Rev. denHartog is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.
The good works of the strong in faith are first of all the works of humility and meekness. The first fruit of faith is a deep recognition of one’s own unworthiness before God. It is remarkable that one of the greatest commendations that Jesus ever gave of anyone’s faith was the one He gave of the Syro-Phoenician woman. This woman was not deterred in her pleading with Jesus even when He told her that it was not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs. She answered Jesus with the humble plea, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus answered her, utterly amazed by her faith: “Oh woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt” (Matt. 15:26, 27).
The fruit of strong faith is daily repentance from sin. The strong in faith hate and condemn sin in their own life and in the world in which they live. They strive against evil with the strength of Christ Jesus that is in them. They steadfastly resist its temptations and flee from every evil lust. Strong faith knows the dreadful power of sin and that no other power but the power of Christ can overcome it.
To be strong in the faith is to be strong in the truth of God. We know our calling to maintain that truth in our lives. That truth is everything to us. By the strength of Christ we resist every temptation to compromise that truth. We remain stead- fast even when all around us forsake that truth. The strong in faith will confess the truth even when ridiculed and persecuted by the world. He is ready to die for the sake of the truth of God because he knows that the glory of God is always at stake in confessing and maintaining the truth. Strong faith is manifested in the good works of love to God and love to our fellow man, especially to those of the household of faith. Strong faith overcomes the inclination of our sinful nature to pride, enmity, self-seeking, and strife. Temperance and self-control are the fruits of strong faith.
Strong faith is shown in words and deeds of kindness, humility, and mercy, especially to those who are in trouble and distressed and in great need. Strong faith is a faith that causes the true child of God not only to give of the wealth that God has given to him, but especially to give himself both to God and his fellow saints. Strong faith enables the child of God to bear with the weakness of his fellow saints and to endure the wrong that is often done against him even by fellow Christians. Totally opposite from the ungodly world the believer does not seek to show off his strength by seeking vengeance against those who have wronged him. The strong believer follows the Lord’s example in committing all things to Him who judges righteously. Contrary to every imagination of the world, there is great strength in meekness.
Strong faith is manifest in love for the house of God. It joys and rejoices in the worship of God and the fellowship of His saints. Such faith causes the child of God to desire to go up to the house of God even when there are many hindrances that might otherwise prevent him. Even if he has to crawl on his knees to church he would rather do that than miss even one worship service. The chief reason why the strong in faith desire to go to church is simply to worship God, to hear His Word, and to praise His glorious name. Strong faith works hard to maintain the peace and unity of the church without compromising the Word of God.
God gives us faith. God alone can also strengthen our faith. Recognizing our proneness to be weak in faith we need often to pray earnestly to God, “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.” God strengthens our faith through the means of the preaching of the Word and the use of the sacraments. At home God strengthens the faith of His saints through meditation on His Word and through daily prayer to God. We all know this very well, but we so often fail actually to practice the truth of this. Our faith must be constantly strengthened by hearing the solid doctrine of the Word of God through the preaching in the true church of God. Many are weak in faith because they refuse to leave apostatizing churches where the Word of God is no longer preached. Our faith is strengthened as we again and again meditate on God’s wonderful being and attributes and the mighty works of salvation God has accomplished for us in His Son Jesus Christ. The truth of God’s sovereignty, and of His almighty power and holiness, must be constantly preached in the church to strengthen the faith of God’s people. We strengthen our faith by having the mighty works of God rehearsed in our ears each Lord’s Day in God’s house. We strengthen our faith when we stand in awe before these wonderful works and bless the name of our God together with His saints in His presence.
Our faith is not made strong by cold, heartless prayer that is nothing more than a routine repetition of a few stock phrases. Our faith is strengthened by sincere, meaningful, and earnest prayer to God. Strong Christians are those who spend long periods of time each day in prayer. It is impossible to be strong in the faith without prayer. .The true Christian is often found wrestling long and hard with God for His blessing, and crying out unto Him in the weakness of his sin and the great troubles of his life. The Lord hears such prayers and. strengthens His saints who rely upon Him.
Our faith is strengthened by a life of thankfulness to God. Thankfulness causes the child of God to consider again and again the wonderful works of God which He accomplished for our salvation. The more we consider these wonderful works the more reason we have to trust in the Lord our God, the more we are assured that God is truly our God, the more we are confident that He will also accomplish our final and perfect salvation. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Consider how often we are exhorted in the Word of God to give thanks unto the Lord. Israel sometimes went to battle and conquered her enemies while singing the praises of God. When we do the same, God will strengthen our faith in the midst of great trials and give us the victory over our enemies.
God strengthens our faith through the trying of our faith. This is an amazing wonder of God’s grace and mercy. God never tries our faith to destroy our faith – of course not. We all by nature want to live a life of ease and pleasure, of riches and luxury. But there is great danger in prolonged periods of life that are free from troubles and trials. This often leads to carelessness and weakening of faith. If we are in such a situation in life we need to be on our guard against the very serious dangers of materialism and covetousness which have the potential of greatly weakening our faith. We must be ready for the Lord’s trials in our life and for His good purpose in them. God tries our faith in order that it might be strong and that it might shine for the glory of His name. We should desire this above all and not a life of ease.
Our faith is strengthened by the grace of God through the exercise of godliness. Often the reason why we are living in ease and without much persecution in our life is that we are not really exercising our faith. If we withdraw ourselves from real, active involvement in the life of the church and from the heat of the battle of faith that we are called to fight together with the members of the church, we will soon grow weak in faith. If we live a life of compromise, letting things slide in our life, compromising the truth of God whenever we face opposition and ridicule from the world, never really standing up for the truth of God, our faith will soon become miserably weak. If our life it totally caught up in our occupation in this world, in gaining more and more of this world’s riches and glory, and in indulging in more and more of the world’s pleasures, our faith will grow weaker and weaker. That is obvious is it not? But how far are some of us at least really guilty of this kind of thing? May the Lord have mercy on us and strengthen our faith for the great battle we are engaged in that we might not fall in that battle.
Our faith grows strong as we willingly serve God in His church and in His kingdom. To be strong in the faith means that we are conscious of this calling. The more the soldier fights in the battle, the more tried and strong he will become. We grow strong by knowing our enemy and courageously fighting against him. We grow strong in the great battle of the Lord when we realize more and more that the battle is the Lord’s and all our strength is in Him alone.
The members of the church of Jesus Christ. who are strong in the faith are a great encouragement to other members. On the other hand, weak members sometimes drag others down with them. We are called to build one another up in the faith. We are responsible not only for our own faith but also for the faith of our fellow saints. God has ordered the communion of the saints in such a way that some are strong and some are weak. The strong in the faith are called to support the weak. This is a beautiful thing to behold in the church. There will come times when even the strong in faith are in great need. There will come times when we face great crises in life that will seem to overwhelm us. We cannot face these alone. God does not want us to face these alone. He gives us fellow saints who are strong in faith to support and encourage us. There will come times when we need to strengthen and encourage others. We will be miserably unable to do that if we ourselves are weak in our faith.
As the end of the age approaches, the battle will become more and more fierce, and the need for Christians to be strong in the faith is increasingly urgent. The Bible tells us that in the last days many shall depart from the faith. We are often warned in Gods Word about the coming of the great tribulation. May the Lord make us strong in the faith that we might be able to stand both now and in the days to come. May He make us strong in faith that we might be useful for the glorious cause of His kingdom.