Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Strengthen Faith

Most of us struggle with the question of faith. We often realize how weak our faith is when we are challenged with a death, serious illness or other difficulty. We know that faith is essential for us to enjoy the promise of a Christian faith in the Gospel, but how can we strengthen our faith? Pope Shenouda III in his book, Life of Faith, gives us some suggestions.

      1. Have confidence in God's qualities
      2. Have confidence in sincerity of God's promises
      3. Look to God and not your surrounding circumstances
      4. Read the stories of Faith
      5. Have humility of heart and mind
      6. Cultivate an experience with God
      7. See God in every matter
      8. Build a relationship with God
      9. Pray for a stronger faith.

Have confidence in God's qualities:
We must always remember that God is Love and a doer of Good. Tell yourself as Saint Paul says, All things work together for good to those who love God. (Rom 8:26) We must also remember that God is a good father who treats His children with tenderness and gives us all we need without asking. Also, we must remember always that God is all powerful and can do anything. Think about Abraham, Moses, Joshua and the wonders He did for them. Finally we must believe that God's judgment is good and whatever he wills for us is for our benefit even if we can't understand it.

Have confidence in the Sincerity of God's promise
Think about the promises that God makes in Scripture. He promised Abraham he would have many descendants when he and his wife were childless in old age. He promised the Israelites their freedom from bondage in Egypt. He promised Elijah help in time of famine. And He promised He would send His Spirit to all the people.  All the things He promised He did. So have confidence in the hope of eternal life He has promised us. He told us, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:20)

Look to God and not to the surrounding circumstances
Think about the Israelites before they were to cross the Red Sea and how difficult was their circumstance. They were pursued by the Pharaoh's army and the sea blocked their escape. Moses said to them, Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you... the Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. (Ex 14:13-14) God then parts the waters for them to escape and then allows the waters to submerge the pursuing army. Think about David as he faced Goliath. He trusted that the Lord would empower him to defeat Goliath. Like Moses, the Israelites fleeing from Egypt and David as he faced a unbeatable enemy, look to God when you face what seems like an insurmountable difficulty. Look above so that faith will enter into your heart in such times.

Consider the Stories in the Bible
Remember when Jesus told His followers in His Sermon on the Mount: Consider the lilies of the field... even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If He clothed the grass of the field like that, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matt 6:28-29) Have confidence that He will provide what you need with your cooperation with His grace.

Develop Humility of heart and mind

If you have humility you will not be stuck with a proud mind that thinks it knows everything and dosen't need God. One who has humility accepts all that comes from God with satisfaction. But one with a proud mind discusses, argues and discounts what does not please his own mind. We must accept that our mind is limited and that we cannot fully understand God an all His ways. He says, Give me O Lord the faith of children and not that of philosophers. (Lk 10:21)

Experience God

Do not stay trapped in the limits of your own mind. Try to live and rely on God, seeking Him regularly instead of relying solely on you own mind's view. Experience His love and power.

See God is all matters
Do not try and find a reason for everything without mentioning God. We now have great power derived from scientific exploration that it seems like we can know everything and do anything based on our own will. Do not be deluded by this scientific view. When a person is ill and is cured do not credit only the drug or doctor, but instead thank God that He healed the sick and used the hands of the doctor and the know how of the druggist. Relate every power, every miracle to God. Take time to also admire His work in nature. Look at the flower in your garden and do not analyze it, but reflect on the wonder of its Creator who gave such beauty to us for our enjoyment.

Build a relationship with God
When you have a daily dialogue with God through prayer you will find you can talk with Him without fear. When you accept His friendship and love you enter into a deeper faith. You will share all your secrets with Him and ask for His help often. With this loving relationship you will also want to make sure you do not disappoint Him and will be motivated out of your love for Him to follow His direction and all His teachings.

Pray that your faith will increase
Pope Shenouda III gives us this prayer:
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 benevolence even if the world is dark in front of me. Let me feel that my mind is much smaller than what is required to understand your wisdom and judgment. I know that You are a doer of benevolences, that You are living, 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.
For me who prays every day that the lord will strengthen my weak faith, the most important thing is to remember God in everything you do. Mastery of the Jesus prayer is most helpful in this regard. And always remember to thank God for each blessing you receive throughout the day. Do not wait until the end of the day, but make you daily life an ongoing dialogue with Him. Your life can become an ongoing prayer. See his power in all things. Seek His help and give Him thanks.

Next: What weakens faith

Reference: Life of Faith, Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church

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