Four Enemies of Faith
Written by Debbie Pennington
Four common issues can stall or stagnate our trust in God if we’re not careful.
Tending a little toward the geeky and analytical side, I typically enjoy scriptures that show a pattern. Four passages in Matthew’s Gospel account especially resonate with me. As beneficial to us today as they were to Jesus’ disciples, these accounts show us what might be hindering us from achieving stronger faith.
We begin in Matthew 6, where Christ was discussing our natural materialistic concerns of clothing, food and drink (verse 25). How incredibly apropos that of the four Gospel accounts, this passage is written about by Matthew, the tax collector, and Luke, the physician! Both occupations are extremely detail-oriented, and too many details can often take our attention away from the big picture.
Jesus’ teaching is gentle but firm: We can observe the natural world and note that God provides for its needs, “clothing” it, so “will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry” (verses 30-31).
Do we ever get so anxious over “the cares of this world” (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19) that we lose focus?
The next of the four accounts is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels. In the midst of a tempestuous storm, Jesus sleeps, but His disciples fear for their lives and call out to Him for rescue. His minimal response before subduing the winds is, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).
It’s important to note that they had faith, asking Christ for help, but too little to subdue their fears. The stronger the faith, the weaker the fear (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown on Matthew 8:26 and Mark 4:40).
It’s easy for us to observe these disciples and chide them for their weak faith: The Son of God was with them in the boat, so were they actually in danger? But how often do we forget that the almighty power of God is there when we need it? Recall the dramatic example as Elisha prayed so that his servant would see God’s chariots of fire, standing at the ready all around them (2 Kings 6:15-17).
The next account also takes place on the sea during inclement weather. In the middle of the night, the disciples see Jesus walking toward them on the waves. Peter, the ever-zealous, asks Christ to call him out onto the water for a walk (you know, just a leisurely stroll). At first all is well, but then Peter begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus for rescue. Jesus saves him then says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).
It was at the moment the wind became particularly “boisterous” (verse 30) that Peter began to sink. Do we ever lose sight of Christ based on what’s going on around us, allowing doubt to creep in?
Reasoning without God
The last of the four “little faith” comments is recorded in Matthew 16. The disciples’ lack of planning leaves them on the seashore without provisions. As Jesus teaches them on the subject of hypocrisy, the disciples misunderstand and reason that they are being reprimanded for not bringing bread to eat. Jesus replies, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?” (verse 8).
It seems they were so utterly absorbed by this dilemma and how to solve it themselves that they completely neglected to ask Jesus to help. Jesus followed up His initial question with several others, reminding them of the previous miracle with the loaves and the fish.
Do we ever limit God and miss the point of His lessons because of our ways of thinking?
Further study on this meaty topic will reveal more nuggets of wisdom than a brief blog post can provide. Here’s just one final thought: These four enemies of faith are cumulative. Each weakness can build on another, and I find it interesting that the order in which they are presented seems to be a common order of progression for negative, destructive thought.
We can often start with a seemingly innocuous anxiety over an issue. If we don’t banish it, that worry can develop into fear, and a spirit of fear breeds doubt. From doubt, the human mind brilliantly seeks to justify not only its actions but the context of them, thereby leaving God out of the equation, which leads to more anxiety.
It’s a vicious cycle that accumulates and feeds on itself. Perhaps this is why such a point is made about us having faith in God (Hebrews 11:6). The good news is that by banishing worry, fear, doubt and reasoning without God, we can develop stronger and purer faith!
For more on this subject, listen to the sermon on our website, “The Four Enemies of Faith” given by Clyde Kilough. Go to the Media section and scroll down to Feb. 5, 2011.
Debbie lives with her husband, Guye, in northern Illinois. A freelance writer and editor, she especially enjoys research writing.