If Only I Had More Faith…

Faith is such a hard concept to grasp… John Webster sheds some light on it in a sermon on Hebrews 11:

Often when we think and talk about faith, we fall into a trap. The trap is that of thinking of faith as some sort of special power or faculty that we have, or at least that we ought to have. We think of faith as a sort of natural talent, a bit like being good at arithmetic or having a flair for gardening—again, some power or capacity we have or would like to possess. Very often thinking in this way about faith is bound up with a sense of frustration about ourselves, a sense that to some extent we are deficient Christians because we don’t seem to have much of a talent for faith. “If only we had more faith,” we chastise ourselves; if only we had a great measure of this mysterious power which would somehow make the Christian life more real and lift us out of our doubts and confusions.

The problem with thinking along these lines is that it begins in the wrong place. It begins with us: our attitudes, our emotions, our inner lives. And in this it tends to reinforce the false idea that sorting out how to live a life of faith is basically a matter of figuring ourselves out. It can encourage us in the idea that getting faith right means cultivating some attitude, putting our inner lives on some sort of disciplined regime. And the result of that is that we’re disoriented from the start. The basic rule for thinking about faith is this: What matters about faith is not us, but the object of faith. Faith isn’t primarily a power or capacity in me; it isn’t first and foremost an attitude which I adopt; indeed, it’s not first of all something which I do. Faith is objective—that is, faith is wholly turned outward to the object of faith. In a real sense, it’s not faith itself but that toward which faith is turned that is critically important in getting our thinking straight. What matters about faith is therefore not us but God, the object of faith.

Webster, J. (2014). Confronted by Grace: Meditations of a Theologian. (D. Bush & B. Ellis, Eds.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

May we remember that its not about the size of our faith but the “size” of the object of our faith – i.e. God himself.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

2 thoughts on “If Only I Had More Faith…

  1. God bless bro…

    Couple of things come to mind… and I am just thinking/processing out loud if you don’t mind:

    1) “For through the grace given to me I say to every one among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” ~ Romans 12:3
    2) “…For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit …” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:8+

    Elsewhere the disciples said “Increase our faith.”

    Fascinating stuff. I basically agree with Webster. I think faith is both qualitative and quantitative. The former is objective and either you have it (in the right object) or you don’t. The latter is subjective and really has to do with the degree of anxiety or assurance we experience.

    Also sometimes increasing our faith really means decrease our distractions. Want focus? Its sometimes not so much as looking at the object of focus as it is getting rid of the distractions. So some ppl who have a special gift of faith (1 Cor. 12:8) – its not as if they have a have a greater amount of something. Its that the junk … the noise is not there.

    So where was I going with this? Ah yes… the attitude comment. I think Webster is right if we use attitude in an everyday colloquial sense. If we get a bit techie, then I wonder if attitude is something that composes or is some sort of a constituent of faith. I wonder. You know JTB are considered to be the conditions of knowledge and if faith is a form of knowledge, then … Hmmm… Anyway … will keep thinking…

    Ok bro God bless! and sorry for almost writing a term paper here…

    In Him,
    ~ Raj

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