How to Strengthen Your Faith
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 1 Jan
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Glen L. Gibson’s book Not the Way You Thought it Would Be: Making Sense of the Journey of Faith (WinePress Publishing, 2013).
The biblical patriarch Abraham is known as the father of faith because of the covenant God made with him to bless all people on Earth through his life. Abraham’s story is a remarkable saga of the power of faith at work.
Much of what Abraham experienced in his journey with God was unexpected. By studying Abraham’s life, you can discover how to strengthen your own faith in the midst of circumstances that are not the way you thought they would be.
Here’s how Abraham’s example can help you respond to life’s changing circumstances with the one thing you constantly rely on – faith:
Invite God into your situation. Abram (Abraham’s name before God renamed him), sought God’s direction for his life, heard God’s call to move to a new place (Canaan), and let go of what was familiar and safe to risk stepping out into the unknown. Just like Abram, you can also invite God to meet you where you are and lead you into the future he has planned for you.
Place your trust in God rather than in yourself. When a famine hit Canaan after Abram arrived there, his faith was challenged as he grappled with a situation he didn’t understand. But he chose to place his trust in God because God is always trustworthy. When you choose to trust God instead of yourself, your faith can grow like Abram’s did.
Deal wisely with relational challenges. Abram and his nephew Lot dealt with tensions in their relationship with each other, and Abram responded by working for peace between them. When you commit yourself to being a peacemaker in your own relationships, the Holy Spirit will empower you and strengthen your faith.
Keep your focus on God when you experience success. The battle success that Abram enjoyed tempted him to respond with sinful pride, but instead Abram chose to humbly recognize that God was the one who had allowed him to succeed – and he thanked God for that help. If you also keep your focus on God when you’re successful, you can avoid having sin damage your relationship with God.
Respond honestly to disappointment. Abram honestly expressed his feelings to God about a situation that disappointed him – his lack of a son – and suggested his own plan to deal with that disappointment: having his servant Eliezer inherit his estate. But after God reiterated his promise to give Abram a biological son in his old age, Abram believed God, despite unanswered questions. God welcomes you to communicate honestly with him whenever you feel disappointed – and to choose faith in the midst of that disappointment.
Expect God to fulfill his purposes in your life no matter what. God reassured Abram that, no matter where Abram was on his journey of faith, every step he took while trusting God led to good purposes being fulfilled in his life. God offers the same promise to you.
Avoid shortcuts. When Abram and his wife Sarai (later renamed Sarah) tried to take a shortcut in their walk of faith with God – by having Abram get their servant Hagar pregnant since Sarai wasn’t conceiving – their decision caused many problems. Their example shows that shortcuts aren’t worth taking in your own life.
Face your past failures. Abram faced his major mistake of sleeping with Hagar, worked through the issues it caused, and learned valuable lessons from his past failure that gave him deeper faith in the present. You can do the same.
Wait for God’s timing. God finally did give Abram the biological son that he had promised, but God’s timing was many years after he first told Abram to expect a son. In your own life, God may require you to wait for the right time for something you significant that you want.
Get ready to receive what God has promised. God blessed Abraham (now renamed from Abram) after Abraham showed strong faith in God himself, rather than just in what God could do for him. Just like Abraham, you too can strengthen your faith when you choose to trust God for who he is rather than what he does – and then you’ll be prepared to receive whatever blessings God chooses to give you.
Balance your faith between loving service and confident trust. If you do so, like Abraham did, you can stabilize your faith so that it will endure well.
Support God’s mission in the world. Just as Abraham did, you can discover by faith that everything God does in your life ripples out beyond you to others and helps accomplish God’s mission of redeeming this fallen world.
Make choices with consequences in mind. Abraham lived out the consequences of his choices – both good and bad – and developed a deeper faith in the process. His example can inspire you to make wise choices in your own life.
Deal with your bad habits and the weaknesses behind them. Abraham’s bad habit of occasionally lying caused pain once again when he deceived some people into thinking that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. He made progress in his journey of faith, however, when he faced the weaknesses behind his bad habits and sought God’s help to overcome them. You can do the same.
Discover God’s purposes for your waiting. While Abraham was waiting for the right time for God to deliver what he had promised, Abraham learned patience, trust, perseverance, and contentment while developing a more intimate relationship with God. You, too, can gain a stronger character and a closer relationship with God while you’re waiting.
Let go of self-sufficiency and rely on God instead. Just as Abraham had to fully rely on God to help him do what’s best in challenging situations (such as sending Hagar and Ishmael away in order for Isaac to take his place as heir of God’s promise), you can count on God to give you the faith you need to deal with challenges whenever you trust him to help you.
Keep renewing your faith. Abraham still had to contend with problems despite the many blessings in his life, but he dealt successfully with those problems by remaining focused on God, which constantly renewed his faith. You can successfully deal with problems in your own life by renewing your faith through staying focused on God.
Pass the test of faith. God tested Abraham’s faith in a dramatic way when he told him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a worship offering, and then saved Isaac when he saw that Abraham was willing to obey. God may test your faith in many different ways throughout your life. Let Abraham’s example of choosing God under pressure inspire you to do the same.
Pass the torch of faith on through transitions to the next generation. During the last part of Abraham’s life, he went through transitions such as remarrying after Sarah’s death and fathering more children. Along the way, Abraham kept trusting God, and his example of faith in action inspired all succeeding generations of people to trust God. As you go through the various stages of your own life, choose to trust God every day, and you’ll build a strong legacy of faith to leave for people in the next generation that will help them build their own relationships with God. Be determined to finish strong in your journey of faith!
Adapted from Not the Way You Thought it Would Be: Making Sense of the Journey of Faith, copyright 2013 by Glen L. Gibson. Published by WinePress Publishing, LLC, Enumclaw, Wa., www.WinePressPublishing.com.
Glen L. Gibson is a pastor and teacher in southern California. He has a passion to help people know God more deeply and to experience the full life God intended in the journey of faith. He received his B.A. in Religion from Vanguard University and his M.A. in Theology and Biblical Studies from Fuller Seminary.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: January 8, 2014