I doubt anyone has ever thought to themselves, “Gee, I have too much faith. I need to get rid of some.” I wish I had that dilemma, but the truth is that I’ve often struggled with the opposite problem. So, when I recently read through the eleventh chapter of Hebrews—faith’s so-called “hall of fame”—I noticed several principles that can help us grow in our faith.
Faith is a response to a promise or command of God. Many people think they will receive what they want if only they have enough faith. So, for example, if they wish for a new car, they will get it when they believe strongly enough. But that is not the biblical pattern. God always speaks first, and then people believe what he says—not the other way around.
For example, it’s the Lord who told Noah to build the ark and Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Those men would have never come up with such “ridiculous” ideas on their own. It’s the Lord who promised a son to Abraham in his old age. God is always the initiator, and faith happens when humans take him at his word.
If you get discouraged by comparing yourself to the biblical heroes, take heart. I’m sure Noah didn’t start out with the faith to build an ark. Maybe, God had him make a treehouse at first. And Abraham was probably in the habit of obeying many lesser commands before God hit him with the order to leave home. As we trust the Lord in the small things, our faith grows to trust him in the bigger ones as well.
So, where can we find God’s promises and commands? We read them in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit communicates them to our hearts. The more we listen and respond by trusting what God says, the more our faith will grow.
Faith requires action. No one strengthens their faith by sitting in the pew at church. This truth becomes clear as we read Hebrews 11, where the author lists an extended repertoire of deeds done by faith. For example, Noah built the ark, and Abraham left home to embark on a trip into the unknown. The men and women mentioned in this chapter not only heard God’s promises and commands but also acted on them.
This is where many of us go wrong, including me. We hear a word from God and then … nothing. We leave the church and forget what was said. After reading a few verses, we close our Bibles, and our mind moves on to the next thing. In so doing, we fool ourselves into thinking that knowledge is enough, and then we wonder why our faith is so weak.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against sitting in the pews or reading a chapter or two. On the contrary, we need to have as much contact with God’s Word as possible. But if all we do is take it in without putting it into practice, our faith will barely be treading water.
Frankly, the same principle applies to anything we want to learn. Let’s say I’d like to play the piano. Studying sheet music and watching YouTube videos may have some value, but if my fingers never touch the keys, I’ll never be able to make beautiful music. The time comes when I have to sit at the keyboard and go for it. Over time, the more I practice, the better I play, and it’s the same with our faith.
Faith leads to victory. Let’s be honest—life gives us many reasons to doubt our faith. That is why it’s vital to remember an important principle: faith opens the door to God’s victory, even if we may not fully experience it during our lifetime. Let me explain.
A careful reading of Hebrews 11 can leave us scratching our heads. On the one hand, it lists impressive accomplishments done by faith, such as passing through the Red Sea and tearing down impenetrable walls. But all these victorious moments are followed by mentions of torture, imprisonment, persecution, and martyrdom. What’s more, the author finishes the chapter by saying that none of these biblical heroes received what had been promised. What?
The truth is that victory has different facets. There is the kind celebrated in fairy tales that we all desire—the defeat of our enemy and the triumph of good over evil. There is also the strength to endure suffering and remain faithful under persecution. Sometimes faith allows us to smash all opposition, while at other times, it helps us to persevere with joy and peace in even the most grueling of trials. Both are victories.
Ultimately, we’ll never see on this side of eternity all that God has promised. Abraham never saw the nation of Israel, and Moses never witnessed the birth of Christ, even though their faith made those later events possible. Fast-forwarding to the present, we haven’t yet observed God’s final triumph over evil. But faith puts the fulfillment of God’s promises into motion, bringing about victory. We may not live long enough to see it, but it will come.
So, if you—like me—would like your faith to grow, or maybe you haven’t even embarked on the spiritual journey but desire to start, then put into practice these three principles and stand back, watch God work, and witness the increase of your faith.