What is Required for US to Believe
FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE
Many see the danger of the decline of faith and they fear for themselves or their children, but before we see how to strengthen our faith, let us first see the things that fight faith and snatch it away from us.
Theoretical faith is expected to vanish, for as St. James the Apostle said, “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). What kills faith is that it is not practiced. There are three means for not practicing faith, and the decline of faith is caused by:
1 - Following the path of evil, lust, and transgression. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God,” (John 3:19-21). It is thus clear that he who does evil distances himself from faith lest he may be exposed, at least before himself, if not before the community. If corruption and immorality are prevalent in the community, the individual will distance himself from faith and reject it to appease his conscience.
2 - The difficulties and imaginary fears. All distresses are false because they are temporary, but if someone is deceived by this falsehood, he may lose his faith. “The Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. And when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31,32). Difficulties are necessary in life for they are the path to the Kingdom of Heaven, but they must be for strengthening our faith and not for weakening it.
3 – Pride. “For pride is the beginning of sin, and he that hath it shall pour out abomination,” (Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 10:13). “For the power of the Lord is great, and He is honored by the lowly,” (Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 3:20). Who glorifies God the Creator, the Omnipotent, the Savior, the Redeemer, but the humble? “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy, ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”(Isaiah 57:15). “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” (I Peter 5:5), (James 4:6). “Surely, He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble,” (Proverbs 3:34). “When pride comes, then comes shame, but with the humble is wisdom,” (Proverbs 11:2).
How can we develop our faith?
* We know that faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” (Galatians 5:22). Therefore, in order to increase the fruit of the Holy Spirit we must seek the intercessions with which the Holy Spirit grants us grace. Prayer and praise, fasting and prostrations, reading the Holy Bible and spiritual books, doing charitable works, partaking of the Holy Sacraments, such as Confession and Communion, attending prayers, etc. All these reinforce the work of the Holy Spirit in giving us grace. The human being who wants to preserve his body from sickness and death nourishes it constantly and does not diminish the quantity or quality of food, but provides it with all the good nutrients required by the body, in sufficient quantity to ensure its long life. It’s the same with the spirit. If we want to grow in the faith and in the other fruits, we must nourish our spirit and not diminish the frequency of prayer or our attachment to the Church, which is the safety ship as was Noah’s Ark. The Church saves us from the flood of this world. Prayer strengthens faith with fasting, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting,” (Mark 9:29). Because Jesus our Lord said that the reason for not being able to remove evil spirits is the lack of faith, “Because of your unbelief, for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ And it will move and nothing will be impossible for you,” (Matthew 17:20). Thus prayer and fasting was for strengthening the faith to remove evil spirits.
* By reading the lives of the Saints, the heroes of faith as mentioned in the Holy Bible in both Testaments (see the Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter 11), inflames our faith for we direct our hearts when we read such spiritual stories: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life,” (Proverbs 4:23).
* By drawing near and mixing with the ardent believers we feel the warmth and our spirits are inflamed. But mixing with the spiritually tepid or with non-believers could be harmful, especially if one’s faith is weak.
* By practicing the faith and choosing life with God we increase faith, and the treasure is increased for our benefit. When we remember our experiences our faith is reinforced whenever we are discouraged.
* Remember the principles of faith. “For this reason, I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established to the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly, I must put off my tent just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease,” (II Peter 1:12-15). We must therefore set a time every day to sit in spiritual meditation to remember the work of God with us.
* As we said, the path of evil weakens faith, but the path of good, keeping the commandments and the love of God strengthens the faith, for the love of God preserves us always: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created things, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:35-39).
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