“I trust in thy word.” Psalm 119:42
Just in proportion in which we believe that God will do just what He has said, is our faith strong or weak. Faith has nothing to do with feelings, or with impressions, with improbabilities, or with outward appearances. If we desire to couple them with faith, then we are no longer resting on the Word of God because faith needs nothing of the kind. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. When we take Him at His Word, the heart is at peace.
Trials and difficulties are not the only means by which faith is exercised and thereby increased. There is the reading of the Scriptures, that we may by them acquaint ourselves with God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. Are you able to say, from the acquaintance you have made with God, that He is a lovely Being? If not, let me affectionately entreat you to ask God to bring you to this, that you may admire His gentleness and kindness, that you may be able to say how good He is, and what a delight it is to the heart of God to do good to His children. Now the nearer we come to this in our inmost souls, the more ready we are to leave ourselves in His hands, satisfied with all His dealings with us. (Streams in the Desert)
There is something to be said in favor of going through the motions. This may be explained in two words—muscle memory. When you need it, the tedious repetition kicks in and gets you through the rough spot. Athletes know that well executed repetition is their greatest ally when the stress level is high and victory on the line. They trust their muscles to flex and respond on demand without conscious effort. Discipleship, too, requires a great deal of ‘muscle memory’—holy rehearsal that results in pushing through the monotonous and mundane that constitutes much of what we call spirituality. Habits form by praying when we don’t feel like it, reading Scripture when we are bored with it, and living by faith when all evidence screams and pulls to the contrary, steeling us for whatever lies ahead. Faith is not as mysterious as one might think; trust results from repetition. Each right response to doubt and disappointment triggers future obedience. Sanctification is not measured by emotion response at any given moment, but by the residual effect of spiritual muscle memory.