When doubts plague us and that tickle of anxiety begins to worm its way down our spine, we might hear a number of encouraging statements: hang in there. I’m here for you. God is with you. Just have faith.
But that last one, “just have faith,” can be a lot harder to receive than the rest. Why can it be hard to hear “just have faith,” and what does our reaction say about our emotional and spiritual well-being?
What Does it Mean to ‘Just Have Faith’?
Typically, someone urging us to “just have faith” is telling us to hold on to our belief in Christ and our eternal salvation as the truth. They are likely telling us to set aside our worries or concerns and focus on what is most important: belief in God.
When Jesus cursed a fig tree and His disciples were astounded the very next morning to see that same fig tree now withered, Jesus offered those words in response.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:22-24).
Believe. Trust. Rest in the truth of Christ Jesus. All of this is typically what people mean when they tell us, “Just have faith.”
A Defensive Reaction
However, some of us might have a knee-jerk defensive reaction and interpret those words as somehow suggesting we don’t have faith to begin with, or perhaps that our faith is weak. Being urged to “have” something might imply we don’t currently have it and need to get it.
For those of us who are Christian believers and take our faith very seriously, being reminded of the root of our core values can sting.
We might then look at the person offering those words as if they are being arrogant, as if they are saying, “Be like me and trust in the truth of God. For as you are upset, clearly you are not exhibiting this faith.”
It’s important to remember this is not what the person is saying at all. They are simply reminding us of the gospel: that God provides forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who repent and believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
As we are promised in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
While we might resent or feel stung at being reminded of this truth, we must remember that it’s a truth we are commanded by God to proclaim.
Easier Said Than Done
We might also bristle or feel troubled over the qualifier that we “just” have faith, as though it is easy for us to surrender all our earthly worries and concerns and trust that God will handle everything.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7, the Apostle Paul tells us we are to live by faith, not by sight. We are to trust in what we are promised. Romans 8:24-25 tells us to trust and wait for what is still unseen, and wait for it patiently.
But this is hard to do, for our natural human inclination is to test, to require proof, and to cling to what is tangible. The old saying, “seeing is believing,” is popular for a reason.
Despite its difficulty to understand or even to follow, though, having faith is exactly what we are called to do — have faith, just faith, and nothing more.
In Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus tells His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Yet faith requires giving over control, accepting what we cannot see, and putting our hopes in the unknown, all difficult for even the most trusting of people.
God knew this would be hard for us. Perhaps that is why the phrase “do not fear” is offered more than 300 times throughout Scripture.
Cultivating a Childlike Faith
Perhaps this is also part of why Jesus showed His disciples a little child and told them, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
To be like a child is to take on a “lowly” position, to put ourselves in a vulnerable place that relies on our needs to be taken care of.
He was telling us to trust, to rest in the truth and the peace that God is in command, and we are His children.
It’s about God, Not Us
One way we can “just have faith” is by remembering that accomplishing great things in faith isn’t about us or how much faith we have. It’s about recognizing and bowing to the sovereign and almighty power of God.
In Luke 17:6, Jesus tells us that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can instruct a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey us. It’s not about the seed or the tree. It’s about God, who makes this happen through our faith in Him.
Scripture and Having Faith
There are a number of encouraging verses throughout Scripture that remind us to “just have faith.” Here are a few:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5).
For no word from God will ever fail (Luke 1:37).
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).
So the next time someone reminds you to “just have faith,” thank them. They’re reminding you of the most important truth we can possibly hold onto.
For further reading:
Can Faith Really Move Mountains?
Should We Have a Childlike Faith?
What Did Jesus Mean ‘You of Little Faith’?
What Does it Mean 'Faith Comes by Hearing'?
Can a Christian Doubt God and Still Have Faith?
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.