This problematic faith is second stage faith—tha which goes beyond. It means living by faith us urged by Galatians 3:11. Not just the faith that completes baptism, but everyday living that is filled with faith throughout every facet of life, especially in life’s problems.
The third stage of faith development goes beyond knowing that God can and will solve problems. The third stage I call "yielding" faith, belief in and consequent surrender to God’s love for you—not in an abstract way, but in a very personal way. The child that attends religion class and recites "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so" is simply making a theological statement of a truth, but that is worlds away from experiencing such love. The Pope told us in Rome at the charismatic conference in 1975 that charismatics have something that can never be learned by any kind of religious instruction, catechism class or preaching. We have, in fact, something that no Christian education could ever give us. What is it? A release of the Holy Spirit where the rosebud of His presence from baptism becomes the rose bloom of His presence by power (Acts 1:8). The primary effect of the Baptism in the Spirit, said the Pope, is the experience of the divine hug. Paul defines it in Ephesians 3:18 and 19: "May you experience for yourself how deep, how wide, how high His love really is." This stage of spirituality is characterized by faith "so real" that you experience God’s loving presence and are frequently aware of His "love whispers."
It manifests in a series of minor miracles, extraordinary "coincidences" and it happens 10,20,30,40 times a day. You sense that God must really love you for it seems He is starting to respond more attentively to your needs. It’s as if He is saying, "See? I do love you and these are ways in which I whisper my love for you." Finding just the right doctor with just the right medication for your problem, green lights synchronized in your favor, receving a tax rebate just in time to buy a sale item, an encouraging phone call received at precisely the needed moment—little things that start to happen again and again and again with amazing frequency and consistency.
The experience of this love becomes very, very meaningful, especially in a contemplative kind of prayer. In Colossians 2:2 Paul wishes for us to experience Christ, to know Him rather than to know about Him. This implies a clear understanding, not just wondering how Jesus looked, how He acted, what He would say in this case—it[‘s none of that. It is the Living Christ coming right into your life and experiencing His love, as He reveals Himself to you (John 14:21-23). Your surrender to this loving presence is the yielding faith.
Now, how do you believe in this love? Listen to St. John in his first epistle, chapter four, verse 16: "We know how much God loved us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us he loves us dearly."
Belief in God’s love, the third level of faith. And that’s the real test of maturity. Tie that in with what Paul says in Romans 5:5 after saying that we should rejoice in problems that lead to patience and more trust in God, our hope and faith becoming strong and steady. When that happens "…we can hold our head high no matter what happens and know that all is well for we know how dearly God loves us and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us his Holy Spirit of love to fill our hearts with his love." Not with love, with His love. Jesus didn’t say "Abide in love," He said "abide in my love" (John 15:9 and 10). Doing this, our prayers will be answered (v.7). Hence the apparent "phenomenon of coincidence" mentioned above.
This faith can become so intense it gives us an experience of the envelopment of that divine hug. Immediately you can perceive that this is a spiritual, not theological, response. It gives a depth to your prayer life and a kind of power over the heart of God.
Notice that all three levels of faith—the salvific, the problematic and yielding—have a common denominator, namely that they are person-oriented. They express belief in the Revealer and only incidentally in the revealed. If you believe in the revealed truth that God loves you, that’s one thing. If you believe in a Lover who reveals His love, that’s another, Faith relates us to the tremendous lover that is Jesus.
Next Week: Steak and Potatoes Faith stage three - graduating to higher spiritual cuisine.