I am not sure where to start with this since it is such a common message. When the speaker introduced this message at the Growth Seminar we are having at the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy in Lekki, I was wondering what else he could talk about on faith. We all know what faith is and that we must have it if we are to profess that we are Christians. After all, it is faith that makes us believe that Christ rose from the dead and it is faith that makes us believe that heaven is real. Ofcourse we have faith but the question is do we REALLY have it?
He began by citing the familiar passage of Hebrews 11:1 describing faith as “the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see.” He then explained that there were 4 aspects to a Christian’s life which must work together.
- Prayer Life:
This aspect takes care of a Christian’s anointing and enables the Christian to stand up. It is a basic requirement since we are all called to pray, being the communication with God. I once read a message which was delivered by our Lady at Medjugorje which encouraged us to BE PRAYER and it struck me. Imagine if all Christians BE PRAYER which entails the constant connection to God. Imagine if we strive to connect to God as we strive to connect to the internet. Imagine if we acted in the same frantic way as we do to renew data when we see the error message “no internet access” to reconnect to God when we sin or when we do not feel His presence. We are called to BE PRAYER. We are called to have a life of prayer.
2.Life of Grace:
The speaker explained that this aspect is concerned with a person’s relationship with God. A person’s relationship with God determines how much of His presence concentrates on that person’s life. This explains why someone can have a fervent prayer life but have no intimate relationship with God and not experience God’s presence in his life. It not only reminds me of the Pharisees and those who clung to the Law and ignored Jesus’ teachings but also to those who quote scripture academically and do not experience its power or God’s presence in His Word.
3. Revelational Life:
This aspect of a Christian’s life is one for which I yearn. The speaker stated that it concerns one’s understanding of God and entails the ability to recognize God’s voice. At the start of this week, we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday and the readings of this week focus on following Jesus and hearing His voice. Indeed Jesus says in John 10:27 that “my sheep hear my voice” and it is this aspect which deals with the channels of how God speaks to us since we can have a prayer life by praying without hearing from God.
I am always wary when I hear people say “Thus says the Lord” because I question whether they are really hearing from God. The speaker asked us how it was that Joseph was able to hear God and duly interpret Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41:25-32. Ever since I came across Ephesians 1:17, I try to invoke it whenever I study God’s Word, as it helps me to actually tune in to God’s wavelength. I pray that God truly gives me the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” that I may KNOW Him, for if I know Him, I will recognize His voice.
4. Faith Life:
The speaker then explained the final aspect of a Christian’s life which he stated was the most important since nobody can function as a Christian without faith. He stressed that God does not do anything without faith and gave several examples in Scripture citing 2Cor 1:24 that it is by faith that a Christian stands. Other scripture to which he referred include Hebrews 11:6 which states that “without faith it is impossible to please God” and Romans 3:22 that “God makes us righteous by means of faith in Jesus Christ which is supported in Romans 5:1 saying “by faith we have received true righteousness.”
He also pointed out that sacrifice needs faith as seen in Abraham’s belief in Yahweh in Genesis 15:6 and that faith makes the sacrifice acceptable to God as seen in Hebrews 11:4 where it states that “because of Abel’s faith, his offering was more acceptable…and God himself approved his offering.” When the speaker pointed this out, he referred to those who bring their offering to church but who do not have faith. It struck me that such sacrifices and offering are not accepted by God and actually come to nought where they are not accompanied with the required faith that we must have.
HOW TO GROW FAITH
The speaker explained that God expects our faith to grow and referred to “sound faith” in Titus 1:13 and also to 1Cor 2:5 which talks of faith being a matter “not of human wisdom but of God’s power.”
He further explained that personal faith is needed to carry you so one must develop one’s personal faith. He made reference to Habakkuk 2:4 which states that “the upright on the other hand, will live by HIS faithfulness.” This is explained in the Catholic Church’s distinction between the Faith of the Church which has been handed down and your personal faith. Upon reading the portion in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I came across paragraph 176 which describes faith thus:
“Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words.”
This is to be distinguished from the Faith of the Church which has been handed down from the Jesus’ disciples and is explained in paragraph 171 which says thus:
“The Church, ‘the pillar and bulwark of the truth’, faithfully guards “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”. She guards the memory of Christ’s words; it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles’ confession of faith.”
The speaker stressed that the Church expects you like God to build your own faith so it can work for you like it did for the friends of the paralytic in Luke 5:20 and for the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:22.
He also explained that God sees faith and stresses that faith is a substance which can be seen, heard and spoken of as stated in Hebrews 11:1. The version used is not the Christian Community Bible version as referred to above but that of the Latin Vulgate which records that “faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”
As if to clarify the confusion of his listeners when he pointed out the tangible nature of faith, he explained that faith is a risk and should not be confused with activity. He referred to Mark 11:24 where Jesus says “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be done for you.” This almost sounds contradictory since faith is the evidence of things that appear not, but he explained that faith is a risk and that you should have that same faith AFTER you pray which affirms that it has been done. We must have the “faith of after.”
WHAT FAITH CAN BE
He mentioned 4 things which faith can be and explained the types thus:
- Weak Faith:
He referred to Romans 14:1 where Paul encourages us to “welcome those weak in faith.” He also warned us against the rise of paganism through the absorption of pagan practices into the Christian sphere which shows our weak faith. He gave an example of some churches which now allow traditional title holders who have partaken in some pagan rituals, practices and festivities to take Holy Communion and cautioned us against such dilution of our faith, as we no longer tolerate idolism but we accommodate paganism.
2. Less Faith:
Matthew 17:17 was cited to explain those who have less than the required faith needed when Jesus exclaimed “You faithless and disoriented people.” However, this “lessness of faith” must not be confused with the total lack of faith which is seen in Psalm 119:158 where God says that he looks
“upon the faithless with loathing”
3. Little Faith
This kind of faith describes those who do not have enough faith to pull them through whatever obstacles in which they find themselves. It reminds me of the parable of the types of soil in Luke 8:12-15 where the Word falls on the rocky and thorny ground. Indeed Jesus exclaims to Peter in Matthew 14:31 “Man of little faith, why did you doubt.” He also referred to Matthew 8:22-28 which refers to Jesus who rebuked the storm after he was awoken by his disciples and had asked them “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith.” He explained that by this statement, Jesus had intended to take them to the other side of faith beyond the praying faith towards the trusting faith and that was why he was asleep in the midst of the storm and unperturbed. He even suggested that Jesus may have orchestrated the storm precisely to teach the disciples this lesson as it was impossible for anything to happen to the boat as long as Jesus was on board.
This aspect of little faith is one which speaks to many of us, especially in our prayer life. The speaker pointed out that most Christians pray out of fear and not faith, otherwise they will be at peace whenever challenges come their way. He gave an example of hearing a noise in the middle of the night and instead of remaining in your bed and praying a short prayer of protection, you get up and start anointing holy water and oil all over the house and engaging in violent prayers.
4. Strong Faith:
He deviated from the negative kinds of faith to the ones which we must aspire to have in his reference to Romans 4:19-20 where Abraham was described as a man who “did not doubt although his body could no longer give life.” He explained that where faith is alive, the fact that the body is dead does not matter since “we walk by faith and not by sight” as stated in 2Cor 5:7. He went on to stress this refusal to doubt and his reliance on God’s promise since “by being strong in faith, he gave glory to God.”
5. Full Faith:
The speaker referred to Stephen who was chosen in Acts 6:5 as a “man full of faith” and explained that such men are considered faithful in things of God. I once had a discussion over the words in the Hail Mary that says “full of grace” and that it meant that there was no space left in Mary’s personality for anything negative because when something is full it is just that – full! Having full faith reminds me of this. To be full of faith means there is no doubt whatsoever because there is no space for doubt to creep into such a faithful man.
6. Great Faith:
Reference was made to the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:28 when Jesus exclaimed “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” This resilience of the woman in spite of Jesus’ harsh words to her makes me wonder whether my faith has ever reached this level and makes me yearn for such faith as this.
HOW FAITH COMES
The speaker explained that faith simply comes just as fear comes. It is something that just comes and may gradually seep into you. However, he identified its coming in 2 ways, namely as a gift of the Holy Spirit and by hearing the Word of God
- By Gift of the Holy Spirit:
He distinguished this way from the other way by calling it functional faith. I recall Monseigneur talking about the charisms which are deposited in every one of us and some people having the charism of faith. This is seen in 1Cor 12:9 which states that “to another is given faith in which the Spirit acts.”
2. By Hearing Word of God:
He refers to Romans 10:17 and stresses that the just shall live by their faith. Some versions say that faith comes by preaching the Word of Christ which reminds me of the need to not only always fellowship with those who fill themselves with God’s word and to attend as many such gatherings as possible and not merely mass, but also to share the Word with others. The more I hear and preach God’s word, the more faith comes.
CAN FAITH BE INCREASED
He explained that faith could be increased as mentioned by Paul in 2Cor 10:15 where he says that “as our hope increases, so too our area of ministry among you will be enlarged without going beyond our limit.”
This capacity for increase is also seen in Mark 9:22-24 where he points out that we need “faith help,” as echoed by the father of the boy with the evil spirit who said “I do believe , but help the little faith I have.”
The speaker then mentioned something which I always knew but had never thought about from the viewpoint of faith. He said that we need personal revelation from God so we can find ourselves amongst believers and not amongst those who dilute your faith and introduce doubt. He referred to 1 Kings 17 where David refused to listen to what was said of Goliath who had instilled fear in Saul’s army. David did not hear what they heard nor see what they saw but instead asserted his identity in the Lord and his faith in God and by so doing, overcame his giant.
HOW TO INCREASE FAITH
He mentioned 4 things that could be done to increase your faith
- Face the Thing:
He stressed the need to face what is challenging your faith and to practice overcoming it by inviting the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of faith.
2. Be in Fellowship:
He emphasized that since faith also comes by hearing, then effort must be made to create the atmosphere for faith to come by being in fellowship with the Word and those who preach it. Creating the atmosphere entails preparing yourself to be the God’s sanctuary, thus repenting of your sins which have disconnected you from Christ and made your body uninhabitable for the Holy Spirit which constantly yearns to connect with you.
3. Observe and Do:
He explained that there are tried and tested kingdom principles which show where faith has been exercised and success achieved each time and urged us to observe them in Scripture and practice them. He gave examples of when Elisha observed how Elijah rose the boy in 1Kings 17:21-25 and so was able to do same in 2Kings 33-35 and Peter observed Jesus who raised Lazarus in John 11:43-44 and the widow’s son to life in Luke 7:13-15 and so was able to do same with Tabitha in Acts 9:40-42. It struck me that there is a copy and paste formula to manifest faith and all we need do is simply believe.
This reminds me of a healing minister who had sought for the gift of word of knowledge from God and early on its infancy, he heard God say that he should use his spittle to cure a woman who had come to him for healing. He resisted this voice because it sounded so absurd but later on succumbed to it by asking the woman who was in need of healing whether she minded since he had heard this instruction which wouldn’t go away. The woman consented and he rubbed his spittle on his fingers and placed it on her eyes and she was instantly cured of blindness. How bizarre but also how so much in accordance with how Jesus himself cured the blind man in John 9:6.
4. Disassociate yourself from faith killers
He referred to the action of Jesus who kicked out those who jeered at him when he arrived at the official’s house and said that the girl was only sleeping in Matthew 9:24-26 amidst the jeers of those around. Peter observed and did same with Tabitha in Acts 9:40 where he made them all leave the room so as not to damper his faith.
After hearing this message on faith, I resolved there and there that I needed to up my game. I needed to transcend from where I was which was that of having little faith to having something much more positive. I could almost hear Jesus ask me “Why do you doubt o yea of little faith?” Indeed, he is in the boat with me on this long sea journey called life and to doubt him undermines all he did for me on the cross of Calvary.
At the next opportune time I had, I went into the parish bookshop and bought a “Thank you, Jesus” rosary. I had seen my mom always carrying that obvious extra long rosary around and she had always encouraged me to say it. If I am to increase my faith, I must first personalize it. I must be wary not to be like those who pay lip service to prayers or come to mass and get carried along only upon the faith of the Church but at the first instance of trials, they fall because they lack personal faith and that of the church is not enough to sustain them. It is no wonder we hear of Catholics who have left the Church saying “they have seen the light” when what it was is that they reneged on their personal duty to increase their personal faith. Dare I say, they never truly understood the basis of the faith of the Church in the first place!
So, I encourage you all to put into practice the words of Jesus like I have resolved to do in believing that whatever I have asked has been granted. Once said, I will simply take out my Thank you Jesus rosary and express my gratitude for his answered prayers. I will not be like the person who responds with a resounding “Amen” after having hands laid upon her in a healing crusade but then who seeks out another crusade for another minister to have his hands laid upon her.
We either have faith or we don’t. We either believe or we don’t. What will it be? Our decision will change our world as we know it.
O Lord, please help us to grow in faith as we lean on you daily, imbibe your Word daily and walk with you with your powerful presence ever dwelling with us, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.