an Active Life
following article is adapted from Basic
Christian Maturity: The Foundations of
Christian Living, edited by Steve
Clark and Bruce Yocum, and published in1975
by (c) The Word of Life, Ann Arbor,
Michigan, USA. It was developed as a
teaching resource for Christian covenant
communities and prayer groups in the
charismatic renewal movement. - ed.
The Importance of Faith
"By grace you have been saved through faith"
(Ephesians 2:8). The apostles proclaimed this
good news: all people can enter into a new
relationship with God by believing in Jesus
Christ as the Son of God. Faith is the key,
Jesus is the door, and salvation is the room to
be entered. Christians throughout the ages have
rightly viewed faith in the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit as the foundation of Christian life.
However, many Christians today lack a complete
understanding of faith.
Most Christians know that faith is important at
the beginning of one's Christian life: through
faith, a person establishes an initial
relationship with Christ. However, people often
overlook the role faith plays in every part of
the Christian life.
Faith is not only the key to salvation; it is
also the way people receive all of God's gifts:
healing, guidance, answers to prayer, tongues,
all the "riches of his glorious inheritance in
the saints" (Ephesians 1:18). Faith is the key,
Jesus is the door, but the house Christians
enter has many rooms. Salvation is only one of
Since faith is the key to God's innumerable
riches, it is also vital throughout our
Christian lives, not just at the beginning.
Whether a person has been a Christian for two
months or fifty years, faith stands at the heart
of his relationship with God. Faith is indeed
the key to the kingdom of God.
Mature Christian faith should be part of our
response to the first and greatest commandment:
to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and
soul. Our faith in God should be marked by
trust. A young son's love for his father is
filled with faith and confidence, devoid of all
mistrust, suspicion, or fear. How much more
should the children of God love their Father by
putting faith in him and his promises.
Meaning of Faith
Like love, faith is a fundamental Christian
quality which Christians frequently
misunderstand. Many people are frustrated in
having faith because they hold inadequate or
distorted conceptions of its nature.
True Christian faith is a reliance upon God
which allows him to fulfill his purposes within
and through his people. What are these purposes?
God wants to form his people so that their
characters reflect his own loving kindness and
faithfulness. He wants to make his people his
instruments so that he can touch and speak to
others through them. God also wants to teach his
people to pray in such a way that he can guide
circumstances which are beyond their control.
Faith releases this threefold action of God.
Faith clears the road on which God is moving and
offers him free access to the lives of his
This view of faith discourages some Christians
because they perceive faith as another task they
must accomplish in order to obtain God's favor.
Many Christians see faith as a hurdle standing
between them and God, a harsh prerequisite or
obligation they must fulfill. Such an image of
faith is false; it misreads and defeats God's
purposes. To God, faith is not a harsh test for
his people, but a way for them to rest fully in
his goodness and strength. When Christians
exercise faith, they abandon themselves into the
hands of a loving God, acknowledging God's
greatness andtheir own smallness, God's ability
and their own limitation. Faith is a gift from
God, freedom from the bondage of self-will.
Faith is not a task, a hurdle, or an obligation.
The Basis of
Many Christians are unclear about the basis for
faith. Some think faith has little basis. They
view faith as a blind leap, an arbitrary act of
will. While faith involves both risk and will,
Christians do not leap blindly into faith.
Instead, a Christian's faith is his or her
response to God's revelation of his own nature
and plan. God reveals himself in the Scriptures,
human history, personal experience, and the
experience of others.
Since God's nature is consistent and his word is
faithful, we can count on him to act in the
future as he has acted in the past. Like the
woman healed of a hemorrhage by touching the
fringe of Jesus' garment (Mark 5:25-34), we
believe because we know who God is. This woman
had seen the wonders Jesus had performed, heard
his teachings, known his goodness, and witnessed
his power. For her, stretching out a hand and
expecting to be healed was not a blind leap. On
the contrary, it was a supremely rational act
based on her knowledge of Jesus' nature,
desires, and purposes.
Christians can know God's nature, desires, and
purposes in at least three ways. The first way
is through God's universally binding promises.
The Scriptures contain many such promises with
clearly stated conditions. We read that God
gives the Holy Spirit to all those who ask him
(Luke 11:13); God forgives the sins of those who
confess their sins (1 John 1:9); God gives
eternal life to those who believe in Jesus (John
3:16). If a person believes in Jesus, he or she
need not beg Cod for eternal life. He or she can
stand upon God's universally binding promise.
All people who fulfill the stated conditions
have a solid base for exercising faith in the
A second way a Christian can know God's desires
is through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Since God lives within the Christian, the
Christian should expect some direct personal
communication from him. Such communication can
either be in the form of clear words impressed
in the mind, or in an inner sense of conviction
that God is saying something. (Audible messages
and actual visions are rare, but should not be
ruled out.) The Spirit might lead a person to
talk to a certain stranger on a bus, or to pray
that a headache be healed, or to send a
Christian book to a friend. Christians should
respond in faith to such promptings of the Holy
Spirit. All Christians make mistakes in
following the leadings of the Spirit, but this
does not lessen the importance of responding in
faith to what God directly reveals.
A third basis for faith is an understanding of
God's nature. Scripture and personal experience
reveal God's mercy and compassion for people.
Often Christians confront situations which are
not covered by universally binding promises and
involve no direct leading of the Spirit. Yet it
still seems that God in his loving kindness
would want to act. For example, Scripture
contains no universally binding promise that God
will heal every disease, and Christians will not
always receive leadings from the Spirit to pray
for healing of every illness they encounter.
Nonetheless, Christians can still ask for
healing, basing their faith on the revealed
mercy of their Father. Many healings,
conversions, and other acts of God are realized
through the faith of Christians who rivet their
confidence on the mercy of God, and not on
definite promises or leadings.
We can understand faith more fully if we
distinguish among three kinds of faith:
believing faith, trusting faith, and expecting
Believing faith means to accept the basic
doctrinal truths of Christianity. Such faith is
essential—but it is not sufficient. "You believe
that God is one; you do well. Even the demons
believe—and shudder" (James 2:19).
Trusting faith is the belief that God is good,
that he loves his people, and will care for them
always. A person with trusting faith not only
assents to a creed; he or she also entrusts
their life into God's hands. Such faith is also
essential—but there is more that God desires.
God wants his people to believe, to trust, and
to expect. Expectant faith reaches out to Jesus
and expects him to act in specific situations.
Expectant faith differs from the other kinds of
faith in its active, dynamic nature. Many
Christians have an abundant supply of believing
and trusting faith, yet still fail to ask for
much that God would gladly give. This is because
believing and trusting faith tend to be passive.
They stress a yielding to the will of God and a
willingness to endure difficult circumstances.
However, without the active response of
expectant faith, the Christian may mistakenly
accept adverse circumstances as the will of God
when God might want to change them.
For example, many Christians accept physical
illness, financial distress, and other
difficulties as inevitable events in the course
of God's purifying plan. God does indeed use
hardships and trials to discipline his children.
But he also uses difficulties as a way of
testing and building faith. "So, your car has
stalled on the way to the prayer meeting. Do you
believe that I love you enough to start it
again?" "You feel like you are catching the flu.
Do you believe that I can keep you well?" Jesus
taught his disciples to pray forcefully, even
for minor needs:
Ask, and it will be given you; seek
and you will find; knock, and it will be
opened to you. For every one who asks
receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him
who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of
you, if his son asks him for a loaf, will give
him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will
give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father who is in
heaven give good things to those who ask him?
To look to Jesus for specific help, to reach out
and touch the fringe of his garment, to call to
him and anticipate an answer—this is expectant
Response and a Constant Outlook
The dynamic nature of expectant faith
illuminates an important truth: faith is an
active, external response, not an internal
emotion. This is the biblical meaning of the
term "faith." Many terms from Scripture—such as
love, peace, and faith—originally identified
richly complex actions and relationships
containing an emotional element. Today these
words are primarily associated with their
emotional components. Thus people customarily
confuse Christian love with emotional attraction
to someone. Similarly, most people think of
"faith" as an internal surge of belief or
certainty. However, if tied to emotion, faith
becomes a sputtering and inconstant flame. A
Christian who views faith this way will find it
impossible to live in continuous faith. In
truth, faith is not solely or even primarily an
emotion. It is rather a way of thinking,
speaking, and acting which contains an emotional
Faith is an external response. You have faith if
you act in faith, just as you have love if you
act in love. However, faith is not only a set of
specific actions; it is also an outlook which
should characterize one's entire Christian life.
A Christian filled with faith will rejoice in
all circumstances, hope in God's providential
control of human events, and avoid attitudes of
anxiety, fear, negativism, hostility, or
discouragement. Thus, faith consists of both a
series of actions and a general outlook.
Faith is formed by God; Christians cannot grow
in faith by their own efforts. Nevertheless,
Christians can contribute to their growth in
faith by confronting some important hazards and
by following some helpful steps. An individual
person cannot build their own faith, but God
cannot build it without the person's
Hazards to Faith
hazard to exercising faith is fear. When a
person has an opportunity to exercise expectant
faith, the voice of fear often whispers, "What
if God does not do this thing? That will
probably crush your mustard seed of faith." Or,
"Do you actually think that your little faith is
going to make any difference? This situation
calls for a Christian with real faith." These
attacks of fear exploit our sense of human
These fears usually stem from personal
insecurity, fear of failure, and an over-intense
approach to faith. To overcome them, the
Christian should relax, rest in the Lord,
remember God's promises, trust his word, and
venture forth with a willingness to make
mistakes. Growing in faith is like learning to
walk: if you are unwilling to fall, you will
Christians who are just starting to grow in
faith should begin by praying for small things.
Begin by praying away a headache, and leave
praying for healing of serious illnesses for
later. Christians should be eager to exercise
their faith. They should view their failures as
opportunities to learn about how to exercise
faith more effectively.
about feelings of faith also frequently blocks
the free exercise of faith. Many people try to
work up intense feelings of faith for each
prayer request, believing subconsciously or
consciously that God will not work unless they
have the right feelings of faith. Such people
have more faith in their own feelings of faith
than faith in the Lord. When Christians pray or
act in faith, they should direct their attention
totally to God. Feelings of faith are helpful,
but God's power does not depend on them. The
realization that faith is not an emotion should
free the Christian from bondage to his or her
own feelings of doubt and allow the person to
stand firmly on the rock of God's word.
people who lack faith in themselves also lack
faith in God. Often a personal problem of
insecurity and self-doubt will masquerade as a
serious sin of unbelief. A Christian plagued by
this problem is also open to satanic attacks of
self-condemnation. When a person's difficulties
with faith are caused by self-doubt, he should
be especially careful to disregard these
distorted guilt-feelings. Knowing that the
problem is primarily with self-confidence allows
the individual to see the problem clearly and to
trust more fully in the Lord.
hazard to faith is spiritual warfare. Many
difficulties in exercising faith are natural,
but others are caused by satanic opposition.
Indeed, evil spirits can aggravate even the
natural problems. An awareness of the realities
of spiritual warfare aids a Christian in
resisting thoughts of doubt or fear which
spiritual forces hostile to God plant in his
mind. As these lies come to the surface,
Christians can rebuke them with God's authority
and replace them with the truth.
An Environment of Faith.
Christian can grow in faith if he or she
associates with those people who will foster
growth in faith. Social environments exert a
powerful influence on our attitudes, actions,
and the course of our lives. If a person spends
most of his or her time with sports enthusiasts
or music lovers, the individual will tend to
share their passions. Similarly, one's faith
will be weak if he or she is surrounded by
people who expect little from God. On the other
hand, one's faith will grow if he or she lives
among faith-filled companions. Therefore, anyone
who wants to grow in faith should identify the
Christians around them who are living lives of
faith, meet with them regularly, and begin to
develop supportive personal relationships with
can build their faith by reading books and other
media which communicate a faith-filled Christian
world-view. Of particular value are books,
articles, and other Christian media, such as
videos and online resources, which describe
God's work in the lives of faithful Christian
men and women. Such books and Christian media
testify to the truth of Scripture by showing how
God's word has been lived out in the lives of
his people. They are especially helpful for
those who are new in the Christian life.
Christian reading material can build faith just
as surely as exposure to the secular media can
particularly important means of growing in faith
is through hearing God's word. In the tenth
chapter of Romans Paul writes "so faith comes
from what is heard, and what is heard comes by
the preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
Christians hear God's word through Scripture,
teaching, prophecy, books, personal exhortation,
and direct words from the Lord. Often the
simplest truths inspire the deepest faith: God
loves us, his Holy Spirit lives within us, he
has promised to care for our every need. God
gives his word to strengthen us, reassure us,
and to build our faith. Thus Christians should
be diligent to hear, absorb, contemplate, and
love God's word, for it builds faith and
nourishes our spirits.
Christians will grow strong in faith as they are
faithful to personal prayer. God has adopted his
people as sons and daughters; he delights in
answering their prayers (Matthew 7:7-11). Yet
many Christians pray as though they were begging
money from a cruel and miserly stranger.
Confidence should pervade all Christian prayer.
As God's children pray with assurance, a new
faith is born within them and their petitions
release the power of God.
Prayer for Faith.
A final step in growing in faith is also the
most direct: ask God to increase your faith. The
Christian should offer this prayer confidently,
expecting God to answer it. God wants his people
to believe boldly in his love and his promises;
he will not refuse to answer a prayer which so
resembles his own desires.
article is adapted from Basic Christian
Maturity: The Foundations of Christian
Living, edited by Steve Clark and
Bruce Yocum, and published in1975 by (c) The
Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Steve Clark has been a
founding leader, author, and teacher for
the Catholic charismatic renewal since its
inception in 1967. Steve
is past president of the Sword of the Spirit,
an international ecumenical association
of charismatic covenant communities
worldwide. He is the founder of the Servants
of the Word, an
ecumenical international missionary
brotherhood of men living single for the
Clark has authored a number of
books, including Baptized
in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts,
Finding New Life in the Spirit,
Growing in Faith, and Knowing
God’s Will, Building Christian
Communities, Man and Woman in Christ,
The Old Testament in Light of the New.
above: hand holding a key,
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Copyright: Sergey Nivens