Seven Levels of Faith Maturity: Part I

I know it’s popular to break things down into lists or keys—five ways to do this or seven keys to achieve that. I tend not to like dividing up scripture into lists and keys unless the text truly does present a certain number. In this case, I have discovered seven levels of faith maturity. Here they are:

1. Futile faith:
Futile faith is faith invested in something that is not true. Futile faith can even be placed in God. For example, a person might be in debt and pray to God to help him win the lottery so he can pay off his debt and send his kids to college. While praying to God is good, God never promised free money to those who pray. He does, however, tell us about living below our means, tithing, saving, and being wise with our resources. We are also instructed to pray for our daily bread. Having faith in Him is doing those things, not asking for a quick fix that will enable poor money management.

A. ‘Futile faith’ is having faith in a god that does not exist

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15:17

B. ‘Futile faith’ is praying to the true God concerning things He has not promised or that are not good

You ask and don’t receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure. James 4:3 CSB

Biblical faith is in God, and about the things He has promised.

2. Dead faith:
‘Dead faith’ is described in James, chapter two:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? James 2:14 NIV

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
James 2:15-16 NIV

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead
James 2:17 NIV

…faith without deeds is dead
James 2:26 NIV

‘Dead faith’ is a faith based upon empty words or religio-speak.

Our church building is falling apart, but I’m not going to help
We are behind in our budget, but I’m not going to give
We need people to work with our children, but I don’t want to serve
We have an opportunity to reach our neighbors, but I’m not into that

‘Dead faith’ describes people who want to show up, do a religious thing, and then go home.

A few clarifications…

There are some who are unable to physically serve because of age or disability or other legitimate reasons. James is not picking on such people (nor am I). We all know seniors who are generous givers, prayer warriors, or display a strong gift of encouragement. Prayer is most definitely a type of work. Just ask Ephaphras…

Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. Colossians 4:12 NASB

‘Dead faith’ is faith with no deeds.

3. Weak faith:
‘Weak faith’ is a faith bound up with lists, rules, and regulations. Here’s how Paul describes it:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables
Romans 14:1-2 NIV

There were two primary legalistic issues in Paul’s day:

The first was whether or not a Christian needed to follow the laws of the first covenant, the traditions of the elders, and the regulations of the religious rulers. Some wanted to be saved by grace, but live by rules. This mostly affected Jewish Christians.

The other issue affected gentiles living in Greco-Roman cities, such as Corinth. Can a Christian eat meat sacrificed to idols? What if one buys meat at the market, but cannot determine whether the meat was involved in a temple sacrifice?

The cultural context of Romans 14 and the issues presented in I Corinthians are complex, and cannot be flushed out here.

What can be said, however, is that there were some Christians who were struggling with the lines between legalism and morality, between living by grace and living loosely.

We were saved by grace and must continue in grace to thrive.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:6-9 NIV

Paul describes those that fall back into legalism as having a ‘weak faith.’

4. Little faith:
‘Little faith’ is a faith that wavers during adverse circumstances. Jesus uses this phrase on six occasions. It reminds me of one of His teaching sessions in the wilderness. It was noted that people were tired, hungry, and might not have the strength to make it home. There were no shops nearby and no food. What were they to do?

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many? John 6:8-9 NIV

Notice the response was negative. It can’t be done.

Those with little faith are often heard uttering such statements:

It can’t be done
We don’t have enough money
It won’t work
And so on…

There disciples were once confronted with some serious spiritual warfare and fell into this line of thinking:

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith.  Matthew 17:14-20 NIV

‘Little faith’ is often overshadowed by guys like Zach Hunter.

gospelgeeks.net

Courtesy of Zach Hunter’s
public Facebook profile

As a young kid, his heroes were Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and William Wilberforce. He was outraged when he later discovered that there are still 27 million people living in slavery today, half of which are children.

People told him, of course, that there was nothing an eleven year old could do.

He focused his rage into campaign called ‘Loose change to loosen change’ and quickly raised almost 9,000 dollars. Please note that he was only a seventh grader. That was not a typo. He was 12 years old. He’s now 22 and has already published three books. To this day he continues his fight against slavery.

Here is the Amazon affiliate link to his profile:  Zach Hunter’s Amazon Page

‘Little faith’ is just the opposite. It says, like Andrew concerning the bread and fish, ‘What possible difference can I make?’

Click here for ‘Seven Levels of Faith Maturity: part II

 

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