How do we grow our faith? Think about plant biology: how does a tree grow – from its roots or its branches? The answer to that question is, of course, both. If you cut off a tree’s roots it can’t grow, but if you cut off its branches it won’t grow either. A healthy tree usually has just as large a root system as it does a branching system above ground, and the success of the two are connected (Job 18:16). The branches won’t grow upward more than the roots can grow down (Mark 4:5-6) and vice versa.
Humans have probably understood this basic fact about plants since the Stone Age, and it’s the basis of a simple analogy that the apostle Paul used in his writings:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
Paul tells us here that we should be rooted down on the one hand and built up on the other. It’s a building analogy – of having a foundation and a superstructure, but it’s also an analogy of a tree taking root down and growing upward. Paul uses the same combined imagery of planting and building in 1 Corinthians 3:9 and Ephesians 3:18, but whichever analogy we use, it is clear that Paul means that being rooted and strengthened in faith are one and the same thing, just as being built up and overflowing with thanks are also the same.
Paul utilizes the same technique for a slightly different point in the Book of Ephesians:
“... I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:16-18).
Here, in Ephesians, the analogy is one of being rooted in love, and grasping the love of Christ. The more we understand the love of Christ, the deeper we too become grounded in love. In Colossians Paul tells us the same about faith – the more we overflow or grow upward in thanksgiving the more we become rooted downward in faith. The two are connected and cannot be viewed apart.
So how do we grow our faith; how does it become ever more deeply rooted? There may be a number of ways such as studying the lives of people of faith.* Paul shows us that one answer is certainly through thanksgiving. The more we recognize what God is doing in and through us and others, the more we appreciate and are thankful for that, then the more we will grow in the gift of faith.
*See also the "Growing in Faith" and "Faith Hall of Fame" sections of our Articles pages.