When God Gives Faith
“I have faith! Help my lack of faith!” (Mark 9:24)
Teresa of Calcutta, known affectionately by the world over as Mother Teresa, spent half a century tending to the poor far from her homeland. Yet in letters published only after her death, she speaks of decades filled with “dryness”, “darkness”, even “torture.”
“Jesus has a very special love for you” wrote Teresa to a spiritual confidant; “As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves [in prayer], but does not speak.”
St. John of the Cross even coined a phrase for such emptiness in a Christian’s life: he called it “the dark night of the soul.”
When Paul wrote a letter to a church he left behind in 1 Thessalonians, he states “when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. But Timothy has brought back pleasant news about your faith…so in all distress and persecutions, we were encouraged to hear about your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-6)
Faith is so very important. We most often define faith as that which we give to God. “Without faith,” declares Hebrews, “it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). To the woman willing to touch the hem of his garment, Jesus declared to her “your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50)! To God, we bring faith, and in return, he grants us pardon and gives us life.
But wait. When Paul lists the fruit of the spirit—that which the Spirit provides to sanctified believers—he lists love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…and faith (Galatians 5:22-23). As a child, I memorized that verse as “faithfulness.” But the Greek word is pistis. The same word used when we read that “without faith it is impossible to please him.” The same word used to declare “your faith has made you well.”
In Romans 12:3, Paul writes to Christians and says to them: “I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed among you.”
I read the hall of faith in Hebrews 13, learn that by faith cities were conquered, lives were changed, and nations were healed. I read of Abraham and Moses and Jesus…and I shudder as I realize…I don’t have what they’ve got. What I brought to God as a pre-teen when I decided to put on Jesus is not described in that chapter at all. Maybe sincere reflection on what I don’t have, so desperately want, and Jesus obviously wants to provide, could lead me to say with the apostles, “Lord, increase my faith.” Because I sure do lack.
Maybe sincere reflection on what I don’t have, so desperately want, and Jesus obviously wants to provide, could lead me to say with the apostles, “Lord, increase my faith.” Because I sure do lack.
I understand why the apostles acted the way they did. “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed” declared the Master, “you will say to this mountain ‘Move from here to here’, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Maybe they wanted to do great magic tricks; maybe they wanted power and prestige. I wouldn’t rule out either of those motives from what I know about these men. But maybe, just maybe, sincere reflection on what I don’t have, so desperately want, and Jesus obviously wants to provide, could lead me to say with the apostles, “Lord, increase my faith” (Luke 17:5). Because I sure do lack.
As his boy lay dying, the man knows the healer. He bears his soul to the Master. “If you can, I know my boy will be healed.” “If YOU can” replies Jesus, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:22-24). Listen to the cry of the heart–perhaps the sound coming from deep without your own soul: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” I have faith! But I’m running on empty. And I need to believe”.
Let this point sink deep into your ears, and do not forget it: by the grace of a merciful God, in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Spirit of God, your faith can be renewed. God will take your faith that has waned and give you back a faith that sustains.
(Photo credit: ashley rose)
Nathan Guy believes the passionate pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty culminates in Jesus Christ. He received formal training in philosophy, theology, biblical studies, and cultural & political ethics from Oxford, Cambridge, and the LSE. He lives in Florence, Alabama, where he serves as President of Mars Hill Bible School.