I was born weak. Though I bear my father’s last name, I bear a much stronger resemblance to my mother’s side of the family. The people on her side tend to live long and relatively healthy lives, but they are physically and constitutionally weak—weaker, at least, than the hardy Challies folk.
I was born again weak. Though I was born again in the image of Christ, I was born again with a strong resemblance to his predecessor Adam. And the people on his side are weak—weak in faith. And I think there is a clear parallel between the two kinds of weakness.
Last summer Aileen and I discovered the importance (and joy, and pain) of working out. I had invested little effort in my physical fitness over the years and, let’s be honest: it was beginning to show. I convinced Aileen to join me, and we walked into a health club together and asked for help. They assessed us, hooked us up with a trainer, and we got to work.
Not surprisingly, I quickly learned that I was in poor shape. I had a lot of muscles that were very weak, and they were weak because they had not been developed. They had never been developed because they had never been exercised. I learned, for example, that what I thought was a natural slouch in my shoulders, was actually owing, at least in part, to under-developed muscles. I learned that the leg cramps I was prone to when jogging were due to calf muscles that were weak and poorly stretched.
The solution to this weakness was straightforward, but required a good deal of effort—I had to exercise those muscles, I had to stretch them, I had to build them up. And over time the problems began to correct themselves. There was marked improvement.
Weak faith is a lot like a weak muscle. Faith begins weak and it remains weak when it is not exercised. God calls us to live by faith and calls us to use our faith—our faith in him and in his promises. But so often our faith remains weak because it remains unused.
We need to exercise that faith if we want to see it grow. And this is why God does not show us the end before the beginning. This is why God does not give us a complete view of the future. If God showed us a vision of each step along the way and the final consequence of our decision or the final outcome of our crisis, we would have no reason to exercise our faith, and our faith would never grow.
So instead God calls us to use that faith, and to see it develop.
We exercise our faith when we read the promises of God, when we believe the promises of God, and when we call upon God to fulfill his promises. In those times we stretch our faith, and then we see it grow.
We exercise our faith when we step out into some new venture or new experience, trusting that God will do what is right and what is best and that he will provide for us. Again, we stretch our faith, we exercise it, and see it grow.
We exercise our faith when through suffering we trust in the character of God and take our refuge in the Word of God. We stretch that faith and watch it grow.
We are people of weak faith, but we can grow, if only we will use and exercise the faith God gives.