God wants us to evaluate ourselves by how deep and strong our faith is. He doesn’t evaluate our spiritual condition by looking at how we appear on the surface. The depth of our faith determines how much of a difference we can make in the lives of those around us.
 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like.  They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
Luke 6:46-49 NIV
The difference between the two people in the passage above is simple: a willingness and effort to “dig down deep.”
Using the right religious words (“Lord, Lord”) won’t help us build a faith deep enough to stand strong through the storms of life, or help those around us stand strong in the storms in their lives.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Romans 12:3 NLT
God wants us to evaluate ourselves by how deep and strong our faith is. He doesn’t evaluate our spiritual condition by looking at how we appear on the surface.
The depth of our faith also determines how much of a difference we can make in the lives of those around us. Like Luke 6 says, our lack of depth deprives us of the ability to withstand whatever storms come our way, and it will also stop us from having the faith to help our friends and family stand strong through the storms in their own lives.
Since shallowness and superficiality are huge areas of weakness for the writers of this article, we hope you can learn as much from reading it as we did from writing it. Here are five ways we have found we need to deepen our faith to make a difference.
Deepen your understanding
In order for us to deepen our faith, we must first be willing to deepen our understanding. This is difficult for me, because I prefer to gain intellectual knowledge over understanding the depths of my heart.
I’m what some may call a know-it-all. I like gaining a lot of knowledge about all kinds of topics, ranging from health to movies to music. I even like to get insights and knowledge about the Scriptures from reading the Bible.
Though this thirst for knowledge has introduced me to a lot of interesting things, it doesn’t necessarily deepen my faith or enable me to make a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes all this knowledge just makes me more arrogant and self-reliant. I often assume I know everything simply because I know something.
But although being a “know-it-all” makes us feel important, what is really needed to build the church is love. If anyone thinks he knows all the answers, he is just showing his ignorance. But the person who truly loves God is the one who is open to God’s knowledge.
1 Corinthians 8:1b-3 TLB
What I learn from 1 Corinthians 8 is in all my attempts to know everything, I end up missing the point.
Though it is good to learn, there is always going to be something that we don’t know, or something that we’re not sure how to handle. Being a “know-it-all” will not save a failing marriage, or help us know how to comfort a friend who’s lost someone, or even heal us from physical pain. We need to be “open to God’s knowledge,” by understanding he knows more than we do and having faith that he is always working for our good (Romans 8:28 NLT).
Deepening my understanding means being humble enough to believe that God knows so much more than I do and he can teach me about myself, about him, and about how to help other people.
The purposes of a person’s heart are like deep water. But one who has understanding brings them out.
Proverbs 20:5 NIrV
Deep understanding helps us make a difference by bringing out the deep parts of our own hearts and other people’s hearts. Recently, I had an argument with one of my friends in which we began to react to each other in anger. But as we talked, I realized there were deep things in our hearts under the surface of our anger – like fear, pain, and insecurity. As we talked about these “deep waters” of our hearts, our anger began to melt away.
From that conversation, I learned that if I want to make a difference in the lives of people around me, I need to deepen my understanding of what they are going through. If I’m humble enough to open my ears to God’s knowledge, he can give me the understanding to help me draw out the deep waters of my own heart and the hearts of those around me.
Pause and reflect
How well can you draw out the “deep waters” of your heart or the hearts of your spouse, friends, or roommates?
How do you think developing more understanding would help you make a difference in other people’s lives?
Develop deep convictions
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1 NASB
To have deep faith means to have a deep conviction or belief that there are realities beyond what we can see – beyond our circumstances, our abilities and weaknesses, tragedies, regrets, guilt, shame from our past and our fears about tomorrow. It’s believing that God is greater than anything we are facing and anything we will ever encounter. Through believing in him and knowing him intimately (Hebrews 11:6), we are able to receive and achieve anything we pray for according to his will (1 John 5:14-15 NIV). To have deep faith is to believe in the extraordinary.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of faith I typically aim for. My standard is low; I often rejoice simply when I have some faith for fragments of my day. I’m content when I have only enough faith to go to a work meeting just partly consumed with my performance rather than completely. Biblically, I’m not really sure that even passes as faith. It’s not a powerful and mighty faith that creates a difference not only in my life but in the lives around me.
I rely far too much on what I see. I can look back on this past year and think of the failures, setbacks, residual guilt from hurt and broken relationships, and lies I’ve told myself and others to keep from feeling any of the pain I’ve caused. What I see is that I’ve messed up too much to have a comeback on my own. I’ve had to learn that developing deep conviction comes from relying on God’s power rather than my own.
“Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.’”
John 6:29 NLT
In this scripture, Jesus tells us that the only work we really need to do is to have faith in him. What I’ve learned is that if I want to change lives, I need to work not at being more perfect, performing the best, or even being more social. The only work I need to do is working to have a deep conviction about God and how he works. As soon as I begin to focus on anything other than faith in God and Jesus, that is when I know I have stopped working on my faith. Changing lives isn’t about me at all, because I can’t change anything on my own (John 15:5). God is the one who does the changing; all I have to do is trust him to do it.
Pause and reflect
What circumstances or fears are you facing that have made you stop praying or even paralyzed you in your spiritual growth?
How has your faith affected you in believing other lives around you can change?
What conviction do you need to develop that will build you an unshakeable faith?
Uncover deep emotions
 My Lord, in my time of trouble I came to you. I reached out for you all night long. My soul refused to be comforted.  I thought about you, God, and tried to tell you how I felt, but I could not.  You would not let me sleep. I tried to say something, but I was too upset.
Psalm 77:2-4 ERV
Like this psalmist says, I often feel like I can’t express my emotions. I become so unaware of my emotional state that the moment I try to express what I feel, I don’t even know what emotions are there. I’m learning that uncovering deep emotions is actually a very important part of deepening my faith and making a difference in the lives of others.
As I began thinking about the topic of deep emotions, there were multiple questions I had to ask myself to dig into my heart regarding this topic.
If you continue to read Psalm 77, the psalmist expresses fears and doubts about whether God has rejected him, lost the power to help him, or still loves him. I find that fear and doubt often drive me to stop dealing with my emotions as well. This leads me to the first question I had to ask myself: Why am I so afraid of dealing with my emotions?
Since I have such a hard time identifying and expressing emotion, music often helps me connect to what I’m feeling. One of my favorite songs is “feelings are fatal” by mxmtoon, who expresses many of the fears I feel toward being emotionally honest.
How many times must I keep it inside
I need to let go and I swear that I’ve tried
But opening up means trusting others
And that’s just too much, I don’t want to bother
So I’ll keep it inside and bury it deep
I know it’s not healthy, but you won’t hear a peep
Though I’m always sad and I’m always lonely
I could never tell you that I’m breaking slowly
feelings are fatal, mxmtoon
Ultimately, inability to deal with my emotions stems from an issue of faith. As the song says, opening up means trusting others, which includes God, and when I don’t have faith that feels like too much.
I don’t believe that God is powerful or loving enough to handle my emotions, make me strong enough to handle them myself, or help me share them freely with others. I don’t believe that feeling weak will actually lead to God making me strong.
As I saw all of these fears and unbelief, I had to ask myself: Why should I even deal with my emotions in the first place?
My eyes of faith won’t focus anymore, for sorrow fills my heart. There are so many enemies who come against me!
Psalm 6:7 TPT
Even though I’ve seen their ways, I will heal them. I will guide them forward and repay them with comfort, giving mourners the language of praise.  I offer peace to those who are far from me, and I offer peace to those who are near, and I will heal their deepest wounds,” says Yahweh.
Isaiah 57:18-19 TPT
Psalm 6 explains that when we let sorrow fill our hearts, our “eyes of faith” won’t focus anymore. I think this means that sorrow in my heart affects the way I see things.
If my heart is filled with sorrow, I’ll have a difficult time seeing myself and my life with faith. If we want to have a strong and deep faith in God, then we need to be willing to pour out to him pain, sorrow, guilt – whatever emotions are filling up our hearts.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel these emotions, but rather must let them point us to God. As God expresses in Isaiah 57, he wants to heal our deepest wounds. He wants to heal those parts of ourselves we are too afraid to show and relieve those insecurities that we feel define us. But if we let undealt with emotion steal our faith, we might miss out on the healing God offers.
We need to take what we feel to God if we are going to see with eyes of faith. This leads us to the final question: How do I use my emotions to deepen my faith and make a difference?
 I waited a long time for the Eternal; He finally knelt down to hear me. He listened to my weak and whispered cry.  He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay. With a gentle hand, He pulled me out To set me down safely on a warm rock; He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.
 I have not kept Your righteousness to myself, sealed up in the secret places of my heart; instead, I boldly tell others how You save and how loyal You are. I haven’t been shy to talk about Your love, nor have I been afraid to tell Your truth before the great assembly of Your people.
 Meanwhile, I am empty and need so much, but I know the Lord is thinking of me. You are my help; only You can save me, my True God. Please hurry.
Psalm 40:1-2,10,17 Voice
David is extremely vulnerable in this psalm. He acknowledges that he is in a deep, dark hole, but trusts that God is the one who can pull him out. Because he takes his emotions to God and lets God help him, David’s faith deepens as he sees God pull through for him. This allows him to boldly share his faith in God with a “great assembly” of people.
When we are completely emotionally honest with God, do the work to ask ourselves the necessary questions to reveal our hearts, and ultimately trust that God is taking care of us, we can’t even imagine the kind of impact on others we can have.
Pause and reflect
How have your emotions been affecting your faith? Have your emotions been leading you to be closer to God and more compassionate toward others?
Who in your life needs you to deepen your faith so that you can help them navigate through their deep emotions?
Cultivate deep relationships
Growing up, the relationships I tended to build were based on convenience, having fun, encouraging each other to do whatever we wanted, and feeling no guilt about it. This was satisfying for awhile, but secretly I felt lonely, insecure, and ashamed of how I was living. I knew I needed a change.
Though I wasn’t initially looking for faith or God, the friendships I started to build with people who had a relationship with God helped me see something I wasn’t finding elsewhere in my life – hope.
15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that[a] Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.
1 Samuel 23:15-18 NIV
When Jonathan finds David at Horesh, David’s circumstances couldn’t be worse. David is on the run, sleeping in caves, and the king and his army are chasing him down to kill him. However, as a spiritual friend, Jonathan wouldn’t let David give into his fear or unbelief. He didn’t just commiserate with David about his difficulties; he challenged him to believe in God’s plans and protection.
My friends have done the same for me by helping me believe in the midst of situations I’d been stuck in for years – drug/alcohol addiction, bitterness towards my parents, and living for myself and my career at the expense of everyone around me.
My friends have helped me see that none of these were too difficult to overcome with God’s help. They constantly pointed me back to prayer and God’s promises in the Bible, when I wanted to quit and give up.
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV
The Bible teaches us that we need the encouragement of our friends to battle the unbelief in our hearts, and we need it daily.
Daily encouragement from spiritual friends is essential to our faith for 3 reasons:
Unbelief has serious consequences. It will make us turn away from God completely. Spiritual friends can encourage us and help us overcome unbelief by pointing us to the Scriptures and praying with us and for us when we feel discouraged.
Sin is deceitful. It hides; you won’t always see it on your own. Other people can help us see our sins and unbelief more clearly than we would alone. Being able to identify our sins helps us repent and turn away from them.
Sin hardens. If sin sits in our hearts, it will harden us. For me, this happens because I don’t want to feel guilty about my sin anymore so I numb my conscience to it.
These deep relationships aren’t just for us though. I believe there are people in each of our lives who need us to be the kind of friend who builds their faith in God, encourages them to keep fighting even when things seem hopeless, and pushes them to become a better version of themselves. It is not our charisma or persuasive words that make a difference in others’ lives, but our deep friendship.
Pause and reflect
Who can you work on building a deeper spiritual friendship with?
What areas of unbelief, fear, doubt, or sin do you need your friends’ help with?
Do you have any friends or family members who are low in faith right now? What can you do to be a friend who deepens their faith in God?
Experience deep love
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5:6 NIV
The Bible says that love is an expression of our faith. I have a hard time seeing the importance of faith in order to have the kind of love I need to impact others. I work very hard at having the appearance of being loving: I give my friends rides, I offer advice, and I take the time to listen when they’re having a hard time. I even try to give thoughtful gifts.
So how can I do good things but then not be loving? The truth is, many of these “good deeds” are easy and comfortable. They allow me to feel good about myself for being a good friend. I get to be acknowledged, appreciated, and my efforts are usually reciprocated.
Deep love is difficult and often uncomfortable because it pushes you to sacrifice (John 15:12-13). This is the kind of love Jesus showed each of us when he gave up his life for us on the cross:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV
Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to die for us. Despite all of our flaws, sins, mistakes, and shortcomings, he thought that we were worth dying for.
Jesus loved us in life, as well. He dedicated his entire life to teaching, caring, and healing. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 teaches me that if I have faith that Jesus loved me so deeply, I will be “compelled” to love others.
In other words, if I want to truly love others, I need to work to have the faith that God has this deep love for me. This means finding scriptures that deepen my understanding about God’s love, praying about my doubts and unbelief about his love for me, and ultimately choosing to let his love compel me to give that same love to others.
Deep love is not a natural-born talent, but rather learned (1 Thessalonians 4:9). If I am not actively looking in the Bible to learn from God and Jesus how to love others deeply, I will instinctually revert back to my superficial, “being nice” ways of loving.
So how does this deep love look in practice? Jesus had a deep conviction that God loved him (John 3:35, John 5:19-20), and throughout the Gospels he shared that love with other people. He believed in people even when they didn’t deserve it, and this is what helped him stick with them even when it meant being hurt in the process.
“Peter, my dear friend, listen to what I’m about to tell you. Satan has demanded to come and sift you like wheat and test your faith. 32 But I have prayed for you, Peter, that you would stay faithful to me no matter what comes. Remember this: after you have turned back to me and have been restored, make it your life mission to strengthen the faith of your brothers.”
33 “But Lord,” Peter replied, “I am ready to stand with you to the very end, even if it means prison or death!”
34 Jesus looked at him and prophesied, “Before the rooster crows in the morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Luke 22:31-34 TPT
Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would deny and reject him. But because he had already been fighting for Peter in prayer, Jesus wasn’t fazed.
As the Galatians 5 scripture mentioned earlier says, Jesus let his faith express itself through love. He believed in who Peter was capable of becoming and kept loving him even as Peter betrayed and deserted him.
When we pray to have faith and vision for others, we are able to see them through God’s eyes. We are able to do whatever it takes to love, serve, and sacrifice for others, regardless of what it “costs” us. No sin or mistake fazes us, because we are focused not on ourselves or how they’ve hurt us, but on who they can be.
Pause and reflect
What acts of “superficial love” do you take security in?
Does your faith in God’s love for you compel you to love others? What doubts do you need to pray about in regard for God’s love for you?
What can you do today to love your friends deeply?
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