How to Increase Your Faith
I am a long time fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes is a compelling character. He almost always solves the crime. Rarely does anyone get the best of him. Regardless of how sparse the facts or clues, Mr. Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson get to the bottom of the mystery. Over time, I have become confident in Holmes’ abilities. I have come to trust his talent. I have faith he will do what he says he will do.
I was recently pondering this and my thoughts turned to my relationship with God. I found it amazing how I could have unwavering faith in Sherlock, but then sometimes my faith in Jesus would falter. Why do we doubt God at times? Why don’t we have more faith? Most of us would admit we want greater faith, but how do we obtain more faith?
Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing God’s Word cultivates our faith. We try to offset six days of worldly pessimism and humanistic thinking with two messages on Sunday and one mid-week. If we want to combat the world and grow our faith, we should ingest more of the Word. Do you drive to work? Listen to sermons on tape or CD. Do you have internet access? Listen to or watch messages online. Fill your mind with the renewing Word of God and your faith will increase.
In addition to listening to the Word, prayer and fasting will also increase your faith. Matthew’s Gospel tells the story of the disciples’ inability to cast out a demon. After Jesus successfully frees the boy, the disciples ask, “Why could not we cast him out?” (Matthew 17:19). Jesus’ response is clear: “Because of your unbelief.” He then powerfully declares, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (vs. 20). Jesus wasn’t saying the disciples didn’t have any faith. He was saying they didn’t have the level of faith necessary to perform the task, a level attainable only by prayer and fasting. Prayer builds a relationship with God. As you draw closer to God, your faith in Him increases. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” Fasting brings humility (Psalm 35:13). This humility builds our faith in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves. These two things together, prayer and fasting, build a sure platform for a stronger faith.
Jesus’ apostles approached Him one day and said, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). His response is well-known, but often misunderstood: “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you” (Luke 17:6). Some interpret this to mean all you must have is a little bit of faith, and nothing shall be impossible to you. This interpretation doesn’t make sense in light of the fact Jesus chided people on five occasions, declaring, “O ye of little faith.” (Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, Luke 12:28). So what did Jesus mean?
The mustard seed is small, but it grows to be a large shrub. What’s important is not its beginning size, but its ending size. While it starts small, it grows to be much larger. It has potential. Jesus was not telling us to have a little faith. He was telling us to stretch and grow our faith. So why didn’t he compare faith to an acorn and an oak, surely a more distinct pair of opposites? Why a mustard seed and a shrub? Size is not the only notable difference. It’s true that the mustard shrub isn’t the largest. However, it does something that an oak can never do – it flavors. It enhances. Our faith is meant to do more than “just grow.” Our faith should enhance those around us. It should add spice to the lives of our family, friends, and coworkers.
Faith is not static – it can be increased. We can grow our faith by hearing and absorbing the Word of God. We can also increase our faith by praying and fasting. And the beautiful thing is that, in the process of bettering ourselves, we better those around us. As we reach for our potential in God, others will benefit from our rising faith. Growing our faith is not difficult. Increasing our faith is not hard. In fact, as Sherlock Holmes would say, it is, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
- David Beeson