Monday, September 17, 2012

What Strengthens Faith

Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church gives us nine points to strengthen our faith.


1. Confidence in God's qualities:
Pope Shenouda suggests that we "put in our heart that God is a doer of benevolence." He quotes St. Paul, "All things work together for good to those who love God." (Rom 8:28) We should view God as a living Father who treats all his children with tenderness and gives them good gifts. We must have confidence in God's ability to do anything. Remember that He "loves and wants benevolences for you." Abraham had such faith when he took his Son Isaac to be sacrificed. He had confidence that God was able to raise him from the dead so he did not fear for his son. God is "A father of many nations in the presence of Him whom he believed--God who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did." (Rom 4:17) We can also have confidence in His judgement and that His planning is for our good even though we may not understand it.

2. Confidence in the sincerity of God's timing:
He points out that God promised Abram (Abraham) that He would give him descendants which He did after along time. He also promised His people freedom from captivity and did free them from the Egyptians. He promised He would send the Holy Spirit to all people (Joel 2:28) and he did on the day of Pentecost. The Bible shows us many such stores of his promises and their fulfillment according to His timing.

3. Look unto God and not unto the surrounding circumstances:
Recall the story of David and Goliath. If David had looked at the mighty Goliath he might have been afraid, but through faith he instead looked to God knowing He would guide his hand. (1Sam 17) No matter the circumstances we ind ourselves, we must look to our faith and let it permeate our heart knowing that the loving God is able to do anything. We can't be controlled by the power of our enemies or circumstances but in faith seek help from God who will rescue us from them.

4. The Stories of faith and companionship with men of faith:
Read the stories in the Bible and the saints about those who lived with faith and try to absorb faith from them. Pope Shenouda says, "Whenever a person reads stories about faith, about the confidence in God and miracles happened with His Saints, his heart will be filled with faith and he will come to love this life full of faith."

5. Humility of Heart and mind:
We need humility to accept "what comes from God with satisfaction." We must admit that our minds are limited. We must be able to say before God: "Your wishes O Lord are above my understanding and Your works are above my knowledge. Who am I in front of You? All my knowledge is ignorance in front of You." We should remember what Luke recorded and ask for the faith of children and not rely on that of philosophers or other . (Luke 10:21)

6. The Experience with God
When we surrender to God we can "live with Him and test Him, try to rely on Him, and at that time you will see His miracles working in you." Associate with Him so that you know who He is as David the prophet said, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps 34:8)

7. See God in all things:
Some say when they learn that man can destroy the atom and use nuclear energy, "How great is the human mind." But one who believes in God will say, "Glory to you God the creator of this human mind and all the possibilities You have revealed about the power you have put into nature. Or when a sick person is cured, do not not simply give praise to the doctor, but give thanks to God for the ability of this person to heal. Search for God's work in all aspects of your daily life. When you see a beautiful flower do not simply describe or examine it like a botanist, but praise the Lord for the beauty He has created. The Prophet David tells us, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork." (Ps 19:1)  Admire the moon and the stars in the sky and remember God who created all we know. "Do not separate God's creations from Him."

8. Take the Lord as your friend:
When you "accept His friendship and love, you will enter the real faith... you will look forward to seeing Him as a friend to tell Him your secrets, and enjoy His companionship and love...you will take care as a friend not to hurt His feelings or make Him angry.

9. Prayer for the sake of Faith:
Pray for you faith that it may grow and increase. 
Tell Him: Give me O Lord, that I believe in You with full faith. Give me that I love and have confidence in You in everything, and to believe that You do me benevolences even if the world was dark in front of me. Let me feel that my mind is much smaller to understand Your wisdom and judgment. I know that You are a doer of benevolences, that You are loving, that You see everything and that You are capable of doing everything, and in spite of that my faith often weakens... so help my weak faith.

Reference: Life in Faith, pp 109-122

Information of the Coptic Church and its relationship to the Orthodox Church

4 comments:

  1. Dear Fr. Dn., just a little free copyediting for you:

    At the end of the paragraph under point 1, it looks like " ... His planning is for our God inver though we may not understand it."

    should read: " ... His planning is for our good even though we may not understand it."

    Also, should pt. 7 read "Seek God [in] all Things."?

    You can delete this comment after you have seen it.

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  2. Thank you, Fr. Dn. This is a wonderfully practical post, and especially powerful when one considers the circumstances under which Pope Shenouda and his flock have lived.

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  3. Great points. Especially #1 Confidence in God's qualities. Knowing those really assures you that things will work out and so faith becomes stronger.

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