In a world where lukewarmness, indifference, and self-centeredness have become the acceptable norm, there is an urgent need for an increase in faith or we risk loosing our humanity. But why faith? Aren’t there more important virtues like love? Why an increase in faith? Why not just sustain it at the present level? Can we increase our faith based on our human efforts alone?
We must be very careful of our faith — both of its rightness and of its strength, first of all — when we consider the position which faith occupies in salvation. Faith is the salvation-grace. We are not saved by love; but we are saved by grace, and we are saved by faith. We are not saved by courage, we are not saved by patience; but we are saved by faith. That is to say, God gives His salvation to faith and not to any other virtue. It is said: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Faith is the vital part of salvation. If a man lacks faith he lacks everything. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Faith is the saving grace—it is the connecting-link between the soul and Christ. Take that away and all is gone. Remove faith, you have sawn through the ship’s keel, and she must sink. Take away faith, you have taken away my shield and I must be slain. Remove faith, and Christian life becomes a nonentity: it is extinct at once, for “the just shall live by faith:” and without faith how could they live at all? Consider then, that since faith is so important in salvation, it becomes each of us more earnestly to inquire whether we have faith or not? We ought to be more careful of our faith than of anything else. True, we ought to examine our conduct, we ought to search our works, we ought to try our love, but, above all, our faith: for if faith be wrong all is wrong; if faith be right, we may take that as the touchstone of our sincerity. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).
Be anxious about your faith, for all your graces hang upon it. Faith is the root-grace: all other virtues and graces spring from it. Tell me of love; how can I love him in whom I do not believe. If I do not believe that there is a God, and that he is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him, how can I possibly love him? Tell me of patience: how can I exercise patience unless I have faith? For faith looks to the recompense of the reward: she says, that “all things are working together for our good,” she believes that from our distresses the greater glory shall spring, and therefore she can endure. Tell me of courage: but who can have courage if he has not faith? Take what virtue you will, and you will see that it depends on faith. Faith is the silver thread upon which the pearls of the graces are to be strung. Break that, and you have broken the string—the pearls lie scattered on the ground, nor can you wear them for your own adornment. Faith is the mother of virtues. Faith is the fire which consumes the sacrifice. Faith is the water which nurtures the root. Faith is the sap which imparts vitality to all the branches. If you have not faith all your graces must die. And in proportion as your faith increases so will all your virtues, not all in the same proportion, but all in some degree. The man of little faith is the man of little love. The man of great faith is the man of great affection. He that has great faith in God could give himself to die for God, but he who has little faith in him would shrink at the stake because his love would be feeble. Have care of your faith, for on that your virtue depends; and if you would cultivate things that are goodly, “things that are lovely, things that are of good repute,” things that are honorable to yourself, and pleasing to God, guard well your faith, for on your faith all things must rest.
Take heed of your faith, because Christ thinks much of it. When that poor woman came whose daughter was ill, he said, “O woman great is thy faith!” He might have said, “Woman, great is thy love” for it was great love that made her force her way through the crowd and speak on her daughter’s behalf, or, “Great is thy patience,” for when he called her “dog,” she still stuck to him, and would not depart: or, he might have said, “Great is thy courage;” for she said, “Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs.” Or, he might have said, “Great is thy wisdom;” for she was a wise woman to extract sweets out of the bitters, and to say, “Truth, Lord, but the dogs eat of the crumbs.” But he overlooks all that, and says, “Great is thy faith.” Well, if Christ thinks so much of faith ought we not to esteem it most highly. Is it possible to think too highly of that jewel which Christ reckons to be the most valuable?
Next, Christian, take good care of your faith, for recollect faith is the only way whereby you can obtain blessings. If we want blessings from God, nothing can fetch them down except faith. Prayer cannot draw down answers from God’s throne except it is the earnest prayer of the man who believes. Faith is the ladder on which my soul must walk to ascend to heaven. If I break that ladder how can I ever approach my God? Faith is the angelic messenger between the soul and heaven. Let that angel be withdrawn, I can neither send prayer up nor receive the answers down. It is said of Midas, that he had the power to turn everything into gold by the touch of his hand; and it is true of faith—it can turn everything into gold; but destroy faith, we have lost our all; we are miserably poor, because we can hold no fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Take care of your faith, because otherwise you cannot well perform your duty. Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments. Love can make the feet move more swiftly, but faith is the foot which carries the soul. Faith is the oil enabling the wheels of holy devotion and of earnest piety to move well, but without faith the wheels are taken from the chariot, and we drag along heavily. With faith I can do all things, without faith I shall neither have the inclination nor the power to do anything in the service of God.
Again: take care of your faith; for only faith can comfort you in your troubles. Little faith sits murmuring in a corner; great faith is singing in the fire. “They shall praise him aloud in their beds, they shall sing his high praise in the fire”. Little faith stands desponding, mingling her tears with the flood. Great faith says, “When thou passest through the river, I will be with thee, the flood shall not overflow thee; when thou passest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flames kindle upon thee.” Would you be comfortable and happy? Would you enjoy religion? Would you have the religion of cheerfulness and not that of gloom? Then seek more faith. You will be saved with ever so little faith, but you will not be saved happily. You will be happy hereafter if you believe in the slightest degree; but you will not be happy here unless you fully, habitually, and earnestly believe—believe strongly in the faithful promises of God, in all the glorious dignity of his person, and in all the faithfulness and immutability of his grace. If you would be Christian larks, and not Christian owls, seek to have more faith. If you love darkness, and would fly about in it in gloom and misery, then be content with little faith. But if you would mount in sunshine, and carol like the bird of day, then seek strong confidence.
Take care of your faith, my friends; for it’s very often so weak, that it demands all your attention. Christian take care of your faith whatever you leave out of doors of a night, do not leave that little child of faith, whatsoever plant is exposed to the frost, be sure to put faith within. Take care of faith, for it is so weak generally, it needs well to have a good preservation.
The Apostles did not say, “Lord, keep our faith alive: Lord, sustain it as it is at present,” but “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). For they knew very well that it is only by increase that the Christian keeps alive at all. A wheel will remain erect as long as it moves, but when it begins to stand still it falls. Christian men are saved by progress: constantly going onwards keeps the Christian alive. If it were possible for me to stop, I know not where my life would be. The Christian must be going onward; for the arrow will mount while still it is in progress, but it stalls the moment the power stops that keeps it aloft. So the apostle said unto the Lord, “increase our faith”.
“Increase our faith” in its extent — the extent of what it will receive. Increase my faith and help me to believe a little more. I believe I have only just begun to learn the A B C of the Scriptures yet, and will constantly cry to the Lord, “Increase my faith,” that I may know more and believe more, and understand Thy Word far better. “Increase my faith” in its extent.
“Increase my faith” in its intensity. Faith needs to be increased in its power as well as in its extent. We do not wish to act as some do with a river, when they break the banks, to let it spread over the pasture, and so make it shallower; but we wish, while it increases in surface, that it may increase likewise in its depth.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” They went to the right person. They did not say to themselves, “I will increase my faith,” they did not cry to the minister, “Preach a comforting sermon, and increase my faith,” they did not say, “I will read such-and-such a book, and that will increase my faith.” No, they said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Faiths author can alone increase it. One could inflate your faith till it turned into presumption, but he could not make it grow. It is God’s work to feed faith, as well as to give it life at first; and if any of us desire to have a growing faith, go and take our burden to God’s throne, crying “Lord, increase our faith!” If we feel that our troubles have been increased, go to the Lord, and say, “increase our faith!” If our money is accumulating, go to the Lord, and say, “Increase our faith;” for we will want more faith as we get more prosperity. If our property is diminishing, go to him, and say, “increase our faith,” so that what we lose in one scale we may gain in the other. Are we sickly and full of pain? Go to the Master, and say, “increase our faith,’ so that we may not be impatient, but be able to bear it well”. Are we tired and weary? Go and supplicate, “Increase our faith!” Have we little faith? Take it to God, and he will turn it into great faith. There is no hot-house for growing tender plants in, like a house that is within the curtains—the tabernacle of God, where the Shekinah dwells.
Let us praise God with the song “We walk by faith”: