Everyone has some kind of faith. Without faith, we cannot function. Even so, some faith works better than others. At critical moments in our lives such as illness, loss of income, the death of a loved one, etc., it is not uncommon for us to lose the faith we once had. At the very moment we need our faith to support us, it falls apart like a rotten branch, unable to hold the weight of life.
What causes faith to fail? There are many reasons.
- If it isn’t strong enough to provide sustainable support.
- If we are not willing to actually follow it.
- If the object of our faith is not really clear. People are often fooled into thinking the object of their faith is one thing, while in reality, their lives are built around something else entirely.
- If we try to mix two faiths together. Faith is trust and service. Jesus says that it isn’t possible to serve two masters; we just think we can. Faith is not a smorgasbord; we must take it all, or we haven’t taken it at all.
If it is childish instead of childlike. The Bible says we should have faith like a child. But it is talking about sincere, complete trust, like an infant in her mother’s arms. The understanding we have as children does not serve us well when we are adults. Children may believe that God can heal, but adults know the inevitability of death and disease. Children may believe that God wants us to always be happy, but adults know that everyone cannot be happy all the time.Faith must grow with our understanding of the world. That’s why we must keep growing our faith until the day we die.
A strong, sustainable system of faith that lasts will have these characteristics:
- It is durable. It will hold together in times of trouble and does not fail under pressure.
- It is not contradictory or haphazard. We cannot be a Christian atheist, or a Mormon agnostic. If we believe that Jesus is the unique Son of God, we cannot also believe Buddha was also a son of God. If we believe there is no God, we cannot also believe that God answers prayer. Even so, many people often entertain such logical inconsistencies and wonder why their faith isn’t working.
- It contains paradoxes but not contradictions. The Trinity is a paradox: one God and three persons. If we accept that God is smarter than we are, we ought to expect truth to be unexplainable at times. But contradictions are different at the core. We can’t serve two masters. You can’t believe the verse that says, “God rescues the afflicted” and also believe, “God only helps those who help themselves.” These are contradictions–not paradoxes. We can ultimately trust either God or self, not both together.
- It withstands questions and doubts. A strong faith welcomes critical thinking and open questioning. It is better to give our faith regular checkups through open, sincere questioning, rather than to have it fail in the middle of a crisis
- It is practical. Good faith works. Cults and other high-control religions are often too harsh and brittle and not able to adjust to the changing conditions of life. But overly broad and flexible faiths are not much help, either. If everything is allowed and nothing forbidden there is no real basis for submission. It is like a body without a backbone. A religion that can never say “no” cannot be believed when it says “yes” to anything.
Here are some questions to get you started on building your faith into good faith.
- Has your faith proved to be durable, verifiable and practical?
- Has your faith ever been mixed or misplaced? What it your real ultimate concern?
- How can you test your faith today, before you face a personal crisis?
- What can you do to maintain your faith and make it stronger?