Faith is not an experience; it is a journey!

We stick it on coffee mugs, it appears on wall decor, and I have even seen it written on shoes. Paul first wrote it as a word of encouragement to the believers in Corinth, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Faith is a beautiful word, yet in culture, faith has, at times, been reduced to being not much more than a feeling or a blind act of our will. The Biblical meaning of faith is trust, assurance, and confidence. We do not walk by sight.

We journey through this life by faith – by putting our trust, assurance, and confidence in God.

During my time in the wilderness, Jesus has taught me a lot about faith – not about the academic concept of faith, but the integration of a God-confidence in the middle of the troubles and tribulations of life (Matthew 6:34, John 16:33).

I have learned that faith is not an experience; it is a journey!

The Developing of Our Faith

Recently, I had coffee with a couple who has experienced tremendous hurt from the institutional church. As we talked, they shared that they are questioning many of the ideas that others had taught them from the Bible. The foundations of their lives are being shaken. My response was “good.” I went on to explain that just as the Bible states, the suffering and trials that they are experiencing is a fire that is revealing and refining their faith to produce a more genuine faith in their lives – which is more precious than all the gold in the world! (1 Peter 1:6-7). 

Do we learn to walk by faith and not by sight, to trust Jesus, and to put our confidence in God by hearing a pastor say it in front of people on Sunday morning, or do we learn it by going through dark times and dark nights of the soul?

RELATED: What I am Learning in The Wilderness (Part 4 of 5)

The Journey of Faith

1) Real faith is not afraid of doubt.

I am not sure how everything is going to operate once Jesus comes back. For example, how do we get to meet and spend quality time with other saints? I am reasonably confident that every person will want to grab coffee with the Apostle Paul one-on-one. Perhaps there’s an app that notifies you of your place in line to see Paul and then notifies you when it is your turn. I can imagine looking down, and it says, “You approximate wait time is 7 centuries, 6 decades, 2 years, 1 month, 27 days, and 12.62 hours.”

There is also another person I want to meet in heaven. I don’t even know his name. He is the father who brought his son to the disciples to heal him of his seizures, but they couldn’t. When Jesus entered the situation, the Son of God told this desperate dad that all things are possible to those who believe. The man responded to Jesus by saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24).

I am so glad he said that! I am thrilled that God inspired Mark to put that story in the sacred writings. This father declared what I have felt so often in the wilderness.

To have authentic faith, we have to journey through doubt.

We also have to remember that our faith does not have to be the size of a mountain.

Jesus revealed that if our faith is the size of a mustard seed, we can overcome the mountains of life (Matthew 17:20)

2) We have to struggle with doubt to arrive at real faith.

Recently, as I was researching a sermon, I read an online article by a winemaker. The winemaker said something I found very interesting. He explained that the best wines come from grapes that struggle and experience stress. As I continued to read, he said “If you take a grapevine and make its physical requirements for water and nutrients easily accessible, then (somewhat counterintuitively) it will give you poor grapes. The object is to stress the vine to ‘work’ for water and the grapes that struggle to get water yield the best wine-making grapes.”

The taste of fine wine is the result of struggle and suffering transformed into beauty.

3) Real faith will be tested

As I alluded to above, Peter tells us, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

Perhaps the most confusing, disturbing, and complex story found in the entire Bible is when God appears to Abraham to “test” him by asking him to offer up his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1).

When God tests us, it is never to see us fail but to reveal to us the progress of our growth and to reveal areas of our lives that still need to be developed.

Even though the trials that I have been through were not from God, he used them to test me. God lovingly exposed my heart to me in the matters of forgiveness and love. My heart was also divinely tested to reveal to me if I genuinely believed that God was good, if God was indeed for me, that God would work out all things for my good, and that God is a redeemer.

Again, as Peter correctly stated, it is through the fires of life that a more authentic faith emerges in us. Brian Zahnd shares the following:

  • Real faith is forged in the fiery theodicy of Job’s bitter trial where every assumption of the goodness of God is put to the test.
  • Real faith is found during the forty-day wilderness temptation where the first question from the tempter is, “Are you sure?”
  • Real faith reaches the apex of “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” only after the agonizing cry of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It is by our wandering in the wildernesses of life that God matures and deepens our faith.

Craig Conaway is a trainer, coach, spiritual director, and writer. His passion is to help equip people to be courageous followers of Jesus who impact their spheres of influence for the glory of God. Craig has over 20 years of pastoral experience including directing an in-depth discipleship training school. He recently completed his book, Identity: Being Who God Says You AreCraig resides in Norman, OK with his wife and three kids, and is pursuing his Master’s of Leadership.