It is so important that your faith, to be alive, has to be alive in you. It has to be an individual, personal practice. Finding God ourselves, in the depths of ourselves.
A high school principal, Max Keller, challenges his students to take initiative in opening doors to opportunities. He says, “You’ll never get anywhere if you stand around waiting for someone to hand you the remote control.” In the same way, we cannot live our faith by remote control.
Does your faith meet your need in times of crisis? It is easy to be helpful and optimistic when we are riding the crest. The faith that matters is the kind that sees a person through bad breaks and guides the person through the valleys.
When you try to rate your faith, ask yourself whether it is stable …. in times of triumph and tragedy.
Do you have special stated times for spiritual development? While faith cannot be put into boxes and while religion should not be restricted to certain areas or special hours, people of great faith have always set aside stated times for meditation, prayer, and spiritual exercise.
A priest was once asked an assistant to Fulton Sheen for the secret of his success. He said, “His strength and influence are generated in silence.” Martin Luther had this famous saying, “If I have six hours of work to do, I spent two of the hours in prayer.”
Why should we? So we can listen to the voice of our master.
A friend of mine has a golden retriever, as do I; but Bentley is trained to only come
if my friend calls him. You could go out into my friend’s yard and scream at the top of your lungs and Bentley would just turn around, get that stupid smile on his face, and go where he was planning to go in the beginning. But if my friend goes out and says, even in a low voice, “Come, front,” Bentley will come, even from a long distance. Why doesn’t Bentley come when others call?
Jesus gave us the answer. In His story, the sheep return because they know
the voice of their Master. I discovered it is also true with Bentley. It seems to me that Bentley has some wisdom to offer. Do we listen to the voice of our Master, or do we heed other voices? Other voices of worry, fear, and disaster outside of us will never be God’s voice.
We cannot remake our lives the way we remodel our homes. We cannot call in an expert to draw up plans and then hire someone else to do the work for us. Nor can we move out while this process is going on and then come back when it’s finished. We may get suggestions and advice, but we must do the job ourselves. To do it, we must set aside special times for the doing by communing with God.
Is your home life better because of your religious faith? Someone once said when a person gets religion, even his dog and cat should be able to see the improvement. Religious profession should build a happier life. You can rate your faith by asking yourself: “Does my attitude in my home contribute to an atmosphere of affection, mutual respect, and cheerfulness? Do I properly reflect the deep convictions of the faith that is mine?”
Does your faith give you a sense of companionship, even in times of solitude? A common criticism leveled at Americans is that as a group we are afraid to be alone. We are told we do not want to know ourselves or analyze ourselves. We are accused of looking for continual means of escape. How about spending time in solitude with God? True faith should provide a feeling of spiritual consciousness. That is to say, our religion should give us a sense of oneness with our Creator. How do you rate in this respect? A person is never less alone than when he or she is with God.
Does your faith give you a new outlook on your job or volunteer work and a new approach to your work? There is an old saying, “Work is worship.” It is a true corollary of faith. Of what use is your religion in the work-day world if it does not provide a usable philosophy for you when you are on the job?
You can get an appraisal of the vitality of your faith by the way in which you find your place in the world. How do you fit yourself in that place? How do you devote yourself to it?
This reminds me of the story of a simple-hearted, hardworking nun. She was observed, many years ago, while on a retreat. As the many guests finished eating and piled up the dishes to be washed, the lone nun stood quietly with her arms elbow-deep in sudsy water and listened to a troubled woman pour out her woes. The sister listened intently while methodically washing plate after plate. I marveled at her patience and acceptance of such an unending, thankless chore. I asked her, “How do you do it, day after day, washing all those dishes alone, and still having the patience to listen?”
She looked at me and smiled. She said, “I just imagine that I am dipping my hands in the pool of Bethesda.” By focusing her attention on stirring up God’s healing waters, she did her daily chores with serenity, cultivated a listening ear, and offered restorative care to those she encountered.
Does your faith give you a sense of security in meeting life? A well-known story about the early career of John Wesley tells of his fear during a storm. He was on board a ship and he was terrified with fright. As he shook, he heard a group of Christians singing. They were praising God. Wesley asked them, “How in the world, in a storm like this where we might all perish, can you sing?” They said to him, “If your faith cannot serve you during a storm, what is the good of it?”
To estimate whether your faith is just a fair-weather faith, ask yourself how you react to storms whipped up by worry, fear, finances, relationship problems, health challenges, and unexpected emergencies. Does your faith give you a sense of security in meeting life? Every person can kickstart, or increase, his or her faith – if they truly desire to.
Has your faith ever inspired you to do a good deed? One of the most rewarding acts is to give without a thought of getting help in return.
A clerk in a supermarket tells this story. She glanced down the long line waiting at the cash register she was operating at the supermarket. She said, “Dear God, help me to be more like you.” She prayed and thought about the message at church and how she was told in every instance to ask herself, “How would Jesus handle this particular problem?”
She scanned a loaf of bread. She said, “That will be $3.09.” There was a small boy in front of her and he dumped a fistful of change onto the counter. As he did this, she heard the others in line say, “I thought this was an express line! Wouldn’t you know I always get in the wrong line? Wouldn’t you know there would be some kid who would ruin my day?”
Another said, “It will take her all day to count that kid’s money.” She counted every one of the pennies and he was short 28 cents. She gave him an uneasy look and his cheeks turned pink. Then she asked herself, “What would Jesus do?”
Quickly, she picked up the receipt and scribbled on it, “I owe this register 28 cents.” She slipped it into the register along with the boy’s coins. She pressed a paid sticker on the bread and handed it to him. His eyes brightened and he said, “Thank you, ma’am.”
The disgruntled complaints of the waiting customers no longer made her nervous because they noticed what she had done, and it had changed their day, also.
She said, “My heart felt light. It didn’t just last that minute; it lasted the whole day. I had a faith I took with me to work and I had been successful in emulating Jesus on one small occasion.” She was able to do it all that day.
The finger of God never leaves identical fingerprints. You are the finger of God in every situation.
Does your faith command your deepest loyalties? In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous short story, “The Face of the Mountain,” a young boy stares at a face carved in granite and regularly asks tourists in town if they know the identity of the face on the mountain. No one does. Into adulthood, midlife, and old age, he continues to gaze on the face at every opportunity, until one day, a tourist passing through exclaims to the once-young boy who is now a weather-beaten old man, “You are the face on the mountain!”
Meister Eckhart, said, “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which He sees me.” It means our highest loyalty should be our recognition of our oneness with God.
With which eye do we see ourselves? Which closeness do we wish to stay near? It is all very well to say that we want God to command our highest loyalties no matter where they lead, but how do we react when they do not lead us where we think we ought to go? How deep are our deepest loyalties?
Is your world different because of your faith? How many cares one leaves behind when one decides not to be something, but to be someone. If religion does not change our world, it very likely has not changed us very much. When we walk through life with faith, when we have what is commonly called a consciousness of the presence of God, our outlook on all life is deepened and refined.
We need to look at things in a new way. If we profess faith in the creative power of God, we should see all life as God’s life, all scenes as God’s scenes.
May God reach out and touch your hand, pulling you close to Him