Increase Our Faith, Lord!
Faith is so important to the believer in Christ. It’s by faith that we receive salvation. And it’s by faith that we live an obedient Christian life and survive the trials and storms that come against us. But how do we increase our faith? Did Jesus say anything about this? In this article we’ll see the connection between a strong faith and knowing God.
What is a strong faith?
What does it mean to have a strong faith? Does it mean we’re better Christians? Or more consistent in our daily devotions and worship? Many people today think that a greater faith means having a fuller knowledge of the Bible, or it means a greater commitment to serve God and the church. But as good as these all are, they do not equate directly to a deeper and stronger faith.
In the article What is faith as defined in the Bible, I explain the biblical meaning of faith and why it’s important. Faith is trust, usually in something or someone greater than us. It’s not a force or power that we can exercise at will. Although it’s ours alone, it doesn’t wax and wane depending on our own strength. It’s relying on someone else’s strength or ability. And faith in itself is not action, but it leads to action.
Lord, increase our faith!
Christ always worked toward the goal of drawing out faith from the people he ministered to. He invited people to believe and trust in God through him. His goal was to draw people to a love relationship with the Father through faith in him. On one occasion he held up a Roman centurion as an example of someone with great faith (Matthew 8:10). On another he praised a Canaanite woman for having great faith (Matthew 15:28). In both cases they were trusting in Christ and his power to heal.
The disciples heard Jesus’ statements and must have wondered: how does one attain a great faith? And so, at an opportune time they asked Jesus directly:
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:5-6)
The apostles realized that their faith wasn’t strong. But they were willing for God to increase it. Jesus’ answer is a good example of how he used irony in his teaching: that they only needed a seed of faith. And it doesn’t have to be any bigger than a tiny mustard seed. What was his point? That it’s not the amount of our faith that matters.
Jesus didn’t say it then, but he said it on many other occasions: what matters is the object of our faith. And the object of our faith is to be Christ himself. It’s through him that we access all of God’s blessings. So, what counts is the greatness of the one we’re putting our faith in, not the amount of faith.
Peter walks on water
Jesus praised people for their faith when they believed that God could heal them or help them. But he was disappointed when people lacked faith. In Matthew we read the story of Jesus walking on water:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31)
To be honest, I don’t think I would’ve had the faith to do what Peter did. In spite of the storm, he stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water. Peter definitely had faith, so why did Jesus say that his faith was little?
Jesus’ rebuke is frequently misunderstood. Jesus wasn’t rebuking Peter for not “having enough faith.” That would be faith in faith. He was rebuking Peter for not having faith in him. In other words, for not understanding who Jesus really was and trusting what he could do.
Hudson Taylor, missionary to China from 1860-1905, was known for prayer and his resolute faith in God. He had this to say about this topic:
God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him. (Hudson Taylor)
Peter started well by following Jesus—getting out of the boat into the water. That was an act of faith. But then he faltered, not because of his own lack of power, but his lack of trust in Jesus’ power. He saw the wind and the waves, let fear come over him, and then he began to doubt. And although he saw Jesus walking on the water, he still didn’t fully understand who he was. He was and is God in the flesh who has complete authority over nature. Through him, God created all things.
How does God increase our faith?
Like the disciples, we should be asking God to strengthen our faith. And whenever we pray for God to increase our faith, he’s more than willing to increase it. How does God do it? By proving to us that he’s trustworthy and powerful.
But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One. (Hudson Taylor, missionary to China)
The key to a greater faith is learning to rest on the faithfulness of God, the object of our faith. If God has made a promise (and he has given us many) then it’s his faithfulness that we put our trust in. He is fully able to follow through on what he has promised, as he proved with Abraham’s wife Sarah:
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. (Hebrews 11:11)
So, how do we increase our faith? By realizing how great God is and resting on his strength.
Strengthened in the faith
The apostle Paul exhorted the Colossian church to be strengthened in the faith according to the power of Christ:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)
As we received Christ by faith, we are to continue to live in him by faith. If we are rooted in Christ, our faith in God will grow. This is because it’s through Christ that we know God, as he is the supreme revelation of God to us. And it’s through the power of Christ that we are strengthened to live the Christian life each day.
Knowing God better
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he reveals his greatest desire for them: to know God better.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…. (Ephesians 1:17-20)
When we ask God to strengthen and increase our faith, what we’re really asking for is to know him better. When we grow in the knowledge of God and his power, we are growing in faith. We are coming into a greater and fuller understanding of who God is and what he is capable of doing. This gives us courage to trust him for great things. This power is the same incredible power that raised Jesus from the dead. It’s the “power of his resurrection.”
Faith, love, and obedience
Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God (Luke 10:25-28). But faith in God and love for God are inseparable. Actually, it’s impossible to love God without faith because we can’t see him—he’s a not a physical being. So, when we grow in our love for God, we’re also growing in faith, and vice-versa. And when we grow in love and faith, we will also have a greater desire to obey God’s commands. So, all three faith, love, and obedience go hand in hand.
As our faith grows, we will also feel more confident to follow his lead down unknown paths where the outcome is uncertain. By asking God to increase our faith, we should also understand that he may put us into tempestuous storms so that he can prove his power to us.
To realize the strength of the anchor, we need to feel the storm. (Hudson Taylor, missionary to China)
My need for a greater faith
In the 1980’s, I was working as a hydrologist spending most of my time in an office. I learned a lot at that job, but I was getting bored. And my faith was not what would be considered a strong faith, but somewhat mediocre. It was at that time that I prayed for God to strengthen my faith. I had no idea what that would lead to, but I needed and wanted a change.
Soon after, I met some people who were involved in mission work, and my wife Nancy and I started to take short-term mission trips into Mexico. Eventually we both felt that God was calling us into full-time mission work. We joined a mission organization and raised support for our new adventure from churches, family, and friends. This was faith-building in itself—to not have a guaranteed income but to rely on God to provide enough to keep our family alive and healthy while we worked in a foreign country.
We were assigned to live and work in a remote indigenous community in the mountains of Mexico without running water or electric power. One of my goals was to use my expertise in hydrology to develop potable water sources in remote areas, and Nancy would use her expertise in nutrition and dietetics to help malnourished children. As we began to serve, our faith was stretched to lengths we never thought possible. The nearest hospital was a 3-hour drive over a tortuous mountain road. Medical care was sparse, and many times, we were the medical care. People came from even more remote areas seeking treatment for severe medical emergencies. When we weren’t able to quickly evacuate patients to a hospital, we gave whatever emergency treatment we could.
God did indeed answer my prayer for greater faith. His answer came not through an easy lesson from a book, but through storms—being put into difficult situations and having to rely on the Lord’s power, strength, and wisdom. And through it all, we came to know God much better—who he is and what he is capable of. We learned that he is greater, more powerful, kinder, more loving, and more awesome than we had previously thought.
God can help our unbelief
Mark Chapter 9 records the story of a boy possessed by an evil spirit. The boy’s father brought him to Jesus and pleaded:
“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)
The father in this story had seen the damage the demon had done to his child for most of his life. He had heard of Jesus and his power to heal. Dispirited and discouraged, he brought his boy to Jesus, believing he might be able to help him. His faith was little, but he still took the first step of faith to bring him to Jesus.
Jesus’ answer to the father’s request tells us what he expects us all to know, that with God, nothing is impossible. This should be our assumption behind any request to God—that since he’s the Creator, he’s sovereign and all-powerful and can do anything. But this man needed more evidence to believe that Jesus would actually heal his son. Jesus was compassionate and more than willing to heal the boy, and so he did.
Approaching God in the midst of the storm
We all have times when our faith is weak, and we need God’s help to believe. We lose perspective, and trials and conflicts overwhelm us. But we shouldn’t let the storms of life keep us from asking God to increase our faith. In fact, God gives them to us for that very purpose! It’s especially during these times when we need his power!
Because of Christ’s sacrificial death, we have every right to approach God’s presence and bring him our requests. And we should bring them boldly, since we know he loves us and is always there for us. Even if our prayers aren’t immediately answered in the way we expect, our faith will still grow, as we know God will work all things for our good.
Are we willing?
God is ready to prove himself to us at any time. But like Peter, we must take steps of faith to begin the process, even if we are “of little faith.” God won’t make us trust him—he desires our own free response.
Do you desire to grow in your relationship with God? Are you willing to have God increase your faith? God will, if you are willing and open to his guidance and power. And it’s God’s power at work, not our faith.
God is always ready, but are you ready? Ask him today and then take a step of faith in that direction, and he will gladly reveal himself and his power to you in ways you have never known.
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