“O you of little faith…” There was a time in my life when those words were the most terrifying words in all of Scripture. Those are the words I imagined God saying to me on judgment day. I was haunted by the thought that maybe I didn’t believe strongly enough. I cannot tell you how many times I prayed the ‘sinners prayer’ hoping that one of those prayers would be genuine enough to qualify for saving faith. Thankfully, God graciously led me to have assurance of my salvation over the years. I hope to share some of the insights that God used to bring me where I am today.
Jesus is Patient with the Weak in Faith
One of the clearest examples of this comes from Jesus’ interactions with Thomas. After Jesus died and resurrected, he appeared to his disciples who were hiding in a locked room. The disciples were overflowed with joy as they saw their Lord risen from the grave. But there was just one slight problem. Thomas wasn’t there. And when the disciples told Thomas what they had seen, Thomas replied, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). Clearly Thomas had less than ideal faith.
Later, Jesus appears to the disciples again. But this time, Thomas is there. Now just imagine for a moment all the things Jesus could have said to him. “Thomas, are you kidding me? Didn’t I teach you that I would die and rise again? I gave you every reason to believe. You’re not worthy to be my disciple!” Perhaps this is how we imagine Jesus thinks of us.
But that is not how Jesus responds. Jesus says to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). Rather than scolding Thomas for his weak faith, he gently led Thomas to stronger belief in Him. Don’t miss the detail that Jesus put Thomas’ hands on His wounds – the very thing Thomas said was necessary for him to believe.
This tells me that Jesus is more concerned with growing our faith than scolding our lack of faith. There is no need to shrink back from Jesus in fear. Jesus didn’t shrink back from Thomas! I’d argue that the same heart Jesus had towards Thomas is the same heart he has toward the rest of God’s children who struggle to believe.
Don’t Confuse Perfect Faith with Saving Faith
Another helpful story comes from Mark 9, where Jesus interacts with a man whose son had an unclean spirit. Desperate and having exhausted all of his options, the father pleads with Jesus to heal his son. But Jesus responds by saying, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). What scary words those are! Jesus is saying that what stands in the way of the father’s son being healed is not Jesus’ inability but the father’s lack of faith.
But look at how the father responds, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). This is significant. What a person looks to in a moment of doubt reveals what he/she ultimately trusts in. Where does the father look? Who does he cry to? Who is he depending on here? Jesus!
This is a perfect picture of what it looks like for weak faith to cling to Christ. The very cry, “I believe; help my unbelief!” is in and of itself an expression of faith in Christ. When you cry out to Christ in the middle of unbelief, doesn’t that communicate more about the genuineness of your faith than the weakness of it? Every occasion of weak faith is just another opportunity for us to lean harder into Jesus and so exercise our faith in Him.
What makes this story even more significant is that it ends with Jesus healing the father’s son. In the very next verse it says, “…he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again!’” (Mark 9:25). This teaches that Jesus doesn’t require perfect belief. If he did, he never would have healed the father’s son. Don’t confuse perfect faith with saving faith. You can be saved without perfect faith. True faith is that which yields itself, despite all its insufficiency, on the sufficiency of Christ.
Your Faith is not Your Savior, Jesus is
If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know you always double-check everything that you packed prior to your flight. Most importantly, you check to make sure you have your plane ticket. It is so important that I’ve witnessed people empty their entire suitcases on their hands and knees just to find it. That ticket is absolutely necessary in order for you to board your flight. In that same way, faith in Christ is necessary for your salvation.
But I must emphasize an important distinction because there is great danger in misunderstanding this. Your faith does not save you any more than a plane ticket can lift you off the ground and carry you through the clouds. It is the plane that flies you, not the ticket.
The reason I mention this is because I think some people, without even realizing it, are looking to the strength of their own faith to gain assurance instead of looking to Jesus Christ. They might look to a prayer, a moment, an experience, or a memory and return to those things to assure their hearts before God. However, none of those things are substitutes for Jesus Christ. The Christian life is run not by looking at the state of our faith but by “looking to Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
We must remember that although faith is important and necessary for salvation, our faith is not our savior. Jesus Christ is our Savior. And that is relieving because if my salvation depended upon the strength of my faith, I could never be saved. But thankfully, even though I don’t have perfect faith, I do have a perfect Savior. That is my hope and my plea before God.
So, for every one time you look at your own faith, take 10 hard looks at Jesus Christ. And when you stop looking at how strong or weak your faith is and start looking at how strong Jesus Christ is to save you from your sins, you will be surprised what happens to your faith.