Developing Faith Involves the Participation of God, Individual and the Church
Developing faith requires involvement from three areas: God, the individual Christian, and the Church. Paul shows us that both God and the individual is responsible for developing faith and growing spiritually. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, initiates faith. However, the individual is responsible for his or her own choice to accept God’s gift of salvation. The Christian is also responsible for continued growth and spiritual maturity through developing their faith.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. — Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:17
The Holy Spirit’s Responsibility in Developing Faith:
A spark of faith is first generated the moment we become aware of sinful state. But the only way we become aware of sin is through the work of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7, Jesus said “It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. But if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Prior to Acts 2, the Holy Spirit did not indwell the believer. In Psalm 51, David prays following his sin with Bathsheba and ask God to not remove the Holy Spirit from him. God had to send the prophet Nathan to convict David of his sin, because the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we know, was not active in the day of David.
In verses 8-11, Jesus explains that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment. About sin, because they do not believe in Me. About righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me. And about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. That first conviction and realization that we are sinners is the moment faith is sparked. We then must choose if we will accept Christ’s offer of salvation or reject it and remain lost in our sin.
Without Conviction, We Cannot Be Born of the Spirit
As the disciples were all gathered in one place, the Holy Spirit came – just as Jesus promised. In Acts 2, Luke records the experience of the arrival of the Holy Spirit. “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:2-4, ESV) His arrival was important because if he had not come, we would be just like the people of the Old Testament who did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.
John 3:8 says that we are born of the Spirit. Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, we remain dead in our trespasses and sin. (Ephesians 2:1). Yet, we find life when we respond to His conviction, admit our sin and place our faith in Christ. In that moment, the Holy Spirit breathes the mighty rushing wind of life into our dead spiritual selves. He then takes up residence within us. So our faith originates in the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.
As we grow spiritually and develop our faith, the Holy Spirit continues to give us spiritual wisdom. As God works in our lives and we see His promises fulfilled, our faith grows. God also develops our faith through the trials of life. God is very active in developing our faith. From the initial convictions of sin to the moment we step into eternity, our faith should be growing and developing.
The Christian’s Responsibility in Developing Faith
The individual Christian also has a responsibility to “work out their own salvation.” This concept is not salvation by works. Rather it means they are to develop their faith and grow spiritually. Salvation is not through our work, but by God’s grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9). In Acts 2:42, Paul summed up the responsibility of the Christian to develop and grow spiritually. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” From this verse we see the Christian is responsible for dedicating him/her self to Biblical teaching, fellowship with other believers and prayer.
The Church’s Responsibility in Developing Faith
The church and its leaders have a responsibility in developing faith and seeing that its members are growing spiritually:
“my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” — Galatians 4:19
Every ordained minister and every lay leader understands the message of this verse. The implication is we labor in painful childbirth for those whom we are burdened for. Think for a moment about the people God has placed in your care and under your leadership. Picture in your mind the lost souls with a one way ticket to hell. Can you see the face of the one that is living rebelliously and stubbornly against God’s teaching? These are the ones you anguish over in prayer as earnestly as a woman labors in childbirth. We also see this concept in Paul calling Timothy his “Son in the Faith.” The souls God places under our leadership are our sons and daughters in the faith for which we labor in childbirth. We become the spiritual parent responsible for developing and growing our children of faith into mature children of God.
The Cost of Not Developing Faith:
Have you ever stopped to think what it was like for Mary and Joseph when they lost 12-year old Jesus? God gave the care of His Son to them while he was a child on this earth. And they lost him. Let that sink in – they lost the only Son of God. Now it is impossible for Jesus — the creator of the universe — to actually be lost. However, Mary and Joseph thought they had lost him.
Can you imagine the feelings of worry, fear and anxiety if you could not find one of your own children? Now imagine the level of worry, fear and anxiety you would feel if you lost God’s only Son. What if church leaders, experienced that kind of worry, fear and anxiety for the spiritually lost? Or, what if we felt the same urgency for each professing Christian who chooses live rebelliously outside of God’s will?
Child of God vs. Potential Child of God
At the moment of salvation, God adopts that person into His family and they become a child of God. Until that moment, the unsaved person is only a potential son or daughter of God. Whether saved or lost, every person is a creation of God’s own hand, knitted together from the moment of conception. As His own creation, He loves every single person and does not want even one to perish. We don’t come to faith in Christ because we love God. Rather, God initiates faith through the conviction of the Holy Spirit because He loved us even while we were sinners. (Romans 5:8)
What if the adoption of a potential child of God was dependent on your sermon this week? Or if you are small group leader, what if their adoption into God’s family was dependent on your Bible study lesson this week? What if the difference in where they spend eternity was in you taking time to visit them this week? How would the pastor’s sermon preparation and delivery be different? Would the small group leader’s lesson preparation and delivery be different? How would the prayer life of our church leaders be different? What would corporate prayer within the body of believers look like? Would we people be embarrassed to pray out loud if they truly saw that every human being is either a child of God or potential child of God?
The ministry of the Church includes developing the faith of its members through sound, Biblical doctrine.
The church also has a responsibility for “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” as a means of developing faith. (2 Timothy 2:15) Jesus entrusted the church with the task of teaching the body sound doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 says there are many influences in the world that claim to have the truth. However, God entrusted His word to the church. Because God called you out and set you apart as a leader, He has entrusted His word to you. You have a responsibility for rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
However, simply knowing doctrine isn’t enough. Satan knows every doctrine in the Bible inside and out. He probably knows it better than you do. God expects us to obediently apply it to our lives and to actively engaging in doing it. God gifted every Christian with specific spiritual gifts. These gifts enable them to carry out a function of the ministry of the church. The purpose of these gifts is so the “body of Christ may be built up until we all ... become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)
Rightly dividing the Word of Truth leads to developing faith in the members of the congregation. As a result, members are actively engaged in the ministries of the church.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. –1 Peter 4:10-11
As Christians grow spiritually, there should be an outward evidence of their spiritual maturity. That evidence is the engagement in the various activities and ministries of the church. No Christian should continually “sit on the pew.” There may come times where we need to be like Mary and simply sit at the feet of Jesus and soak in His Word, but that should not be the norm.
Works Don’t Save
We must note that there is no “work” that is good enough to save us from our sin. We cannot earn our salvation. Rather, Christ did all the work for us through His death, burial and resurrection. However, Christians have a responsibility to get “plugged in” to the ministries of the church as an expression of their love for God, other Christians, and the lost.
Developing Faith is Evident through Engaged Members
As Christians grow spiritually, the more they understand God’s love for them and what that love cost Christ. The natural response is gratitude and a love for Jesus expressed through serving others within the ministries of the church. The church should not be content to allow members to sit on the sidelines. God gives at least one spiritual gift to every one of His Children (most have more than one). He intends for us to use our gifts within the ministry of the church.
Romans 12:4-11 tells us that the body of Christ has many members. However these members have different functions and God grants gifts that enable us to fulfill our purpose. If we refuse to use our gift, the church is not able to completely fulfill its God-intended plan.
Fulfilling the Ministry of the Church is Dependent upon the Engagement of Every Believer
Every believer God plants in your congregation has a gift necessary for God’s ministry plan for your congregation.
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body. Whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free. And have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” ( 1 Corinthians 12:13-18)
Every believer in your church is there for a God-ordained reason. They have a mission and purpose to fulfill within your church. There should not be any Christian “pew sitters” within the church.
The ministry of the church includes engaging members to serve by using their God-given gifts.
Faith, without works, is dead
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. –James 2:17
The Church of Dead Weight Is a Dead Church
Why should the church take its responsibility of engaging its members in the ministry of the church seriously? Because without works, faith is dead. For every believer who sits on the sidelines, not serving God with their gifts and talents is dead weight to the church. For every member who is not engaged in service through the ministry of the church is a part of the body that is dead. Each dead part of the body means there is a part of God’s purposed designed for your church that is not being fulfilled.
Members Who Won’t Engage
The church should be actively engaging every believer. For believers who do not engage in the ministry of the church, leaders should be prayerfully considering why. Do they not know what their spiritual gift is? Are they a person that needs to be personally invited? Do they need to serve “behind the scenes?” Are they experiencing compassion fatigue or burnout? Do they need some time to spiritually renew so they can serve again? Are serving in an area to which God has not gifted or called them? Are they a Christian?
The Role of Spiritual Gifts in Engaging Members
Church leaders should be actively teaching about spiritual gifts and helping every believer discover how God has gifted them. They should help believers discover ways to use their gifts within the ministries that God has given to their church. They also need to instruct them in how to follow God’s will and plan for their life and their gift. Using their gift in the wrong area of ministry can be just as deadly as not using it at all. So it is important that they use their gifts as God intends.
We must remember that it is God who sets each member in the body as it pleases Him. Not as it pleases us and nor do we place them in the body. A person can be given the gift of evangelism. However, it doesn’t mean that at this moment God is calling them to witness to every person they meet. Maybe, instead, God is calling them to focus their gift of evangelism only on children or senior adults.
When a member does not seem to flourish in how they are using their gift, they could be misusing it. It might be time to discuss other ways that God could use that gift. They many need help finding their passion and aligning that passion with their gift and the ministries of the church. However, if it doesn’t fit with any current ministry, prayerfully consider if God is calling the church to a new ministry. One in which God intends to use their gifts and passions to continue the work and ministry of the church.
The Church also has a responsibility
to see its members engage in
We love Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker. It is a book that engages the reader to act on faith and pray in faith. What if every believer approached God and petitioned Him for revival in America the same way Honi ha-M’agel petitioned for rain? You can purchase a copy of this book through our affiliate link below:
|The Circle Maker|
By Mark Batterson / Zondervan
Updated and revised! When his land was drought-stricken in ancient times, Honi ha-M’agel drew a circle in the sand, stepped inside it, and wouldn’t budge until God answered his petition for rain. What impossible dream are you praying about? Sharing new insights and personal stories, Batterson’s bestseller will help you achieve your desires through audacious prayer. 240 pages, softcover from Zondervan.