On the face of it, you might quickly conclude no, that God does not need our faith because God doesn’t need anything. But I think in many minds, we believe that we must have faith to be saved and for God to hear our prayers. I’d like to share my own experience with you, and I hope you can relate to my struggle to understand what faith is, where it comes from, and what is its purpose.
To be honest, I never understood what faith was. I always thought that somehow if I conjured up enough belief that maybe my prayers would be answered. But over and over again, I would be disappointed by not getting what I had prayed for. I thought, well, maybe I’m just not praying for the right things. Or maybe God isn’t answering me because I’ve not confessed all my sins. I thought, maybe God can’t do what I need Him to do because I don’t have enough faith. He must need my faith to do what needs to be done. So I’ve got to believe more. Also, I was always thinking in the back of my mind that maybe I would be lost because I didn’t have enough faith or the right kind of faith. In searching for what faith is, I came across some verses that may be familiar. For example you might know this one:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
In the Young’s Literal Translation, it uses the words confidence and conviction to describe faith. So, I concluded that faith is hope that is based on reality and evidence, otherwise it wouldn’t bring true confidence and conviction. In other words, it’s not about what I can imagine or just wish for. I have reason to believe it’s true to the point of following through with it in the face of obstacles or real adversity. I can tell when I have faith because I don’t just acknowledge that it’s true. My heart is changed to the point where I can’t help but follow that faith with action.
This evidence of faith by action is illustrated in this verse:
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.
Abraham believed God would come through for him and save his son even when what God was asking him to do seemed crazy. He believed God would follow through on His promises like He had before. He had the evidence for his faith. And even though he was heart broken and terrified of loosing his only son, His faith was so real, that he acted on it and followed God to the point where God had to intervene and prevented him from going through with actually sacrificing his son.
I wanted this kind of real faith. I needed to find out where this faith comes from. Do I just need to try harder to believe? Just act out of sheer will power? God gives the grace and I give the faith, right? Isn’t that what the verse says?
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
No, this verse says faith is a gift from God! Now after reading this verse, I didn’t see it right away, but to my surprise and amazement, contrary to what I had thought, that meant that I can’t make faith happen. It’s something that God gives me! What a tremendous relief! I don’t have to work to conjure up faith from nothing. And that’s what I had been attempting to do all this time. The only question was, would God give me faith or is it reserved for just special people who are somehow predisposed to believing? I’m a pretty skeptical person. Is there evidence of God helping skeptical people to believe or have faith?
I came across another well known passage that gave me hope:
And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
And the same story in Matthew 17 ends with:
So Jesus said to them, ”Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
I could see that the man was battling his unbelief and was asking for help believing. He was a little skeptical like me. Until Jesus came into the picture, no one was able to heal his son from seizures. But Jesus said that If you pray and have even the smallest inkling of faith, God will make it happen. The man did pray. And he did have an inkling of faith. It was based on and in response to Jesus’ promise of granting his request if he could believe and that gave him just enough hope and evidence to give him the faith to even ask for faith. He recognized his lack of faith and sincerely sought for more after Jesus planted that mustard seed sized faith in his heart.
That story gave me comfort that my desire to even have faith, and my prayers to God to help my unbelief was just like this man whom Jesus had planted a seed of faith. God had already planted faith in my heart. I just needed to ask for more and God would give it to me. He would give me even more reason to believe if I would just continue to ask and look for it. But even this initial desire to seek and ask God was from God Himself. Jesus said:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
God had sought me out even before I had any desire to seek Him.
As I tested out my tiny new found faith, I found that I was still not always relying on God to give me faith. I was still asking for things I wished for and imagined would be good for me. A lot of times, I harbored a fear that God’s plans and desires for me weren’t really going to make me happy because I was pretty sure that His plans were not what I had planned, but I was going to ask anyway and hope that somehow I could convince God to give me what I wanted. Or maybe just not ask, just do my own thing. I didn’t know the true purpose of faith. Was it a means to just get what I wanted from God? Or was I missing something here?
It took me a long time to truly and sincerely seek God for direction in my life. I had to come to a point where I was as desperate as the man with the epileptic child. God allowed me to endure some pain and consequences before I was ready to try His way. God was asking me to:
O taste and see that the LORD is good:
Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
And God’s way was so much better than my way. I wish I had trusted Him sooner and not made so many terrible decisions and mistakes that can never be undone. But I have hope that God will help me learn from those mistakes, and keep drawing me to a better life beyond my imagination. I just have to keep
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …
Jesus is not just the One who planted the seed of faith in my heart, He is going to make it grow until it’s a full blown tree. I have confidence that Jesus is not going to stop giving me reasons to trust Him. I have the conviction that I need to keep looking for His direction in my life because He is working to make me truly fulfilled and happy.
One person who really understood the purpose of faith was Enoch. Hebrews 11 says:
It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
God brought Enoch to heaven because of His relationship with God. He pleased God. How? He had faith. What was his faith for? Was he looking for wealth or power? Was he looking for the perfect earthly relationship? Was he asking for long life? No, he was just asking God for more faith. And the more time He spent with God, the more He fell in love with Him. He got so close, that God took him straight to heaven.
I hope to someday walk with God that way. I know from what God has done in my life thus far that if I keep looking for God’s promises and relying on His leading in my life, that some day I am going to be with Him. He has promised that.
… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ …
That’s God’s gift of faith to me. He has caused my faith to sprout and grow. I’m not special. He is going to do the same for you. Maybe God is nourishing the faith that He has already grown in you. But if you’re still a little skeptical about letting God’s will work in your life, I encourage you to try Him out. Let Him give you a taste of His goodness. And if you are struggling to find faith, don’t despair! God has already planted the seed and all you need to do is ask Him for more. He will give it to you! He has promised!
So to answer the first question, does God need our faith? The answer is: NO! He only wants us to rely on the faith He gives to us to trust and follow Him. In a nutshell: faith is trust in God, that we get from God, in order to be closer to God.
If you want to learn even more about faith, the book of Galatians is an excellent read. Even if you’ve read it before, you should read it again!
I’m going to pray and if anyone here today that would like to exercise a tiny bit of faith and pray with me for more faith, show God by just raising your hand as we pray. Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for bringing us here today. For giving us the desire to seek You. For giving us the promise and gift of faith that gives us the confidence that you can be trusted and the conviction that we must keep our eyes on You and follow Your will in our lives. Help our unbelief. Pick us up when we fall, and one day we will see you face to face. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.