Let’s do a little exercise.
Get a piece of paper.
Write “1 . . . 2 . . . 3” vertically down the side of the page with some room in between.
Fill in up to three of those blanks on the paper to complete the sentence, “I would be happier if . . . .” (Be honest—you won’t learn anything if you just put what you think you ought to put or if you put nothing at all.)
Now write next to each one on a scale of 0 to 10 how confident you are that it is going to happen (0 = not going to happen, 10 = definitely going to happen).
Now write next to each one on a scale of 0 to 10 whether this is something God has promised (0 = God never even hinted at this, 10 = God has clearly said he will do this).
What you’ve written is a picture of your faith.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Our faith is as strong as our confidence. To the extent we’re not sure that something will come to pass, we lack faith in it. But that verse in Hebrews also introduces a long account of godly people whose faith was in God’s promises of things that only God could do. If our faith is not in what God has told us by his word and Spirit will happen, then we don’t have faith—we have wishful thinking.
From the example of this chapter, probably the greatest faith we can have is 100% confidence in Jesus’ second coming and our resurrection and for that to be where all our hope is placed. People with that level and kind of faith are enormously happy even while they still long for what they haven’t yet received. But when our faith is weak—placed in lesser things with lesser confidence—our joy is weak.
“Now without faith it is impossible to please [God], for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Our hopeful faith not only makes us happy; it makes God happy, and we don’t make him happy without it. If you’re missing that faith, you probably do have at least a little, because if you didn’t you probably would not have been interested to read this far. So if you have a little faith, the best thing you can do to get more is to say to God repeatedly, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Then read the Bible repeatedly to focus your mind on God’s promises for you to have faith in. “This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith” (1 John 5:5).