Stop Trying to Get Faith!

Your probably (hopefully) saying,

What on earth do you mean by this? Are you falling into heresy again? Isn’t faith the central idea of Christianity?

Yes, Clearly the Bible teaches that everything worth having and doing in the Christ-centered life comes by having faith.

But no, based on my previous point, I think that what is central is faith IN Christ and the saving work of the Gospel… Which Christ has DONE. Not in faith as a concept in and of itself.

So here is the problem I have discovered with the way I have always understood faith…

We know that we can’t be saved (Justified, Born Again, Loved, Put right with God) by good works, (see Romans 1-3) and so the alternative is that we are saved by faith. So far so good.

Except now the response has often been… Ok so now I need to TRY to ACHIEVE this faith thing which is the thing that I must do to be saved.

And just like that… I have created a huge stumbling block to actually being able to trust in the saving work of Jesus.  I have made faith into a WORK, and so am believing a works gospel, but it’s subtle and spiritual and thus the even more insidious. This is what ends up happening:

“If I just really, really, really believe… if I can show God how much I truly trust him and have a faith that is alive and vibrant, then God will justify me. Then he will love me. Then he will heal me. Look how great my faith is God!” – Subtle, but scary. Because now this “faith” (whatever that means) has become a pre-requisite. But the Gospel says this: “There is no pre-requisite for God’s love!”

Ok you’ve got my attention, but just seems like a bunch of words to me… what does it mean to have faith then?

I want to look at a parable Jesus gave:

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matt 13:44

Every time I have read this parable in the past I have always felt guilty that I haven’t sold everything I have… Felt shame for what I am not DOING. I have always seen it used as an indication of what we are to do!!!!

But in a re-evaluation, isn’t the point here that the man in this parable KNEW that this treasure was worth so much more than everything he had, so it was just a logical, rational acting out, of the trusting faith that he had in the value of his treasure? Of course he sold everything he had! He knew that the value of the treasure was so much greater!

And this is why I think James says,
“You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18

Works are an evidence of faith… As in, if we know that the treasure is there in the field, ofcourse we would go and buy it, it would be ridiculous not to!

Let me try to modernize this thought.

You stumble across a penny stock that seems like a good business… So you go and research the company, the product it sells, the management, and more and more you become convinced that there is no way it can fail… It’s a gold mine! Its google in 2004, its Microsoft in 1989, What do you do?

You use all the resources you can muster to go and buy as much stock as you can!

Ok, ok so what’s the point of this whole line of thought then?

My point is this: Your actions always follow your beliefs. If you don’t buy the field, if you don’t go buy the stock, then it’s because you weren’t assured of the future value of the stock, you weren’t sure the treasure was actually there, or that it wasn’t of enough value to warrant the actions.

Iceberg of Belief

If we truly believe something has value, we can’t help but act in accordance with the truth of it.

“But then why is the title of this article, stop trying to get faith? Didn’t you just make the point that faith drives what we do? Therefore we should try to get faith?”

What I am trying to point out is really subtle… We have been told… stop trying to put God in your debt by doing good works! So we turn around and try to put God in our debt by showing how great our faith is: “Look God! I really really believe in you! My heart is in the right place! Look how I am proving my belief! Now you have to bless me, heal me, love me… Etc.”

Faith has become a work, a virtue by which we prove our self worth. God loves us because of our faith. I am justified BECAUSE OF my faith.

This is so subtle, but it kept me in bondage for so many years. I knew that I wasn’t having enough faith, and so I tried to have more faith! If only I could have that elusive mustard seed, if only I could be like the heroes of faith from Hebrews 11… Then God will value me and give me what I want. If only I have enough faith, God will heal me… If only I have enough faith then my prayers will be effective.

It was subtle, and insidious, but I had made Faith into a work!

Ok so you have convinced me, if we make faith into an abstract idealization then it can become a work… So how then can I have the fruits of faith if I stop trying to get faith?

If we want faith we need to stop talking about faith in and of itself. Stop TRYING to believe!

Instead… Go look for the treasure! Go investigate the stock! The more we look at the object of what we are putting our faith in… The more convinced we will be of its value, and our actions can’t help but fall I line with our beliefs.

This ties right in with the theme verse of this site, Romans 12:1:

“this is the reasonable way for you to worship.” – Its simply reasonable for us to respond to the Gospel by giving up everything (living sacrifice) to gain such a priceless treasure.

Back to me personally…

I can say that I finally have faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, and am growing in this faith every day. But, I was hugely surprised when I realized that I had it! Why was I surprised? Because I wasn’t trying to get faith!

Again let me remind you that we are supposed to have faith in something… What?


I have spent the last year or so of my life, enthralled by a new deeper revelation of this news that is so beneficial for me… That Christ HAS done it and that i AM free. And lo and behold, looking back, my actions, the way I am living, the things I am DOing are different. They are changing… My works have been more righteous. I don’t boast in this, but rather am surprised by this, because I wasn’t trying to change… It just happened! As I stared at the beauty of the gospel, and how it applies to every aspect of my life, I changed. With Jesus Christ now as my end (My goal: the thing I am striving for) and my beginning, (the only way I might achieve this end) then suddenly my middle (what I do every day) has automatically started to fall in line with that.

And as I reflected on that, I realized that this was because of the fact that I actually started to put my trust in Jesus Christ and what He has done.

So in summary my point is this… (and I will personalize it, because not everyone has had this same issue of turning faith into a thing in and of itself)…

Based on my previous rant, I needed to stop having faith in faith, and start having faith in Jesus. Talking about having faith in and of itself, without talking about faith in WHAT didn’t mean anything. It was just an empty concept for me. One more religious abstraction.

And now today’s point:

How do I get faith in Jesus? Not by trying to get faith, but by encountering the Gospel!

(Which, by the way, will start to undermine our faith in absolutely everything else)

Can you guess what my next post is going to be about?


7 thoughts on “Stop Trying to Get Faith!

  1. I totally agree that it is all about Faith in Jesus. As the disciples connected with Him and got to know Him – the Treasure in the field – they had Faith. It is by connection with Him, His Word and the Good News that Faith comes.

    Once Faith comes – and should be increasing – it produces a multitude of reactions within (born again, transformation, etc) and actions without (fruit of the Spirit, good works, miracles, etc).

    An interesting verse – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”. Eph. 2:8 In English grammar the “it is the gift of God’ normally refers to what immediately precedes it – faith. However, in this case “the gift of God” is all three subjects – grace, saved and faith. We are completely the recipients!!!

    So, what do we DO? I think Faith is a choice. God gave us a free will to make choices. So, you encounter Jesus, His Word, the Gospel – what do you do? And what do we continue to DO?

    BUT more in line with some of the very interesting and thought provoking things Richard is sharing and being impacted by would be the verse that says.”Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” 2 Cor. 13:5 Actually, read the entire context verses 1 – 5. Maybe this is the difference between genuine Faith and faith as a work.

    • I do believe we need to test ourselves… and I really like the “tests” laid out in John 2:

      1 John 2 – Tim K. – Knowing that You Know

      Questions from 4 realms:
      1. Internal test – Knowing in the old testament sense (1 Jn 3:24)
      – Do you really know God right now? Are you KNOW-ing Him?
      – Do you feel His presence?
      – Do you just say your prayers or do you have a sense that He’s with you?
      – Does His love get shared on your heart?
      – are you taking time to seek his face?
      – do you know what’s available and possible in communing with Him?
      2. External – are you changing? (1 Jn 2:6, 1 Jn 2:29)
      – are you deliberately and accountably growing in character?
      – are you walking as Jesus walked?
      – are you changing?
      – are you making progress?
      – are you less irratible? More patient? Less fearful? less moody? More compassionate? Peaceful? Joyful? More true to your convictions? More self controlled… Than you were last year? If you don’t know ask somebody who knows you!
      3. External – are you in great relationship with other Christians? (1 Jn 2:9)
      – do you find these relationships extremely satisfying?
      – even if you wouldn’t normally associate with the person?
      – people who are extremely different from you?
      – people you couldn’t imagine loving d you weren’t both Christians?
      – are you staying reconciled?
      4. – external – am I growing in my ability to rejoice in the gospel? (1 Jn 3:16)
      – when I study think and reflect on the doctrine of justification and free adoption in Grace do I thrill under it?
      – do I never get tired of singing amazing grace?

      If we are answering in the negative to all or a few of these questions, then we need to re-evaluate if we really do indeed have faith…

  2. I read all of your posts here in sequence, and I was particularly intrigued by “the just shall live by faith” discussion. Particularly, how you re-ordered it. I actually think, and I think this post you just made supports, that it already is in the right order. Just as your last post emphasized, what we have our faith in is absolutely critical; faith in and of itself is not of value. Thus the work of Christ – our justification – must be first, otherwise our faith and approach to God is meaningless and fruitless. If He didn’t make us just, we could not even begin to approach him with faith. Then just as you have mentioned in this post, our faith cannot be an action unto itself, but it must be the basis of our action, the motivation for how we live our lives. The very living out of our day-to-day is the expression of our faith – I step out of bed, in my belief in gravity; I eat food, in my belief it will fuel me; yes both of these ‘faiths’ are in natural principles, experimentally known… But I think they show how action is based on belief. That’s why I think its important to look at why we believe things – evaluating evidence. God has made us righteous, period, now how we live our lives depends on our response to that truth. I am justified by God, and I experience the abundant, eternal, “good” life he intended for me, by believing he has indeed given it.
    It may be a liberal view of the translation – but I think… Faith is standing firm in, being persuaded of your salvation, a conviction of the supernatural. (Heb.11:1)

    • Sorry one more thought. If we’re not living like we believe it, then do we really have faith? Just another reason why I think ‘live’ comes before ‘faith’ in the statement.

      • Thanks Christabelle! I wan’t to jump right on your last point… “If we’re not living like we believe it, then do we really have faith?”

        That is my point in the above article… if we aren’t living like we believe, then my response is no… we don’t have faith.

        So that is why I think the order is those who are Justified by Faith shall Live…

        But I think we are essentially saying the same thing, in that the living is a result of our justification in faith. By faith we receive our justification, and so now we have an eternal life, AND the patterns of our lives will automatically fall in line with the Gospel of Christ!

  3. Pingback: My Testimony of Christ’s Grace for this Depraved Soul – Part 1 |

  4. Pingback: My Testimony to Christ’s Grace for this Depraved Soul – Part 2 |

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