Faith is a Gift

by Tim Isbell  (11/2013)


A friend of mine moved into Christian faith over the past few years. Recently he told me that he now accepts Christian faith, is developing a prayer life, and finds value in scripture even though he thinks he needs to read more of it. Then he asked for some coaching on how to have more faith.

I have heard this question a few times in the past, so I shared with him my understanding that we can't only force ourselves to have more faith. Rather, I've learned that faith is a gift from God.

To understand this concept, I make a distinction between trust and faith. I have found that when I use whatever willpower I can find to trust that something is true, it leads me on a path where God grows my faith.

An example I use comes from a severe heart attack I had in 2005 when. Believe it or not, I was on a "spiritual retreat," out of town, and alone. In the nick of time, a cardiologist inserted a stent to save my life. It was immediately apparent that this was a stop-gap measure. Once out of the hospital and returned home I found a cardiologist, who at first wasn't sure there was much more to do. But he went looking and a few weeks later found a heart surgeon who said he could help me by doing bypass surgery.

To be honest, I had very little faith in this solution. I figured that life was about over. Even so I decided to put whatever trust I could muster into that surgeon's plan. After all, what other options were there? A couple of weeks later he did the surgery and after some months of recovery I got a reasonably active life back. That was eight years ago.

Now I have more faith in such medical procedures - not complete faith, but much more than in 2005.

That's how a little trust leads to more faith. I've seen it in other dimensions of life, too. We face things that scare us, and we don't enough faith to get us through. But somehow we find barely enough will-power to trust just enough to take the next tentative step. Instead of chastising us for our lack of faith, God seems quite willing to work with a little tentative trust, using it to build our faith. Fast-forward a few decades, after repeatedly experiencing this cycle of trust-leading-to-faith - we discover that God has grown our faith a lot. In fact, it is strong enough to encourage others, like sharing my experience with my friend who is earlier in God's "faith progression."

Faith is not something we make happen so God will like us more. Faith is God's gift to us. Our part is to deploy whatever trust we can find at the time and invite God to use it to increase our faith.

After sharing this line of thinking with my friend, I looked through my website for a Christian Teaching that unpacks it. When I didn't find much, I considered writing something for this site. But before I did this I discovered that Dr. Leon Combs posted a fine article on just this topic. I hope you will check out his: What Is Faith? (I have his permission to share it.) You can learn more about Dr. Combs at his website: Living Theology.


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