Thursday, January 23, 2014

How Much Faith Do You Have?

"How Much Faith Do You Have?"
The only way to answer the question is to find a way to quantify faith. What measure do we use? Is there anywhere in the Bible that gives us a scale to use? Is there anywhere in the Bible that talks about the amount of faith that we have?

The Bible does indeed talk about the amount of faith that we have. Jesus frequently referred to people, especially the disciples, of having little faith. If they had the faith of a mustard seed, which obviously refers to very little faith, they would be able to tell a mountain to go into the sea (Matt 17:20). They must not have had even that much faith for Peter, who exhibited more faith than the rest, had only enough faith to walk on water for a short period of time (Matthew 14:22-33). Paul told the Romans that God gives us a measure of faith (Rom 112:3) and the Corinthians that the Spirit gives some special gift of faith to some (1 Cor 12:9).

With all this talk about how much faith we have, is there a specific measure that we are given by which we can judge faith? Jesus mentioned a mustard seed, but I guess the only way we can determine if we have that much faith is if we move a mountain into the sea. I guess someone in the United Arab Emirates has that much faith because they have moved mountains of soil into the sea to create large islands in various shapes. Is this really what Jesus meant? Really? Since I don’t see anyone else doing this, how are we to measure faith that is less than a mustard seed?

Since the measure of faith that we have comes from God, as I have already pointed out, should we be concerned with how much faith we have? We couldn’t possibly get any more than what God has given, could we? That question, however, misses the same point that many people have regarding Reformed theology when they ask things like, “What’s the use of evangelizing if God is going to save people anyway?” The answer to both questions is that not only does God ordain the ends, but he also ordains the means.

In other words, there is a divine purpose behind the struggle. There is a divine purpose behind the need to evangelize. Just as Christ came not only to save, but to reveal the Father even in salvation, the purpose of the Body of Christ is to bear the sins of the world by proclaiming Christ as the answer to sin even as we suffer for doing so. In all of this process, we reveal God as Christ did when he was here. That’s why God spoke of Paul that he would show him how much he must suffer for his name’s sake (Acts 9:16).

We may claim the promises of God and be certain that he will fulfill those promises. That includes suffering. But I have heard people say that we may experience miraculous healing if only we had enough faith. They say that we must pray believing that God will heal. The problem is that God never promised that. It is true that God can heal. But there is a difference between God being able to heal and God desiring to heal. We may pray, but we will only receive anything according to God’s will.

And so Paul instructs us as he instructed the Corinthians to desire the greater gifts (1 Cor 12:31). But he also said that we will not all receive them (1 Cor 12:27-30). It is in the desiring that we can learn the next lesson, a more excellent way (1 Cor 13). For desiring the higher gifts in faith must be done with a desire to serve for the greatest gifts are the gifts of the lowest servants in the Body of Christ. Many desire those gifts because they desire to be served as leaders. But no gift of God is effective in revealing God without exhibiting love sacrificially.

Therein is the measure of faith, not that we believe so strongly that God gives us the desires of God so that we may be glorified. But the measure of faith is not quantifiable as such. The measure of faith is in the demonstration of love, not that we have any great emotional outpouring, but that we are willing to sacrifice our wants and needs for the needs of someone else.

Therefore, faith is demonstrable. It is no mere assent to something true, although that is necessary. But James instructs us drawing a delineation between mere assent and the demonstration of faith (James 2:19ff). A mere quantum faith is necessary only for salvation, but a faith demonstrated is necessary to be sanctified, made holy, set apart for God.

Therefore, have great faith, but count the mighty power of God as far greater than any strength you can must of yourself. That is the foundation for faith and the growth of faith is the practice of sacrifice in love.


  1. Honestly, I can't say that I know how I was led to your blog; only that it was one of my many tabs I had opened from a recent day that I was wanting to read at some point. Well, I read it finally & enjoyed your post & just thought I'd let you know! :) From personal experience, I know it's always nice to have feedback & always wonder if anybody else is reading at times so I just wanted to comment, especially since I did enjoy it & was encouraged by it. God bless you & your family!


    1. Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate your feedback tremendously. I don't get much traffic, but I'm simply compelled to write down what I learn about our life in Christ and put it out there. I'm glad you found encouragement in what I have and your feedback has encouraged me.

  2. Thanks Jim - that was a very interesting article.

    Faith in God is a fascinating topic. Trying to increase one's faith in God is perhaps the highest pursuit a human can undertake (Soren Kierkegaard). But the funny thing is that the harder I try - the less faith in God I seem to have. And maybe this is understandable....

    For instance - if my son felt he needed greater faith in me for me to love him (or help him in some way), this is in itself a faithless position for him to hold.

    I have also found that to attempt to quantify my faith is tantamount to digging up a plant to see how well its growing! Thanks again, Jim