More than three quarters (78 percent) of those surveyed say they believe God has a plan for their life, even in difficult circumstances. And only a quarter (25 percent) say their struggles made them doubt God.
These findings are part of the “Transformational Discipleship” study by Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which included more than 1,000 pastors and 4,000 Protestant churchgoers in North America. Among them were 1,068 Canadians who attend church at least once a month.
Researchers looked at eight attributes they say are found in the lives of spiritually mature Christians. One of them is “Exercising Faith,” which measures how believers deal with difficulty.
It’s the area most people score highest on, said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.
“Exercising Christian faith is more than believing God exists; it is believing in God’s promised presence, provision and compassion for us,” Stetzer said.
The survey measured responses to a set of statements about a person’s level of faith.
More than three quarters (78 percent) of respondents agree with the statement: “I believe that God has a purpose for all events in my life, regardless of whether I perceive each event as being good or bad.” Just 11 percent disagree.
Two-thirds (66 percent) say they “express praise and gratitude to God even in difficult circumstances.”
One in four say they sometimes doubt the love of God and His provision when experiencing difficulty.
The survey shows the longer someone has trusted Christ as their Saviour, the more they say they trust God. Those who are involved in a Bible study group, or who pray for and witness to non-Christians, also have higher scores.
Churchgoers also affirm that God can change lives, the survey shows.
Sixty percent disagree with the statement: “I sometimes doubt that God can change the lives of non-Christians I know.” Twenty-three percent say they agree with the statement.
“Exercising faith is a mindset that says God the Father knows best,” Stetzer said.
LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). This online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity based on eight factors of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides practical suggestions for continued spiritual development.
For more information, visit LifeWayResearch.com. The TDA is available at TDA.LifeWay.com.
Methodology: LifeWay Research surveyed a representative sample of 1,086 Canadian adults as part of the Transformational Discipleship study. Participants attend a Protestant church at least once a month. The sample included churchgoers from a range of Protestant denominations, including mainline and evangelical churches. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish and French. A demographically balanced online panel was used for the interviewing. Surveys were conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011.