By Rick Warren
The Bible says in Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (NIV). That’s the key to the great adventure of following Jesus Christ. God says, “You get to choose how much I bless your life. You believe, and I’ll do it. You believe, and I’ll bless.”
Faith is like a muscle — it develops. It can be strengthened or it can grow weak, depending on how much you use it. So how does God build your faith? He uses a very predictable process. If you understand it, you can cooperate with it.
Phase 1: Dream
What is the dream God has given you? If you don’t have a dream you’re working toward, you just exist. You need to start praying, “God, give me your dream.” You’re here on Earth for a purpose. When you discover that purpose, you’ll discover the dream God wants you to go after.
“God … is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20b TLB).
Phase 2: Decision
Maybe you have a dream from God, but you’ve not yet made a decision to go after it. God’s word for you in phase 2 is, “Go for it!” You may need to make the decision to give your life to Christ or be baptized or join a church or get involved in ministry.
“If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7-8 GNT).
Phase 3: Delay
When things don’t happen on our timetable, we tend to run ahead of God and create detours to make it happen. Do not detour! You may end up making the wrong decision. You’re in God’s waiting room. Wait for God to work his hand.
God says in Habakkuk 2:3, “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled” (TLB).
Phase 4: Difficulty
What difficulties have you faced waiting for your dream to be fulfilled? You’ll go through many tests in life, but God knows what you’re going through. He’s watching, and he hasn’t forgotten you.
“Even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident — it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold” (1 Peter 1:6-7 Phillips).
Phase 5: Dead End
Some of you are at your dead end, and you’re ready to give up. But you’re right where God wants you! He is preparing you for deliverance. God’s word for you is, “Hang on! Don’t give up!”
“At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we now believe that we had this experience of coming to the end of our tether that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Phase 6: Deliverance
Do you expect and trust God to deliver you? He will. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to go through all six stages before God brings you to deliverance.
“I know that I will live to see the LORD’s goodness in this present life” (Psalm 27:13 GNT).
As a pastor, probably the question I’m asked more than any other is, “Why is this happening to me? I don’t understand it.” When you don’t understand God’s six phases of faith — the steps he uses to build your character — you will get discouraged. You may become resentful. You will certainly worry. You may become fearful about the future or depressed. And most of all, you can’t co-operate with what God is doing. But when you understand the six phases of faith, then you can say, “Oh, I’m in stage 4 right now” or stage 6 or stage 2. You understand better what God is doing, and you don’t get disheartened when times are tough.
Like this article? It's based off of Pastor Rick's series Hard Questions.