A number of years ago I was approached by a friend I worked with who had just become a believer in Christ only a few months earlier and already was having doubts about his decision. His logic was that ever since he had accepted Christ as Savior and Lord of his life, nothing had changed. In fact he said, “Things have gotten worse instead of better. The only change I’ve noticed is that I feel guilty more often than I used to. What’s wrong with me?” At the risk of only frustrating him more, I answered his question with a question, “What did you expect?” He paused for quite a while and then answered, “I don’t really know. I never really thought about it in that way…I just expected more.” “More of what, I asked?”
We didn’t run into each other again for the better part of a year and after a business meeting he approached me like I was expecting a progress update. He told me that after our last conversation he decided to answer my question for himself and explore just what his expectations were. He explained that it wasn’t until he heard a sermon on Jesus’ comparison of a mustard seed and faith (Matthew 17:20) that he began to put it all together. He told me that for the first time he understood that although he was a believer, his faith was only small like the mustard seed and if he had patience and didn’t get discouraged, his faith would grow and he would grow as well. Of course I responded with a question, “So what do you think faith is?” This time he had an answer and was quick to share it with me. “Faith is Jesus growing in me and the more I read about Him, what He did and what He said, the more real my faith becomes.” I then asked if he was still disappointed with his decision and he replied, “Not with my decision, just with my progress. I decided that it wasn’t guilt I was feeling but the Holy Spirit telling me to stop thinking about what’s in it for me.” At dinner he told me that his wife thought he had made a change for the better and if this was the only result of his decision, he was thrilled.
What my friend was dealing with is what I experienced after having accepted Christ as Lord of my life… I needed to make Him real in my life. This is just another way of saying that I needed to authenticate my faith. The mustard seed, one of natures smallest, starts off tiny and grows into a tree and is used by Christ to describe faith. The reason for Him using this example was also in response to the disciples desire to authenticate their faith. Jesus told them that although their faith was in its infancy, it still had the power to move mountains. So what’s the point then in growing it? This is a logical question but misses the point. Faith is our response to the power that lives in all those who claim Christ as the Lord of their life. That power is the enabling of the Holy Spirit who guides our every thought and action if we simply decide to put God first and then serve others; being selfless instead of selfish. The Spirit of God doesn’t need to grow in knowledge and purpose, we do and that’s why even the smallest bit of faith can move mountains. But how do we grow our faith? Verse twenty-one of Matthew seventeen tells us it is by prayer and fasting or in other words preparation. Asking God for help is obvious, but what about fasting?
When we think about fasting we usually associate it with denying ourselves something to eat or drink, and this is certainly a biblical perspective. But what is usually missed is that when we fast, we are to give to those in need, what we have denied ourselves as a demonstration of our faith and obedience. This second step is what authenticates our faith. The third step in authenticating our faith is pointed out by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Authentic faith comes from knowing what God expects of us and then doing it. We do this by reading and applying what we have read in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), taking in the words and teachings of Jesus and incorporating them into our daily lives.
On a practical note, there are thousands of books and articles written about Jesus, but they are not equivalent or a substitute for going directly to the bible and the words and message of the Savior. Make your favorite Christian author an addition to, not in place of, going directly to the source of your faith.
Tool #364 Want to grow in faith? Pray, give to those in need, read what Christ teaches and then live it.