Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV
Jesus often rebuked His disciples as well as those who sought His help for their lack of faith. He also commended others such as the Roman centurion, the woman with the bleeding problem and the Canaanite woman for their faith. As we study the works of Jesus, we begin to understand what it means to have faith.
Faith and fear
I was prone to getting anxious for much of my life and to this day I pray for the grace not to yield to fear. I also know Christians who seem to possess more of this vital ingredient and perhaps for that very reason have seen more results and miracles in their Christian walk. Even so, God has allowed me to witness many miraculous transformations in own my life, both in the workplace and in family situations. On many of these occasions, I have either experienced a surprising surge of faith, a ‘firm knowing’ that God would miraculously intervene or else a more gradual understanding of God’s mind and the strength to believe Him as He worked out wonderful results.
We know that ‘without faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:1). In studying the scripture to understand how I could acquire more faith, I realized that people lacking faith act out of desperation when facing difficulties. They try to sort out problems in their own strength, often acting contrary to the will of God. The best example is the Israelites’ reaction on hearing the report that the Promised Land had giants; they refused to go in despite God’s promises. Even Abraham the man of faith listened to his wife Sarah and used Hagar as a vehicle to bring about the promised seed.
Fear, when the promised help is delayed, seems to be the natural response of Eve’s children. We panic and seek solutions and try to fix things – in the flesh. Faith on the other hand is a spiritual response which ushers in divine breakthroughs; our response releases the power of God to act on our behalf in accordance with His word. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1).
So could I have some more faith, please? Begged the man who came to Jesus for his demon possessed son. His faith was no blazing fire, only a tiny wick. A series of disappointments, the most recent at the hands of the Lord’s disciples had almost snuffed out what was left of his his faith. “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 ESV). He realized that fear had somehow blocked his access to supernatural resources. Yet the Lord healed his son; and often in His mercy despite our unbelief, He intervenes to deliver us from our troubles.
Fear then is a destructive force because it keeps us tied down to the mechanisms of the world. A soldier going into battle has a choice between overcoming his fears or succumbing to his wretched thoughts and turning back. Moses commanded the generals to give a final call to their divisions: “Is there any man who is afraid or cowardly? Let him leave and return home, so that his brothers’ hearts won’t melt like his own” (Deuteronomy 20:8 HCSB). Fear can be contagious. An army crippled by fear becomes an easy target for the enemy.
Many Christian books state that fear is the opposite of faith. You get the impression that a person of faith is untouched by fear. This was sometimes true in David’s life, for example, when he confronted the giant Goliath; but there were other occasions when he cried to God in utter desperation as his enemies surrounded him on every side. The difference between David and Moses’ people was that the latter succumbed to their fears, while David took his fears to God and sought His deliverance in times of peril. One looked up to God in faith from the pit of despair; the other chose to turn away in rebellion. “My eyes are always on the Lord…” The Lord delivered David from all his troubles and from all his fears.
What then is fear? What is faith? How are the two linked? The root of our ancestral sin was Eve’s unbelief in God’s word; indeed all sin results from a lack of trust in either God’s word or His character. The first manifestations of sin in Adam were guilt, fear and shame. Christ not only bore our sin on the cross, but also won for us the victory over these manifestations. This victory has to be accessed by believing in His word. Faith triumphs by extinguishing fear.
Like the chicken and egg, unbelief produced sin, which gives birth to more unbelief. If we choose to incubate the egg of unbelief, we will ‘hatch’ more sin. We must crush the egg in order to see supernatural results. The root of faith is knowledge of God and His word. Faith comes from knowing God. As we study God’s word and walk with Him, faith grows.
To overcome fear we need a dose of faith. We fear because we are intelligent enough to foresee the consequences of actions or events in the absence of God. We sense that the end result is doom and destruction, so naturally we fear. But because there is God the events we fear will not have a natural conclusion, but a supernatural one. Therefore no evil will come near your tent. The end is victory, for we have God with us. When we view things in the light of these truths, fear atrophies; and faith rises up to seize the promise.
“Father, how many times have I given way to fear! And You have always forgiven me and helped me to trust in You more. Perfect this work in my life and in the life of all Your people. Thank You!”