What is growing in faith? How can a Christian grow in faith?
In what way is faithfulness a fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Faithfulness has two different meanings. If we mean the faithfulness of God or Jesus, it refers to steadfastness, honesty, firmness, and God's utter dependability based on His unchanging character. If we mean human faithfulness, it refers to our steady allegiance to God and our trust in Him. A "faithful" man is "full of faith"; he believes in the reality of God as revealed in Scripture.
Faithfulness is part of the fruit of the Spirit; it is created within us when we allow the Spirit to work in us. Not only does the Spirit induce us to be faithful, He explains why we should be faithful. John 16:13-14 says that the Spirit discloses Jesus' character to the world. First John 5:6-7 says the Spirit testifies that Jesus is the Savior. And Hebrews 10:15 says that the Spirit bears witness to salvation.
If we are full of faithfulness, we believe God; we trust that He always has our best interests at heart. We trust that we are ultimately safe. We believe that He loves us (John 3:16), He wants to be with us (John 14:2), He is powerful enough to save us (John 14:6), and He is working in us (Philippians 1:6). And we live with the confidence that we will receive God's promised blessings, even if we never see them in this lifetime.
Faithfulness is necessary when God's promises seem to completely contradict what we see. When God's ways are hidden from us (Isaiah 45:15), when evil strikes, when hardships come one right after another—that's when we need the Spirit to produce His fruit of faithfulness in us.
Faith is the opponent of fear. Faith protects us from fear, and fear erodes faith. Ephesians 6:13-17 lists the armor of God. Faith, "in addition to all," is the shield. If our shield of faith is strong enough to put out all the flaming arrows of the enemy, we are spiritually invulnerable.
Mark 4:35-41 tells the story of Jesus calming the storm. After being roused by the terrified disciples, Jesus stopped the wind and the waves and said, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" (Mark 4:40). We are used to being told that trials bring about spiritual growth. Here's another side of things: it wasn't that Jesus was intentionally using a fierce storm to grow the disciples' faith; it's that He didn't even consider the situation worthy of notice. The disciples feared because they had no faith. Their faith would eventually grow to the point where imprisonment became an opportunity for a praise service (Acts 16:22-25) and a snake bite was a minor irritant (Acts 28:4-5). Faith in God means not fearing worldly troubles, not just because God's sovereign will is for our benefit, but because we "count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:8).
Hebrews 11 contains a list of some Old Testament characters who knew God and steadfastly believed His promises. None of these figures saw God's promises completely fulfilled. Abraham and Sarah were able to witness the birth of Isaac, but neither lived long enough to see their line become a mighty nation. Joseph had faith that the Israelites would escape Egypt and return to the Promised Land, but that didn't occur until four hundred years after his death. Moses trusted God that his service would bring Israel to the Promised Land, but he never lived to see God's people become a settled nation.
The Bible has much to say about the gift of faith:
"For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23b). Whatever actions are not informed by God's identity and character and not driven by trust in Him must be sin.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Hope is "the eager anticipation of good." A faithful person knows God and trusts that He will fulfill His promises—those things he hopes for but are still unseen.
"The righteous shall live by faith" (Galatians 3:11). The fruit of Spirit gives us life; we don't simply endure—we live by faith.
God is faithful, and He grants that quality to His children. The Holy Spirit produces in believers His faithfulness. As a result, we believe God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. His faithful character directly affects our lives. We have nothing to fear as we wait for Him to fulfill His promises. This assurance is a fruit of the Spirit.
How can I trust the faithfulness of God?
The more you trust God, the more you will learn you can rely on Him and trust Him more.
First, what is faithfulness? Faithfulness is an active fidelity; a way of working toward the good of another without hesitation, doubt, questioning, or duplicity. It is constant. When God is described as faithful, it means He brings all His power, love, compassion, and dedication to you.
Lamentations 3:22–23 proclaims, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'" God is faithful, and we can put our hope and trust in Him. One way to learn to trust in His faithfulness is to remind ourselves of verses like these.
Many Christians know intellectually that God is faithful, yet we still find it difficult to actively put our trust in Him. One reason might be because as humans we tend to focus on the temporal (here and now) and the earthly definitions of what is good, successful, and beneficial, rather than on what God deems to be of eternal value and truly good. Simply put, God's faithfulness doesn't always practically look like what we want it to.
Paul talked about living in the flesh as opposed to in the Spirit in Romans 8. Romans 8 is also where we find an often quoted verse of the Bible: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). When we focus on the things of the Spirit, our perspective changes. We come to see and believe that God is faithful, even if our earthly circumstances aren't what we would prefer.
Sometimes we struggle with trusting in the faithfulness of God because we know that we are not always faithful to Him. The good news for us is that God's faithfulness is not dependent on ours. Second Timothy 2:10–13 assures, "The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself." God is faithful because He is God. He will never cease to be faithful to us.
What are some practical ways we can increase our trust in God's faithfulness? Just as we build trust with people by getting to know them, we learn to trust God by getting to know Him. The best way to do that is to spend time in the Bible, attend a Bible-teaching church, and pray. By doing so, you'll learn about God's character and that you can trust in His faithfulness and His immutability. He never changes.
Reading the Bible helps us understand who God is. We can memorize Scriptures that speak of God's faithfulness. We can also look back at times in our own lives where God has shown Himself faithful. Remembering His past works is something that God often instructed the Israelites to do. Christians ceremonially remember the work of Jesus on the cross through communion. Recounting the past work of God reminds us that He is faithful and helps us to trust that He will continue to be faithful.
Other believers can encourage us with the truths of the Bible and help remind us of God's faithfulness in our lives. Believers are to "stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24–25). Being in fellowship with those who trust in God's faithfulness can help to grow our trust in His faithfulness.
Prayer is the way we communicate with God. When we pray, we are demonstrating that we trust Him. We can ask Him to help increase our trust. We can lay our burdens at His feet and ask Him to faithfully carry us through (1 Peter 5:7). He always hears our prayers (1 John 5:14), and when we don't know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26). We also know that Jesus is interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1).
The better we get to know God, the more we'll trust in His faithfulness. It is by trusting Him that we know Him, and by knowing Him that we more deeply trust Him.
Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is a bit of a paradox. How can the ability to control oneself be the result of being controlled by someone else?
The Bible teaches that, in a certain sense, the unbeliever has no free will. There are influences beyond his control.
Unbelievers are "slaves to sin" (Romans 6:16-20). Our sinful nature "predetermines" us to choose selfish, harmful behaviors, and our fallen world aids the process. Without Christ, we are not free to completely release our thoughts and actions from sinful influences and simply choose what is good.
That's where the Holy Spirit comes in. As He works in a believer's life, the fruit, or result, is that the believer is able to pull away from the determinant of the sinful nature and make a truly independent choice. That is the first step of self-control.
The freed self then has choices to make, and he finds that the range of choices has broadened. Instead of choosing one sin over another, the new man in Christ can make choices based on love for God and rooted in the wisdom of God.
A decision made in the freedom of self-control will do what it can to ensure future freedom. Whenever we follow unhealthy appetites or society's lies, we limit our options in the future. A sinful act is another step down a dead-end road; the more steps we take, the harder it gets to make an independent choice in the future.
We are best served and even freest when we use our self-control to submit to Christ. His Word brings life. Christ allows us to be what we were designed to be, to display the glory we were created with. His Spirit produces self-control in us, the ability to say "no" to fleshly lusts and live in moderation and wise constraint. Indulging in sin enslaves and destroys us. Self-control frees us to live for Christ.
What is growing in faith? How can a Christian grow in faith?
Paul rejoiced that the Christians in Thessalonica were growing in faith: "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing" (2 Thessalonians 1:3). What does it mean to grow in faith?
Simply put, to grow in faith means to grow spiritually. It is to mature in both knowledge of God and in godly living; ultimately, it is to become more like Christ. Just as a person grows physically from infant to mature adult, a Christian's life is designed to grow spiritually from baby to mature Christian. In 1 Peter 2:2-3 we read, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."
Hebrews 5:12-13 speaks against believers who had failed to grow in faith: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child." To grow in faith involves growing in God's Word and its application.
Paul also used similar words to condemn some of the practices of Christians in Corinth: "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Paul notes that he began with feeding them "milk" or with spiritual basics. Yet they were still not ready for solid food, as their maturity was lacking.
This lack of spiritual maturity was displayed in jealousy and internal conflicts. We can see, then, that growth in faith manifests not only in our relationship with God, but also in our relationships with others. As we seek to grow in faith, rather than be jealous of one another or attempt to set ourselves apart as better than others, as was happening in the Corinthian church, we should have the attitude mentioned by Paul, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:7). When our life is consumed with living for God and His glory, we are well on the path to growing in faith and being spiritually mature.
It is also interesting that Scripture highlights a certain amount of time is involved to become spiritually mature. The apostles were with Jesus for over three years before they began to minister to others with the appropriate maturity. Paul also commanded that church leaders were not to be new converts, because "he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6).
Growing in faith requires both time and effort. God ultimately causes the growth, yet He expects us to follow His ways and seek to grow, becoming mature followers of Jesus who can help make disciples of others (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2).
I'm struggling with faith. What should I do?
You have the greatest power in the universe to assist you—the Holy Spirit. Call on God. The Holy Spirit "bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).
Once, when a man with faith needed help believing, he cried out to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). You can do the same. Ask God to help you. This is your first and greatest step in overcoming your struggle.
You are not alone in your struggle. Even the prophet Elijah struggled. He proved God's goodness and existence in front of hundreds of doubters, killed more than 400 false prophets, outran King Ahab's chariot, then the next day collapsed in doubt and depression (1 Kings 18:36—19:5). He took part in some of the most dramatic and amazing miracles recorded in the Bible, then almost immediately gave into fear and doubt. We are susceptible to the same reversals.
Even John the Baptist struggled with faith. God intentionally selected John to announce the Savior (Luke 1:11–17, 76) and Jesus named him the greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11). Then, while imprisoned, John began to doubt about Jesus and who He was (Luke 7:20). He spread that doubt to others, asking them to question Jesus. Yet, Jesus had compassion and answered John's questioning with specific answers pertinent to John (Luke 7:22).
God is patient and compassionate toward us when we, even in our struggles, have a desire to believe (Psalm 86:15; 147:11). Grasp those things of faith, no matter how seemingly small, that you know are true. Read where God was faithful and chose imperfect people for His work—see Moses, David, Mary, and Paul for starters. You might also find it helpful to read the writings or listen to the teachings of trusted Christians who appeal to reason such as C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and Dr. John Lennox.
Many people, from those in the Bible to church leaders today, struggle with faith during their lives. Remember, faith is not easy. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Because we currently live in the physical world and our senses are created to primarily understand the physical reality, it can be difficult for us to understand intangible, invisible truths.
Remember also that our faith, that in Jesus Christ, is different than other religious or spiritual options. The object of our faith as Christians is God Himself—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is this mysterious triune God we worship, not an idea, a set of values or morals, or a special teacher. The reason we have faith is as an avenue to God.
"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). We become closer to God when we exercise that faith. To know God, to seek Him, is to know Jesus (John 14:6).
It is in the simple seeking of God that unlocks our ability to know Him (Jeremiah 29:13). See, this avenue that faith makes to meet God is a two-way street. He also is seeking to know you (1 John 4:19).
God offers us evidence for His existence and character (Psalm 19:1; Luke 19:38–40; among others). Additionally, Jesus validated His pronouncement that He was the Son of God by fulfilling multiple prophesies (Matthew 2:13–18; 27:35; Psalm 22:18; John 12:37–38). For thousands of years the Bible has stood true against countless attacks. And yet, even with all that, God will answer your prayer for help believing. Pray.