I have always been troubled by the way Christians talk about faith, as in, “If you only had more faith…” or “my faith is not strong enough” or even the generic, “Have faith.” The way we talk about faith makes it sound like a substance, like some sort of spiritual fuel that fills up our faith tank and enables us to motor down the spiritual highway. And when our tanks are empty we need to find some source from within ourselves to fill it up again. Faith, in this sense, is something we possess and use as needed. It becomes mechanistic and it becomes an end in itself as if the goal of the Christian life is to simply have more of this “stuff.”
I’ve been thinking about this for a few months now since a dear Christian brother told me I needed to start walking in faith more. What does that even mean? Even after nearly 40 years of being a Christian I didn’t know quite what to do with this. How do I start “walking in faith” when faith was this stuff that sloshed around in my partially full faith container. So I started to reconsider my understanding of faith and how I characterized it. I realized I had it turned around. I was too focused on faith itself instead of the object of my faith. I started looking at faith in light of who God is instead of what I have to do to get more faith.
So here is my new definition of faith: “Faith is confidence in God’s goodness and assurance in His faithfulness to fulfill His promises.” I like this because it grounds my faith in His character. It lets me evaluate my life and circumstances based on His character. I know I can always count on His goodness and faithfulness no matter how things look around me. It also lets me take specific action to “grow” in faith. I can start looking for evidences of this goodness. I can see how and when promises are fulfilled. I can grow in the confidence that He continues to act consistent with His character both now and into my future. For me, looking at faith in this way changes the way I think about prayer and worship and Scripture reading and loving others and serving at church and working at my job. Every aspect of my life is re-cast as an expression of confidence that God is good and faithful. I just need to be on the lookout for that.
So having “little faith” now simply means that I’ve missed or misunderstood something He’s doing in my life. Having “strong faith” now means that I’m growing to love Him more and more. Having “more faith” means I am seeing Him more clearly. Having faith like this takes the pressure off of me to be more perfect or to try harder and places my focus squarely on Him. It makes it easier to navigate through the ups and downs of life because I know I always have Him.
Now walking in faith takes on a whole new meaning. It means constantly going back to Him; it means deliberately taking steps that reflect His character. It means knowing that when I trip and “skin my spiritual knees” He is there to pick me up again and set my on my way. It means knowing that when I take a wrong turn, He is faithful to guide and instruct me on the correct path. It means living life unburdened by my own expectations of my own goodness. It means living life joyfully.
There you have it. Faith reconsidered. Faith refreshed.