The first thing we can do is listen to or read and meditate on the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the Word of God. There are still some so-called Christians who really donít accept it (cf. Verse 16). They somehow think they are going to grit their teeth and exercise their faith without opening the Bible. Their either refuse or neglect to read Godís love letter, Godís Word. They faithfully use their little prayer books and their little prayer rituals, but they think they donít need the Bible. Jesusí challenging question to the Sadducees He also addresses to these Christians: "Donít you ever read the Scriptures?" (Matthew 22:31). He asked the same question of the Pharisees (Luke 6:3).
The Bible itself tells us that "Scripture makes us wise to accept Godís salvation by believing (having trust and faith) in Christ Jesus. The whole Bible was given by inspiration of God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is Godís way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good" (II Timothy 3: 15-17).
Paul says in Philippians 1:25 that we should "grow and be happy and fulfilled in our faith"; and we should want to use every tool God has given us to make that happen. In Romans 10:17 we are told that a major tool for this purpose is openness to the Scripturesóhearing the Word of God. You may hear something of Godís Word in sermons, but of course sermons vary widely in their content. Many are "cotton candy" homiliesósermons with little or no scriptural substance. You take a big bite and suddenly after a moment of sweetness, there is very little left to nourish you. So you may have to look elsewhere for Godís word. It is always available in the Bible.
All of Psalm 119 is about the Word of God: "Cheer me, Lord, with your word, build me up with your word" (verse 20). "Your words are a torch to light the path ahead of me so I will not stumble and fall. Your words enlighten me" (verse 105). "My heart stands in awe of your word" (verse 161).
If you donít have a familiarity with the Word of God and truly love it (verse 16), your faith will not grow very much. You will hit a low plateau of faith and stay at that level the rest of your life. Devotional materials are beautiful, yet I never cease to be amazed at the shallowness of people who read all kinds of devotional literature exclusively. They are constantly receiving a "secondhand" word of Godóonly in the most remote and therefore, diluted way. Some spend hours reading about all kinds of apparitions, visions, etc., but they wonít spend five minutes a day reading the Bible. They practice upsidedown Christianity; their value system in warped. They remain way out on the far edges of the circle and they spend little time at the center of the circle, in the primary content of Christian experience. They donít meaningfully relate to God in His primary revelation, His Word. They may spend hours praying to overcome anxiety or illness while ignoring Psalm 119:165 "Great peace is had by those who love your word; and they shall have no sickness."
Next Installment: Vertical Growth:Our Cooperation - part two
march 31, volume 9, no. 64   DAILY CATHOLIC - COLUMNS