A Growing, Maturing Faith
I was reflecting not too long ago about the places I have lived in my lifetime. Living in Leavenworth is the longest I have lived in one place all my life. Since the time I was born, I have lived in sixteen different cities and have had at least twenty-six different addresses. Ten of these were addresses I had growing up. As I reflect on my nomad upbringing, I can remember the feeling of adventure there was with each move. Whether it was my fatherís transfer to the Pentagon or to Korea, I donít ever recall feeling a sense of foreboding, dread, or worry about any of the moves we made. It didnít matter that I had never seen the places we were moving to before, or that it was a different culture, or that I didnít know anyone at any of the places we were moving to. I had complete confidence in my father to have everything taken care of. It never even occurred to me to worry. As a result, each move felt like a new adventure that had an exciting sense of expectation with it.
We often speak of the desirable quality of a child-like faith. As we grow older, this quality of total, unquestioning trust can become challenging to maintain. For a child, it is natural to have a child-like faith. After all, a child does not often have an understanding of some of the harsh realities of the adult world, of things such as mortgages, interest rates, various social ills, government, and the various dangers in our world. They have not grappled with the deeper philosophical questions of meaning, nor have they tried to make sense of some of the apparent incongruities and contradictions in life. They havenít matured to the point of understanding some of the deeper things of God and life, much less how they relate to their world.
As children become adults and begin to understand, grapple with, and deal with all these sorts of things, it can become a struggle. The solution is not to be stuck in childlike faith, but to mature in faith. God does not call us to a naÔve faith, but to a maturing faith. Scripture always instructs us to move on to maturity (Heb 6:1; 1 Pet 2:2; 1 Pet 3:18; Eph 4:15; 1 Cor 13:11; 14:20). For some, this may involve a colossal struggle from a naÔve faith to a more mature and balanced faith as in the case of Job. We sometimes over-idealize the naivetť of childhood, but naivetť is not the same as a strong, maturing faith. A maturing faith often has battle scars. It has fought the battles of faith. It has asked and wrestled with the hard questions and has moved past the pat answers of a naÔve faith, which are often insufficient to fight the battles of faith. It has been nurtured and strengthened and therefore able to think and act theologically and practically through the challenges in life. In contrast to this, a naÔve faith that never grows can often be confused, weakened, or even crushed by the challenges of life. This was the challenge they were facing in the book of Hebrews. Their faith had not matured past the elementary principles and they needed to press on to maturity.
Faith must be nurtured and exercised in order to grow and mature. Here is a sampling of scriptures to help get you started in nurturing faith (Ps 1:1-3; 1 Cor 2:6-16; Eph 4:7-16; Heb 5:14f; James 1:2-5; 2 Pet 1:3-9). After reflection on these passages in context, we see that faith grows through going deep in the word of God, especially in our understanding of Christ. It involves understanding life in theological terms, not secular terms. It involves faithful obedience to Godís instructions. It involves meditation and reflection on what you learn from reading the word as well as insights you gain from putting it into practice. It involves a life of prayer and worship. It involves mutual support, fellowship, and edification. These things are necessary to grow and strengthen your faith.