Are we living by faithfulness or are we living by faith? Such a question not only confused the Jews, but it sometimes confuses us today. We can choose, for example, to be faithful, to be outwardly trustworthy and denominationally loyal. We can decide to be disciplined. We can motivate ourselves to moments of perseverance and prudence. These are all part of rational religious believing—and an essential part for all of us.
But such faithfulness doesn’t necessarily bring inner conviction. In fact, my experience is that carrying the heaviest loads in Christian work might even weaken faith instead of strengthening it. So, how do we deepen a faith that is separate from the doing of faithful deeds? How do we increase our inner spiritual confidence? Or, worse yet, how do we get our faith back when we have lost it?
The insecurity behind these questions comes from what I consider to be a false premise: that faith is something we are responsible for, something we must reason ourselves into. As Rudolf Otto concluded in “The Idea of the Holy,” faith is non-rational. For example, for Martin Luther and other mystics, faith was “the unique power of the soul.” For Augustine, faith was the “inward teacher” and for Quakers, the “inward light.”
In all of these, I see Christ at work. Walking with the Lord shows us that faith isn’t a willful thing—it’s a yielding thing. Faith isn’t something we struggle to get, but something we allow to happen. Faithfulness provides the rational structure of belief, a way for Christ to connect with us. But it is Christ who is “the author” of our faith—its source. And Christ who is “the finisher” of our faith—its goal and purpose (KJV Heb. 12:2). As we surrender in humility, the Lord’s “inward light” floods with faith our innermost being. (Living Large, chapter 48)