The Bible talks a lot about faith. Some people seem to have it, some don’t. Sometimes, the people that have it in one story, seem to lose it in the next. Faith is the stuff of salvation and everyone seems to have an opinion about what it is and how to understand it.
One common theme regarding faith is that people tend to see faith as an “all or nothing” commodity. Do you have faith? Yes… or no. In one sense, I suppose you can talk about faith in those terms, but I think faith is much more complicated than that.
Jesus talks about faith in terms, not only of existence (Yes/No), but of quantity and quality as well.
Sometimes He refers to “little faith”…
You of little faith! – Matthew 6:30b
He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” – Matthew 8:26
… Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:31
Jesus said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?” – Matthew 16:8
He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith… if you have faith the size of a mustard seed…” – Matthew 17:20
and sometimes “great faith”…
(Jesus) marveled and said… “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” Matthew 8:10
Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great…” – Matthew 15:28
The Bible seems to present faith more like a dimmer switch. You know… the light switches some of us have in our homes that allow us to regulate, on a sliding scale, the amount of light in a room.
There are several types of dimmer switches on the market, but most of them have two functions. There is usually a built in “toggle switch” that allows you to turn the power ON or OFF… and then there is a dimmer on a slide that allows you to regulate the light at varying levels.
When the toggle portion of the switch is turned off, the dimmer switch doesn’t do anything. When the “toggle switch” is turned on, then you can regulate the amount of light by moving the dimmer switch up and down. Push it all the way up and the light can be very bright. Push the dimmer switch all the way down and there won’t be any light at all… even though the toggle switch is on.
Viewing faith in these terms would certainly allow one to explain the behavior of many Biblical characters. For instance, consider Moses and the wilderness community during the Old Testament story of the Exodus. At times they seemed to act in great faith (with the dimmer switch all the way up) but at other times the dimmer switch was pushed all the way down and they acted in unbelief.
We see this type of behavior in the 12 disciples as well. Peter comes to mind. At times he acted in great faith, but at other times he seemed to be completely out of faith.
While the actions of these characters often seem inconsistent, they also seem strangely familiar to me. The journey of faith follows a similar road for all who experience it. Our faith is unpredictable and at times it’s also inconsistent. This is how the author of Hebrews can refer to the faithful obedience (Hebrews 11:29 & 39) and unfaithful examples (Hebrews 3:17-19) of the same characters.
For these the “toggle switch” of faith seems to have remained on during the ups and downs of their faith journey. God continued to be faithful to them, push them along, and encourage them in their faith.
This speaks loudly to the Sabbath experience available to believers today (Hebrews 4:9). The “rest” that God offers is found in the response of faith. Unfortunately, the “lack of rest” is a very real option for those who have faith but fail to exercise it in any given circumstance.
The true Sabbath is about learning and practicing a faith response in the midst of the tests that God sends our way.