May 4, 1999
A sign outside a church reads, “Running low on faith? Stop in for a fill-up.”
That sign is catchy but somewhat misleading. It makes faith sound like a commodity or like a battery that loses its charge. While a trip to church could restore a person’s faltering faith, faith is not something we can pour into our hearts like we pour gasoline into our cars.
Biblical faith is believing or trusting God. It is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” It is trust but also describes an inner knowing. That is, faith is positive that God is real, that He loves me, that He never lies to me, and that He keeps His promises.
Sometimes circumstances talk louder than God and then our faith can falter. We wonder if He still controls our lives or is even interested in what happens to us. Faith can plummet when a loved one dies, our business fails, we lose our job, or our child is hit by a car. Tragedies like these not only test our faith but can sometimes mock it.
A man named Job is an ultimate example of a faith tested by tragedy. He lost his livestock, possessions, servants and family. Finally he lost his health. When his friends came to comfort him, they could not bear his agony very long. Instead of crying with him, they began to accuse him that all his problems must be his own fault.
Like Job’s friends, well-meaning people may suggest if you have enough faith, nothing bad will ever happen to you. You will never be sick or in financial trouble. Your family will be perfect and life will be wonderful. This is a delusion. God never defines strong faith by the quality of our circumstances. Besides Job, we can find a New Testament example in Hebrews 11. Here, people of faith are commended. Because of his faith, Abel offered God an acceptable sacrifice. By the same faith, Noah built an ark to save his family from judgment. By faith, Abraham packed up his family and all his possessions at God’s command and set out for a destination he did not know.
These biblical heroes offer some positive experiences but not all of their experience were positive. Abel had faith, but he was murdered by his brother Cain. Noah had faith but his neighbors ridiculed him for building an ark. Abraham was called the “father of faith” yet he died without ever seeing the land God promised him and his descendants, the land he was headed for.
God measures our faith not by our situation, but by whatever we put it in. If we trust ourselves, He looks beyond the amount of self-confidence we have and sees our strengths and weaknesses. He knows we are not able to do for ourselves what He can do for us. If we trust people, He looks beyond our loyalty and devotion, realizing that almost everyone we know will fail us in one way or another. He knows other people cannot do for us what He can do.
God Himself is the only one worthy of our trust. That is why He encourages us to place our faith in Him. However, it is logical that whenever we take our eyes off His power, wisdom and goodness, or when we forget His promises, our faith will take a nosedive. It is not that God has changed but that we have stopped trusting Him. We could say our faith-tank is empty.
How can we start trusting again? How can we be filled with faith? Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
This means that the only way to refuel our faith tank is through reading and hearing God’s revelation of Himself, given to us in the Bible. As we do that, faith, which is actually a gift from Him, begins to grow.
Further, faith is not like gasoline that is depleted by use. Instead, using faith actually makes it stronger. As we trust God, we discover His worth and trust Him more. A good church can help us make those discoveries by directing us toward God and His Word. Once we know He is true, we can exercise our faith by sharing it with others and by giving it back to Him in worship. If we do that, it will never run low.