God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son so that the very least you can do is drum up some kind of belief in return.
That’s Christianity 101, isn’t it? We’re saved by faith – which means we’re given something called “salvation” (or “a relationship with God”) when we offer up something called “trust”. God’s job is giving us a raft of blessings, our job is working up a raft of believing feelings. Right?
Wrong. But it’s a common way of thinking. And it’ll exhaust you spiritually if you buy into it. Think about it: working up external acts of obedience for God is hard enough. But how do we whip up internal acts of faith?
I’ve heard people say that “Faith is a muscle, you need to exercise it!” Really? Show me a verse on that! And then take me to your ‘faith gym’ where you can show off your gleaming ‘faith muscle’, I bet it’s really impressive.
Other people tell me “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K,” to which the only response is “No. It isn’t.”
Why do people want to turn faith into something else? Something that they do? Well, that’s it isn’t it? Such Christians imagine that they’ve hit upon the one meritorious work God really approves of. Apparently He’s not in the “works” game (you know, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor), instead He likes “faith” (sentiments of spiritual fervour). So let a new breed of “faith-flexers” arise who can boast in their believing prowess. All the while the biblical truth about faith undercuts such spiritual self-confidence.
Because in the bible faith is not a thing. (Read this excellent little essay for more: Faith is Nothing). Faith is not an energy or an exertion. Faith is… well let’s go back to John’s Gospel to see it.
John 1:10-12: [Christ] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
Did you spot the parallel in verse 12? ”Receiving Jesus” is equivalent to “believing in His name”. In other words, faith is receiving Jesus. It’s something entirely passive. It’s completely out of our hands – which is why the bible often says that faith is a gift (e.g. Ephesians 2:8-9). It’s not an arbitrary zapping by God (because faith isn’t an energy). It’s the gift of Jesus to us.
Put it this way: Grace is God’s gift of Jesus. Faith is our receiving of Jesus. But in all of this, faith is not a thing I offer to God. I don’t scratch around to find a suitable payment to God for His offer of Christ. I have nothing to offer – not even a thing called ‘faith.’ Faith is simply what happens to me as Christ is given in God’s word and by His Spirit.
Faith is crucial. You gotta believe! But the thing you need to have aint faith. The thing you need is Jesus. And saying “Yes please” to Him – that’s faith.
But don’t look within yourself to try and drum up faith. Don’t screw up your stomach muscles and try boldly to believe. Put yourself in the path of God’s gift. Through His word and by His Spirit, God is offering Jesus to the world. Put yourself in that path and receive what God has for you (i.e. Jesus!). “Faith comes by hearing… the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17)
Don’t, whatever you do, try to work up faith. Whatever you work up will only be flesh – it will only make you proud if you manage it, or despairing if you don’t.
In the deepest sense, you don’t need more faith. You need more Christ. Well praise God, because Christ is given to you – with every drop of His blood!