The Evolution of Faith
To me, it is sadder than sad when an individual walks away from God. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurence. How many people walk around cynical, hurting, and mad at God? If we’re truthful, that sums up all of us at one time or another. How does a person go from following God to thinking denying God seems to make better sense? I want to offer some thoughts on what I have discovered in my own life. It is what I call “The Evolution of Faith.”
Stage 1: AWARENESS
This is the starting point of faith. Usually something big happens that gets us here. It gets our attention and it is often a point of crisis in our lives. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge event, but it is some personal crisis that is the catalyst. It has a big impact on us and shakes us up.
Contrary to how these times feel, this is actually a good thing. We recognize our lives aren’t what they should be and we realize that we aren’t who we want to be. We usually decide some habits need to stop and possibly some relationships need to become healthier, maybe even end. But we desire to finally change for the better and stop perpetuating the same cycles, because they always end up hurting ourselves and others we care about.
This is a very good place to be in personally. The realization that we don’t exactly know how to change things ourselves is very positive. Why? Because this is the time we call out to God since deep down we all know that He loves us and He is the only one who can help us.
And that’s because He can.
He’s God after all. He loves to be our comfort in these times. This is the moment we acknowledge Him and begin to depend on him. It’s the first time we become truly open in a spiritual sense. This is the point in our lives when we become…aware.
Stage 2: FAITHFULNESS
Awareness isn’t enough. Once an individual learns to surrender, learning to be faithful becomes the next challenge. This is the first point at which true faith is proven. For most, this is where the departure from God happens.
You see, awareness initially results in obedience for a while. Doing what is right and best, even when it isn’t easy or we don’t want to, is easily maintained for a little while. But if it is only for a while, it will never grow into a character trait of faithfulness. So it is, by default, not true faith. It is more like a phase, or even a quick fix.
Once we clear our crisis and the impact it had on us wears off, we no longer ‘need’ God. Things go back to the way they were before: we depend on ourselves alone again.
Slowly the old self and old cycles reemerge. It becomes more difficult when the memory of the crisis moment wears off. When it does, the sense of dependence and desire for change is quickly forgotten and we’re back to the old life and old person again.
The thing is, obedience in good times and bad is a mark of maturity. This is called faithfulness (and sometimes loyalty). This is the strength of character that stays focused on a goal regardless of the surrounding situations. A crisis-based, quick-fix type of faith will never work. For faith to endure and grow it must evolve into a character trait of… faithfulness.
Stage 3: TRUST
If an individual can learn to be faithful the next challenge is to trust. To trust God, who we can’t see, can be very difficult. Life is hard and messy–plain and simple. It is the price of evil still being present in this world. And although you’ve given your life to God, this fact doesn’t change. It doesn’t make sense, but it is still true.
But this paradox just doesn’t make sense to us, so it begins to torment our faith.
It causes us to question what we can’t see since we want certain guarantees. So we begin to question more and more and, as a result, our trust in God begins to break down.
When we do this we automatically turn God into an adversary, which makes doubting Him inevitable.
We begin to assign blame for these difficult situations in life, and at some point we say, “If God loved me why would he let this happen?” We forget that this world is like it is, not because of God, but because of the evil that exists. Although life is still difficult, God does care for you and does have our best in mind.
There is just a timing to life that is beyond our comprehension sometimes. And it may never make sense, but we still need to trust God. He is not the enemy. He is the one we must draw closer to because he will give us the strength we will need to face these difficult times in life. By its very nature, for faith to progress is must be based on…trust
Stage 4: SACRIFICE
This is the hardest challenge in our faith. This is where it truly becomes active. It isn’t enough to avoid old habits. We must be challenged to ‘step-out’. We must be caused to leave our comfort zone. Unfortunately this is against our very nature of self-preservation.
Just when life gets stable and predictable–and it will–we have to be willing to abandon. It may seem like cruel and unusual punishment, but there a reason for this. This cycle keeps our faith ever-evolving. It is the only way. It ensures we grow and never become apathetic. It has been said that if something isn’t growing it is stagnating. Our faith grows as we begin to make changes, since things and situations that challenged us before no longer do. This means we are actually growing and gaining strength. So if our faith is to evolve, we have to ultimately be willing to…sacrifice.
Often we want the benefits there are in following God. We want his blessings on what we do. We want his favor when we need him to come through…for a new job, relationship, opportunity, or challenge. But we don’t want to truly follow him. How can he give us these things when we won’t keep our faith in him? It’s just not how things work with God. Sure he is full of grace and mercy, but if our faith isn’t evolving and growing then we will slowly lose it. It’s never that he gives up on us, but that we give up on Him because we don’t keep things in perspective. At least that’s how I would describe the evolution of faith in my life.
The process continues on and on in our lives: awareness, faithfulness, trust, and sacrifice…awareness, faithfulness, trust, and sacrifice. And on it goes… It is evolution of faith, and it is a constant.