This post originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ May 2017 newsletter. You can view it here.
Scripture tells us much about faith and growing in faith. I urge you to open a concordance and look up the word “faith.” See how often the word is used, the gift that it is, and the means by which we can genuinely grow in our faith. Let faith become, in a certain sense, part of our oxygen and blood supply.
One Scriptural definition is this: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction about the things we do not see” (Heb 11:1). Let me repeat a short, true story that reveals this kind of faith:
A number of years ago, there was a woman in Minnesota. She and her husband developed a very successful frozen pizza business before such places were popular. But the beginning was not easy. No matter what she and her husband tried to do to make the business a success, it failed. One desperate day, she was out driving and praying that God would help them, when she heard a minister on the radio speaking about faith. He told people to bring everything to God—family, business, relationships, finances, etc: Bring everything to God and ask God what He wants to do. Seek His will for the situation you are bringing to Him. Don’t try to figure it out and then ask God to bless it; rather, bring it to Him first and ask Him to lead and guide you.
The woman actually pulled off to the side of the road, got out of the car, knelt down in a grassy space, and gave the business to God right then and there: “You do with it, Lord, what you think is right.”
A little while later, she drove home and found a letter saying that the government was giving them a loan available to new businesses. That was marvelous, but what was more marvelous was that they had gotten a letter the previous week saying their request had been turned down! This woman and her husband, from that point on, dedicated everything in their family and in their business to the Lord. Their faith had grown; they knew God was with them and was blessing their willingness to turn to Him in every decision they made. The business was very successful.
Fast forward to many years later: This woman was dying in a hospital, her heart was failing, and her family was around her. She saw what she described as a great light in the corner of the hospital room and asked her children if they also saw the light. That interchange went on for several days. By this time, doctors and nurses were actually kneeling in her room, because they said that the peace they experienced in taking care of her was profound.
As the end neared, she called out to her daughters again, “Don’t you see the light?” “No,” they replied. Then she looked at all of them and said, “Well, next one up bring my sunglasses!” And she died. Her faith was living, it was real, and it was applied even at the moment of death. God wants the faith of each of us to be living and active.
Why do I address the issue of faith now? The Church is literally hemorrhaging . . . people are leaving the Church all across the country. Yes, we are trying in many parishes to evangelize; we are spending ourselves to offer programs to strengthen us spiritually and bring people back to the faith of their childhood or young adulthood. All this is very, very good and necessary. But if we don’t personally grow in our faith—feeding it daily with a healthy diet—we too could drift away, as well as more of our family and friends.
In the story I just told, notice how the woman listened to the program and then did something. She got out of the car, knelt down, and dedicated everything she and her husband hoped to accomplish to Him, for His honor and glory. And God heard. He took her seriously, and their business bore fruit—not just for their family, but for the local community and the Church as well. Each of us needs to make and remake decisions to bring Him into every aspect of our lives—every aspect!
About a year ago, I was reading a book on prayer by Sister Ruth Burrows. The book contains several paragraphs that gave me food to meditate on for several weeks. Below is one of those paragraphs for your own reflection on growing in faith—a living faith!
Faith is not a thing of the mind; it is not an intellectual certainty or a felt conviction of the heart. It is a sustained decision to take God with utter seriousness as the God of my life. It is to live out each hour in a practical, concrete affirmation that God is Father and that He is “in heaven.” It is a decision to shift the center of our lives from ourselves to Him, to forgo self interest and to make his interests, his will our sole concern. Each of us has the choice either to live by faith or to live by flesh. To live by “flesh” is to live within the limits of our own perception, our own understanding, according to how things seem and feel, according to our natural experience. It is instinctive for us to live thus, taking for granted that our conscious experience is to be trusted, that it is the way things are, the way we are, the way God is—that this is our life. We want to remain on this level because it is within our grasp; it is “ours” and affords a sort of security and assurance. This is so natural to us . . . that we are unaware of how much our life is lived from self and not on faith in the Son of Man. We cannot rid ourselves of this deeply rooted pride and self-possession by our own strength. Only the Holy Spirit of the Crucified and Risen One can effect it and this He is always trying to do. But we must recognize His work, and respond “Amen.” [Sister Ruth Burrows, Essence of Prayer (Mahwah, NJ: Hidden Spring, 2006), 2].
As we, in our various parishes, seek to bring the Good News to those who have never heard it or who have left the Church for whatever reason, let’s seek to make sure that our own faith is being fed and strengthened daily—so that we may be instruments, servants, disciples of His will. Doing His will yields fruit that will be abundant beyond our hopes. May God’s Spirit inspire and lead us all to yield to His will daily.