Godís part works in several ways. He wants us, first of all, to know that faith comes from Him as a gift (Acts 3:16; I Corinthians 12:9), and that He is the builder of our faith (Hebrews 12:2; John 17:19). Realizing that He both gives and develops our faith opens us to growth. Jesus pleads (John 14:1), "Believe in God, believe in me." This starts the growth process.
The second step in Godís operation of cultivating faith is to teach us through experience. Our faith is fed when we see God intervene dramatically in our own or othersí lives. Before I became involved in the charismatic renewal, I had some level of faith. But after witnessing a crescendo of extraordinary healings and other events, and after hearing countless amazing testimonies, my level of faith has grown. It has been fertilized by what Iíve seen happening in the lives of these people. It is now easier to believe not just that God could do it but that He would do it, not just that He can do it but that He will do it. I didnít have that kind of faith ten years ago, or even three years ago, as much as I have it now. I have come to expect God to work miracles and the hope of my own faith increasing (II Corinthians 10:15). When I open my mail and read almost daily of someone being healed, or a marriage that was near divorce now featuring a couple madly in love, I come to expect such divine interventions. It is no longer a rare thing. Through these experiences, my faith is built.
We come to have more faith in the person of Jesus as we read and meditate on the miracles of Jesus. Contemporaneously, as we see the power of God operating intimately (even though subtly) in our life, and then focus on Jesus as the cause of that, we come to grow in our faith in Him. From an event-oriented observation we arrive at a person-oriented faith. In the words of Jesus (John 14:11): "At least believe in me because of the works I perform."
A third way in which the Lord works at building our faith is directly. God directly imparts the charismatic gift of faith to us, particularly after receiving the Baptism in the Spirit. Or, He may impart astonishing faith during times of deep contemplative prayer, when He seems to speak to us in a very clear way. Paul implies this in Colossians 1:9: "Ask God to make you wise about spiritual things. Thus, you will come to know God better and better."
The more we come to know the Lord directly, and experience His reality (Ephesians 3:19), the more we will exercise our faith. God will start to work minor miracles in our life "rewarding our faith with His power" (II Thessalonians 1:11). Dozens of times a day we begin to notice happy and exciting, yet extraordinary "coincidences," and these start occurring with increasing frequency. They are Godís whisperings of love for us, spawned by our growth in faith. For instance, a tax rebate arrives in the mail when you need it most, or a much desired item is found at a super bargain price. Such "little things" become commonplace and almost staggering in their consistent occurrence. This builds our person-oriented faith in the Lord because it is as if God were saying, "See? I am taking care of you because I love you!"
In summary, the three main ways God develops our faith are by responding to our God-centered trust, by granting us experiences of extraordinary or miraculous things happening in our life, and finally by directly and sovereignty imparting His faith to us (often manifested by extraordinary "coincidences"). In these three ways, God reaches us to stimulate our growth in faith. So much for Godís part in the process.
Next Installment: Vertical Growth:Our Cooperation
march 24, volume 9, no. 59   DAILY CATHOLIC - COLUMNS