The Necessity of Increased Faith
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/01/2003
"The Necessity of Increased Faith"
A Sermon by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON
"And the apostle said unto the Lord, increase our faith."Luke 17:5.
VERILY IF THE APOSTLE said this, one and all of us had need take up the prayer. If the twelve
mightiest in the army of the Lord of hosts had need of such a supplication, what shall we say who are
but the interior soldiersthe feeblest saints? If ye hope to win the day, does it not well become us to
pray, "Increase our faith?"
It is a matter of dispute as to the occasion when these words were uttered. Some think that we must look at
the connection of the chapter for the explanation. Jesus Christ had been teaching his disciples that if their brother
should trespass against them seven times a day, and seven times a day turned again to them, saying, I repent, they
were to forgive him, and that constrained the apostle to say "increase our faith." They conceived it to be so hard a
duty incessantly to pardon and constantly to forgive, that they felt unable to accomplish it without a large increase
of faith. Others thinkvery possibly with greater truththat the prayer was offered when the apostles
endeavored to cast out the evil spirits from the poor demoniac and failed in the attempt. "And they said to Jesus,
why could not we cast him out? And he said, verily, if ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto
this sycamine tree, be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea, and it should obey you." Then
they said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." However, whatever was the occasion in this particular instance we shall
always find good enough occasion for presenting the prayer: and I know not but this morning may be a season
when each of us may have special necessity to put it up to God.
"Increase our faith." Proceeding at once to the subject, the first thing we shall consider is the object of their
solicitude. It was their "faith." Secondly, the desire of their hearts"Increase our faith." And then, thirdly the
person on whom they trusted to strengthen their faith"They said to the Lord, increase our faith."
I. First, then, THE OBJECT OF THEIR SOLICITUDE WAS THEIR FAITH. Faith is of the utmost
importance to a Christian. There is nothing of which we should have a greater and a more earnest concern than
our faith. I shall endeavor to show you this from seven or eight reasons, and may God press them to your hearts
and send them so home, that every one of us may become deeply anxious as to whether we have a real vital faith
which unites us to the Lamb and brings salvation to our souls.
1. We ought; my friends, to be extremely careful of our faithboth of its rightness and of its strength, First of
all: when we consider the position which faith occupies in salvation. Faith is the salvation-grace. We are not
saved by love; but we are saved by grace, and we are saved by faith. We are not saved by courage, we are not
saved by patience; but we are saved by faith. That is to say, God gives his salvation to faith and not to any other
virtue. It is nowhere writtenhe that loveth shall be saved. It is nowhere recordedthat a patient sinner shall be
saved. But it is said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Faith is the vital part of salvation. If a man
lacks faith he lacks everything. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." If a man has true faithhowever
little he has of any other virtuethat man is secure. But supposing it possible for a man to possess every virtue in
the world, let him be as much a Christian in his exterior; the apostle Paul himself; let him be as earnest as a seraph;
let him be as diligent in the service of his Master as you could conceive even an angel on high to be, still "Without
faith"so God's Word declares"it is impossible to please God." Faith is the saving graceit is the
connecting-link between the soul and Christ. Take that away and all is gone. Remove faith, you have sawn
through the ship's keel, and she must sink. Take away faith, you have taken away my shield and I must be slain.
Remove faith, and Christian life becomes a nonentity: it is extinct at once, for "the just shall live by faith:" and
without faith how could they live at all? Consider then, that since faith is so important in salvation, it becomes each
of us more earnestly to inquire whether we have faith or not? O, my brethren, there are a thousand shams in the
worlda thousand imitations of faith; but there is only one true vital saving faith. There are scores of notional
faithsa faith which consists in holding a sound creed, a faith which bids men believe a lie, by wrapping them up
with assurances of their safety, when they are still in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity, a faith which
consists in presumptuously trusting to ourselves. There are scores of false faiths; but there is only one true one.
Oh! as ye wish to be saved at last; as ye would not be self-deceived and go marching to damnation with your eyes
shut, take your faith in your hand this morning and see whether it is genuine sterling coin. We ought to be more
careful of our faith than of anything else. True, we ought to examine our conduct, we ought to search our works,
we ought to try our love, but, above all, our faith: for if faith be wrong all is wrong; if faith be right, we may take
that as the touchstone of our sincerity. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath eternal life abiding in him."
2. Secondly:Be anxious about your faith, for all your graces hang upon it. Faith is the root-grace: all other
virtues and graces spring from it, Tell me of love; how can I love him in whom I do not believe. If I do not believe
that there is a God, and that he is the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him, how can I possibly love him?
Tell me of patience: how can I exercise patience unless I have faith? For faith looks to the recompense of the
reward: she says, that "all things are working together for our good," she believes that from our distresses the
greater glory shall spring, and therefore she can endure. Tell me of courage: but who can have courage if he has
not faith? Take what virtue you will, and you will see that it depends on faith. Faith is the silver thread upon which
the pearls of the graces are to be strung. Break that, and you have broken the stringthe pearls lie scattered on
the ground, nor can you wear them for your own adornment. Faith is the mother of virtues. Faith is the fire which
consumes the sacrifice. Faith is the water which nurtures the root. Faith is the sap which imparts vitality to all the
branches. If you have not faith all your graces must die. And in proportion as your faith increases so will all your
virtues, not all in the same proportion, but all in some degree. The man of little faith is the man of little love. The
man of great faith is the man of great affection. He that has great faith in God could give himself to die for God,
but he who has little faith in him would shrink at the stake because his love would be feeble. Have care of your
faith, for on that your virtue depends; and if you would cultivate things that are goodly, "things that are lovely,
things that are of good repute," things that are honorable to yourself, and pleasing to God, guard well your faith,
for on your faith all things must rest.
3. Thirdly:Take heed of your faith, because Christ thinks much of it. There are three things in the New
Testament which are called precious:One of them, you know, is the precious blood of Christ; another is the
exceeding great and precious promises; and faith has the honor of being the third thing"To them that have
obtained like precious faith." So that faith is one of God's three precious things, It is one of the things which he
values above all others. I was astonished yesterday, when I met with an idea in an old divine, concerning the
honor which God puts on faith: says he, "Christ takes the crown off his own head to put it on to faith's head."
Mark you how often he says, "Thy faith hath saved thee." Now it is not faith that saves, it is Christ that saves.
"Thy faith hath healed thee," says Christ. Now faith did not heal, it was Christ that healed, but Christ did uncrown
himself to crown faith. He took the royal diadem of salvation from his own head and placed it on the brow of
faith, and therein he made faith "the King of kings"for it wears the crown which the King of kings alone can
wear"the crown of salvation." Do you not know that we read, "We are justified by faith." Now, in one sense
this is not the fact, for the matter of justification is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are justified by
Christ, but Christ arrays faith in his own royal garments, and renders it truly illustrious. Jesus Christ always puts
faith in the seat of honor. When that poor woman came whose daughter was ill, he said, "O woman great is thy
faith!'" He might have said, "Woman, great is thy love" for it was great love that made her force her way through
the crowd and speak on her daughter's behalf, or, "Great is thy patience," for when he called her "dog," she still
stuck to him, and would not depart: or, he might have said, "Great is thy courage;" for she said, "Yet the dogs eat
of the crumbs." Or, he might have said, "Great is thy wisdom;" for she was a wise woman to extract sweets out of
the bitters, and to say, "Truth, Lord, but the dogs eat of the crumbs." But he overlooks all that, and says, "Great is
thy faith." Well, if Christ thinks so much of faith ought we not to esteem it most highly. Is it possible to think too
highly of that jewel which Christ reckons to be the most valuable? If he sets faith in the forefront of the forehead
of virtue, and if he regards it as the choicest gem in the crown of the Christian, oh! will it not awaken us to see
whether we have it or not? For if we have it we are richrich in faith and promises; but if we possess it not,
whatever we have, we are poorpoor in this world, and poor in the next.
4. Next, Christian, take good care of thy faith, for recollect faith is the only way whereby thou canst obtain
blessings. If we want blessings from God, nothing can fetch them down except faith. Prayer cannot draw down
answers from God's throne except it is the earnest prayer of the man who believes. Faith is the ladder on which
my soul must walk to ascend to heaven. If I break that ladder how can I ever approach my God? Faith is the
angelic messenger between the soul and heaven. Let that angel be withdrawn, I can neither send prayer up nor
receive the answers down. Faith is the telegraphic wire which links earth and heavenon which God's blessings
move so fast that before we call he answers, and while we are yet speaking he hears us. But if that telegraphic
wire of faith be snapped, how can we receive the promise? Am I in trouble: I can obtain help for trouble by faith.
Am I beaten about by the enemy: my soul on that dear refuge leans by faith. But, take faith awayin vain I call to
God. There is no road betwixt my soul and heaven. In the deepest winter time faith is a road on which the horses
of prayer may travelay, and all the better for the biting frost! But blockade the road, and how can we
communicate with our great king? Faith links me with divinity. Faith clothes me with the robes of deity. Faith
engages on my side the omnipotence of Jehovah. Faith gives me the might of God; for it ensures that power on
my behalf. It gives me to defy the hosts of hell. It makes me march triumphant over the necks of my enemies. But
without faith how can I receive anything of the Lord? Let not him that waverethwho is like a wave of the
seaexpect that he will receive anything of God! O then, Christians watch well thy faith; for with it thou canst
win all things, however poor thou art, but without it thou canst obtain nothing. It is said of Midas, that he had the
power to turn everything into gold by the touch of his hand; and it is true of faithit can turn everything into gold;
but destroy faith, we have lost our all; we are miserably poor, because we can hold no fellowship with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
5. Next, my friends, take care of your faith perpetually, because of your enemies; for if you do not want faith
when you are with friends, you will require it when you have to deal with your foes. That good old warrior, Paul,
once led the Ephesians into the armoury and after he had shown them the shoes they were to wear, the girdle, the
breast plate, the helmet, and the sword, he solemnly said, "Above all take the shield of faith." Even if you forget
the helmet, be quite sure of the shield, for if your helmet should be off you may ward off a blow with the shield,
and save it from your head. You had better put on the "shoes of peace and the breast-plate of righteousness," but
if you omit one of them, take care that you have "the shield of faith, where with you shall be able to quench all the
fiery darts of the wicked one." Well, now, faith makes a man very mighty when he deals with enemies. If a man
believes he is right, only taking it in a natural point of viewbring that man before princes and kings, for the sake
of truth, how lion-like will he be! He will say, "I cannot yield, I must not, for I have the truth on my side." Ay,
though others may style it dogged obstinacy, it is a true nobility of soul which bids a man declare, "I will not
yield." Much more strong is true spiritual faith; it has taken the martyr to the stake, and enabled him to sing when
the flames have girdled him. It has led another to the sea; and like him of whom we read in the old martyrologies,
it has helped even the aged matron to cry, "Christ is all yet." Faith has quenched the violence of the flames, shut
the mouth of lions, and out of weakness it has made us strong. It has overcome more enemies than the whole host
of conquerors. Tell me not of the victories of Wellington; mention not the battles of Napoleon; tell me of what
faith has done! Oh! if we should erect a monument to the honor of faith, what various names should we carve
upon the mighty pedestal! We should inscribe, here "The lion's den," there, "The battle of the leopards;" or, here,
we should have recorded how faith divided the Red Sea; and there, how faith smote the Midianites; and there,
how Jael slew Sisera by faith. What conflicts of faith should we have to engrave? O, faith! thy banner high shall
wave! Thine escutcheon is most glorious! Great art thou and full of victories! With thee, O faith, I cast the
gauntlet to the world, secure of victory. Give me a child to fight with, and without faithlike poor Peter before
the little maid, I should tremble and deny my Master. But that same Peter, with faith, fears not to stand before a
frowning sanhedrim; to speak of his Master amid the scoffings of the high priests. Mary, Queen of Scots, said she
was "more afraid of John Knox's prayers and faith than she was of an army of ten thousand men," and a sensible
enemy may well tremble when such invincibles are at war with him. I should not like to have a man of faith
opposing me. Tell me the world hates me, and I will rejoice at it; but tell me that a man of faith has determined to
crush me, and I have need to tremble then, for there is a potency in that man's arm; his blows strike hard; and,
when he does smite, he smites home, as with a rod of iron. Tremble, ye foes of God, for faith must overcome.
And O ye servants of the living God, guard well your faith, for by this shall ye be victorious; and shall stand like
rocks, unmoved amid the storms, unshaken by the tempests of persecution.
6. And now for a sixth reason. Take care of your faith, because otherwise you cannot well perform your duty.
Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments. Love can make the feet
move more swiftly; but faith is the foot which carries the soul. Faith is the oil enabling the wheels of holy devotion
and of earnest piety to move well; but without faith the wheels are taken from the chariot and we drag along
heavily. With faith I can do all things; without faith I shall neither have the inclination nor the power to do anything
in the service of God. If you would find the men who serve God the best, you will find them the men of the most
faith. Little faith will save a man, but little faith cannot do great things. Poor Little Faith could not have fought
"Apollyon." No, it wanted "Christian" to do that. Poor Little Faith could not have slain "Giant Despair;" it required
"Greatheart's" arm to knock that monster down. Little faith can get to heaven very surely, but it often has to run
and hide itself in a nutshell; and to lose all but its jewels. If there are great battles and great works to do, there
must be great faith. Assurance can carry mountains on its back; little faith stumbles at a mole-hill. Great faith, like
Behemoth, can "snuff' up Jordan at a draught:" little faith is drowned in a drop of rain: it beginneth to think of
going back at the slightest trouble. Great faith can build temples; she can pile castles; she can preach the gospel;
she can proclaim Christ's name before enemies; she can do all things; and if you would be great indeed, and serve
your Master much, as I trust you will, you will seek increased faith! for by so doing you will be more diligent in
duty. O ye active Christians, be full of faith! ye busy Christians, be sure to guard that I for once let that fall, what
will ye do? As Sabbath-school teachers, as preachers, as visitors of the sick, or whatever ye have to do, rest
assured that faith must be your strength and confidence. If that fails, where are you then?
Again: take care of your faith; for only faith can comfort you in your troubles. Ay, say some, this is about all
we think of, the uses of faith to console us in our troubles. Now I never like to laugh at God's people because they
desire comfort. I believe that it is a very great proof that they are children that they like sweet things. If they did
not, I should fear they were not God's children at all. But I hear ministers saying, "Ah, you are always saying you
want comfort, you want comfort." Ay, to be sure, I say, they do; and they want it because they never get it from
you, sir. I believe God's people do need comfort, though, it is true, they want too much of it when they ought not
to have it. But they require a promise very often, and they ought to have it. Now faith is the best cordial to the
soul. O, how faith will realize a promise at a time when there is great trouble coming! "Ah!" says faith, "God says,
'As thy days so shall thy strength be.' "Ah!" says faith, "it is a rough road; the thorns are sharp; the flints are
strewn about it, but then; thy shoes shall be iron and brass,'" and faith looks at the strong old shoes, and say, "I
will even venture," and off she goes. Little faith sits murmuring in a corner; great faith is singing in the fire. "They
shall praise him aloud in their beds, they shall sing his high praise in the fire." Little faith stands desponding,
mingling her tears with the flood. Great faith says, "When thou passest through the river, I will be with thee, the
flood shall not overflow thee; when thou passest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flames
kindle upon thee." Would you be comfortable and happy? Would you enjoy religion? Would you have the religion
of cheerfulness and not that of gloom? Then seek more faith. You will be saved with ever so little faith, but you
will not be saved happily. You will be happy hereafter if you believe in the slightest degree; but you will not be
happy here unless you fully, habitually, and earnestly believebelieve strongly in the faithful promises of Jehovah,
in all the glorious dignity of his person, and in all the faithfulness and immutability of his grace. If ye would be
Christian larks, and not Christian owls, seek to have more faith. If ye love darkness, and would fly about in it in
gloom and misery, then be content with little faith. But if ye would mount in sunshine, and carol like the bird of
day, then seek strong confidence.
One more reason. Take care of your faith, my friends; for it's very often so weak, that it demands all your
attention. I do not know whether any of you feel that your faith is too strong; but I never feel mine strong enough.
It seems to be exactly strong enough to bear the day's troubles, but it would not stand cutting in the least degree
with the plane. I could not afford to take the least atom off; it is just enough, and no more. As for some of us, our
faith is so weak that the least trouble threatens to devour it. The goat passes and nips its tender shoot, the winter
chills and freezes it; it is almost ready to die. And my faith very often hangs upon the feeblest thread; it appears
ready to expire. Take care of your faith, Christian take care of your faith whatever you leave out of doors of a
night, do not leave that little child of faith, whatsoever plant is exposed to the frost, be sure to put faith within.
Take care of faith, for it is so weak generally, it needs well to have a good preservation.
Thus have I tried, as well as I can, this morning, to set forth the great necessity of looking to our faith; and our
prayer must be, as it was that of the apostles, "increase our faith."
II. This brings us, secondly, to consider THE HEART'S DESIRE OF THE APOSTLES. "Increase our faith."
They did not say, "Lord keep our faith alive: Lord sustain it as it is at present," but, "Increase our faith." For they
knew very well that it is only by increase that the Christian keeps alive at all. Napoleon once said, "I must fight
battles, and I must win them: conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me." And it is so
with the Christian. It is not yesterday' battle that will save me to-day; I must be going onwards. A wheel will
remain erect as long as it moves, but when it begins to stand still it falls. Christian men are saved by progress:
constantly going onwards keeps the Christian alive. If it were possible for me to stop, I know not where my life
would be. The Christian must be going onward; for the arrow will mount while still it is in progress, but it stalls the
moment the power stops that keeps it aloft. So the apostle said unto the Lord, "increase our faith."
First: "Increase our faith," in its extent; the extent of what it will receive. Usually, when we commence the
Christian life, faith does not grasp much; it only believes a few elementary doctrines. I find that many young
converts have not gone much farther than believing that Jesus Christ died for sinners, by-and-bye they get a little
advanced, and believe election; but there is something a little beyond that they do not receive, and it is not until
after years that they believe the entire gospel. Some of you, my hearers, and a great many that are not my hearers
are miserable little cramped souls; you have learned a cast-iron creed, and you will never move out of it. A certain
somebody drew up five or six doctrines, and said, "There are the doctrines of the Bible," and ye believe these, but
you want to have your faith increased, for you do not believe a great deal more that is in the Bible. I do not think I
differ from any of my hyper-calvinistic brethren in what I do believe, but I differ from them in what they do not
believe. I do not believe any less than they do, but I believe a little more, and think, as we grow we shall have our
belief increased; not only are there a few cardinal doctrines that will be enough to steer our ship by, north, south,
east, or west, but we shall begin to learn something about the north-west and north-east, and that which lies
between the four points. Many people, when they hear something a little contrary to what they have usually heard,
say at once, "That is not sound." But who made you a judge of what is sound? And there are some little souls who
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