When Faith Grows Weak
Hebrews is the book in the Bible that basically deals with the difference between the Old and New Covenants. It mainly does that up to the end of chapter 10. Then in chapter 11, the discourse turns to a discussion on faith. From there on, and for two chapters, the Hebrews writer gives some practical applications of faith. In the latter effort, the writer said something in 12:12 which suggests that faith can become weak. He wrote, “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” Faith that wearies and keeps declining puts one at risk of spiritual extinction.
Faith that becomes weak after having been strong is a reality. The first stanza of a song that we often sing in assembly says, “When my way groweth drear, precious Lord linger near, When my life is almost gone; Hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand lest I fall; Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home...” If a weakening faith weren’t a reality, why would we sing such a song?
It’s easy for us to have a strong faith when life is going well. A successful wedding, a new-born baby or a blooming carrier is the kind of things that bring happiness and strengthen faith. Spiritual salvation, which faith that leads the penitent believer to water baptism provides, is also a source of joy. The examples in the New Testament of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:34) are cases in point. Both men rejoiced upon being saved following their immersion in water.
New Christians, today, show similar level of enthusiasm after conversion. Then, after a while, you see something beginning to happen – the intensity of ardour in their dedication and service to God gradually falters. This negative change in course in the lives of many becomes apparent when they struggle with attendance to church services, whether it is worship or Bible class. When that happens, what can we do?
It helps to be conscious of the fact that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The power Christians have to cope with adverse circumstances such as the loss of loved ones, loss of income and psychological pain proves the existence of something greater that sustains them. Similarly, continual effort to maintain the biblical way of life in the face of conflicting lifestyles popularized by worldliness attests to the reality of an unseen power that keeps them going. That power is God. The Apostle Peter said that the elects “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
It also helps to think about the examples of men and women of strong faith of the past – the whole 11th chapter of Hebrew is a record of some of them. Abraham features on the list. God promised him a son and providentially fulfilled it when the septuagenarian fathered Isaac. When Isaac became a lad, the Lord commanded Abraham to take him to Mount Moriah, build an altar and sacrifice him upon it. Abraham did not object to God’s demand. He surely must have felt sad over the prospect of losing his child. But Abraham did not disobey God and held on to His promise – God had declared that He would make of him a great nation. Paul said, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:20).
One crucial thing to do when one’s faith begins to grow weak is to look up to Jesus. The Hebrew writer said, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). The Lord Jesus Christ perfectly lived a faithful life to the end despite the hardship of the cross, and thus set an example for us. The practice of looking to Jesus can help sustain our faith in God until we have completed the Christian race.