Are You Living Off Borrowed Faith?

woman looking hopeless praying thankful grateful

Are You Living Off Borrowed Faith?

Does my life bear the fruit of one who professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Or do I still outsource my faith to the faithfulness of others?

I sensed something weighing on my friend's mind as we sat talking for nearly two hours, our coffee running out long before our conversation. "I feel like I’m living off of borrowed faith,” she confessed. Intently gazing into the empty cup before her, she anxiously waited for me to respond.

“Yes. I know what you mean.”

Growing up, my parents modeled Christian faith in action. Church attendance wasn’t an option in our home; it was just what we did every Sunday and throughout the week. So, at a young age I realized that I was a sinner and asked Jesus, who never sinned, to save me. But, by mid-adolescence, living a Christian lifestyle didn’t interest me, so I began to wander aimlessly in a spiritual wasteland for over a decade. However, during that time, I never doubted God's existence or denied that I was a sinner.

Fast forward: by the time I reached my late twenties, the Lord, full of grace and mercy, drew me back into His fold, and I surrendered the throne of my life to Him. Not only had I trusted Jesus and received His forgiveness, now I sincerely wanted to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit had placed in me a ravenous desire for God’s Word, but the more deeply I delved into Scripture, the more questions about true Christianity and biblical faith emerged.

Is Your Faith Truly Your Own?

I’ve grown up my whole life in church; I’ve heard thousands of sermons, so why is studying the Bible hard so for me?

My parents lead devotions in our home and prayed daily over situations and issues, so why do I struggle to pray and apply God’s Word to my life?

I believe that the Lord has saved me by His grace through faith, so does it really matter how I live now?

I knew about the “big themes” in the Bible, but I didn’t know why they were significant or how they were connected. I barely understood what God's grace and mercy really meant, not to mention terms like atonement and justification. With no personal commitment to strengthening my faith by reading and studying the Word of God for myself, I simply outsourced my spiritual health to a sprinkling of sermons, podcasts, commentaries, and devotionals. I checked in on Sundays and checked out the rest of the week, living off of "borrowed faith."

What Is Faith?

Shortly after my 30th birthday, I met with my pastor and told him that although I was “ticking all the spiritual boxes,” I wasn’t growing in my walk with the Lord. Quite the opposite, I had arrived at a grave spiritual impasse: questioning God, wrestling with hard truths in the Bible, demanding proof of my salvation. Sitting there that day, I wanted confirmation that I wasn’t just wasting my time.

We discussed Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (NIV). People often recite these verses to encourage us to persevere in our faith when life gets tough, but they have a deeper meaning. These words come on the heels of chapters that explain why Jesus is a better sacrifice for our sins than those made in the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews urges readers to stop relying on the sacrifices and faith of generations past and personally take hold of the saving faith now offered through Christ, the ultimate and final sacrifice.

“Saving faith” is a free gift that God, alone, gives to His lost sheep. Likewise, it is God who increases our faith as we trust and obey Him and learn who He is as revealed in Scripture. His nature, His character and all that He desires for His children assures us that we can trust Him because the Lord is good and keeps His promises. Subsequent obedience stems from the right view of God and of ourselves. Relying securely on Him to lead and carry us through any circumstance gives us hope eternal. Even when we do not fully understand the "why, what or how," we know "WHO" ultimately controls every situation we face.

On What Have You Built Your Faith?

Although I could deliver a general overview of the Bible, confidence in the unseen eluded me, for I possessed little real knowledge of the Lord God. Repeating Bible stories often told in children’s church or quoting a few lines from songs sung in Sunday School was easy. I could even present God's plan of salvation to someone, but my own faith was shaky at best because my relationship with the Lord was superficial and shallow. I didn't grasp God’s faithfulness to me because I was ignorant of His redemptive plan for humankind, which is presented throughout the entire Word of God. Nor did I comprehend the significance of the covenant promises He has made, kept and will fulfill in His time, not just for Israel but for all nations and for me personally.

Because I was too consumed with using the Bible as an inspirational, self-help guide, comfort and confidence in the nature and character of God escaped me, not to mention hope. I had no real clue about what I purported to believe as a Christian. My faith was pinned on sticky notes filled with Bible verses and pop Christian slogans which sounded good and looked good but offered very little substance.

Who Fuels Your Faith?

At the time of my faith “breakdown,” a quick survey of my daily biblical intake revealed a gaping hole in the area of personal responsibility. Now, I read plenty of articles, commentaries and devotional material that centered on the Bible. I filled my feed with Christian apologists and continually streamed Christian podcasts. I sat faithfully week after week in church, feverishly scribbling down every word the pastor spoke. If the church doors were open, I was there, ready to take in as much as possible.

Frustrated, this "consumption mindset" led me to my pastor’s office. The two most important things to spiritual maturity—personal Bible study and prayer—were non-existent in my life. I wanted the results of a mature faith without putting in the work. Yet I wouldn’t think of showing up to run a marathon without prior training, expecting to finish the race by running alongside a friend who had trained diligently for months. As ludicrous as that sounds, this is exactly how many of us “train” to become stronger and more grounded in the things of God.

Too often we rely on the exercised “faith muscles” of pastors, teachers, and friends to carry us on to the finish line. Thus, no surprise that when the journey becomes difficult, we falter and eventually fall; we neglected to engage in training for ourselves. We want the benefits of a spiritually disciplined life without the rigor of daily, personal drill.

Where Is the Evidence of Faith in Your Life?

In the first 11 chapters of Romans, the Apostle Paul dismantles any confusion about salvation. He repeatedly states that believers stand justified (saved) before God solely by God's grace and through faith in Christ alone. Furthermore, Paul clearly debunks the notion that Christians get a "grace pass" to live any which way (to continue in sin) since our sins are all forgiven and we're on our way to heaven. God's grace and mercy do not exempt us from diligently searching, studying and heeding the deeper truths in His Word, whereby we better comprehend God's mercy and grace on the utterly lost, sinful wretches that we really are. In fact, in view of this, we should not only strive, but yearn to be more like the One who died for us every single day.

In the last five chapters of Romans, Paul instructs believers on how to live a Christ-honoring, Spirit-filled life of selfless sacrifice, humble service, love for others, submission to authorities, obedience to God's commands, and helping weaker members in the household of faith. This is godly faith put to action, but it is important to remember that it comes from a redeemed heart and a renewed mind, not the other way around. Paul made it abundantly clear that the just are saved by faith, not by works or actions. True, faith in Christ should produce good deeds, but good deeds will never produce the faith that makes us righteous before God (Ephesians 2:9).

Now, we must examine ourselves and ask, "Am I content remaining as an infant, weaned on the "milk" of God's Word, or do I hunger for more, the "meat," which strengthens me and helps me grow? Does my life bear the fruit of one who professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?" If not, then wean yourself from weak "borrowed faith" by confessing your sin and seeking the Lord. Find Him in the pages of your Bible.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/fizkes

Laura Bailey headshotLaura Bailey is deeply burdened for Christian women who, like herself, juggle marriage, motherhood, careers, church, and community. She candidly shares her daily struggles and lessons learned to encourage them to live fully and abundantly in Christ. She and her husband live in Gaffney, South Carolina with their three young girls. Connect with Laura on her blog, www.LauraRBailey.com or on Facebook and Instagram: @LauraBaileyWrites

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