Is faith quantifiable? Let’s say you embark on a scientific, data-driven study of faith in the lives of Christians. What conclusions would you reach? Would you be able to define it, measure it, and compare amounts of it between subjects? “Let’s see, the charts show that Susan has more faith than Heather, but she’s not quite catching up to Sheila.” We’re uncomfortable with thinking of faith in this way – faith is not entirely rationalistic, and it can be hard to assess both in others and in our own lives. Another example: many of us rankle at the comment, “Just have more faith!” when we’re dealing with difficult circumstances. Would our problems disappear if we doubled our faith? Tripled it? We don’t want to fall into the trap of prosperity gospel “name it and claim it” teaching. So we treat faith as a very personal, private matter. We either have it or we don’t, and it doesn’t bear much effect on our circumstances.
And yet, Jesus in His earthly ministry commended certain people for their great faith and condemned others, even His own disciples, for their lack of faith! In the text for Sunday’s lesson (Matthew 15:21-31), we see one of these instances. Jesus affirms the Syro-Phoenician woman’s great faith and responds by granting her request for her daughter’s healing. In another situation, Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith in his own hometown, and apparently couldn’t do many miracles there as a result (Mark 6:4-6). The title of the lesson for Sunday is “Faith that Moves God”. Can having greater faith or more persistent faith, like the woman in the lesson, actually move God to act in the circumstances of our own lives? And do we, as Christians, bear any responsibility for increasing our own faith, or is it something that only God can do?
Come prepared to talk about these questions on Sunday. Although faith isn’t scientifically measurable, we will try to define it, and we will talk about how to grow in faith. We’ll distinguish between initial saving faith in the work of Jesus that justifies a person before God and faith as a character trait that matures and develops in the lives of Jesus-followers – this lesson applies more to the second description, but what are the similarities and differences of those types of faith? Finally, what can you take from the example of the Gentile woman’s faith in our lesson and apply to your own circumstances? Can you share any testimonies of faith in your own life or observations of great faith in others’ lives? All this and more, Sunday at Shalom!