What helps our faith grow besides Bible reading and worship?

Q. Paul says in Romans that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God.” But some people don’t read their Bibles, and they don’t attend worship to hear the Bible preached, and then they lack faith. Are there other places in Scripture that tell of more things God uses to increase our faith?

What’s sometimes called “Bible intake”—reading the Word, hearing it preached, reflecting on it with others, etc.—is one of the “spiritual disciplines” by which we invest in our relationship with God and so build our faith. But there are many other spiritual disciplines that also serve this purpose, and they too are described in the Scriptures.

One of these is encountering God in the beauty of His creation. Many interpreters describe Psalm 19 as speaking of “the two books of God,” nature and Scripture. That psalm says that creation has a “voice” that we can hear, and that from it we can learn more about God. Romans says similarly that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” Not everyone heeds this “voice,” but it’s there for those who have ears to hear, and sometimes it surprises people.

Photo by Priscilla Smith
Photo by Priscilla Smith

Silence and solitude are also spiritual disciplines by which people can seek God. Psalm 131 is an example of this: “ I have calmed and quieted myself.” God says in Isaiah, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Too often, as God also says in Isaiah, people will “have none of it.” But sometimes people experience involuntary silence and solitude, for example, when recuperating from an accident or illness, and they find that God meets them there even though they weren’t particularly looking for Him.

Devotional reading in books other than the Bible is something else that builds our faith (for example, biographies of people whose lives are an example to us, or the reflections of godly saints throughout the ages). I once argued, in the course of a sermon series I gave on spiritual disciplines, that Gideon’s faith had been strengthened by the equivalent in his day of devotional “reading”: he’d heard stories passed down through the generations about God’s works, so that he was able to reply to the angel, “If the Lord is with us, where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about?” Knowing what God has done in the lives of others in the past helps build our own sense of expectation of what God can do in our own lives and our own time.

Another spiritual discipline is journaling, recording the events of our lives and then looking back on them over time to recognize God’s hand in those events, which we might not have been able to see while living in the midst of them. The book of Nehemiah is arguably that man’s own journal, in which he records events and reflects on them, interspersing prayers in light of his reflections (“Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love”).

One more way I’ll mention of increasing our faith is to pray faith-sized prayers. That is, when we have a concern about a situation, or an ambition to do something for God in this world, we pray for as much of it as we currently have the faith to believe for. If God has truly prompted this concern or godly ambition, that prayer will be answered in such a way as to encourage us to believe and pray for greater and greater things. I think this is what Jesus meant when his disciples asked him, “Lord, increase our faith!” and he replied, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” In other words, rather than trying to get more faith, use the faith you already have and discover what great things it can accomplish.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Really any spiritual discipline—any of the time-honored ways in which believers invest in their relationships with God—will help a person’s faith to grow. That’s because faith is ultimately trust and confidence in God, and the better we know God, the more we understand that we can safely trust in Him.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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