By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Faith is like a muscle in our bodies. We are given all we will ever need at the point of our salvation, but if we don’t often use or exercise that muscle, it will become weak and ineffective.
Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains (Matthew 17:20). Yet, if we want that minuscule-sized faith to move mountain-sized objects or circumstances, we need to strengthen it by using it in the small things so it grows to conquer the big things.
In a parable in Matthew 25, Jesus said if we are “faithful in a few things” we will be given more (verse 21 NIV). He also said, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have [or, does not use what one has], even what they have will be taken from them” (verse 29). I believe that applies to our faith as well as our gifts and talents. As you and I exercise faith in the little things, then we will be in tip-top faith shape for the bigger things.
If your faith is sagging a bit from not using or exercising it, it might be time for a faith lift. Here are seven small habits to build your faith.
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1. Be Thankful in All Things
If you want to grow your faith, don’t put conditions or parameters around what you are thankful for. Instead, obey 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
We all know fair-weathered believers. They are thankful to God when life is good, but they question their faith when circumstances go south. It is God’s will for you and me to be thankful in everything because it grows our faith, refines us, and makes us more like Jesus. Being thankful in every circumstance – even the disappointing, uncomfortable, and painful ones– grows your faith in God’s ability to work all things “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). You can become light in this darkened and cynical world when you can be thankful in all things, not just the good, comfortable, and pleasant things.
2. Remember the Times God Has Come Through
Throughout Scripture, God commanded His people to remember the things He did for them. He told them to build altars of remembrance to tell their children and those after them the great things that God had done. God knew we were people prone to forget and then falter in our faith. So, if we remember all He had done, we would have faith for the next time the challenging circumstances come.
I have a “remembrance ring” that hangs on the wall in my home. I write on a small piece of paper when God does something extraordinary, unexpected, or just comes through when my family or I needed Him. I then hole-punch those slips of paper and hang them on the ring. Yearly, my family goes through the slips of paper on the ring so we can remember all God did that year. You can do this by writing out your own blessings and putting them in a jar or decorative box. Make it a family affair. By remembering what God did in the past, you are strengthening your faith in what God can do in your present and your future.
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3. Record Your Prayer Requests and Answers
The more we talk with God in prayer, the more our faith grows. And the more we recount what He did with our prayers, the stronger our prayer life and faith muscles become. Start recording your prayer requests in a journal or on a sheet of paper you keep in your Bible. Write the date of your request. Then, highlight those requests that were answered with a yellow pen and record the date they were answered. Or you may want to leave space for how that request was answered. Just because God didn’t say “yes” to a request of yours doesn’t mean He didn’t answer it. Sometimes His “no” or “wait” are blessings in disguise. Seeing – and recording – how God answered your prayers can build your faith in the God who promises that “no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11).
4. Take Time to Praise God Daily
This is different than thanking God (as mentioned in #1). Praise is adoring God for who He is, not just thanking Him for what He has done. Our gratitude can sometimes be focused on us and what we want, and how God pleased us. But praise moves us out of the picture and is centered on God’s character and attributes.
There are many ways we can praise God creatively. For example, praise God through the alphabet by choosing an attribute of His for each of the ABCs: “God, You are amazing. You are beautiful. You are capable. You are deity. You are everlasting…” Or take one letter a day and praise God with as many words that start with that letter that you can think of. For example: “God you are capable. You are compassionate. You are caring. You are the Comforter.” As you praise Him and remind yourself of His attributes, you are recounting your reasons for having faith in Him.
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5. Ask Big Things of God
Scripture tells us that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). I believe God is waiting for the challenge, for us to ask so big and exercise so much faith that we are convinced when He answers that it had to be Him. Of course, He can provide your sustenance as you pray “Give us this day, our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) and care for His own when you pray “Please bless my church and the missionaries.” But ask Him for something specific and something too big for you to accomplish on your own and it will strengthen your faith each time as you witness God come through, and you realize it wasn’t a coincidence or a result of your own efforts.
Unleash the wonders of God by asking for what only He can do (I’m not referring to asking that you win the lottery so you can give half of it to your church. Or praying that you are promoted at your job so you can buy that multi-million-dollar home). Ask according to God’s will. Ask in Jesus’ name – which means asking God the Father for something that Jesus, His Son, would ask for. Ask on behalf of Jesus, so that God will be glorified. God loves to answer big prayers. He is the God of the impossible. And without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11). So, please His heart – and build your faith – by asking big.
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6. Ask for Divine Appointments.
I believe every day there are God-appointments for us to live out our purpose, impact others eternally. and bring glory to God. We just need eyes to see these divine appointments and boldness to act upon them.
Over the past five decades of walking with God and both seeing and missing divine appointments, I’ve learned that when I specifically ask for divine appointments to serve someone, make a difference, glorify God, or share the Gospel, God gives them to me every time. Perhaps by asking for them, I am more on the alert to recognize them when they appear before me. I’m convinced every time you ask for a divine appointment (or for eyes to see the one already in front of you), He will provide it, too. That conviction is based on 1 John 5:14-15, which tells us if we ask anything according to His will He hears us and if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we will receive what we’ve asked of Him. It’s definitely God’s will that we partake in His divine appointments and the “good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). So, ask for divine appointments – and then act upon them – and it will build your faith.
7. Whisper His Name
There are times we need God, but we just don't know what to say or where to begin. Start by saying His name and then speak your heart's cry. Scripture says there is power in the name of Jesus, not only because "Salvation is found in no one else” (Acts 4:12), but because Jesus responds to His name when His loved ones call to Him.
The writers of the classics called this type of whispering cry “breath prayers.” My breath prayers to sense His presence are "Jesus, I need You" or "Jesus, give me a heart for You." Calling His name just as often as we breathe is one of the simplest ways to sense His presence or remind ourselves that He is there. I believe the simplest of cries are the ones that penetrate His heart – and ours – the quickest. And when we call on His name and sense His presence, it builds our faith.
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