If you’ve been a Christian for more than a few days, your faith has been tested. And this is consistent with scripture. God will test us to see if our faith is genuine and to make us stronger (note 1) and he will discipline us (2). Our enemy will test us to try to destroy our faith (3). People around us will test us because they don’t like to see us with faith and hope which they don’t have and don’t want (4), and life in general will test us-frequently (5).
The success of our faith depends on our whole motivation for having faith in the first place. Those of us who call ourselves Christians because we think we’re good people are fooling ourselves. Those of us who are believers because we want God to set our lives up in prosperity and success will not keep our faith for long, or if we are successful our faith will be shallow and dishonoring to God. Those of us who love the words of God, and who love Jesus and what he said and did, and who love righteousness-we are the ones who are going to keep our faith.
There have been many times in my Christian life when I’ve dishonored God, when I’ve failed him, and when I’ve almost wanted to give up. But I’m still on the “narrow road”. Without doubt, this is because He has been there to hold me up when I was too weak in my faith to hold myself up. But those super-spiritual people who claim that it’s all God’s doing need to read their Bible a little more, because we’re told that we have to strengthen ourselves to the extent that it depends upon us:
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed’ (Hebrews 12:12).
What’s the point of Paul’s direction to “stand firm” if there’s nothing for us to do to maintain our own faith? (6) Why do we need to put on “the whole armor of God” (7) if it’s nothing to do with us?
The Lord has carried me through my weak times, I believe, because I was always His son, because I love Him, I love His words, and I love righteousness and holiness, even if I fail miserably at living them out in my life sometimes. But I can claim some part of the “success” story, and I want to share some of the ways I have personally worked to keep my faith. Perhaps they can be helpful to someone.
If you’re not regularly looking to the Bible for your spiritual food, you’re starving your faith:
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4);
“Faith comes from hearing (or reading) the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
GOING TO THE RIGHT SOURCE
If you’re trusting in your own goodness, or in a denomination or organization, or a ritual, or some preacher or prophet, you’re trusting the wrong thing, and your faith is not saving faith, because God has said:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man” (Jeremiah 17:5).
Instead our faith must be in Jesus Christ, who said:
“Whoever lives and believes in me will never die…” (John 11:26).
MAKE UP YOUR MIND
If you’re thinking that you will ”try out” Christianity, there’s a good chance you’ll be giving it up again. It requires commitment, and the kind of commitment that has decided that no matter what, you’re going to stick to it, through thick and thin, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Anything less is leaving a huge weak point for any one of the enemies of your faith to attack.
REALIZE THAT YOU ARE IN A WAR
Yes the Christian life is in many ways a war-you can find many such allusions in the New Testament. I’m not talking about physical violence here-there’s no place for violence in the name of Christ: this is a spiritual war. Have you noticed that every religion and belief system and philosophy is to be tolerated in our world except Biblical Christianity? The war against us is now aimed at the last bastion of freedom to practice the Christian faith-the West. Those who hate our God want to shut him out of public life-then if they achieve that they will fix their aim on private worship also. Realizing that there’s a war on will give you a chance of winning it in your own life.
When every nature program on TV is intended to convince us that we evolved from nothing, this should be a wake-up call that there is an attack on faith going on-this is not a neutral world. When every commercial is presented to you with a beautiful woman, this should be a wake-up call that your level of holiness and your faith is under assault. A weakness in your armor or your resolve could cause the downfall of your faith.
Perseverance is vital: without it we will not keep our faith.
BELIEVING WHAT YOU SAY YOU BELIEVE
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me” (JOHN 14:6). The exclusivity of the Christian gospel is one of its hallmarks. If you’re open to alternatives, your faith is on a shaky foundation, or no foundation. If Jesus is not the only way, then his words are unreliable at best-or lies at worst- and his sacrifice on the cross was unnecessary, as was the martyrdom of his apostles and millions of followers ever since. The Bible claims to be the inspired word of God. If you can accept that, your faith is on a very firm base and everything else will make sense. If you can’t accept it, you are going to face defeat, or at least compromise, sooner or later.
YOU AND GOD
Some say that you “have” to be in church to make it as a Christian. I say that’s all very well if the church is really doing what it should do and believing what it should believe. If it isn’t you’re better off going it alone, and if you can’t go it alone, you haven’t prepared properly. It’s all about your relationship to Jesus Christ, because:
“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
This means that you do not need a priest or a pastor or a prophet in order to have a relationship with your God-that’s what the sacrifice of Jesus is all about. You don’t need anyone else in order to make it, although it’s certainly helpful and Biblical to be among other true believers if you can.
PREPARE WHILE YOU’RE STRONG
The time to prepare for war is when you’re strong-not to wait until you’re one step from defeat. Take time to do all the other preparations I’ve mentioned. Pray and develop your relationship and your communication with God. Know the Bible, which is your battle plan and your instruction manual for success and spiritual health.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADMIT YOU NEED HELP
There have been several times in my Christian life when I’ve felt so low that I didn’t know how to go on as a Christian. At that point I got very serious with God. I told him plainly that I needed His help or I wasn’t going to make it. I’ve even shouted at Him: “Lord! Where are you?!” There’s nothing sinful about such a prayer, and He is near to the weak and the broken-hearted.
I’ve spent a lot of time studying the issues which can affect my faith. Many people claim that evolution is the nail in the coffin for any faith they may have had in God. This is absolutely not true. I’ve found out enough to greatly reinforce my own faith, not by going to those who are evolutionists, or who compromise with evolution and then claim to believe the Bible, but to those who are actively challenging the claims of evolutionism.
Contrary to popular belief, the evolution of life from nothing is not proven, and neither is the claim that we are descended from an ape-like creature. I’ll give you a couple of sites to begin your research and grow your faith in a Creator God-if you really want to:
Similarly, there is abundant archeological and historical evidence which supports much of the Bible, in contrast to the claims of other “religions”, which have little or no support at all. It’s good to bolster your faith with the knowledge that the Bible is not a bunch of made up stories, but that it has solid evidential support
Eschatology is a big one for me. Our world today is in many ways a mirror of what the Bible says about the end-times world. Only God can truly know the future, he knows the end from the beginning, because he’s not constrained by time. This alone is enough to uphold my faith when I start to ask questions about what I really believe. See my post:
Other religions and philosophies can seem rather daunting to the Christian. If there are so many religions, how dare we claim to have the one true faith, the only path to God and to eternal life? Some people ignore these faiths and hope they’ll just go away. I personally think it’s better to tackle them-to look into what they claim and what they say. It’s probably better to do this with Christian literature: I recommend “The Kingdom of the Cults”:
Reasoning with human nature, with evidence, with Biblical backing, and with logic can help some of us strengthen our faith greatly. Those “monsters” out there can be greatly diminished in size when we really take a good look at them in light of the gospel. We can love their adherents by knowing that God loves them , that he died for them, and that he wants them to come to a knowledge of the truth.
REMEMBER WHAT YOU ONCE WERE
Some of us have quite dramatic conversion stories. If you don’t, you can read about the lives of thousands of people who have had such an experience. When I think of the condition and the direction I was going in before Jesus came into my life, and when I look back over my Christian life, I realize that there is a God who acts in the lives of his people. Just considering this can give me a big boost.
I like to remember that with God I have everything to gain and nothing to lose, whereas without Him I would have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
CONSTRUCT YOUR OWN EASY TO REMEMBER REFERENCE
I collect the kind of evidence which supports my faith, and my own lines of logical thought, to refer to when I’m struggling in my faith, or to use to help others in theirs, or to answer critics and skeptics. I have put those thoughts into related subjects, and created a few acronyms to help me remember them.
Subjects in my faith reference include origins (I don’t believe we evolved from a rock), emotion (superfluous and burdensome if we really evolved), human nature (the Bible is totally right about it), history, archeology and true science (rather than unobservable evolution), and our natural sense of and desire for justice.
My faith reference is very personal and meets my own needs. I’ve fallen back on it several times when I’ve had those “Is there really a God?” moments, and it has always got me back on track quickly.
LIVE IT OUT
You can’t keep your faith locked away like buried treasure, and expect it to survive. You have to put it into action, and you can do that regularly by making a point of loving others, doing acts of service, being generous, praying for people, and most importantly by giving praise to God and his Son.
PRAYER AND PRAISE
Prayer is our conscious and subconscious contact with our Creator. It’s been said that if a couple never spoke to each other they would quickly part, so why ignore our God? He’s waiting to be spiritually intimate with us, and he desires and deserves our worship.
WHEN REASON IS NOT ENOUGH
Here’s a disclaimer (in an age of disclaimers). There are times in the lives of some people when reason and logic are completely useless. Some people face such suffering and testing that only the hand of God and the love of his people can carry them through. Don’t be insensitive when someone goes through such a trial. Remember Job’s comforters, who thought they had him and his suffering all figured out, when all he really wanted and needed was their love and compassion.
CRYING OUT FOR HELP
When hard or testing times come upon us and reason is not enough to satisfy, it’s both Biblical and sensible to be in some serious and fervent prayer, or even just to sit in silence in the presence of God:
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
This is the kind of response which appeals to the heart of God. Also, there’s nothing wrong or sinful at all with saying something like the following to him (he’s big enough to take it):
“I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” Psalm 42:9-10).
WHEN GOD DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
There are times when nothing makes sense-including faith. Even the word of God that we have on the problem we’re facing just seems to add to the confusion and to not give any real answer. This happened once in John’s gospel. Something that Jesus said, about eating his flesh, just seemed to those who heard him like nonsense, when viewed from a human, earthly perspective, so many of the followers of Jesus left him at that point-it was too much for them to bear. Jesus then said to the rest “You do not want to leave me too, do you?” They answered by saying:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68).
This serves to illustrate the principle of commitment, even when nothing makes sense. This is a time when we need to be obedient, and trusting, believing that God knows more than we do.
1 Exodus 16:4; James 1:12
2 Hebrews 12:7
3 Job chapters 1 and 2
4 Romans 16:17-18
5 John 16:33
6 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
7 Ephesians 6:10-18