Friday, August 3, 2012

Life Of Faith - 3 - Degrees And Kinds Of Faith


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit One God. Amen.

CHAPTER 3

DEGREES AND KINDS OF FAITH

Degrees Of Faith

People differentiate from one another in the kind of faith and the degree of faith they have "As God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).

Some may exaggerate by saying that a person with little faith is not at all a believer. This judgment is against the teachings of the Holy Bible, as we will see later. Some may mix between the word 'believer' and 'the chosen one', as if these two words mean the same thing. Let us then meditate on the different kinds of faith and its degrees.

1. There is the newly converted believer and the apostle ordered not to swell the believer up with pride or else he will "fall into the same condemnation as the devil." (1 Titus. 3:6).

2. There are those with little or weak faith, following are examples from Bible about this kind:

a) Those who complain about God's care in food or clothes. The Lord gave them an example of the lilies of the field, and that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. The Lord then rebuked them by saying "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 6:28-30, Luke 12:28).

b) The Lord also rebuked the disciples, when they thought that they did not take bread with them by saying "O you of little faith" (Matt. 14:31).

c) The Lord rebuked Saint Peter when he became afraid after walking with Him on the water and began to sink, the Lord rebuked him and said "O you of little faith, why did you doubt" (Matt. 14:31).

d) Similarly, when the disciples got frightened when the waves covered the ship during the Lord's sleep, then the Lord said to them "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 8:26).

Thus fear and doubt in the help of the Lord are evidences of little faith.

e) The apostle gave an example of a person of weak faith who eats only vegetables, the apostle also ordered that one should not judge or mock such a person and said "To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14:1-4).

Here I admire the father of the boy with an evil spirit, when the Lord asked him "do you believe?" so as to heal his son, the father answered "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

The person with weak faith needs those who pray for him, so that the Lord may help him. We should not mock him for God is able to make him firm in faith.

3. There Is A Third Kind Of Faith And That Is The Limited Faith

We mean by that the person who believes in the Lord but in certain limits, and his faith does not exceed these limits. An example of this kind of faith are Mary and Martha, who believed that the Lord is able to heal their brother from sickness so as not to die. If he dies however, then their faith was not yet that far that his being risen from the dead was possible.

Therefore, each one of them said to the Lord "If You had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21,32). When the Lord said to Martha "your brother will rise again" she answered Him "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day " (John 11:24) and when the Lord went to the tomb and said "take away the stone" Martha said "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days" (John 11:39).

God did not refuse this limited faith but He gave it a chance to grow.

That's why He said to Martha "He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." and He rebuked her at the tomb by saying "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:25,40). He gave her the chance to see the glory of God in rising her brother Lazarus from the dead, so that she believes and also the Jews, who saw the miracle, would also believe.

Here faith came after the miracle and not before it.

May be it happened like that because this miracle was the first of its kind, namely rising a dead after four days of being dead and stinking.

4. A fourth kind, from the weak faith, is the slow heart in faith. Maybe it comes from a slow understanding, or from no comprehension, so the person's faith does not come quickly.

This was the kind of faith the disciples of Emmaus had in respect to the resurrection of the Lord. The Lord rebuked them by saying "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things" (Luke 24:25-26). He then began to explain to them what was written in all the Scriptures concerning Christ. so that they believed, or so that he cures this tardiness in their faith resulting from their little knowledge or little understanding.

In this example we could also say that it is sound to rectify the misunderstandings concerning the faith. It is much better that way than to despise and to mock such persons, it won't bring any good results and it won't read to the real faith.

5. There Is A Dangerous Case Of Faith And That Is The Dead Faith.

Saint James the apostle said, "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17,20). He also said that this kind of faith can not save the person (James 2:14) and he saw that the living faith should have works or deeds to show it, "I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18).

6. There Is Also Faith Which Is Not Firm

An example of that is Jesus Christ before being arrested, said to His disciple Peter "Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail" (Luke 22:31,32). At this time Peter's faith failed but he turned back again to his first power.

7. There Are Other Cases The Bible Describes As Deviating From The True Faith:

a) Saint Paul the apostle said "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his
household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim. 5:8).

b) He said about the young widows when their sensual desires overcame their dedication to Christ "They desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith." (1 Tim. 5:11,12).

c) He also said "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the
faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows " (1 Tim. 6: 10).

d) He said "Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and
contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith" (1 Tim. 6:20,21).

In all these examples, can we deny the relationship between faith and deeds?

With a false deed it is said that a person denied the faith, or refused it, or went astray from it, or deviated from it. May be with these examples as measures we can examine ourselves, doing what the apostle said: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith." (2 Cor. 13: 5).

8. The Most Dangerous Case Is To Retreat From Faith

The apostle says "In latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4: 1). The expression to retreat from faith means that they were in faith and then they retreated from it.

The apostle speaks about the great retreat that will happen before the coming of Christ "for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs" (2 Thes. 2:3).

This is from the general point of view but from the individual point of view the apostle says "Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10:38). Here he speaks about the retreat of a believer who was living in faith.

So long the believer can retreat so the believers are not the chosen ones, because the chosen ones stay in their faith all their lives until they meet the Lord.

The above are illustrations of negative kinds of faith, let us explain the positive ones.

9. To Grow In Faith

Saint Paul the apostle says to the Thessalonians "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren,... because your faith grows exceedingly" (2 Thes. 1: 3) and he also said to the people of Corinth that their faith increases (2 Cor. 8:7).

Faith is a virtue like all the other virtues, one can grow in it.

10. To Keep The Faith And To Maintain It.

The apostle says about himself in his last days "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

He also says to the Colossians "to present you holy, and blameless in His sight if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1:23).

11. To Be Firm In Faith

Saint Peter the apostle says about the devil's wars "Resist him, steadfast in the faith " (1 Pet. 5:9).

12. To Be Rich With Faith

Saint James the apostle says "Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"(James 2:5).

13. To Be Filled In Faith

It was said about Stephen "they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit...And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:5,8).

The following qualities are said to be indispensable to faith.

14. Faith Working In With Love

Saint Paul the apostle says "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." (Gal. 5:6), may be he mentioned the expression 'working faith' because faith without deeds is dead (James 2:20). And the expression 'love' is connected with the whole law and the prophets (Matt.22: 40).

There is a great kind of faith:

15. Faith That Performs Miracles

The Lord spoke about "signs will follow those who believe:" (Mark 16:17), and Saint James the apostle said "And the prayer of faith will save the sick" (James 5:15).

The Peak of this matter is clear in the Lord's saying "All things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23).

16. Faith Of Confidence And Believing

It is what the Lord used to ask for from those whom a miracle happened to them. And sometimes He asked "do you believe?".
He asked the blind men who asked Him to heal them "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Matt. 9:28).

The Lord blessed this kind of faith, as well as He said to the Canaanite woman "great is your faith! " (Matt. 15:28), and also to the centurion "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"(Matt. 8: 10).

17. The Whole Faith

Saint Paul the apostle says "Though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains ... " he considered that this faith that moves mountains is the whole faith, that is, its peak and nothing beyond it.

KINDS OF FAITH

There is a great difference between two kinds of faith: theoretical faith and practical faith.

1. The Theoretical Faith

It is an intellectual or philosophical faith. It is just the intellectual conviction in the existence of God and in the existence of unseen matters without their influence on life.

There is a saying that proves that the devils have this kind of faith. Then Saint James says about the dead faith, which is with no deeds "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!" (James 2:19). The book of Job gives us an evidence to that point because the conversation
between God and Satan proves this theoretical faith, then Satan says to the Lord "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 1:9-11). When Satan took permission from God to act, he went to work against Job, and in the second time Satan told the Lord "Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 2:5).

Hence Satan believes theoretically that, that is God, and that He is the one who blessed the work of Job, and He is able to strike what he has, and to strike his flesh and bones. Every expression coming out of Job against God is considered a curse towards God. Never the less Satan was fighting the kingdom of God and God's children, and he still does.

The theoretical faith of Satan which Job spoke about is a dead faith according to what the apostle said "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). Thus if faith without deeds is dead, then what is the faith that is loaded with bad deeds opposing every goodness.

The theoretical faith is easy. How easy is it to prove the existence of God with the intellectual proofs and the many evidences, the most important is however the practical faith.

This leads us to the important kind of faith

The Practical Faith

It is the faith, which signs show in the practical life, the life of a believer believing that God is in front of him, he sees and feels Him, and he acts worthy of this faith.

He loves this God who he believes in His existence, His care, His protection, and he talks to this loving God through his prayers and his imploring, and he fears to do anything that may hurt His loving heart... and in tranquillity in His actions, he does not fear and does not trouble, but lives in perpetual peace, he yields his whole life to His wise disposal.

In this way, faith leads the believer to many uncountable virtues.

This kind of faith is the subject of this book, as we will as to describe how faith leads our whole life to become

a life of faith.

This understanding takes us to another quality in the qualities of the true faith:

2. Perpetual Faith

We mean by that, that it does not have occasions. Our faith does not only appear when being in church, or in a spiritual meeting, or when praying, or when reading the Bible, or when having communion; but this faith is apparent at any time and in any place, outside the church as well as inside. God is always in
front of us and is always on our minds with faith that does not change. He is not only the Lord of churches or the Lord of the Bible but He is the Lord of the heart and the mind together and
the Lord of life.

3. Faith Without Seeing

This faith does not depend on the senses and is consistent with what the Lord said "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29). It is not like the scientists who
do not believe in anything unless they get it in their laboratories and convince themselves of it with their eyes and instruments, and not like the Sadducees who denied the existence of the angels, the resurrection and the spirits (Acts 23:8), because they have not seen anything from all that...

4. Faith Of Confidence And Test

It is not faith in God what we read about in the theological books or in the religious institutions, or in the churches and in the Sunday schools with all their kinds.

But it is the faith in God that we test in our lives. We were in companionship with Him, we let Him enter in every detail of our lives, and practically tested what David said "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8). We found that God is wonderful, to the most extent, beyond what the mind can imagine.

Our whole life is fellowship with Christ. We tasted His beauty, His love and His care, we also saw His power and His glory.

We saw how He enters into our problems and solves them in ways that could not have occurred to us before.

Because of our test we gained confidence not built on books, but on what we felt by our hands, that's why our faith is a true faith destined in our hearts.

5. A Strong Faith

It is faith that is able to do anything (Mark 9:23), it can overcome any obstacle, it does not see anything impossible. It was said about Zerubbabel "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!" (Zech. 4:7).

It is faith that can place its foot in water so as to cross the Red Sea in the days of Moses (Ex. 14:22), and to cross the Jordan river in the days of Joshua (Joshua 3). It can walk inside the great sea or river with waters surrounding it like a gate on its right and on its left without any fear.

It is faith that can strike the rock and water comes out of it (Ex. 17:6). It is faith that walks in the desert without any food or guide collecting its food from the manna descending from heaven day by day (Ex. 16:21) guided by the cloud in the day time and by the fire rod at night (Num 9:15-23).

It is the strong faith which Elijah said through it "There shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word" (1 Kin 17: 1), and thus "it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain" (James 5: 17-18), and that is how he could
close and open the sky.

There are many examples about this strong faith. There are many other examples of this kind but they appear in another form.

6. Faith Which Is Steady

It is a steady faith and is not at all affected by external circumstances; it believes in God's love either on mount Carmel or on Golgotha.

Abraham believed in the love of God that gave him descendants from Sarah in hopeless circumstances, exactly how he believed in the love of God as He said to him "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah" (Gen. 22:2).

Abraham when he raised his hand with the knife to slay his son Isaac did not doubt in the love of God, nor in His timing. His faith was never shaken in God, and not even that he will have descendants from Isaac as many as the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea.

Steady faith does not change according to the external circumstances surrounding it, because its confidence is steady in God, and its peace of heart is not affected by the external circumstances but from God Himself, His love and the truth in His timings.

7. Faith As A Gift

There is normal faith and faith which is considered a gift from the Holy Spirit, and no doubt the latter has a higher degree which overcomes the normal faith.

Saint Paul the apostle, says in his speech about gifts "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. ... But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, " (1 Cor. 12:4-9).

Faith as being among the fruits of the Spirit is also seen in (Gal.5:22).

It becomes clear that we can not separate the faith from the works of the Holy Spirit; either from the fruits of the Spirit, or from the Spirit's gifts; and each of them has its degree.

8. The Sound Faith

How often do people believe in ideas or beliefs political or social, and their belief gives them a power to carry these ideas out and to transfer them to the minds of the people.

The sound faith that has a spiritual nature and has a deep relationship with God "exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 3) this pure and virtuous faith. This lets us say that Faith is not just a belief but a life... or it is a life built on belief, or it is an experienced belief lived by the people and not just ideas in books.

What we want to speak about in this book is this life, the life of faith.


Pope Shenouda III

----------

Title: Life of Faith

Author: H. H. Pope Shenouda Ill.

Press: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia.

Edition: August 1989 - First edition.

Legal Deposit No.: 5606/1989

Revised: COEPA 1997


Also See:
Life Of Faith - Introduction
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/07/life-of-faith-introduction.html

Life Of Faith - 1 - How Great Is Faith
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/07/life-of-faith-1-how-great-is-faith.html

Life Of Faith - 2 - What Is Faith?
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/08/life-of-faith-2-what-is-faith.html


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