Faith To Faith
"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Rom 1:17 )
The idea of faith is so central to Christianity that I don't think you can talk about it too much. We are saved by faith, and we live by faith. But what we mean by faith and how we actually go about living by faith is difficult to understand sometimes.
Faith has in it an unusual blend of uncertainty and certainty. Faith is sometimes thought of as action where there is no certainty. We have to make a distinction though. What is meant by faith is that we act with confidence in the outcome even though the current situation is uncertain and the means of achieving the outcome is uncertain.
One analogy I like to use is that of mailing a letter. We have a high degree of certainty that the letter will arrive at the intended destination in a timely manner. What we don't know is precisely how that will happen, and, unless we specifically pay for it, how long it will take. We don't have any certain knowledge of which truck or train or plane will carry the letter to its destination. We simply trust that someone else knows enough about it that we can reliably put the letter in his hand.
Now, if we had never seen or heard of a post office, we might be uncertain of not only the means of delivery of the letter but also question whether the letter would be delivered at all. That first letter we entrust to the postman might be given with some doubt and concern. However, once we find that the letter does actually reach its destination, we are more likely to be willing to trust our correspondence to the postman in the future.
This is how I understand Paul's statement that we go from faith to faith. Our initial act of faith may be timid and filled with uncertainty. Once we see God respond to that faith, we become surer of the outcome and more willing to trust. We trust in little things first, then with confidence in greater things. We go from faith into more faith. Thus, I say, faith takes practice. You have to get started with little things and then go on to bigger things.
Starting with little faith, the temptation is always to rely on something other than just faith. At first, we think that there must be some specific knowledge or act that we should have in order to have faith. Most often this is in the form of doing some act of goodness first so that God will favor us when we request it. It is the typical human attitude that I'm not sure if God will come through, so I'll put up something first, do a deal as it were. But consider these scenes from the Gospel.
"And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed." (Mat 8:2-3)
"And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. ... And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour." (Mat 8:5-13 )
"When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." (Mat 8:16-17)
"And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God." (Luk 18:35-43 )
In these and many other situations Jesus says, "Your faith has healed you." That doesn't in any way diminish that it was the power from Jesus that healed, cast out demons, and restored a sound mind. It simply is that they relied solely on Jesus. Jesus didn't say, "First let me see if your understanding of your condition is correct. Then we will see if you have performed the right ritual or said the proper prayer." All it took was that they put their faith in Jesus.
We tend to forget this. We tend to think that we have to work out some deep understanding first. Is it a demon that has possessed the person? Is it a mental illness? Is it some generational curse? Is it infection, or nutrition, or something else? What we need to do first is find faith. We don't really need to know why our how or when so much as we just need to recognize the condition exists and that our first instinct must be to have faith.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." (Joh 14:1)
"These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (Joh 14:25-26)
First we get faith. Then, out of that faith knowledge comes through the Holy Spirit. So, we get faith, then more faith, then more faith, until we come to the perfect understanding. The more we exercise faith, the more of Christ's spirit fills us, and from that Spirit more understanding comes. We don't need to figure it all out up front so that we can have faith. We trust in the outcome even though we don't yet know how or why the result will come.
In so doing, we experience the reality of God's working in us rather than just reading about it or hearing about it. We act in faith and when we see God go to work in our situation the understanding of God's power comes to us. It is an experiential, realized thing and not an intellectual understanding that we seek. Knowing a lot about the Bible doesn't do a thing for us. Taking the lessons of the Bible and acting in faith causes us to grow spiritually.
One final thing we must always remember. From our viewpoint, it is the end result that is important. We want the healing, the deliverance, or the removal of the problem we face. But, from God's view, it is the strengthening of our faith into perfect knowledge of Him that is really important. As Jesus shows, God can remove the burden instantly if He desires. In our initial steps of faith, things tend to happen fairly quickly. God shows us He can respond so that we will know our faith in Him is not misplaced. However, for faith to grow stronger and stronger, the challenge must grow greater as well.
We find at times that we have to wait longer for the result than we did initially. But, that is part of the practice of faith. An athlete trains and gets stronger in order to run the race. Winning the race does not in itself produce that strength. Once the race is over the strength that was gained remains with the athlete. However, to get stronger still, a longer, more difficult race is required, and that takes even more training in preparation. If the athlete were to stop running races, the strength would eventually fade away.
This is how we go from faith to faith: it takes practice. The desire for healing and deliverance is what gets us going in faith. Once that result comes, however, we need a new, bigger challenge to gain greater faith. Thus we go from faith to faith up to the very end. Our final healing only comes when we step out of this mortal existence. But by that time, the faith we have practiced will have given us the knowledge of God we need for all eternity.