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How to Increase In Faith
By David A. DePra
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:5-10)
This passage describes one of many occasions when Jesus could not directly answer a question or request made by His disciples. The reason He could not directly answer them was that the request itself is inherently flawed – it is based on a faulty understanding of faith. The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. Their request was based on the premise that faith was something that Jesus could just give them. It is NOT. Thus, their question was based on a false premise. That is why Jesus answered as He did, and followed up His answer with a parable.
Get the contrast: The disciples ask, "Increase our faith." Jesus answers, "IF you had faith….." Isn’t that odd? You could almost imagine the disciples then saying, "What do you mean, IF we had faith? We DON’T have faith. That is why we are asking You to increase our faith."
But as strange as Jesus’ initial answer seems, it carries in it much Truth. It tells us that an increase of faith is not something God GIVES. You really cannot ask God to increase your faith, in the sense of asking Him to simply WILL IT into your system. God cannot go, "Zap, have more faith!" Indeed, you will never once find anywhere in scripture even the slightest suggestion that an increase of faith comes that way.
Note that Jesus compares faith to a mustard seed, which is quite a small seed. He is basically saying that if you had even a speck of real faith, the sky would be the limit. Now, don’t misunderstand. Jesus isn’t saying that if we had real faith that we could use it to do what we want. As we are going to see, real faith is only for the will of God.
What is Faith?
Faith is a RELATIONSHIP between man and God. It is not a THING, or a bucket of something God gives us. You cannot divorce faith from the God in whom we have faith. You cannot turn faith into a law, a system, or a routine to follow. You cannot confess faith into existence, or muster it up. Faith is trust, dependence, and belief in God as FAITHFUL.
As it pertains to doing things or receiving things from God, you can have only for the will of God. Again – faith is a relationship word – it speaks of relationship with God. Thus, if something is to happen BY FAITH, then it must be God’s will. It must, if you will, be the outcome of your relationship with God.
Romans 10:17 tells us that, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." If you turn that wording around it is clearer: "The Word of God genders hearing, and hearing genders faith." What we see here is that God Himself initiates all possibility of faith in me. Sure. Indeed, unless God initiates my faith, it is not real faith. This verses says so. It says, The Word of God – which is nothing more than God revealing His will or planting His will – is what starts the process that ends with faith. Once God does that – begins to work a purpose – I will eventually come to the place where I can hear, or embrace, that word that God speaks. Of course I can also refuse. But if I do embrace what God has revealed to be His will, the faith for it will be there in me. Sure. For contained in the very seed that God plants – that He eventually intends to expand into His will and purpose – is the faith necessary. Embrace God’s will – embrace God Himself – and you will get the faith necessary with the package.
So faith comes along with God’s will. How could it otherwise if faith is a relationship? In other words, if I embrace God, and seek only His will, then as God unfolds His will, faith will increase in me.
Faith is not something we try to have. It is not something we grow. Rather, if we continue to grow to know Christ, the will of God, and the faith necessary will emerge. God has wrapped up everything in His Son.
Practically, this means that rather than try to muster up the faith to yield to Christ, we ought to yield to Christ FOR faith. Where else do we think we are going to get faith? No. The faith of Jesus Christ is the result of embracing Christ Himself, and refusing to settle for anything less than His will for relationship with us.
The parable that Jesus tells is a revelation of where faith comes from, and really, it is the answer to the disciple’s request for an increase of faith. Thus, in it we have the answer as to the origin of all faith, and how we can grow in faith.
In Jesus’ parable the disciples are pictured as the servant. Jesus pictures the disciples as the servant who is out in the field doing exactly what a servant is supposed to do – working all day in the field for his master. Then the servant comes in from the field. He then asks, "Do you expect that your master is going to thank you for doing the work of a servant – that your master is going to be so thankful to you that he will tell you to sit down so that HE can serve YOU?"
Some might think that the teachings is that Jesus is demanding that we continue to serve God, even when it seems we have done all. This is not, however, the point of the story. The point of the story is to address the request for FAITH. Jesus obviously told the story the way He did, and asked the question at the end, because it spoke to the misunderstanding behind their request for faith. When Jesus asked, "Do you think that when a servant comes in from the field that the master is going to serve him?" – when He asked that, He was revealing that the disciples DID think that about GOD.
Can we see that? The disciples obviously thought that if they served God, and did their duty before God, that God would reward them by FEEDING THEM – i.e., that God would grant them their desires and give them blessings. THIS was their idea of a right relationship with God. Thus, when they asked Jesus for more faith, He had to FIRST address this wrong notion of relationship with God. Faith was not possible otherwise.
Again – faith is a relationship word. It represents our attitude and relationship with God. So until our relationship with God is right, there can be no real faith. The disciples thought there could be – they thought faith could simply be increased in them for the asking. Jesus had to bypass their request and get at the root of the issue: Relationship with God.
So what we have in this story is a description of the kind of relationship with God that will NOT increase our faith. If we do only what we are expected to do, but are really doing it because of we think that it the end God will pay us back, this is NOT FAITH. For it is not based in the relationship God wants with us.
I’ll tell you what God desires from us. He wants a relationship based upon LOVE – and within that – one based on His grace. If our relationship with God were based upon that, we would utterly and completely lose our lives into His hands, with no strings attached, serving and obeying Him to the complete disregard of all rewards, punishments, or consequences.
There is a big difference between distancing YOURSELF from God, and serving Him – thinking all the while that God will reward you. There is a big difference between that, and giving YOURSELF to God, and allowing Him to decide everything else. The former is NOT a relationship based upon Truth and love. The latter is.
Funny thing about giving all of yourself to God -- it opens you so that you can experience all of HIM.
The Truth is, if we really knew God, this would not be a debate or a struggle. We would run to embrace Him. We would give our all to Him – not so He would give to us – but because we love Him. No longer would we carry a bargain spirit around towards the Lord. It would not be in our heart. And faith would be there for the will of God.
Now all of this leads to the real answer to the disciple’s question: How can we increase in faith? Well, the only way to increase in faith is to increase in our relationship with God. Or, to put it another way, if we grow to know God, and grow to seek HIS will, and HIS purpose, THE FAITH NECESSARY WILL AUTOMATICALLY GROW. It will have to grow. It can do nothing else.
I say again – faith is not a THING. Faith is not a FORCE – as is wrongly taught by Kenneth Copeland and other Word of Faith heretics. Rather, faith is a relationship word. You cannot HAVE faith if you don’t have the relationship with God that genders faith. To imagine otherwise is nonsense.
The servant in Jesus’ story really had NO faith at all. No. He had no faith because he had no relationship with his master other than that which was mandated. In fact, Jesus pointed out that even if this servant did his duty and did it to perfection, 24 hours per day, and seven days per week, that he would be entitled to no thanks, nor would he have earned the right to be served by his master. No. In fact, Jesus told them directly that if this is our idea of a relationship with God, then we might as well call ourselves UNPROFITABLE servants. Why? Because despite the work we do for God, it is really for ourselves – for what we think we will get out of it.
There is a mentality among Christian people that goes something like this: We received Jesus into our hearts because the alternative of hell was not something we could accept. We walk with Christ and do good works, and even serve Him, because the Bible says we must. The alternative to doing so is likewise not acceptable. We don’t want to be on God’s bad side. And after all, obeying God does have its rewards. God will keep us safe, bless us, prosper us, and answer our prayers. Thus, as long as we do our duty to God, God will do HIS DUTY TO US. We would never say this, but our attitude towards God is, "If I scratch Your back, you will scratch mine."
This entire attitude is usually exposed for what it is when God doesn’t scratch our back. When God does NOT sit us down at His table and begin to feed us – in thanksgiving for, "all that we have done for Him," we get resentful. We feel that God is unfair or unjust. It is at that point that we find out that we never had much faith, or much of a relationship with God, at all. It has all been nothing but one big, religious game.
It is entirely possible to serve God your entire life, even at great, "sacrifice,’ to yourself, and yet do it without much of any relationship of faith with Him. Your life remains YOURS, and you continue to BELONG to yourself, but you expect God to serve you in exchange for what you have done for HIM. And if He does not, you think He is unfair.
Jesus said this the very antithesis of what will grow faith. Rather, we must walk with God in a relationship of love. It isn’t that we will do more THINGS than those things that constitute our duty, but we won’t have the attitude of DUTY towards God. In other words, we will serve God to the complete disregard of rewards, punishments, duty, or results. We will give ourselves to Him, and our lives to Him, and our possessions to Him. And with our lives we will seek HIS WILL.
This kind of walk is the only one that will grow faith. There is a reason why -- you cannot have the faith of Jesus Christ for anything except what Jesus Christ has faith for – which is the will of God. That’s it. If you doubt that, then go ahead and try to have faith for that which is NOT God’s will! Indeed, the whole notion of, "trying to have faith," is ridiculous anyways. You cannot TRY to have faith. As we saw, if you HEAR the will of God – which means to embrace it – faith will COME.
Now, I’m NOT saying that you have to KNOW precisely what the will of God is in a given situation to have real faith. Nope. In fact, initially you probably will not know it. What I am saying is that the will of God in your life is initiated by God Himself. And as God brings it to pass, and YOU HEAR AND YIELD, the faith will be there to continue on – and eventually you will know it.
Christians often get confused and even frustrated as to why God won’t just tell them His will. After all, if we just knew the will of God, we would do it. But this is not the way God works. God is not normally going to feed you INFORMATION about His will so that you can go out and do it. No. That is because this would merely give you directions as to the will of God, but would not equip you with any FAITH. You might be able to mechanically do THINGS that are part of the will of God if you had directions, but you would not be in the RELATIONSHIP necessary that would bring God glory, or benefit you.
God’s will is not a THING, or THINGS, that He wants DONE. It is so important to see this. God’s will is that Christ be seen and known and manifested IN US, and then through any THING He wants us to do. But can we see that in order for Christ to be seen in us and through us that we must be rightly related to God by faith in those things? Thus, God focuses us in on HIMSELF, and if that relationship of faith can be established, then everything else will be worked out as the faith is worked out.
God has wrapped up everything in His Son. As we grow to know Christ – who is the Living Word of God – the faith to walk with Him is included IN CHRIST. In other words, rather than give us INFORMATION, God wants to give us REVELATION. He wants us to know HIM, not just a THING or a purpose.
This is what it means to reign and rule WITH Christ – note that I don’t reign and rule FOR Christ. No. I reign and rule WITH Him, which means that I am doing His will, yes, but only because I am in a relationship with Him that is His will. It can work no other way. Relationship always results in the will of God. But try to do the will of God without the relationship, and you will have no faith.
There are thousands of Christians today who know very little about the Christ they serve. They expect a great reward when Jesus comes back. But they are not walking in a faith relationship. They are walking in a legalism, characterized by the story of Jesus. They imagine that when they come in from all of this service, that Jesus is going to sit them down and feed them because He is thankful to them. But if they are not careful, He might have to say to them, "I never knew you." Or that, "you did only your duty." He would prefer to say, "You gave Me access to yourself. You lost your life for My sake. I know you. I can trust you to reign and rule with Me."
Christians likewise praying for lots of things "in the name of Jesus." Well, you cannot pray in faith for anything, "in the name of Jesus," except what Jesus would pray for – which would be only the will of God. Do you think it ever even occurred to Jesus to pray for anything but God’s will? So why do we fail to seek His will? True faith is present ONLY for, and the increase of faith is possible ONLY for, the will and purpose of God.
This only makes sense if we think about it. The Holy Spirit cannot be in anything except the will of God. Thus, if we are in the will of God, or seeking the will of God, then faith is going to be there all the time.
Increasing in Faith
Faith is not our ability to do things. It isn’t even our ability to do things for God. Rather, faith is a relationship whereby God can do things IN US, and FOR US, and THROUGH US. Because faith is a relationship, not only does it means we trust God, but in another sense, it also means God can trust us. In other words, He will know that BECAUSE we trust Him, and rely upon Him, and are sold out to His will – He will know that He can do His will in our lives. We won’t misuse it.
The disciples wanted to grow in faith. Jesus said, "If you want to grow in faith, live for God. Faith will always emerge in any person who lives for God, and wants His will alone."
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