effort

The Problem of Faith

What has happened to faith in our world?  Faith has turned into something it was never intended to be.  Faith is NOT blindly following a person, a book, or a so-called god.

Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1
Faith.png

Many if not most Christians have probably seen that quote before, but few have investigated what it means.  There are two words that we have to pay special attention to:

  1. assurance means foundation
  2. proof means that by which a thing is tested

So we could read Hebrews to say, "Now faith is the foundation of things hoped for, faith is the way we test and prove things not seen. "  That is a very different definition of faith than the one normally proffered.  Faith is not fixed or blind, it is earned and tested until it is proven to be true or false, then tested again.

When we allow faith to be cheapened, we steal one of the greatest powers a believer has.

But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.
— Paul, Ephesians 2:4-9

Faith is a gift from God, so that no one can boast.  O, how often have we heard people boast about their faith?  That is how we know they have none.

If faith is a gift, and is the foundation of things hoped for and the way we test and prove things not seen, how do we get some?

Faith is the first of the Five Powers

  1. Faith
  2. Effort
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Concentration
  5. Wisdom

Faith empowers Effort.  Effort builds Mindfulness.  Mindfulness forges Concentration. Concentration strengthens Wisdom.  Wisdom fuels Faith.  So how do we start the cycle?

Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.
— Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:21

We start with the test.  When we are told that meditation will bring more stability to our minds, we try it.  When I first started meditating, I was unsure as to whether it would work.  So my faith was in the idea that meditation might stabilize my mind.  My effort was to try meditating.  I mindfully paid attention to whether or not meditation was helping me.  I concentrated on the actions I was taking, and studied the topic to make sure I was doing it right.  I grew in wisdom, not only of technique, but in the assurance that the technique was working for me.  That wisdom grew my faith in meditation and the cycle continued.

My faith in meditation did not come from my works.  Meditation works.  All I did was test and see that it was good.  My test did not make it true.  It was already true.  I received that first kernel of faith and took action to test it.  I did not earn the benefits of meditation or the knowledge.

This same process happens everyday for so many things.  It is how faith comes to us all in everything from whether or not our family loves us, to what we want to have for dinner.  Faith is part of a process.  The more our experience validates that faith, the stronger that faith becomes.

When faith is built on lies, fear, or bias, it has no power.  It is hollow and unable to console us.  It breeds anger, hatred, and mistrust.  These are the signs that faith is faulty.  

If faith leads to boasting, or that any one or any thing is greater or less than us, then that faith is not only false, it is a poison.  That is not faith it is bias or bigotry, which are born out of the five poisons:

  1. Ignorance
  2. Attachment
  3. Aversion
  4. Pride
  5. Envy

Faith does not ask us to reject knowledge.  Faith leads to Wisdom which controls Ignorance.

Faith does not cause us to blindly hold onto any thought, person, or things to the point where it causes suffering to let it go.  Faith continually tests all things and holds only to what is good.

Faith does not drive us to hate.  Hatred destroys us.  It is a fire in the soul that destroys all it touches.  Hatred is never Mindful nor Wise.

Faith does not breed arrogance.  There is nothing to boast about in receiving a free gift.

Faith does not agitate us to have what others have or make good that comes to others unbearable.

Faith is a gift, and is the foundation of things hoped for and the way we test and prove things not seen.  That is True Faith. 

Bring Order to Chaos through the Light of God and Living in Zion

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
— John 1:1-5 (New American Standard)

This week, we have been building up our Energy/Effort/Persistence (viriya) by focusing on the virtue (middah) of Order (seder).  That may seem like a strange choice, but with a little discernment, we realized it was the right thing to do.

Effort is one of the Five Strengths, and as such, it controls Laziness.  When we thought about this, we found many examples of Effort in our lives, and while I would not say our Effort is perfect, we had a difficult time finding the flaw we needed to work on, or how exactly we could work on building up the virtue.

When we turned our eye to what it is meant to control, Laziness, we saw that while we couldn't call ourselves lazy, there were significant aspects of our lives that were blocked.  There are messes so big and projects so daunting, so we choose not to expend any effort at all toward them.

Ah ha!  That is the biggest problem with our practice of Right Effort.  When we couldn't see a way forward, we turned a went another way.  The messes seemed insurmountable.  So what we needed to focus on was our understanding and practice of Order (seder).

As our Musar text, we picked How to make sense of any mess, by Abby Covert.  I would recommend this book to anyone who needs to do this.  The book is simple straightforward and easy to read.  It will change the way you see any mess in your life.

I am not going to go on about the book.  I might later, but right now, I feel like I should focus more on the spiritual things.  The book to eminently practical.

That is not to say that spirituality isn't, but I know that I often spend way too much time in my head wrestling with arcane theological and mystical insights, but what I have learned this week is that my understanding of spiritual order has a direct effect on my practice of order in my daily life.

The Order of Zion

I have been baptized and confirmed in Jesus Christ and thus, I am a citizen of Zion still living in Babylon.  I hope to build a little piece of Zion here, but for now I am surrounded by Babylon.  I am consecrated to Jesus through Mary, and I awake everyday with the familiar prayer, "I am all yours, and all that I have is yours, O Jesus, through Mary, our Holy Mother."

Zion is the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is not a political change here, nor is it a geographical location.  I am a warrior/ambassador of Zion, and if you are Friend of Christ and his Cross, you are too.  I cannot cower in the face of the mess of the world.

My work and practice is to make myself into the best warrior/ambassador that I can be, and hopefully make other interested in the taking citizenship in Zion as well.  I have to not only fill myself with the energies of God, but connect my life to them so they can flow through me unimpeded.

The Order of Zion is not learning the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality and taking up the ten practices.  It is learning to live Dabhar, Royal Personhood, Kenosis, Creativity, and Transformation (among so many other things).  It is not enough to know what Dabhar is.  It is the creative word of God.  I have to learn to connect with Dabhar, and to live it out in my life.

I have a lot of ideas about how to do this, and I will share them as I write them out.  I would love to hear your comments and ideas.  I am moving forward through the practice of Musar, since I have seen it have the most effect on my heart and my life.

O, Light of God that could not be overcome, shine through me and conquer the darkness around me.  Amen.