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Gift of Faith
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The Gift of Faith

Kaye Cooper

In the beginning I had a hard time understanding just what it means to have faith in my brothers and sisters. I learn from experience, and that includes learning who I can trust and who has failed to exhibit himself worthy of trust. As an adult with these valuable lessons learned, I came face to face with the fact that Jesus urged his followers to have faith in one another. It stopped me in my tracks. I began to ponder what he could mean. Was I supposed to allow unscrupulous people to take advantage of me repeatedly

As these questions plagued me, I did what I have found to be the most effective thing in such circumstances: I prayed. Not so much the traditional and specific request in a designated prayer time (although I did that too), but more the investment of my soul’s desire in an intense longing for an answer. When I ask in that way, I do indeed receive. Over the years, insights have occurred. 

Faith Is a Change of Attitude 

To begin with, having faith in someone is not a rule of conduct that one can adhere to. Faith comes from one’s sincere feelings. We cannot pretend to have faith. We can’t force ourselves to have faith in others because we know Jesus said we should. We have to behave out of whatever level of faith we are capable of at the moment. 

It is very comforting to understand that our ideals of faith are always going to outstrip our current level of faith. Growth is slow! Any change in us toward having more faith is a change in attitude. That sincere attitude change results in a change in our actions. Slowly, step-by-step we will grow into a more mature faith in others.

We Can Feed Our Faith

What we can do is to nurture our trust in others. We feed our ability to give the gift of faith by actively seeking to understand what is involved:

  • We can read about what it means to have faith in others.
  • We can think deeply about it and discuss it with friends.
  • We can identify situations where someone needs us to have faith in them.

Then we call upon our spiritual resources to grow

  • We can desire with all our heart and soul to grow in our trust and faith in others. 
  • We can pray for a change of attitude, an enlargement of understanding, an enhancement of our ability to give the gift of faith, and for wisdom. 

Jesus’ Faith in Others

Jesus was not naive. He extended his faith in Judas with full knowledge of the danger he was courting and the odds against success. A naive person might have said, “Everything will work out as I want it to. I just know Judas won’t betray my trust.” But I think Jesus said, “I know that there is a great likelihood that Judas is incapable of responding to my teaching and my relationship with him, but he is worth the risk. He will only learn to be trustworthy by being trusted. I will have faith in him to respond and grow.” 

Much of Jesus’ expenditure of faith in people resulted in salvaged mortals. Very few would have expected the tax collector Matthew to be interested in or to respond to Jesus. Even so, Jesus’ faith in him was very successful. Jesus stretched his faith to the limit of reasonability in Judas, and Judas failed to live up to the opportunity Jesus gave him. 

Faith Is Active

Faith in others is not simply a blind trust. It involves seeking to understand the motives of others and consistently looking for and encouraging the best in them. There is a story of Jesus encountering two prostitutes in Corinth, Greece. He saw the possibilities in these two women. He saw that their motives were not low, that desperation had driven them to that life. He had faith that they had the capacity and soul desire for growth. 

Jesus acted on his faith in these two women. He took them to a family he knew well. There they were helped to escape their circumstances and came to believe his teachings. The women lived up to Jesus’ faith in them. The result was two redeemed lives. 

Faith Encourages the Growth of Others

We human beings tend to look at people and situations as static. If we project change, it is on the basis of the characteristics which people are displaying at the moment. Seeing alive and growing people can amaze us. Situations can turn out better than we expect. People can grow beyond reasonable predictions – before our very eyes! 

Faith believes that everyone has a capacity to grow. Having faith in someone encourages that person to grow into a better person. If we think back on situations in which others have had faith in us, we can recognize the powerful effect of one person’s faith in another. Someone else’s faith in us causes us to want to live up to that faith. It inspires in us a belief that we can be more than we are. It spurs us to do our best. 

Jesus valued people so much and had so much faith in their ability to grow and their sincere desire to do so, that he spent himself in serving them. As a result, people all around Jesus became more than they were, more than they had ever hoped to be. 

Expectations Are Not Faith 

Some of the confusion about having faith in others may stem from an easy-to-make error. We confuse faith with expectations. To have faith in another’s capacity and desire for growth is a different matter from expecting that a person will behave in a specific way, in a particular situation, at a definite time. 

Someone may on occasion fulfill such defined expectations, but more often the behavior of another person does not fit what we expect. When that happens, we may assume that having faith in people does not work…because it does not cause them to act as we wish. 

Faith Is Never Wasted

Even growing people are not going to grow according to our expectations for their growth. 

Our faith has to expand beyond those limitations. This type of situation also involves a second misunderstanding about faith. When people disappoint our expectations repeatedly, we may eventually come to feel that our faith was wasted or that we were a fool for having faith in that person. Neither of those is true. Our faith is never wasted, nor are we fools for having faith. 

Because we are immature, we may bestow faith unwisely. After all, everything we do is less than perfect! We can expend our faith…and grow from our experiences. Or we can withhold our faith for fear of making an error. If we withhold our faith, we miss the opportunity to learn and grow.  And the person we failed to have faith in is deprived of the transforming spiritual stimulus of being trusted. 

We are responsible for acting as wisely, sincerely, and lovingly as we are capable of. Then we can leave the results to God. 

Possible Benefits of Faith in Others

There are many possibilities for success in having faith even when our expectations are not met. Some examples: 

  • There may be benefits for the person which we cannot see. 
  • There may be benefits to someone else. 
  • The positive results may be delayed. 
  • This may be one of a series of similar events which will eventually bear fruit.
  • We learn more wisdom from having been too ambitious, too specific, or inaccurate in our expectations. 
  • We may be the primary beneficiaries of the situation. 
  • Having faith in immature beings is characteristic of God. Exercising faith is part of becoming like God.

Faith Wisdom 

While accepting that our application of faith is going to be less than perfect, we will want to seek ways to make it as wise as possible. Wisdom indicates that allowing unscrupulous people to take advantage of us or anyone else is in no one’s highest interest. 

Jesus distinguished between those who were malicious and those who were making sincere errors. The money changers in the temple are an example of the malicious and sinful. Jesus used force against the money changers to drive them out by overturning their tables. He was not angry with the common people who were the money changers’ customers (and victims). 

Even when the situation involves error and not maliciousness, we are not supposed to disregard a person’s level of maturity. We want the faith we have in others to empower them to grow. To have faith that a person be or do something too far beyond his present reach dooms him to failure without even the benefit of learning from that failure. It is the fourteen-year-old we trust with the lawn mower, not the four-year-old. Observing the signs of readiness is a wise thing to do. It does not mean we lack faith in the person.

The Source of the Faith Gift 

Faith in our brothers and sisters is also faith in our heavenly parent. Spirit has a plan of growth for each one of us. We all have helpers on every side and in every situation. The primary aim of this spiritual help is to empower us to grow. We can depend upon constantly being spiritually guided. 

Our task is to manage ourselves to have faith, even when the risk of disappointment is large. We can step out over the chasm of the unknown, utterly supported by God’s promises: 

that we can all grow to be like God, that all things work together for the good of those who sincerely want to love with divine love.

It is our faith in these assurances which enables us to extend the gift of faith to our brothers and sisters wisely. 

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