‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him’ says the book of Hebrews 11:6. This is about our Christian faith, placing our trust in Jesus our Saviour. It is our faith which further leads to our salvation. Faith is central for a Christian living and the key which opens the door to every blessing and healing. But our faith needs to be firm and solid.Just as faith moves mountains, faith also works wonders. Without faith we cannot do much; without faith we may wander like lost sheep that have no direction to go. ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ (Heb 11:1). Jesus could not perform much miracles in his own home town because the people there lacked faith. We restrict Jesus working in our life because of our lack of faith. Faith is the beginning of our spiritual journey where we need to climb the ladder of faith.
Faith is a grace, a gift from God given to us through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor12:9). It is the Spirit who convicts us about the existence and the truth about God. We receive the gift of faith at our baptism, but as we grow it has to be our personal response to the initiative that God has taken to reveal himself to us. As the Holy Spirit instills faith in us, the Spirit also further strengthens our faith. Trying to convince someone about the existence of God and about the reality of God will be like pouring water on a duck’s back. Without the gift of faith one will never believe in God’s power or his saving grace. The words of St. John of the cross, “only by means of faith is the soul united to God”. St. Paul makes a beautiful prayer in his letter to the Ephesians, “I pray that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:16-17). Christ can dwell in our hearts through faith! Having faith in Jesus also means having a loving and intimate relationship with Him. We place our faith in the person only once we get to know him/her closely, hence our relationship grows and we get closer to the person. That person no longer remains a stranger or just a friend but that person now becomes our confidant. Jesus too can be our confidant once we begin to trust Him and have a personal relationship with him. To have a personal relationship with Jesus is very important. And in order to have a personal relationship we need to spend time with Him. It’s not just enough to say that we are close to Jesus or vice versa, but by exercising our faith we should believe that Jesus is within us. Faith brings us into the spiritual realm and we will be able to experience God’s love and his intimacy.
The letter of John tells us about the one who conquers the world, ‘And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Through faith we can have victory over any situation, because our faith is in Christ and with Christ we become victorious hence we can overcome the greatest challenge. Through faith we are led to eternal life. Apart from faith we cannot confess that Jesus is Lord, and St. Paul says, ‘if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Rom 10:9) Paul also says, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Rom 10:13).Our faith does not save us alone but our entire household can turn to Christ because of our faith. It is very much necessary that our entire family should be saved, no parents will want their children to be lost, nor will anyone want their parents or other siblings to be lost. To be lost is to live rejecting God and his salvation. Even though we have received faith at our baptism but with the passing of time and by getting too much entangled with the things and attractions of the world, the tiny spark of our faith gets diminished and slowly gets extinguished. At such time we need the prayer support of one another and intercessions of others to strengthen and sustain our faith.
When Paul and Silas were in prison (Acts 16) the jailor asked Paul what he should do to be saved, Paul answered him, ‘believe in Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). After giving him the solution to be saved Paul did not keep silent, but he acted! Paul proclaimed the Word of God to the jailor and to the members of his family and on hearing the Word of God his entire family were baptized. The jailor received his faith in Christ Jesus through Paul, and the jailor also acted in love and compassion. He washed their wounds, welcomed them into his house and gave them food. Faith involves love and compassion, faith involves action. Faith and works go hand in hand. We cannot be complacent once we have found the Lord, nor can we just be silent and happy about our own salvation. We need to reach out. James in his letter goes one step ahead and tells us that just faith is not sufficient, faith has to be accompanied with works. ‘So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead’ (Jas 2:17). When we have received the gift of faith, we need to reach out to others. Reach out in love and draw others into faith by our acts of kindness and charity. Seeing our love and compassion, kindness and gentleness, others can be drawn to Christ and receive the gift of faith.
Once we have experienced and encountered Christ and once we have received the gift of faith we need to grow in faith. Nothing can be static or stagnant; the stagnant water will stink and attract flies and bacteria! So does our faith, it cannot be stagnant, it needs to grow. And in order to grow in faith we need some spiritual nourishment to nourish and nurture our faith. Faith is strengthened through prayer, prayer is also a gift of God. We need to pray and ask God to increase our faith. Prayer is communicating with God, and through this communication we come into union with God and hence we grow in faith. Reading and mediating upon the Word of God helps our faith to grow.The word of God is the spiritual capsule which builds up our faith and makes it strong. ‘So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ’ (Rom 10:17). Another way which builds up our faith is through testimonies. When we testify what marvels God has done in our life, we build up one another’s faith. Even when we hear testimonies of others we are encouraged and it boosts our faith. Participating regularly in Sacraments is very important to build up our faith. Faith can get very strong through trials and calamities like grave illness, etc.But how many of us will want to grow in faith embracing trials and troubles? Certainly not many would want that! Trials are the true parameters of our faith. If we can hold on to the Lord and be at peace even in our trials, knowing that the Lord will take care of our most difficult situation, and wait upon the Lord in hope like Job, we can certainly say that we have passed our faith test.
On our Christian journey our faith will often be tried and tested, just as the faith of Abraham was tested.His faith was strong and firm as a rock, hence he is called the father of faith. Noah too was a man of great faith, who build the ark even when there was no sign of rain, he trusted God totally.Jesus sets a parameter for our faith, ‘the mustard seed’, how tiny is the mustard seed, it is the smallest of all seeds and yet it is difficult to have even such a tiny measure of faith. We can do great things with little faith as size of a mustard seed. We will be able to do greater things once the seed is sown and it grows into a big tree, the greatest of all trees. Jesus said, ‘the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, in fact will do greater works than these’ (Jn 14:12). Let us make every effort to imitate Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).