1 Kings 18:20-29 contains an amusing story that tells of a group of prophets with great faith. With pride, certainty, and a passionate display of loyalty they cried out to their god to show himself and deliver them. No answer came, and they were subsequently destroyed.
Mark 5:24-34 contains a sad story of a suffering woman with shaky faith. With humility, seeming doubt, and a fearful display of shame she didn’t even cry out to her God to deliver her. Instead, lurking in the shadows and hiding herself within a great throng of people, she reached out to touch the robe of her God, not even willing to present herself before him. She was immediately healed.
Each story shows us people with faith, and common thought would tell us that great faith would be rewarded, while weak faith would be at best ignored, and at worst punished. And yet, the opposite is what occurs in these scenarios. Weak faith is rewarded, while strong and passionate faith is initially ignored and then punished.
There is a simple answer as to why, and it’s this: Faith is about the object, not the quantity.
The prophets from 1 Kings 18 had all sorts of faith, but the object in which their faith was placed was a lifeless and false god that had no power or ability to reward that faith.
The sick woman from Mark 5 had a faith so weak that she was too scared to even show her face, but the object in which her faith was placed was the one true God who has all power and authority in heaven and on earth to do whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3). One of the things that pleases God is rewarding the faith of those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6), and that’s exactly what this woman experienced.
I often hear Christians doubting themselves and their salvation because of their lack of faith. Because they continue to struggle with a particular sin, or don’t spend enough time reading their Bibles and praying, or because they don’t have the picture-perfect marriage they think they should, or they didn’t tell their neighbor about Jesus when they had a seemingly perfect opportunity, or they can’t stop being afraid of something – for all kinds of reasons people doubt their faith.
What this reveals is that their faith isn’t in God; their faith is actually in their faith.
We all have a tendency to do this. When we improve in all those areas I mentioned, we suddenly feel better about ourselves. When things get worse, we get back to doubting ourselves, our faith, and our salvation.
If that sounds like you, then I offer this encouragement: your faith, even when it’s timid, meek, and shaky, is in a God who is consistent, immovable, unshakeable, unchangeable, and never surprised. Your shakiness and weakness never causes him to waver in his love for you.
Should we desire to grow in our faith? Absolutely! A strong faith leads to continued obedience and a deeper and more intimate relationship with our loving Father. But the reality is that our faith will always have an ebb and flow to it in our lives. So remember that our faith is about the object in which it’s placed, not the quantity or strength of it.