Over the years I hear people talk about being "of science" and not "of faith" as if the two were mutually exclusive. I think the real issue here is that people believe that science is this tangible thing, which they find easy to embrace, while faith feels elusive and scary because if you put your faith in something that doesn't work out, you end up looking foolish. In our hearts everyone can related to that. So we start feeling like faith is this emotion or feeling we have to build up in order for the "belief" magic to switch on, and for many - that just requires too much risk. Well I have good news.
Faith is a lot of things...
- Faith is something to be had (Hover to see Luke 8:48)
- Faith itself is an act (Hover to see Matthew 9:2)
- Faith can be found in quantities (Hover to read Matthew 8:10; Luke 17:5)
Faith is not a feeling!
Faith is something you do to obtain it
It's like anything else health-oriented in your life, be it exercise or eating well, or sleeping enough. You have to "sleep" to be able to claim you "sleep well". And is sleeping well important to you? I would think so. Faith is the same.
In that sense, faith is like a muscle. Having no muscle at all means you are going to struggle through life. Have a bit makes life much easier. Having a lot means you can do and experience a lot more.
Did you ever lift weights for exercise, or even as a challenge amongst friends? "Hey, see if you can lift this?" Faith works nearly the same way. Understanding that you have muscles, knowing how to exercise them, builds them up in a manner that enables life.
Everyone waits to build muscle until they need to lift a car
Faith is the same way. We do not invest in "exercising faith" along the way, and suddenly we need a whole lot of it. "Oh man! Troubles! I need to lift that car? That is impossible!" This is what makes faith seem impractical if not impossible. But in the end, it isn't a problem of faith. It is a problem with having no experience with faith.
It is how you train that builds the faith muscle
Not every kind of exercise builds muscles. Like with weight lifting, you may need a good friend or coach to help you to the next level. Going it alone can get really frustrating. I've lived a life on-again, off-again when it comes to exercising and building muscles. The most growth I've seen in that area is when I submitted to a trainer, took their advice seriously and applied the lessons, and people would start to notice that reality over time. "Hey - looking good?" What is often the next question? "How are you doing it?" People know that not all exercise yields the same outcomes, so start looking for someone who is going to help motivate you in the right direction, and get back into training.
How do you exercise faith
Like all healthy living, it takes two major components...
- What you put in
- How you work it out
What you put in
I read an article years ago in a karate magazine about how a black-belt trained endlessly in all of the movements of his sport. When the time came to use it, his body automatically jumped and bent and pressed in all of those right directions for a positive outcome. His input was conditional training ... and then practicing, over and over again.
As a Christian this input works in a number of ways for me...
- I read stories about faith: This typically means reading the Bible slow enough to put myself into those stories and imagine the stress, the challenge, as well as learn from the reactions and lessons. We need ways to remember about the faithfulness of God (Joshua 4:20-24)
- I pray/talk to the Lord about those stories: To me, prayer is a conversation where I am either reacting to something the Holy Spirit is topically prompting in my life, or I am bringing what is on my heart to the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:11-12).
- I slow down enough to listen: Listening can mean reading the Bible and letting the Holy Spirit call out something in the text to me. And it can also mean an inner-challenge of the Holy Spirit, and that often feels and sounds like I am recalling a conversation I once had, except it is happening silently within me. It can be as simple as, "Wow, look at that poor person begging on the street?" and the prompting of the Holy Spirit "Do something! How much cash do you have in your pocket?" (Romans 15:13)
Seeing and recognizing faith opportunities in life around you is often the start. Learning to put your trust in the Lord is the act of exercising faith.
How you work it out
So having faith is not a feeling. Trust accompanies it. Stories of the faithfulness of Father God bolster a desire to invest your faith and see it exercised and grow. What is left are opportunities to "do" faith. You need to ask the Lord for opportunities for faith, so you can exercise your faith.
- Be thankful for opportunities to grow and exercise your faith: When you see the opportunities start popping up, take a moment and be thankful to the Lord for the opportunities. Remember that faith is an act of investing in the faithfulness of God, specifically.
- Work it out with others: Talk to God with people. If you are like me, I am a conversationalist and I love talking with people. Talking with God, to me, is like a warm blanket. It is like being hugged by a kind and loving parent who has all of the experience you could ever hope for and is in your corner in life. Did you ever have a parent or a close friend like that? Did you ever want to introduce another friend to that incredible person? That is what prayer has been like for me. When it is time to invest faith, I love to pray with others so they can also see how faithful Father God is and together we, with Jesus, can boldly walk up to Father God's grace-filled throne and receive the mercy and grace we need exactly when we need it the most (Hebrews 4:16).