Lord, Increase Our Faith

“The apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” —Luke 17:5

FAITH is an essential quality in all who want to draw near to God. The Apostle Paul stated, “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”—Heb. 11:6

This chapter in Hebrews lists examples of Old Testament individuals who were pleasing to God because of their faith. We call these people Ancient Worthies, for they lived in pre-Christian times and were worthy of God’s favor since they exhibited great faithfulness to God under exceptionally trying circumstances. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises.” (vs. 13) These promises were undoubtedly those which God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that through their lineage all the families of the earth would be blessed.—Gen. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14

The promise to Abraham concerned the earth, as did the repetition of it to his son and grandson. Israel, as a nation, likewise was promised earthly prosperity if they served God acceptably. “Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.” (Deut. 28:5) But there were other promises that were not understood during Old Testament times. These concerned a heavenly salvation. Peter spoke about them, and then added, “of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.” (I Pet. 1:10) Even angels did not understand this: “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the Gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”—vs. 12, New International Version

Clearly the hope of the Ancient Worthies and the hope of the church are different. They hoped for an earthly reward, we look forward to a heavenly one. But faith is one quality common to the hopes of both groups.

What Is Faith?

The Apostle Paul gave this definition: “Faith is a confident assurance of that for which we hope, a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1, Weymouth) No one can have faith without having something to base it upon. Faith is more than a “confident assurance” of our hopes. It is a conviction that the things for which we hope actually exist, even though we cannot see them. The working of faith in our lives is very personal.

Faith is a state of mind respecting God and his promises to us. Paul tells us concerning the only way in which we may acquire this needed quality: “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (Rom. 10:17) Before we can have faith, we must have a measure of knowledge, as we cannot have faith in something we know nothing about. The only authentic source of knowledge concerning our hope of salvation is found in the Bible—the Word of God; therefore, it is the source of our faith. Just as knowledge is the foundation for faith, faith is the foundation for our glorious hope. One cannot have hope without faith, nor faith without knowledge.

Every true Christian has undoubtedly felt the need at times for an increase of faith, and approached God in prayer with the request, “Increase my faith.” And so, faith comes as a gift from God to those who make use of his provisions to obtain and increase it. These provisions include the feeding upon his Word and promises, that we may know what his arrangements for us are, how to submit ourselves to them, and that we abide by the terms and conditions of our covenant of sacrifice.

Overcoming Doubts

It is not enough of us to say, “Yes, I believe in God and his promises. I believe he is calling out a people of faith for his name, and that he is selecting the church, the Bride of Christ.” This belief is personally of no benefit if one feels he is so weak and unimportant that he could never attain such a high position. Such an attitude is not pleasing to God. It shows a lack of full assurance of faith in his power to accomplish that which he has begun in us, and of the peace of God which passeth all understanding which he has promised us.

Creating doubts about our relationship to God is a much used tool of Satan as a temptation. We must remember that we “are called in one hope of [our] calling.” (Eph. 4:4) When God called us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, he knew just how weak, how imperfect, how unimportant we were. “God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” (Col. 1:21, NIV) But as the apostle goes on to explain, because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are presented “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which ye have heard.”—vss. 22,23

If we do not personally acknowledge the full truth of this statement, let us pray, “Increase our faith.” Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and fmd grace to help us in our time of need.”—Heb. 4:16, NIV

Jesus told us over and over again how ready God is to hear and to answer our prayers. “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”—Matt. 7:7-11

One of the gifts God is pleased to give is a full assurance of faith. But such faith does not come instantaneously. It is a matter of growth, like that of a tender plant developing to maturity through a variety of experiences. We must not be discouraged because we realize we have weaknesses. It would be a matter of concern if we thought we did not have weaknesses, failings, or shortcomings. Our faith grows as we strive to overcome our weaknesses and lay hold upon the many promises of God.

Some of our experiences may be particularly severe, but each is especially designed by God to provide a needed lesson. With the passage of time, we are able to look back on our experiences and see how we have grown from them. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are [properly] exercised thereby.”—Heb. 11:11

Eating the Right Food

In addition to prayer, there are other things we can do to increase our faith. We can study and meditate upon the spiritual things of God. We can study the promises and doctrines, develop character, and cultivate the fruits and graces of the Spirit. The question is not just how much time we spend in study, but how much of what we study we put into practice. Paul said there would be some who were “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (II Tim. 3:7) These are those who do not make the truth their own. Eating food is of no value unless the body assimilates it and extracts nutriments from it.

And still, assimilating food is not enough. We must eat the proper food. That means eating the pure, unadulterated food of God’s Word, and avoiding food contaminated with the traditions and theories of men. We need a balanced diet which will enable us to grow into mature Christians. We should avoid specializing in only certain truths or certain doctrines that we think suit our taste, especially if this means excluding other essential doctrines. “All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof [Greek: ‘conviction’], for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect [Greek: ‘complete’] thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—II Tim. 3:16,17

Even good food is not enough to develop us as Christians. We also need exercise if we are to be strong and healthy, and so we should be active in telling others about the wonderful truths of the Bible. The Scriptures call this ‘harvest work’. Referring to the harvest, Jesus said, “He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal.”—John 4:36

Growing and developing as a Christian might be likened to learning a foreign language. We could learn the rules of grammar, how to conjugate verbs, and memorize vocabulary. But if we never try to put all of this information into practice by actually conversing with others who know the language, it would all be meaningless. Without exercise, we lose what we are trying to master. In the same way, if we want the Lord to increase our faith, we must exercise our faith. The more we put our faith into practice, the stronger it will become. As James said, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17) In other words, if faith is not put into operation it is a dead faith, amounting to absolutely nothing.

We read in Hebrews, “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb. 5:14, NIV) The phrase ‘constant use’ emphasizes our need for exercise. If we do not continuously exercise our mind—our spiritual faculties—we will not grow strong as new creatures in Christ.

Walking is one form of exercise suggested by Paul: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him and, stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Col. 2:6,7) A person who walks makes progress, assuming the walk is in the right direction. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.”—I John 1:6,7

Relationships with Our Brethren

When we ask God to increase our faith, we should remember that fellowship with our brethren is another means used by God to answer that prayer. Love and fellowship with our brethren indicates we are walking in the light, and are making progress in the right direction. “We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”—I John 3:14

Because we love the brethren, we want to have fellowship with them at every opportunity. We will not voluntarily isolate ourselves from them, for that would demonstrate that we have lost a measure of the Spirit of truth—that our faith has grown weak. Christians are like glowing coals of fire. Grouped together they retain the blaze of zeal, fervency of spirit, and the warmth of Christian fellowship and love that each imparts to the other. But if the coals are separated, the glow is soon gone and all warmth disappears. This is why the apostle counsels, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, … not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.”—Heb. 10:23,25

No Christian is self-sufficient. We need the assistance of other members of the body of Christ. Consider the words of Paul: “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. Now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” (I Cor. 12:12,18) If God has placed each member where they are in the body, it is not possible for us to say we do not need their fellowship—rather, each one is indispensable to us for our development. God “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Eph. 4:11,12, NIV) Each member of the body is needed—whether weak or strong; for each are both weak and strong along some particular line, and therefore we reinforce each other in our strong points, and bolster each other up in our weak points!

As we progress along the narrow way, our faith will undergo many tests. Satan will try to discourage us; he will seek to emphasize our every weakness, and will point out our own unworthiness. He will try to ridicule the idea that with all our imperfections we could ever hope to receive the high honor to which we have been called. Truly ours is a fight of faith. Our faith will be assailed from every quarter, but this should reassure us that God is dealing with us as sons. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.”—Heb. 12:7,8, NIV

If we feel our faith is being tried by our experiences, we should remember the words of this scripture. God is developing us according to his purposes so that we may become mature and able to perform our function in the wonderful body now being prepared.

In the furnace God may prove thee, thence to bring thee forth more bright, But will never cease to love thee; thou art precious in his sight. God is with thee—God, thine everlasting light!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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