How to grow faith – Introduction
Luke 17:5–10, Romans 10:16–17
In a sentence: Faith is rooted in hope, grows as we learn to hear God and becomes mature as it is exercised and put to work.
This post references a message preached by Ian at Presteigne Baptist Church on August 27, 2017.
Luke 17:5 and 18: The apostles said to the Lord: “Increase our faith!”…. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?
If Jesus returned here today, would He find us EXERCISING faith, or STRUGGLING with faith?
Perhaps a bit of both. It’s a need we all share. More faith! Especially when faith has taken some hard knocks. Part of the reason we are here it to meet God and be built up in faith.
1. Knowing God in faith
Intimacy with God – knowing Him in intimacy – is where our hope is rooted.
This links to an earlier message about Renewed Hope under the headings: Living Hope, Confident Hope, Resilient Hope.
It starts with what the Bible calls new birth into a Living Hope, or a living assurance:
1 Peter 1:3–9
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Hope – not expressed literally but clear from Romans 15:13:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hope is something we don’t see (Rom. 8:24–25) – it is a confidence we know we have, although at this point we cannot be specific about it.
Hope is the CONFIDENCE we have in God and in His love and goodness because we know Him. We know because we know because we know because we know…
A supermarket I visited in New York State proudly displayed the slogan in its butchery: “We KNOW meat!” We get what they mean. And we can say, better than any slogan, we KNOW God, our Father, and the special relationship we have with Him. We are confident in that relationship.
Romans 8:31 and 28
If God is for us, who can be against us?… We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
But could you DRAW this confidence? Or model it in plasticene?
To draw it, you need something specific that you can picture.
At this stage, you may not have that picture.
Hope is not the picture. It is knowing that there IS a picture.
When I was a teenager I had a craze for photography. Back then it was all film, and I built a darkroom to develop the films and make enlargements. You expose the paper in the enlarger and then the exciting bit is watching under the red safelight the white paper start to form a ghostly image in the dish of developer.
This is hope- to-faith for us. The picture EXISTS but it is not yet developed. We have to take what we know is a latent picture (hope) and grow it or develop it so we can see what it is (that’s faith) and know what we have to work with, or go with.
Which takes us to…
2. Growing faith (when faith grows)
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.
Here’s a different way of understanding it. Many roses are grown commercially by being grafted on to a strong briar or sucker root stock. The briar does not produce flowers, but it is sturdy. The plain but strong root supports the more delicate flowering part that grows out of it.
Faith grows out of this root stock of hope – knowing God and His promises, trusting in His good nature and good purposes.
The story that follows is about two people who were well rooted in hope and had that expectation of God – and a sense of what he was doing. But God was about to make a big move. A world-changing move. Faith had to grow for this. One of the main ways it grows is by hearing God.
Rom. 10:17 ESV says
“ …faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”
This is much broader than hearing a good preach. We hear God speak in many ways, including through the experiences that others relate. That kind of ‘hearing’ is always part of the great stories.
The Cornelius story, Acts 10
Two very different people are moved from hope to faith.
Cornelius, who is a Roman centurion attached to the Italian Cohort in Caesarea, is a man of some faith – he prayed to God regularly. On this day he had an encounter with an angel, who spoke to him, said his prayers had been heard and told him to send for a man he didn’t know called Simon the Rock, living a little way away in Joppa. Peter would never go willingly to this rather grand Roman home in the company of lots of Roman people, Gentiles – as Cornelius’ servants were drawing near, he had his own encounter with God in a dramatic vision in which he heard God speak to him audibly, telling him he should now be open to Gentiles. Two people so far whose faith has been raised for what God wants to do. At Cornelius’ house, they both tell their stories to the gathered people. Then Peter, surrounded by Cornelius’ family and friends, preaches the gospel of Jesus to them. The Holy Spirit falls on them, visibly, and to the amazement of Peter’s Jewish friends who had come with him, they could see that these gentiles had received the Holy Spirit in fullness, speaking in heavenly language, just as they had.
Faith comes by hearing… and not just Peter’s explanation of the Good News! Faith was given to the people listening, rose up in people listening, as they heard the stories. THEN the listeners had the faith level to receive the truth about Jesus, Son of God, and their Saviour.
Faith is a gift from God. We don’t earn it but He gives it
How does this happen? It starts with us waiting, with us expecting, with us ASKING God. (You don’t get because you don’t ask principle – James 4:2)
If we don’t “enquire”, and listen for God’s answer, how can we expect a strategy?
The sound of marching in the poplar trees
Here’s another story from centuries earlier which relates how David enquired of God and, in a strange way involving the sound of poplar trees, is given a strategy and a timing:
1 Chronicles 14:13–16
Once more the Philistines raided the valley; 14 so David enquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go directly after them, but circle around them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 15 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 16 So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.
How does faith come, in our world and by our hearing?
- God is often speaking and we are sometimes listening
- Our stories do not tend to be ‘big’ stories like we read in the Bible.
God does not usually need to arrest our attention in an open vision or by hearing His audible voice. He has given us the Holy Spirit who is OUR OWN voice of God, revealer of the Scriptures and special effects technician. For Him to give us insights is easy. He prompts us, perhaps through something said or seen which is quite ordinary. For us, it is about – expecting.
- getting quiet to listen
- dealing with the spiritual noise and confusion of the enemy.
3. Going in faith
Faith is exercised – in our taking the risk of responding, acting, changing. Moses relates the story of God’s word to them to enter the Promised Land, the scouts’ return and the unwillingness of the people to go out on the word. This is now 40 years on:
6 The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.
7 Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighbouring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates.
8 See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land theLord swore he would give to your fathers – to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and to their descendants after them.”
But they wanted to explore the land first:
21 See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’
22 Then all of you came near me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.’
23 The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe.
24 And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out.
25 And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.’
26 “Yet you would not go up…
Moses concludes this rebuke:
32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God,
33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.
34 “And the Lord heard your words and was angered…
God HAD spoken and had proved His being with them in leading them and providing for them. So they should have gone with the word. Ten heard fears; only two or them heard God – faith rose and eventually they led the way in.
Faith must be exercised. A bit like it is said about Brexit – to remain is not an option.
What did Jesus say about growing and acting on faith?
Where we started: The disciples ask Jesus: “Increase our faith!”. And He says, take what you have and set it to work.
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7 “Will any one of you who has a servant ploughing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?
8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?
9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
- We have heard New Wine Cymru stories in the past couple of months, about twos and threes going out in faith (having prepared the ground well in prayer!) and asking people simple questions about their destiny, their sense of God having a plan for their life, a Saviour Jesus to turn to. Well over 3,000 responded and prayed a prayer of commitment.
- Treasure hunting – some similarities in preparing in prayer and receiving insights of who to look for and what God might be wanting to bless them with.
Practical: The ‘how tos’ of growing faith
Common scenarios for Good News e.g.
• Telling people about Jesus and salvation
• Healing encounters
• Encouragement in life’s situations
Looking at this through our three aspects: Knowing, Growing, Going
Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
You, Lord, are forgiving and GOOD,
abounding in love to ALL who call to You.
God is good and God is loving, and we know that; He is good and He is loving to those who don’t know Him, and who don’t know that.
He doesn’t just want them ‘in church’. First and foremost, He wants to show His love for them.
We have to start here – a place of absolute confidence in God and his intentions.
Whatever aspect of the good news, whatever we discern God doing, we must start from Hope – confident expectation in Him.
Now we need to ‘hear’ what God is doing in the life of the person to be encouraged. We are seeking to join God in WHAT HE IS DOING.
Ask the Holy Spirit to come. Ask what He wants to give you, to raise faith by ‘hearing’.
A Scripture, a picture, another insight? A testimony story? Something significant in the person’s life gently revealed?
Faith comes by hearing God speak – for you, but also for the person with the need. When you have asked Him to come (see it as ‘draw near’ if that helps) the Holy Spirit is working!
Going is movement. It always involves movement from our comfort zone, from the familiar and safe to the unknown that feels unsafe. Going is ‘having a go’.
There is RISK – risk of failure, risk of rejection, risk you’ll ‘get it wrong’. Every risk the enemy can magnify in your head. Of course there is risk but you are not on your own here.
Going is confronting the fears that manifest (fear of failure?), with the fear (awe) of God in obedience and trust. So it is not US VENTURING into unknown territory, but US FOLLOWING the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the Way that Jesus showed us, to become a partner of God the Father in what He is already doing.
He is encouraging us today to help each other as people who are…
Knowing – God’s nature, what God wants, what He intends, what He has already started.
Growing in that confidence as the Holy Spirit gives us specifics in Word and insight.
Going with a little piece of the ministry of Jesus, who healed the sick, raised the dead, comforted the afflicted – and also faced criticism from the comfortable who felt afflicted.
FURTHER BIBLE STUDY
Numbers 13 and 14:1–10 – the scouting of the Promised Land.
Highlighted here: Numbers 13:1–2 and 30, and 14:8
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel…
…Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it… [and Joshua said] ”If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us…”
Hebrews 6:18–20 NIV
We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.
Here is the same passage in The Message:
18 God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable. We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. 19 It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God 20 where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.
- How sure are you that God’s intentions for you are good?
- If faith is a gift, what can WE do to grow in faith?
- What is your experience of sensing that you have heard God speak or reveal or direct, and what did that do for your confidence and faith for taking a course of action?
- What generally holds you back moving out for God? Which out of the “knowing, growing, going” will most help you understand and overcome your personal hurdles?