Here's the thing about faith. If it's not anchored in something solid, proven and unshakable, at some point when it's tested it's going to fail. God wants to establish and settle our faith, but in order to do that He must first shake everything that can be shaken inside of us where truth and error don't agree. Hebrews 12:26,27 says "Yet once more I shake not only the earth but also heaven." Now this, 'Yet once more,' indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain."
When God wants to establish His truth in a person, He takes them through trials, temptations and allows them to experience various forms of trouble to the soul. When God shakes us it can feel like our faith is coming apart at the seams. There can be so many faulty ideas and perceptions, misunderstanding of His word and lies of the enemy that weaken a person's faith. When a person's confidence is in themselves (their talents, gifts, education, or other abilities), they can find themselves struggling with something that allows them to see their own weaknesses and inability to save or deliver themselves. They can find themselves failing in some aspect of their life where they once felt secure. This is a form of self made righteousness that God will strip off. There are many things that people put their confidence in that are not anchored in God. Financial security, family, job, retirement, even placing one's trust in government assistance and other things can all fail. Preachers, leaders, friends and respected colleagues can fail. Marriages can fail. These are things that are "made" that God will shake, because in the process people learn that none of those things have the power to secure our faith. He has to shake out all our false securities that are not cohesive with genuine faith, truth and trust.
Part of this shaking process can make a person feel that they are losing faith, going downward into hopelessness, depression, discouragement and despair. God will level the building if He needs to because this is how He pours a new foundation. The foundation of each believer must be upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, His grace and the truth of His word. If' it's laid upon anything else it will be faulty and prone to crumbling under pressure. It is at this place of being torn down that the person finds themselves at a crossroads. It is a dangerous place to be, because God allows Satan to be a part of sifting out the chaff and burning up our humanity through fiery trials. Satan hopes that the individual will fail the tests and continue on the path of despair, eventually casting away their confidence in the Lord altogether; for without faith it is impossible to please God. Don't get me wrong, the spirit of discouragement is very real and I don't mean to minimize the troubling it brings to one's soul. Sometimes only God can pull us up from a pit. But, at the same time, a person always has the choice of leaning into God or pulling further away from Him. The reality is, the person at this crossroads is going to go either one of two directions. It is dangerous for anyone to stay at this place too long. (Read Heb. 6). They will either allow hopelessness, feelings of rejection, abandonment and discouragement lead them quietly and slowly into apostasy and spiritual death, or they will find themselves earnestly searching for truth to settle certain questions in their heart and mind once and for all. It is the resolution of these questions that will establish and settle a person's faith in Jesus Christ. Thank goodness the Lord is alive and makes intercession for us. We may be brought low, but He is rooting for us and praying that our faith will not fail! Eventually a person must come to a point of decision and make up their mind what they believe. It is so important that we do not rely on assumptions or emotions or even what someone else might say is truth; we MUST search the scriptures for ourselves! No one can take the truth away from the one who has spent the time digging it out themselves. Those are nuggets of pure gold, and that is what God is going for. The gold is always tested.When the questions get settled with God's revealed truth, this is an anchor for our hope, which also leads to spiritual transformation and a re-birth of confidence and trust in who He is as a person. Faith is not real faith if it is not anchored in what is proven and reliable.
How Does Faith Grow?
A person cannot grow in faith or personal development unless they are willing to seek truth for themselves. It doesn't come by church attendance, listening to great preaching or listening to what someone else tells you is scriptural truth. There are many people that do these things yet have no real personal growth or development to their character, integrity, an increase in their level of faith and commitment to the Lord. Growth always requires something from the individual. Without the commitment to progress in a deeper relationship with Christ, a person remains spiritually immature and unchanged. They are not ready for the meat of the word until they have partaken of the milk, or the elementary things of God's word. Lack of spiritual discipline makes one dull of hearing and resistant to change. The church today is in dire need of self discipline. Not religiousness, but a dedication towards personal growth. The author of the Book of Hebrews says, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Heb. 5: 12-14).
Self discipline is key to personal growth and development. Many people understand this concept and will apply self discipline to other areas of their life, such as continuing education, networking in order to create wider circles of influence or focusing on good work ethics in an effort to get ahead; yet at the same time they can fail to realize the importance of applying self discipline to developing spiritual and emotional growth. Failure to apply self discipline in the area of personal spiritual growth results in a lack of good fruit (character and integrity included) that can carry the potential of sabotaging years of concentrated effort towards self improvement. Don't let a lack of character assassinate your future. Faith must be exercised before it can grow, and God is committed to us overcoming our areas of weakness so that we change from glory to glory. We must follow the instructions found in the word and apply it to our daily lives, not just feel comfortable with the fact that we might know what the word says. This is part of growing spiritually and demonstrating that our faith and confession of Christ as Lord and Savior are genuine. Exercising one's faith means that life experience proves what is real; the reality of the truth in God's word is tested, proven and found to be trustworthy. If one resists change then they remain spiritually weak and immature and are not able to digest the meat of the word. Faith and growth are increased when scriptural principles are applied to one's life and they produce lasting change in the person's heart and life. If the belief system is not tested, or "shaken" then the person remains unaware of the cracks in their foundation and unable to achieve greater personal growth until the foundation has been fixed. This is how God takes us through the process of establishing a solid foundation in order to produce faith in an unshakable kingdom.
Signs of Spiritual Growth
Spiritual growth produces good fruit in a person's heart, life, and character. They increase in love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. They strive to put the desires of their flesh to death and pursue godliness. They aren't perfect (no one is), but they continue to fight the good fight of faith, putting their trust in the Lord, and allowing Holy Spirit to have His rightful place of authority in their lives. They learn to yield to His desires, rather than their own. They endeavor to apply spiritual discipline and self control to certain things, knowing that even though many things may be permissible, not everything is profitable towards developing personal growth, maturity and establishing a greater level of faith. Amen. Let us forget those things that are now behind us and keep pressing on to maturity.