Is it legitimate to try and measure faith?
Can we measure saving faith?
Not really. That’s God’s job alone.
Can we measure faith in action?
Of course! We are all the time anyway.
The trick is, there are poor and misleading ways to measure or discern your own level of faith or the faith of another and there are better more reliable methods. I will provide some examples.
How to discern or measure faith?
Poor and potentially misleading ways:
- Affirming denomination doctrinal distinctives.
- Conforming to sub-culture approved consumption and lifestyle.
- Going to church every Sunday without fail, maybe even if you have the flu.
- Being frugal. Owning a small house. Buying really inexpensive groceries and not having credit cards.
- Voting for Republicans and owning lots of guns
- Voting for Democrats and protesting foreign wars
- Women wearing long denim skirts, men having long beards, and homeschooling your kids.
- Praying before meals. Fasting twice a week (Extremely important in Ethiopia)
- Having daily worship with your family – singing and doing devotions.
- Reading through the bible in a year.
- Having tons of kids or adopting kids.
- Being well-read and well-educated (in traditionalist circles)
- Ignoring the news and secular media and reading nothing but the Bible (some charismatic circles).
- Attending a Christian school
- Not owning a television. (or more recently, not owning a smart phone).
- Staying close to your extended family after you are married and supporting them (some cultures).
- Moving out on your own and being self-sufficient after you are married (USA).
- Loudly affirming the importance of certain doctrines: Young Earth Creationism, End Times Rapture, Predestination, speaking in tongues, the authority of the Pope, plurality of elders, etc.
Any of these could be good things born out of faith. But they could also be merely attempts to fit in and be accepted by your peers. Or worse, they could substitute for real faith. The Pharisees that Jesus criticized had these sorts of things in spades but they did not love God. This kind of metric is unreliable.
Good and reliable ways:
- Fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.)
- Observing behavior and habits over a long period of time (many years)
- Love – having your friendships and family life characterized by love.
- Joy – being content with what you have. Not envying others.
- Peace – tending to bring peace to your home, workplace, and anywhere else you go rather than chaos and agitation and drama.
- Patience. Patience with your husband. Patience with your wife. Patience with your kids when you just stepped on a Lego. Patience with your annoying coworker.
- Kindness – Don’t be a jerk to other people at work. Empathize with those in need. Be generous with your money.
- Faithfulness – Can people trust you? Are you dependable?
- Gentleness – Being slow to anger. Not getting violent, with your fists or with your words.
- Self-control – Not being addicted to things. Not talking too much.
It’s important to note not just isolated events, but the exhibiting of these things with consistency over the course of many years. That is a good measure. People have good days and bad days. So if someone you know is acting like a jerk. They may be having a bad day. If they are like that all the time, then that is worth considering.
God has given each of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3-6). The degree and nature of it will vary throughout the body of the church. Nevertheless we, should desire greater faith. Let us pray and ask God for this.
God our father, we trust in your goodness. We trust in your grace. We trust in in your Son Jesus Christ who gave his life for us. We believe that your Holy Spirit has been working in our hearts in the past and also is today. We ask that you would give us more faith. Like the man that spoke to Jesus and said “I believe, help my unbelief”, I ask that you would increase our faith. Increase our faith such that it would spill out into kindness, love, joy, and peace in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Not because we need to do more stuff for you to love us, but because we love you and desire to live more holy lives for your sake. We can do this only by your mighty power O God. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.