Like our muscles, we must exercise our faith for it to grow.
Here is the paradox: When I take my first step of faith, it places me in a position where greater faith becomes possible and actually becomes necessary. That first step emerges from my obedience to the call of Christ. By answering this call I learn to be faithful. If I refuse to follow where Jesus calls me, I never really learn how to believe. I stay stuck in the shallow end, trusting in myself and my own strength and wisdom. The repeated experience of my life shows me that this is an all too easily exhausted supply of resources.
The step of faith I take on hearing the call of Christ is not without consequence. What I need to realize is that taking that step is not the whole answer to my questions about my salvation. I cannot have it all figured out in the first step of the journey.
Discipleship is a journey of many such steps. Jesus continually pushes me into new situations where it becomes possible for me to rely upon and to trust Jesus more deeply. Each step leads me ultimately into deeper and deeper water. Pretty soon, it may seem that I am in over my head – but that is when real trust begins. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way: “It is the impossible situation in which everything is staked solely on the word of Jesus.” He adds, “Had Levi [Matthew the Tax Collector] stayed at his post when Jesus said ‘Follow me,’ Jesus might have been his present help in time of trouble, but not the Lord of his whole life.”
When I think I can live life without faith, I soon discover how wrong I am. Fear overcomes. Insecurity abounds. But when I come to a faith that is founded on the understanding that Jesus is the Lord of everything, large and small in our lives, I find I can move forward because it no longer depends only on me.
There is no magic formula: I am mistaken if I reduce faith to a set of steps that allows me simply to follow a set of rules rather than immerse myself in the presence of Jesus. Only when I am in the deep end, over my head, that I begin to trust in the Lord’s continuing presence. One thing I have learned - most of the time when I am struggling with faith, I am actually struggling with obedience, struggling to hang on rather than “let go and let God.” It is in obeying the call of Christ to follow where he leads that I find the faith I need.