Faith is not a one-time event for the Christian. It is not merely something that we did at some point in our past. Certainly, there was a time when we moved from unbelief to belief. But that moment of initial believing ushered us into a life of faith. A Christian is someone who, having initially trusted Jesus as Lord, goes on believing. We continue depending on Christ. This trust is not perfect. Sometimes it may grow dim and waver, and other times it can be strong and sure. But faith, for the Christian, is continuous. It is ongoing. It is a way of life.
The Apostle Paul calls this way of life a fight. He encouraged his young colleague in the ministry to “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12a). Faith is a fight for the Christian in that we must work hard, discipline ourselves, and sometimes struggle to keep on believing. The seeds of unbelief remain in our hearts and sometimes it seems as if they have so successfully sprouted that real faith is almost choked out. At such times I take comfort in that heart-broken father who asked Jesus to heal his son. With his demon-possessed boy writhing in the dirt at his feet and foaming at the mouth, this man looked at Jesus and, with tears in his eyes said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). He had faith (“I believe”). But he was lacking in assurance (“Help my unbelief”).
These words have been my prayer many, many times over the course of my life. When trials come, when it seems that God’s promises (what He has pledged Himself to do) are being contradicted by God’s providence (what He actually is doing), our faith can be severely tested. At such times the person who is trusting Christ needs to remember that the Christian life is a fight, and we are called to “fight the good fight of faith.”
One good way to equip yourself for this fight is through Scripture memory. What makes faith hard and unbelief easy is losing sight of things that are true. Storing up your mind with God’s own Word makes His truth more accessible to you than if you only had a general idea of it. Scripture that is committed to memory can be readily called to mind by the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. The Psalmist testified to power of Scripture to work this way in his life when he wrote, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
What makes faith hard and unbelief easy is losing sight of things that are true.
Another good way to wage war against unbelief is by heeding the specific counsel of God’s Word. The Bible records the real life stories of people who faced all kinds of trials and challenges. God taught them important lessons through these experiences. And by recording their stories in the Bible, He also can teach us through them. Often the Bible gives us the counsel of men and women who have gone before us in the fight of faith. By both their example and words, we are encouraged to keep believing.
This is true of King David and his instructions in Psalm 37. He wrote this Psalm when he was an old man (v. 25). It reeks of the wisdom of long experience. David knew what it was to be “on top of the mountain.” At one time he could do no wrong in the eyes of his fellow countrymen. Songs were written about him. Foreign kings respected him. His enemies feared him. But by the time he wrote Psalm 37 he had lived long enough to experience the reversal of fortunes. He had sinned grievously against his God and his people. He had experienced the death of a baby and inconceivably wicked conduct by other children, including the murder of one son by another and the betrayal and execution of that murderous son.
David had seen wicked people prosper and good people suffer. And out of the wisdom of long experience with God he encourages us to “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him” (v. 7). This is sound counsel for people who really know God. The Lord never hurries and is never late. Furthermore, what is sometimes easy for us to forget, He is always working for eternity. We often become anxious and wonder where God is or if He really cares. It is good to hear the God-inspired counsel of an experienced man like David, who also had those thoughts: Rest in Him. Wait patiently for Him.
What exactly does it mean to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him? It means to give our burdens and concerns over to Him. To trust Him to do what is right and what is good for us. It means to remember heaven, to remind ourselves that we are in this fight of faith for the long haul. God’s sense of timing is not limited to our clocks and calendars. To rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him means to orient your heart with such determination toward Jesus Christ and His death on the cross that the bloody scene of Calvary begins to melt your fears and anxieties as you gaze on it and are enabled to say, “For me.”