Most of us tend to think of faith like a traditional light switch, either on or off. And there is a sense in which this is correct. We either have genuine faith or we don’t. We either trust Jesus alone or we don’t.
At the same time, Scripture indicates that there is a sense in which faith is also like a dimmer switch. It can be little or big, weak or strong, dim or bright.
In Matthew 14 we see the weak, or little, faith of Peter. Yes, he believed. That’s is why he was following Jesus. But that belief was weak and it wavered when put to the test. In that moment out on the waves he wasn’t sure Jesus could enable him to walk on water. He wasn’t confident that Jesus was stronger than the wind and the waves that crashed around him.
What was true of Peter in Matthew 14 is true of all of the disciples, and really of all of us as Christians. Jesus uses this same compound word, “one of little faith,” in Matthew 6:30 in reference to those who doubt whether their Father will provide for their physical needs. He uses it again in Matthew 8:26 in addressing the disciples and their lack of faith that he would take care of them in the face of a life-threatening storm. Later, in Matthew 16:8, he again identifies the disciples as little-faith-ones because of their failure to grasp the significance of the feeding of the four thousand.
If we are honest we are often weak in faith. On a functional level, we struggle to believe that Jesus can handle what’s in front of us. We start to doubt his care. We are tempted to turn to counterfeit saviors and solutions. We do not rest in his sufficiency.
The question I want us to ask is, how are we to respond when we are confronted with our little faith? Let me offer four suggestions:
- Depend afresh on the grace of Jesus: the disciples saw and heard so much and yet it took so long for their faith to become strong and stable. Yet along the way, Jesus is incredibly patient with them. He doesn’t give up on them. He doesn’t hold it against them. He forgives them. He gently rebukes them. He loves them. Christian, this is his heart towards you.
- Keep spending time with Jesus: this is how faith in Jesus grows- by intentionally fixing your gaze on Jesus day after day. In a real sense, this is what the disciples did. They lived with Jesus. They spent time with him. And over time their faith grew. Faith in Jesus doesn’t grow by meditating on your problems or your own weakness. It grows by seeing Jesus for who he is in the pages of Scripture.
- Ask the Spirit to open your eyes to the glory of Jesus: the most dramatic transformation that we see in the faith of the apostles takes place after Pentecost after the new covenant work of the Spirit began. This is a reminder for us that we are dependent on the Spirit, not only to initially open our eyes and grant us faith but also to deepen and strengthen our faith. Ask the Spirit to enlarge your faith in Jesus.
- Spend time believing with other believers: there is something about sharing truth with other believers, hearing them sing it, listening to them speak it, that is uniquely strengthening to our faith. No doubt, this is part of what we see in the early church as they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching together and grew in faith. And the opposite is true as well. If we allow ourselves to drift into isolation, we can expect that our faith will begin to wither and shrink. We need other believers if our faith is going to grow.
- Remember your big Savior: our great comfort when confronted with our little faith is that it is not the size of our faith that saves or sanctifies us. It is the size and strength of our Savior. With his strength, he is holding on to us. Out of his sufficiency, he is providing for us. He is enough when we are not. He is strong when we are weak. Thank you, Jesus!