used in this verse; “rooted” (as in a tree) and “built up” (as in a building). A tree extends its root deeper to the soil by itself. But a building does not get built by itself, somebody has to build it. Likewise a believer has to take his own effort to get firmly rooted in Christ by knowing Him and submitting to Him to as much depth as it could go. At the same time, he has to allow Christ to build himself `up’ in this foundation.  Sometimes we attempt the contrary in our lives. We try to build ourselves “up” and pray to God to root us in faith, which is in fact disastrous.

Firm root or the foundation is the most important thing. Our root has to be Christ. We can be fruitful only if we abide in Christ (John 15:4).  Paul also makes this clear in Romans 11: 17-18

And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Once a person starts thinking that he is a tree, he starts wavering in the faith. The reason why we see many people fall from the faith is that they are trying to grow by themselves instead of being the partaker of the root.

When Paul writes to Titus, he mentions examples of people who try to build themselves up (1:10) tending to get into useless talk, thereby deceiving others. They listen to myths and people who have turned away from truth. Paul advises Titus to rebuke them, so that they are made strong in faith. In the letter to Ephesians (2: 20, 21) Paul makes it clear that the corner stone of the Church has to be Christ alone.

…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

1.     Fight temptation

For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain1 Thessalonians 3:5

Our adversary Satan is a tempter who always seeks a way to catch us off guard. Growing ourselves to achieve strong faith depends on how well we handle temptations in life. In the above passage, we can understand that Paul sent Timothy to church of Thessalonica to see if they could resist the temptation so as to be strong in faith. The more we resist the temptations in our life and keep our consciences clean ( 1 Timothy 1:19) the more we stand strong in our faith. Apostle James reminds us that Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away (James 1:13, 14). Fighting to the temptations in one’s life gives one a clear conscience to serve God. It takes some courage to do this. We should ever be on vigil understanding the areas we may be vulnerable to. Paul advises us in 1 Corinthians 16: 13 as follows:

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.

We need to be brave to be strong in faith. Note that it is by faith we defend faith!  The stronger the faith is, the harder will be the temptation and the more we need to use the same faith to stop those arrows from the devil. The more we use the shield of faith to defend ourselves, the stronger becomes our faith.

…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one (Ephesians 6:16)

But let us who are of the day be sober, put on the breastplate of faith and love (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

Not by our might but only by Holy Spirit can we defend the faith and make it stronger. (1 Corinthians 12:9) We can fight with courage against the tempter only if we pay attention on where we stand on the faith and where we want to be.

2.     Be successful in the tests of faith

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 (New Living Translation)

A Christian will often have to go through tests of faith. This is another process by which our faith gets stronger.  Apostle James tells us that when our faith is tested, our endurance or patience has a chance to grow [James 1:3]. These tests may be in the form of trials and persecutions. When Job and his family went through this test of faith, he emerged victorious but his wife failed miserably. As Peter says in his epistle (verses quoted above), the tests of faith are never to discourage or destroy us. Rather, it is for purifying our faith like fire purifies gold.  These trials will show that our faith is genuine and strong.  (Revelation 14:12)

a)      Tests administered by God

You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water at Meribah. Psalm 81:7 (New Living Translation)

While Israelites were traveling to Caanan, God tested them at a place called Meribah where there was no water. Instead of trusting the God who had answered them in thunderclouds, they quarreled with Moses and Aaron. Though God gave water to them from the rocks, Israelites failed in the test of the faith causing great anger to God.

We need to remember that certain scarcities in our lives are administered by God for making us trust in Him deeply so that our faith gets stronger. Those shortages should be reminders for us about the ways God has provided for us in the past.

b)     Tests administered by Satan

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. 1 Peter 5: 8, 9 (New Living Translation)

Not all tests are administered by God. Sometimes God allows devil to take away something from our life as He did in Job’s life.  We have to stand stay alert to watch out for the enemy and be brave to fight him off.

c)      Tests administered by ourselves

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (New Living Translation)

God wants us to keep track of our progress in the Christian life by examining ourselves in faith. We have to test ourselves to evaluate if we feel the presence of God among us. That is a test of genuine faith. Whatever happens in this mortal life, experiencing God’s presence in our day to day activities makes us stronger in faith.

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. Philippians 3:1 (New Living Translation)

6.  FILLED WITH FAITH

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 finds battle of faith as something of 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 early days of 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 this qualification.

The overflowing of the faith is displayed when the people of faith encourages one another in faith. 

Ø     Not only were the first century leaders keen in planting churches everywhere, but also they were dedicated to follow it up by frequent visits to encourage them in faith.

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  [ Acts 14:22].

Ø     The prophets among them used the gift of God to speak to the believers to strengthen them in the faith.

Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. Acts 15:32 (New Living Translation)

Ø     For Apostle Paul, the greatest wish in his life was to help the church to grow and experience the joy in Christian faith

And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith – Philippians 1:25

Ø     Enlightening in faith is not one-way traffic, but is a mutual experience. The leaders knew that they will be encouraged by encouraging others in faith.

…that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.  – Romans 1:12

Ø       Apostles taught the believers to be an encouragement to each other in faith.

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit – Jude 1:20 (New Living Translation)

Ø     Since they encouraged each other and were encouraged by faith filled leaders, the early church excelled in faith.

Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers… – 2 Corinthians 8:7 (New Living Translation)  

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 other 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 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

7. SUPPLEMENTED FAITH 

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

Ø      Moral Excellence

Faith helps us to have goodness (Moral Excellence) in us by showing Christian integrity to everyone. This is the virtue by which we are consistent in our actions and have no conflicts with anyone. We learn to live a life of clean conscience by doing everything as if we are doing it for Christ.

Ø     Knowledge

Knowledge refers to the spiritual enlightenment, not the worldly education. Only a person good at heart and is consistent can know about his God. Faith leads us to know the mysteries of God which will be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Ø     Self Control

Once a person knows God, he learns to know himself. Attaining true knowledge about Jesus Christ helps a person to control himself. He will learn to rule on his senses, thus being sensible. Even when he was mocked by rich and poor, military and civilians, rulers and ruled, Jesus controlled himself not to respond to them.

Ø     Patient Endurance

A person who can control himself learns to be patient. He would be able to endure the difficulties laid before him. He understands that he serves the God of patience. Isaiah speaks about Jesus that He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.

Ø     Godliness

Godliness refers to the true worship or piety to God. Worship from a person who controls himself and having clean conscience is accepted by God. Remember that God was pleased by Abel’s worship but not of Cain. A true worshiper should clearly understand about whom he should worship, why he should worship and how he should worship. Being knowledgeable about God and himself will make us true worshipers.

Ø     Brotherly affection

Fear of the God helps us to love another as we love ourselves. Then we would understand the meaning of true neighbor and learn to have affection and kindness just like the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable. We can put this in action only by spiritual understanding and experiencing true worship.

And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. – Philemon 1:6

Ø     Love for everyone

Love for everyone should not be confused with the brotherly love. It is the experience of love of God reflecting in us. God loved the world so much that he wants each and every person to be saved from the destruction. When God’s love truly reflects in us, we will love the fellow beings around us who are destined to hell and we will have the passion for Gospel. This is the stage where faith reflects as a passion to save our fellow beings. Paul vouches for this in the below verse.

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. – Galatians 5:6

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 in to 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 like 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 the God has set before us.

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