There’s a natural progression on the journey of faith from beliefs to trust to faith to conviction that is built on the experience of Christ in our lives. Sometimes people see their lives turn around on a dime through an encounter with the Lord—through a dream, or a kind of vision or some powerful words heard deep in the soul. Like Paul’s some lives change with total conversion. But for many it is a lifelong journey that accumulates bits and pieces of experience again through dreams, words read or spoken, small and large miracles of unexpected help, through a myriad of ways.
Beliefs are the beginning point of the journey, but become less and less important as these healings and little miracles denoting God’s presence accumulate. We’re not always aware of these signs of God’s providence, but I believe that they happen all the time. If our eyes aren’t open to them, we missed their import in our lives. With a nod to all like Paul who have had an instant turn around in their lives through an encounter with the living Christ or by hitting rock bottom in a life filled with alcohol, drugs or depression, I am writing today about those of us who grow into a relationship with the Lord through an accumulation of little and big experiences.
For those brought up in a church beliefs are the starting point. As children we absorb beliefs as taught and often adhere to them, these childish understandings of them, long into adulthood. One can rest in one’s beliefs for a lifetime and never change them, but that is not living the Life of the Spirit or having a dynamic, deep relationship with God. To me beliefs are the gateway into the Life of the Spirit, just the starting point of a life built brick by brick on each encounter with the Lord. Beliefs plus experience lead to trust, as one sees the hand of God in the most mundane of events: words spoken by a friend, a recommended book that hits just the right chord, an unexpected offer of help, being struck by beauty at a deep level—a sunset or a rose or the perfection of a newborn baby.
Somewhere between trust and faith there is a conversion moment or time where you are no longer going back and forth between God’s agenda and yours. There is only one request from God, no longer a choice, and you say “yes,” because that is now who you are now, one who always says “yes” to God.
Trust builds as you begin to acknowledge that God has a hand in these experiences and you begin to expect God’s help and presence in your life. Brick by brick trust builds the structure of faith, but it is my belief and experience that a deep faith in the Lord is a gift, given by God. I experienced the gifted nature of faith when my husband was dying. I was given to understand that I was clinging to his life; if I could let go of the clinging and hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then…… This was the wisdom I was offered and was able to embrace. The minute I did my energy returned, I was totally supported through the whole period of time, and my faith went wide and deep. Standing on the rock of faith within me, I knew that nothing could dislodge me from the faith that had been given to me.
When you live solely in belief, then you let those beliefs inform your behavior: you’re nice, you help people, you work for the poor, you go to church. You act out of your beliefs about what Jesus wants you to do. When you move beyond the beliefs, you are beginning to allow the Lord to direct your actions in big instances and small. Growing within you is an impetus for action that is deeply connected to the Lord’s will for you: it has to do with your particular gifts and talents and how much they are needed in the world. This is the true purpose of our love for God: that we use all that we are created to be to bring about God’s will.
This action in the world does not come from thinking about what God wants us to do or from the ideas in the Bible or Christianity about what we’re meant to do. It comes from listening for the Lord’s voice in everything, so that we are deeply connected to him. Then our actions become what God’s will for us is: that which uses our gifts and talents and whole self through our passions. Now that is Christianity at its highest, not the watered down thinking man’s or woman’s idea of what we should be doing in the world. That is conviction in action.