Faith is obedience that comes from trust in God. The more I trust in who God is, the more willing I am to obey him. The more proof I have that God is who he says he is and will do what he has promised to do, the more willing I am to trust him in obedience.
Proof is evidence provided by God that supports his trustworthiness. Proof is a critical need of a disciple at every stage, but especially in the beginning.
In the relationship between proof and trust, God always moves first. He does not despise us for not trusting him. He goes to inordinate lengths to prove his trustworthiness to us. “Inordinate” because, in the beginning, he lavishes proof on us and in return we take steps of faith so small that they’re hardly discernible. This isn’t a shameful commentary on our skittishness but a beautiful picture of God’s joyful persistence in loving us.
Like a growing redwood, our trust grows so slowly that it’s imperceptible from day to day. It’s only in comparing year to year or decade to decade or birth to death that the measure of growth can truly be seen. But if I were to compare the amount of proof I required at the beginning to take even a small step of faith with the amount of proof I require to take a proportionally larger step of faith today, I would see myself as the Father sees me (as reflected in the graph above).
Our faith is initially, but not ultimately, dependent on our circumstances. Over time, we require less proof because God has proved himself to us. Like the disciples, we’ve seen much and experienced much. When we’re confronted with a daunting situation, our answer is, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:67–68).
At some point in the discipleship journey, God has sufficiently proved his trustworthiness to me and the questions, “Is there a God? If so, can he be trusted?” are no longer at the forefront. I require less proof of God yet he requires greater faith from me. In fact, God leads us to a place in our discipleship where we can detect no trace of his presence yet choose to trust him anyway. Strangely enough, the reality of inordinate proof leading to small steps of trust is inverted in the later stages of discipleship: for the maturing disciple, God’s invitation to greater faith increases exponentially over time.
What I have described is faith and proof from God’s perspective. The graph below represents how faith and proof feel from our perspective. It feels as though we’re always required by God to have a bit more faith than our proof can support. This, again, is God’s kindness toward us. His desire for us is that our trust in him is ever-increasing. If growing in trust is the name of the game, what else would we expect but for him to always be coaxing us to take one more step just beyond our comfort zones?
What is your experience of the relationship between the faith that God requires of you and the proof you require of God?