Strong Faith – Weak Faith
“And being not weak in faith…he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith” (Romans 4:19, 20 excerpted).
Abraham, known as the “father of faith,” experienced interludes and intervals of weak faith during his one-hundred-seventy-five-year sojourn on this earth. However, as he progressed in his now-legendary walk of faith, he entered into the realm of strong faith. Our text from Romans and a corresponding account in Hebrews 11 cite this time of his life. Let us consider several evidences of strong faith.
Strong faith believes God for the impossible
“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17). This verse lists two impossible things, two things outside the realm of possibility for man: resurrection and creation. Strong faith focuses upon God’s infinite, limitless capacity to do whatever he pleases above and beyond the realm of the natural and into the realm of the supernatural. Strong faith focuses upon the truth that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37); that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27); and that “our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).
Those whose faith is weak will find it difficult−perhaps nearly impossible−to trust God for the impossible. In a generation of self-made, do-it-yourself, humanistic philosophy, many have degenerated to possess a self-made, do-it-yourself, humanistic theology. Weak faith of this type “trusts” God for the matters of life within one’s own capacity and under one’s own control; however, this weakness in belief (which is actually unbelief) struggles and often fails to grow to a point of believing God can manage the matters of the impossible.
Given that liberal churches have denied the miraculous for generations, it is little wonder that large segments of “millennial” society have no appreciable apprehension of the miracle-working God of Scripture. In addition, neo-evangelical, non-denominational churches that have diluted the message of Scripture nearly to the point of obliteration have also contributed to this culture of stagnant faith. Thank God for Bible-believing souls (whether in the pulpit or the pew) who trust God for their individual impossibilities. Thank God for those who have a list of requests that are absolutely outside the realm of human possibility. Thank God for those who are asking God to intervene in almighty undeniable manner,and who are believing that he can, and are believing that he will.
Strong faith focuses on God’s ability
“Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be…he considered not his own body now dead…neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb” (Romans 4:18, 19). “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11). While no doubt a bit redundant in relation to the previous point, this point still bears value. Not only does strong faith believe God for the impossible, but it also focuses upon God’s ability versus man’s inability.
Weak faith would have assessed Abraham’s weakened, wizened body and would have evaluated Sara’s deadened, debilitated womb. Instead, both husband and wife in this patriarchal couple abandoned doubt related to their old-age dormancy. This centenarian and nonagenarian disregarded all consideration of their condition. They laid hold of God’s ability to use what is weak to confound what is mighty. They both looked past their own fleshly incapacity toward God’s almighty working. They believed that God could override their inability with his ability. They turned “Can God?” into “God can!”
Strong faith gives glory to God
“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20). Weak faith would glorify man, but strong faith glorifies God. Because strong faith surpasses what man can “figure out” and “bring to pass” and enters into what man cannot do, God receives the glory. Because strong faith reaches beyond what man can do into the arena of what only God can do, God receives the glory.
The term miracle is all too frequently bandied about as if miracles were trifles. The concept of a miracle has been reduced in common conversation to mean “anything that works out better than one previously or originally thought.” The idea of a miracle has been trivialized to be synonymous with a coincidence. When such reduction in meaning becomes the norm, man actually becomes the architect of his own miracles. All such occurrences are anything but miracles. And sadly, man gets the glory for most of these so-designated miracles.
Strong faith, however, takes God at his promises and does not stagger. No matter how intellectually far-fetched that promise may be, strong faith glorifies God by believing the promise. No matter how scientifically untenable the fulfillment of that promise may be, strong faith glorifies God by believing the promise. No matter how historically uncommon the fulfillment of that promise may be, strong faith glorifies God by believing that promise. No matter how mathematically unlikely the odds are of the fulfillment of that promise, strong faith glorifies God by believing that promise. Strong faith believes first in the God of the promise and then in the promise of God. “Without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Strong faith believes in God’s being and goodness.
Strong faith obeys and follows God when the pathway is unknown
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). While weak faith may obey and follow God when the pathway is visible, strong faith keeps trudging when the pathway becomes enshrouded in fog and engulfed in darkness. Whereas weak faith may well obey and follow the Lord’s leading when all of life is well-defined, strong faith keeps its hand to the plough when shapes are vague, when shadows are abundant, and when light is dim. Abraham did not know where God was leading him, but he knew that God knew where God was leading him.
Abraham and Sarah’s lack of “understanding” did not translate into a lack of discipleship. Their possession of strong faith allowed them to believe that God was leading them and would ever lead them aright. What they failed to know by sight, they knew by faith, and they were content with that.
Strong faith sojourns in the new country
“By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…and truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned” (Hebrews 11:9, 10, 15). Weak faith continually seeks ways to return to the old country with its leeks and garlic and fleshpots. Strong faith loves the new country and longingly looks for the heavenly city.
Weak faith is often observed in believers who are glad to be saved, but who do not want to “take the next step” for fear of a smidgen of mockery or a slight inconvenience. Weak faith is evident among those saints who are quick to give testimony of their salvation, but who have no other testimony to give because they have not trusted God for anything else. These are often characterized either by remaining in many of their old ways or by returning to their old ways. Just as often, these are known, not because they practice their old ways but because they pine for them.
Strong faith dies with some promises unfulfilled
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Weak faith gives up and quits on God when the fulfillment of promises lags. Strong faith continues on, trusting, hoping, believing, being “faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).
Lee Roberson was known for his statement, “Quitters are a dime a dozen!” Perhaps if one conducted a poll of the “ustas” (those who usta serve the Lord), the most common reason for quitting might be unmet expectations. Like Naaman, they thought God or God’s man would have done such and such. Like a greedy Haman, they thought things would turn out a certain way. Like Peter, they tell the Lord what they have forsaken and immediately ask what they are going to get in return. However, when life takes unexpected turns, when the curve ball deceives the batter, when the day ends worse instead of better, these of weak faith quit. Neither Daniel nor Esther quit when their youthful years were shocked by political chaos and family bereavement. Neither Joshua nor Caleb quit when their fellow spies turned the entire nation against conquest at Kadesh. Neither prison nor threat of execution could make John the Baptist quit. Neither slander nor the sword that pierces the heart could thwart Mary from her devotion. These and many others who could be listed demonstrated strong faith that continues even until death even when some Scriptures do not “come true” on man’s schedule. These any several others who could be cited manifested strong faith that remains till death even when some promises do not mature to the birth or ripen to the fruit in this life.
Strong faith expects a good outcome from a hard experience
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17-19). Weak faith cannot grasp the means by which God can work all things together for good and turn curses into blessings and convert trials into glory. Strong faith believes in the good that comes from God because God, in the essence of his character, is good. Strong faith believes that God can bring life out of death.
Behold Isaac on the alter with Abraham’s knife poised to pierce his carotid. Strong faith said, “Isaac will be raised from the dead.” Behold the Shunnamite’s son dead upon the prophet’s bed. Strong faith said, “All shall be well.” Behold the Assyrian army besieging a beleaguered and outnumbered Jerusalem in the days of Isaiah and Hezekiah. Strong faith said, “Sennacherib will not shoot an arrow there.” Behold Moses as Korah and Dathan and Abiram and On clamor for “social justice.” Strong faith said, “The Lord will make a new thing and open her mouth and swallow them alive.” Behold Paul and Silas, naked from stripping, bruised from beating, bloody from scourging, bound by stocks. Strong faith said, “Let’s pray and sing praise to God so the prisoners can hear.” Behold Jeremiah in the dungeon. Strong faith said, “I will tell King Zedekiah the truth. I will not compromise the truth for advantage.” Behold Micaiah hated by Ahab, humored by Ahab’s messenger, harangued for telling the truth, humiliated by Zedekiah the false prophet, and housed in affliction. Strong faith said, “Ahab, you will not return from this battle.”
Hard experiences are entrusted to the saints of God to refine them and grow them and build them. Believers with strong faith wait out these difficult tests in anticipation of the good that will come. Saints with strong faith are victors, not victims; conquerors, not cowards.
Strong faith is the vehicle by which one travels through this world on his way to heaven
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. But without faith it is impossible to please him…” (Hebrews 11:1, 2, 6). Spiritual progress and growth is all vested in faith. Weak faith stagnates and stalls. Weak faith falters and fizzles. Strong faith hopes when substance does not materialize and believes when evidence does not appear. Strong faith pleases God and provides the good report one desires at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Strong faith propels the soul forward step by step.
Dear Reader, strengthen your own faith by reading the Scripture. Let God strengthen your faith through testing. Believe in God and believe God’s goodness and believe God’s promises. Make up your spiritual mind to weed out the devil’s lies about the character and conduct of God, and regarding God, think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue, and of praise.