The Enemies of Our Faith
Living faith is essential to a growing relationship with God. But the Bible lists dangerous enemies that attack our faith—such as worry, fear, doubt, and human reason.
Let’s consider each of these dangerous enemies and how to deal with every one of them from bible stand points!
The apostle Peter wrote of seven godly qualities of character a Christian should be developing in his or her quest to become like God (2 Peter 1:5-7). The seven character traits are steps toward agape, the love that God has and desires all Christians to develop. Notice that they are built upon the foundation of faith.
The author of the book of Hebrews was inspired to devote a whole chapter to the subject of faith (Hebrews 11), and he stated categorically that without faith no one can please God (Hebrews 11:6). It should be obvious, then, that having faith is crucial to one’s relationship with God, as well as to his or her own spiritual growth.
There are four things listed in Scripture that are enemies of faith. In other words, if someone harbors any one of these negative characteristics, his or her faith could be severely stunted or perhaps nullified all together.
1. Enemy of Faith is Worry
First of all we’ll look at the first enemy of faith, anxious thought or worry. Scriptures says; “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30, emphasis added throughout).
Jesus tells us that those who worry have little faith. Why would He say that? Why would worry be an enemy of faith? He explains in the next two verses: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:31-32).
God is not unaware of our needs, and if He has committed Himself to providing them for us, why should we worry about them? If we trust in God to provide our needs, then we must let Him do it in His time and in His way. There is no need to become trapped in a lifestyle of worry.
The effects of worry
Many studies have been done on worry and its companions, stress and anxiety. Their effects on our health and state of mind have been well documented. One such article appeared some years ago in Psychology Today:
“Anxiety is part of the package of life. It’s a natural byproduct of having a brain that is capable of such high wire acts as considering the future. A little anxiety is good, even necessary, and a great motivator to get us to plan well and to perform ably. Yet too much anxiety can be disabling.
“For millions of people, worry disrupts everyday life, restricting it to some degree or even overshadowing it entirely. An estimated 15 percent of Americans suffer from one or another of the anxiety disorders. These include generalized anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and flat out panic attacks. As a group, anxiety disorders constitute the most common disorder in the country” (“When Worry Takes Control,” Psychology Today).
What can we do about worry?
It’s easy to see how a lifestyle of worry can nullify faith, given what we just read. Worry is directed inward. External events may be the triggers that bring on our worries, but the worrying is internal. However, our worrying can result in our taking action against something or someone, and those actions could cause serious repercussions.
Worry, or anxious thought, is something that affects us personally, and it affects our relationship with God and other humans. Only we can do something about it. What can we do? Jesus tells us, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:34). In most cases that it is easier said than done, but here are some valuable tips.
- Pray. If we find ourselves starting to worry about something, we should say a prayer to God and ask Him to help us change our thoughts to something more positive and to take away the anxiety. Even if it is only a short prayer while on the way to work or while eating lunch, if we are seeking to please Him, God will hear and He will answer. We just have to trust Him and have faith in His power and the fact that He has our best interests at heart.
- Study the Bible and apply its lessons. Read and study passages in the Bible that discuss worry, anxiety and faith. The Psalms and Proverbs contain many helpful and inspiring passages. We can go to God with the book in our hands and ask Him to show us what to study. Ask Him for help to apply what we learn in order to eliminate anxiety, worry and stress from our minds and hearts.
- Take the long view. An expert on the subject offers this sage advice about putting things in perspective:
“Imagine that whatever circumstance you are dealing with isn’t happening right now but a year from now. Then simply ask yourself, ‘Is this situation really as important as I’m making it out to be?’ Once in a great while it may be but a vast majority of the time, it simply isn’t. Whether it be an argument with your spouse, child, or boss, a mistake, a lost opportunity, a lost wallet, a work related rejection, or a sprained ankle, chances are, a year from now you aren’t going to care. It will be one more irrelevant detail in your life”. (Richard Carlson, Ph.D., Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and It’s All Small Stuff, p. 45).
Overcoming worry isn’t going to be easy, especially if it has been a growing problem for a long time; but we can make it a daily goal not to give in to worry and instead to focus on God’s love and care for us. You see, just as worry is a foe of faith, faith is also a foe of worry!
2. Enemy of Faith is Fear
We must know our enemies in order to defend ourselves against them. The Bible warns about a fear that can cripple our faith and thwart our Christian growth.
Why are you fearful?
“Now when [Jesus] got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:23-26, emphasis added throughout).
Looking at the terrible storm with their natural eyes, they had great reason to fear. But Jesus demonstrated that if they had had more faith, they would have remembered that God created the wind and the waves and had complete power over them. Faith would have calmed their fears.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, fear is “a very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger” or “extreme reverence or awe, as toward a deity.” The second definition is used throughout the Bible to tell us we must have appropriate respect for God. This proper fear of God actually strengthens faith. However, the first definition describes an enemy of faith.
Fear, a faith killer
It isn’t difficult to understand how fear could be a faith killer. Those who have extreme fear about anything will naturally focus on themselves and the problems they are facing, not on God and His willingness to help them in their time of need. Are there things in this life that can cause fear? Certainly! Daily life has its share of dangers from accidents, crime, disasters, etc.
In the letter that Christ sent to the church in Smyrna, He gave some encouragement for those facing scary times. “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
If God wants us to be in His Kingdom, and He most certainly does, then He is quite capable of dealing with anything that would hinder us from attaining that goal. Therefore we can and should grow to have complete faith in Him. That means that we should seek His help to overcome debilitating fear.
Nothing to fear?
During the dark days of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a famous statement that is often remembered as, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That’s catchy, but is it really true in our dangerous world without God’s protection?
The Bible says it in a much more solid and reassuring way: “So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6). Obviously, we have nothing to fear as long as we are obeying the Almighty God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Let’s remember these enemies of faith and strive to keep them out of our lives. We can always go to God in prayer, asking for His divine guidance, and be assured that He is always ready to help us deal with any situation.
3. Enemy of Faith is Doubt
Doubt sank Peter, and it can punch holes in our faith as well. But the Scriptures make clear there is no doubt God will fulfill His promises. A third enemy of faith that we are warned about is doubt.
Why did you doubt?
Many people are familiar with the story of Peter walking on water. After miraculously feeding about 5,000 men plus women and children, Jesus sent the crowd away. Then He ushered His disciples into a boat and sent them on their way while He went off to pray (Matthew 14:22-23).
A storm arose, tossing the boat about (verse 24). During that storm, Jesus approached, walking atop the fierce waves (verse 25). The disciples were astounded (verse 26). Jesus identified Himself (verse 27); and Peter, in his usual brash manner, asked Jesus to help him to also walk on the water. Jesus simply said, “Come” (verses 28-29).
We can imagine that Peter might have been nervous, but he bravely stepped out of the boat and proceeded to walk toward Christ. But apparently the howling wind and the rough sea unnerved him, because he started to sink (verse 30). Jesus had to save him from drowning. “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31, emphasis added throughout).
According to Dictionary.com, doubt means:
- To be uncertain about; to consider questionable or unlikely; to hesitate to believe; or
- To distrust.
How can we have faith in something we are uncertain about or that we question as unlikely? If we hesitate to believe something, or don’t have trust in it, we certainly don’t have faith in it, do we? Doubt is caustic to true faith.
The power of faith
Jesus gave His disciples many examples of the power of faith and the importance of conquering doubt. “Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’ Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither away so soon?’ So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” it will be done’” (Matthew 21:18-21).
Notice that He said we must have faith and not doubt. That’s a problem with most of us. We may think we have faith, but when the crunch comes, we actually can be crippled by doubt. Doubt is a faith killer.
Examine the evidence and grow in faith
Many prophetic scriptures are meant to give Christians hope for the future. Consider a couple of them:
- “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).
- “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Focus on these sure promises and God’s assurance that He will fulfill them for us, if we obey Him in faith. God is all-powerful, and His word is sure.
Remember what the author of the book of Hebrews wrote: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith is evidence! It is being absolutely convinced that God’s promises, given to us through His prophets and apostles are rock solid and that they apply to each and every member of the Body of Christ.
Whenever doubt creeps into our minds, we should go to God for help to strengthen our faith. We should refresh our minds with scriptural evidence of God’s sure promises.
4. Enemy of Faith is Human Reasoning
Faith sees beyond the physical senses and reasons beyond the human sphere. The limited realm of human reasoning can be damaging to our faith.
A fourth enemy of faith we need to be aware of is human reasoning. What is human reasoning in this context? It is looking at things from the human perspective, consciously or unconsciously leaving God out of the picture. It is trying to figure out spiritual things on our own. It is looking at the trials of this life with just our physical senses without “seeing” the unseen hand of God in the picture. Human reasoning can even be assuming that God sees things as we see them.
There are many examples of the problem of human reasoning in the Bible, and one can be found in Matthew 16.
Why do you reason among yourselves?
“Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’
“But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?
“‘How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?’” (Matthew 16:5-11).
In this case, the disciples hadn’t brought anything to eat. They were probably hungry and feeling guilty that they had forgotten to bring food. So when Jesus warned them about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they assumed He was talking about bread to eat. They used human reasoning to determine what Christ was talking about instead of asking Him.
Jesus then had to straighten out their thinking and show them that He was talking about something spiritually deeper. Since He could create enough bread to feed thousands of people, He definitely wasn’t focused on physical food as they were.
Human traditions must not trump faith
The Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes of Jesus’ time were noted for using human reasoning instead of exploring the evidence and believing what God was showing them. A classic example is recorded in Mark’s Gospel account. It concerns Christ’s healing of a paralytic while He was preaching in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-5). When healing the man, Jesus forgave him of his sins. The scribes who witnessed the event questioned Jesus’ actions. “And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mark 2:6-7). The reasoning of the scribes was based on ancient traditions and human ideas about what the Messiah would be like. In their minds, Christ couldn’t be God; therefore He couldn’t forgive people. They refused to look at the facts of Jesus’ ministry and admit that their traditions could be wrong.
An enemy of faith
It should be obvious why human reasoning can be an enemy of faith. It is spurred by our human nature and the physical experiences of life. Faith, on the other hand, relies on God, whom we have not seen, and His nature and His plan for all mankind, which are revealed in Scripture. Without God’s Holy Spirit, the human mind cannot grasp that level of thinking. That’s why it takes faith to believe what God says and does.
Human reasoning dismisses the spiritual things we cannot grasp with our physical minds and senses. Now, is all human reasoning wrong? Not at all. It definitely has its place in secular matters. Scientists, engineers and technicians have to use reasoning to do their jobs. The rub comes when we use human reasoning in spiritual matters instead of going to God and His Word to find the truth.
The source for sound reasoning
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:1-2). Paul didn’t reason from human philosophies and ideas. He reasoned from a solid source, God’s Word.
The lesson for us: Don’t use human reasoning to try to explain the Scriptures; remember that the Bible interprets itself. It takes diligent digging to find the answers to whatever questions we might have. It also takes a measure of faith. That’s why human reasoning is another faith killer. If we are relying on our own intellect and suppositions instead of letting God teach us, we are not using faith.
Overcoming the enemies with God’s help
Once again, the four enemies of faith that we have looked at in this articles are worry, doubt, fear and human reasoning. Our goal should be to never give in to them and to be strong in the faith at all times. That’s a lofty goal, indeed, but it is obtainable with God’s help.
In order to drive out these four enemies of faith, we need to stay close to God. Whenever we find ourselves entertaining worry, doubt, fear or human reasoning, we need to immediately talk to God about it.
We should ask God to help us grow in faith in our regular daily prayers and devotions hour. But we can also approach Him at any time. We can talk to God while we’re driving, working or eating a meal. The important thing is to talk to Him often, especially when we are being plagued by one of these enemies of faith.
Let’s take time to learn more about living faith as we opens the scriptures and look into God’s Word in our daily walk with the Lord, the alpha and omega of our faith.