I have a high blood pressure. Some of it is hereditary and some of it is just the fact that I carry around a little more weight on my body then I should. How do I know that I have high blood pressure? It is not a complicated answer. My doctor puts an inflatable cuff on my arm and pumps it full of air. She then slips the stethoscope under the cuff at approximately my elbow and listens for my pulse (which, due to the increased pressure from the inflatable cuff has become much easier to distinguish. Alongside the listening she is looking at a sealed metal column with mercury in it which is connected to the cuff and displays the pressure (which is measured in millimetres of mercury). She then determines the high end and the low end of my blood pressure based upon when she is able to first hear the pulse from the artery and then when she can no longer hear it (all the while the cuff is deflating and the pressure on the artery is lessening. From this she is able to determine the maximum pressure when my heart is beating and the lowest pressure when my heart is between beats. This however does not measure high or low blood pressure; it simply determines my current blood pressure. In order to tell me whether I have high, normal or low blood pressure my results need to be compared to a standard. In the case of blood pressure (mmHg), the standard is an average from a sample population. The medical standard for normal blood pressure of adults is 120/80 (mmHg). Since my readings are always above this standard I have high blood pressure. However without a standard there is no way of measuring where I stand.
MEASURING IN THE REALM OF FAITH
How does one measure faith quantitatively? The simple answer is that you don't... in fact you can't. Yet this is what we try to do again and again in our daily lives. Phrases like "I don't have enough faith for that" or "if the person would just believe, God might answer that prayer" are essentially statements that have erroneously tried to quantify or measure a level of faith. This begs the question: By what standard? Now maybe I have missed something in several complete readings of the scriptures over the last few years, but I fail to see where there is a solid standard "faith-o-meter" in the scriptures by which we can measure our own or another individual's faith. I concede that there are places where the scriptures indicate ways by which we can determine whether faith exists in a person in a qualitative way. Paul's teaching on the fruits of spirit in Galatians 5 certainly indicate qualitative ways to determine the existence of faith:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal 5:22- 25 NASB)
Jesus Himself gave us a way of knowing if a person was of faith when he said:
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 NASB)
Now I will concede that neither of these passages speak of faith directly, however the implication from the both Galatians and the Gospel of John is that these are type of things are will accompany the person of faith; things that will indicate that they have faith. At the same time neither of these passages or countless others provide a finely tuned instrument or ruler to measure faith quantitatively. Even still this is what we do and it has grand consequences for us in our daily spiritual lives.
THE STANDARD IS A HEAVENLY ONE
The full measure of a person's faith is something that only the Father in heaven knows. Even Jesus never rated a person's faith on a numbered scale or with some sort of measuring device. Consider the types of things that we hear from Jesus. When the centurion came to Jesus in Capernaum regarding his dying servant, he felt that he was not worthy to have Jesus in his home but that he believed Jesus could just say the word and the servant would be healed. Jesus response was telling:
Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. (Matt 8:10 NASB)
Now I am going to be purposefully facetious here. Notice that Jesus didn't say "Well your faith is about an 8 out of 10 on the faith scale so I think we can perform a miracle in this case"; rather He said he had not seen such "great" faith in all of Israel. The word "great" is highly qualitative and not so much quantitative. The incredible irony is that Jesus' own people (those who had been given the revelation of God and has a history of the miraculous to draw from) had some lesser measure of faith (again not something that is quantified in any way). Now this begs a question about the centurion for me: Did the centurion have any doubts? We are simply not told. I think we might answer that it doesn't appear that he did, but this would be nothing more than a speculation and would be adding to the text. I suspect (though I cannot prove it and it would be essentially adding to the text as well) that there may well have been some doubt in his mind; this was not however Jesus' concern. He actually hangs His words on the qualitative characteristic of the centurion's faith. Don't get me wrong I am not saying that we should be alright with the doubt. Jesus clearly asks Peter about why he doubted during the walking on water event:
Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, " You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt 14:31)
I think the message is really about not allowing ourselves to be ruled by the doubt. This was Peter's problem and sadly this is often our problem. Since we can't measure our faith quantitatively, we then try to measure faith against our doubt. This is lunacy. Can we quantitatively measure our doubt anymore than we can our faith? Again maybe I have missed the ruler or "doubt-o-meter" in the scriptures (I don't think I have) but it appears to me that we cannot measure the doubt either. However, like Peter, what we do is take our eyes off of the face of God (the one who gives faith to begin with) and we focus on the wind and waves (those things which focus on on the doubt). I believe the call from God is to just bring whatever faith we have, even if it is small and say "God, I don't have a lot, but what I have I bring to you" and then trust that it is enough.
THE PRACTICAL EXAMPLE OF BRINGING WHAT WE "GOT"
I want finish with one last scripture. From my perspective I think this short little narrative provides a practical example of what it is to just come to Jesus with what we have and allow Him to do what he is gonna do. Remember the paralytic in Mark 2. Here is the background. Jesus had come home to his base of operations in Capernaum. As was usual when Jesus was around, people heard He was there and a crowd gathered. Mark declares that so many came that there was no room to enter the house through the door as people had packed in to hear Jesus teach. Part way through, 4 men came carrying their paralytic friend. Now again we can't rate their faith on some scale (was it a 5 out of 10 or a 9 out of ten- we just can't know), but there is an implied determination that I believe is communicated by Mark as he describes the lengths that they would go to in bringing their friend to the feet of the Jesus to be healed. Crazy!!!! They removed part of the roof because they couldn't get in the door. Jesus apparently just stops His teaching and Mark describes Jesus observation and response like this:
And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, " Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5)
"I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." (Mark 2:11)
Whose faith did Jesus see? That's right- the paralytic's friends. How much faith? I honestly don't know and truthfully this question is a red herring at best. Focus on the first part of vs. 5 for a second: Jesus saw their faith and he responded to it. We don't know if they hummed and hawed about taking their friend to Jesus. We don't know if they almost gave up when they found the door was blocked. We don't know if the paralytic had any faith at all or if he was opposed to even going. We don't have any quantifying details about the faith of any of these gentlemen. We just know that Jesus saw their faith and responded to it. So let me ask you this. When God is calling you to step out in faith are you pulling out your subjective and flawed ruler and trying to measure whether you have enough? Maybe what you trying to measure your faith against your level of doubt. This is not a productive practice either. Try something different. Be like the paralytic's buddies; stop humming and hawing and "just bring it". Bring what faith you have and allow God to respond to it. You might be surprised what God can do through you when you bring your little sliver of faith. As usual your comments and thoughts are valued. Blessings.