How to Measure Faith

Personal faith is important (Heb. 11:6). And because faith is important, it is important to understand it accurately. As a personal experience, faith is depending on someone or something. And whatever you are relying upon is the object of your faith. For the Christian, the proper object of faith is what God has revealed to us in the written Word of God (Rom. 10:7).  With this in mind, pause to consider two primary experiences of faith in the Christian life: beginning faith and continuing faith.

Beginning Faith

By beginning faith I mean the faith that you exhibit in your heart when you depend on Jesus Christ for deliverance from sin (Gal. 3:2, Eph. 2:8-9). This is being born again (Jn. 3:16). It is becoming a child of God, becoming identified by the righteousness of Christ, entering into union with Jesus Christ and receiving a position of spiritual life that lasts forever. The experience of saving faith happens in a moment. The moment you trust Jesus Christ alone for deliverance from the eternal consequences of sin (death and hell forever) you receive the eternal assurance of deliverance from the consequences of sin (new life and a home in heaven forever). Once this change of position before God occurs in your life, it will never be reversed. By faith you enter into this new relationship with God and because of the merits of Christ – your new object of dependence – you will never lose the salvation He provided (Rom. 8:37-39, 2 Tim. 2:13). Once you are saved, you will always be saved. This cannot change.

Continuing Faith

But faith plays another role in the experience of the Christian life – a role that follows beginning faith. This is faith that daily depends on God for all sorts of things – overcoming sinful habits, receiving answers to prayer, interceding for other people, understanding and obeying instructions from the Bible and resting in the promises of God (Hab. 2:4, Gal. 3:11, Rom. 1:17, Heb. 10:38). I’ll call this continuing faith. Why? Because the way that you entered your everlasting relationship with Jesus established a new pattern for your life – a pattern of learning to continually depend upon God for far more than your new birth. As a child of God, you now have the privilege and responsibility to depend upon God for everything else associated with your life and personal experience (Col. 2:6).

Now your initial dependence upon the Lord for salvation remains constant. This dependence upon Christ for salvation entered you into a permanent relationship with Christ that will last forever. But as a child of God you should improve in your daily experience of  continuing faith, your ongoing experience of learning to depend on God. This aspect of faith should be changing and improving regularly and significantly (2 Cor. 10:15, 2 Thes. 1:3). But how do you measure this change?

Measuring Faith

Let me be clear. Do not measure your experience of continuing faith as a child of God in size. It is not appropriate to say that one Christian has a little bit of faith, another Christian has a healthy amount of faith, another Christian has a large amount of faith and another Christian has an overwhelming amount of faith. The Bible does teach that there is such a thing as “little faith” (Mt. 6:30, Mt. 8:26, Mt. 14:31, Mt. 16:8, Lk. 12:28) and “great faith” (Mt. 8:10, 15:28, Lk. 7:9), but this is not a reference to the size of a person’s ongoing faith.

Jesus makes this point clearly by giving a helpful object lesson. He tells us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we would in theory be able to believe God to lift mountains up and throw them into the sea. What does this mean? It means that God looks for the presence of ongoing faith, not the size of it (Mt. 13:31, 17:20). Faith fails not when it is small instead of large, but because it is not present when it should be present. Absent faith is called doubt or unbelief. Present faith is called faith. You either exercise faith in a situation or you don’t.

So the proper way to measure faith is to consider the duration of faith. Do you remember the time that Peter walked on water (Mt. 14:28-32)?

  • He had a clear command from Christ to depend upon.
  • He took clear steps of faith to get out of the boat and to walk to Jesus on the water.
  • He stopped depending on Jesus and started focusing on the terrible weather conditions.
  • He sank into the water.

Christ said that Peter’s faith in this situation was “little.” He said it was “little” because he stopped depending on Christ and started to doubt. What is doubt? Is it a small bit of faith? No. It is the absence of faith. Doubt is the condition of your heart when you are not depending on God in a given situation.

So how do you measure your daily experience of ongoing faith as a child of God? You measure your faith by how long you are willing to depend on God to intervene and to give direction. You measure your faith by how long you are willing to depend upon God to enable you to obey the clear instructions of His Word, regardless of whether or not the difficult circumstances of your life improve (Jam. 1:1-8). A mature Christian doesn’t have “big” faith. A mature Christian has faith that keeps on believing God regardless of how outward circumstances develop.

May you join the first disciples of Jesus in asking, “Lord increase our faith (Lk. 17:5)!” “Help us to have continuing faith that doesn’t stop depending on you!”

 

 

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