Monday, February 10, 2014
How to strengthen one's faith ( Bishop Alexander (Mileant) )
Thus, among the many talents and faculties of the human spirit, faith is the most precious of the Divine gifts. Faith broadens man's horizons and gives him a proper outlook, reveals to him the purpose of his life, encourages him during hard times and gladdens his heart, empowers his prayer and gives him access to a multitude of God's treasures and mercies.
Sadly, however, our life of plenty and well-being weakens our faith, and God's goodness gets forgotten. As faith grows dim, a man's inner condition becomes increasingly disordered: he loses clarity of thought and purpose of life, his spiritual strength leaves him, emptiness and despondency firmly set into his heart, he becomes irritable and dissatisfied with everything. After all, the soul cannot live without faith, just as a plant cannot live without light and moisture. No matter how intelligent and talented he might be, with faith extinguished a person descends to the level of a cunning animal, or even a predator.
In order to escape such a "shipwreck of faith" (1 Tim. 1:19), one must seriously concern oneself with the renewal of his soul. But how? We know that all talents require exercise: to preserve a sharp mind, it must be engaged in mental work; so that fingers maintain their flexibility, it is necessary to practice on a musical instrument; to have the body remain limber, it is necessary to do gymnastic exercises; and so on. If people expend so much energy and money to develop and preserve their physical abilities, should not we Christians strive to strengthen our spiritual capabilities?
Specifically: to strengthen our faith, we must live spiritually. This includes regular reading of the Holy Scripture, meditation about God and the purpose of our life, fasting and prayer. When praying, one must make an effort to concentrate on the meaning of the words and feel the presence of God. It is also important to repent sincerely for one's sins, go to Confession and take Communion on a regular basis. Finally, one must try to live not for oneself alone but for the good of one's neighbor and one's church. The heart of one who loves is warmed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Of course, in trying to lead a Christian life one cannot avoid battles, trials and difficulties. At times it may seem that the whole world is armed against us. These are unwanted but precious periods in which we are given the opportunity to grow spiritually and become better Christians.
In striving to strengthen our faith, let us always remember that ultimately faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul testified to this: "The fruit of the Spirit is: joy, love, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, faith" (Gal. 5:22). Let us, therefore, ask God for faith, that great spiritual treasure. As Jesus Christ has promised: "Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). And as faith grows, it will bring with it peace of mind, joy, and a foretaste of final triumph over all evil. "This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith" (1 John 5:4).